6 brands you may be surprised to learn are making it big on TikTok
For a traditional media outfit, The Washington Post has proven unusually successful on TikTok with more than 60 million likes collected there.
The key to their success? Instead of creating traditional reporting videos, they create fun skits based on news.
That realization—that most people on TikTok want to be entertained instead of listening to the news—helped them reach a younger/new audience (and capture their attention, as none of their competitors are doing anything similar.)
While beauty, fashion, and lifestyle brands dominate TikTok, more “traditional” (see also: un-sexy) brands can also use the social platform to share educational and entertaining content.
Why your brand needs to be on TikTok
In times when organic engagement rates are dropping for platforms like Facebook and Instagram, TikTok gladly accepted the departing users. When it comes to user engagement, in 2021, TikTok saw a 19% increase in the US alone and a 48% increase globally. That growth is reflected in the steep rise in Tiktok’s 2022 ad revenues—totaling $5.96 billion in 2022 (a whopping 184.4% rise from 2021 numbers.)
What is it about the platform that’s attracting viewers and brands alike, making it prime real estate for enhancing brand visibility, irrespective of the niche?
First off, TikTok ranks far ahead of Instagram and YouTube when it comes to user engagement, regardless of follower count. A 2022 study showed that for micro-influencers (<15k followers), TikTok reported a 17.96% engagement rate, compared to just 3.86% on Instagram and 1.63% on YouTube.
What’s more: Everyone has the potential to go viral on TikTok, regardless of follower count. For instance, Wisp, a health and wellness brand with just 2,000 followers on TikTok, has managed to garner more than 3.5 million views on its #hellowisp hashtag via collaboration videos with influencers.
Moreover, while teenage users are dropping off Facebook, TikTok is still going strong with 42% of its users in the 18 to 24-year-old age group. If your brand’s target audience lies in this segment (18 to 24-year olds), you’ll find TikTok especially useful.
But that’s not all. TikTok’s algorithm is hyper-specific, making it unique compared to Facebook or Instagram.
While other platforms focus more on showing content from the people you follow or something you’ve searched for yourself, TikTok’s algorithm recommends users targeted content on the ‘For You’ page based on trending content that it considers relevant to your personalized interests based on past interactions and engagements. This contributes to the higher engagement rates for accounts in smaller, more unusual niches, as views and shares aren’t coming from only followers, but also from the wider user base of the platform.
Finally: Another unique aspect of TikTok is its raw and authentic feel that contrasts with the highly-curated image brands project on Instagram or Facebook. The unpolished nature of the platform compels brands to be more authentic there, which means viewers don’t feel they are being sold to in an overly pushy way.
6 brands you may be surprised to find are making it big on TikTok
From financial services to cannabis products, to real estate, books, and beyond, all kinds of brands can leverage this fast-growing social network to translate viewership into revenue. Here are a few examples of brands that you wouldn’t expect to be social media darlings finding success on TikTok.
With 1.4 million followers and 83.8 million likes to date, language learning app Duolingo has established itself as a fun, hip, and likable brand with the adorable Duo owl as the face of the brand.
What Duolingo does best is hop on to the latest trends and create relatable and funny content, while never losing sight of the app’s core tenet—making learning cool. An e-learning platform might not seem like the perfect fit for TikTok but Duolingo manages to translate its cute and fun brand image into TikTok stardom.
And it doesn’t just limit itself to publishing hilarious videos. The account can be often found commenting on videos of other companies and creators to further boost their following.
2. The Sill
The Sill, a DTC plant company, has garnered more than 13.3 thousand TikTok followers, 97.6 thousand likes, and almost half a million views on the hashtag #TheSill.
The brand usually shares educational videos on plant care, suitable plant products, and TikTok trends and is an excellent example of how unconventional brands can use trends to fuel content creation. The recent breakout word guessing browser game Wordle was leveraged by The Sill as a way to tap into pop culture.
The unusual pairing of a horticulture brand with TikTok trends has proven successful, too. The brand uses less crowded hashtags and engaging content curated to its unique brand voice to establish a dedicated following.
3. House Designer Juan
Juan Montoya, a renowned residential interior designer, has a hugely successful TikTok account with 1.7 million followers and 15.2 million likes.
In just 15 to 25 seconds, he shares design ideas for rooms, closets, balconies, and more based on modern and quirky themes, showcasing his knowledge of contemporary trends.
Juan is known to post as many as three videos per day without compromising on quality or variety of content. He exemplifies the platform’s affinity to reward creators who publish useful and quality content with unparalleled dedication.
4. Sweetsmith Candy Co.
Sweetsmith Candy Company, a Canada-based handmade gluten-free candy brand, has garnered more than 21 thousand followers and almost a million likes.
It shares delectable videos appealing to the ASMR fans, showing behind-the-scenes of their manufacturing process. It also promotes special occasions like Valentine’s Day with educational and entertaining content.
It also makes use of popular hashtags like #CandyMaking with 597 million views and #CandyShop, with views upwards of 6.4 billion. What brands can learn from Sweetsmith is a combination of offering viewers an authentic look at their products and using trends and hashtags to their fullest potential.
5. Cookie’s Candle Crafts
Cookie’s Candle Crafts, an Etsy candle shop, has more than 16 million likes with more than 415,000 followers on TikTok. It makes creative videos featuring candles in different shapes like a puppy, flowers, a cat, and even a volcano.
The videos are eye-catching and showcase the wide variety of products the brand creates. Like other communities, the hashtag #candle has almost three billion views, proving yet again that whatever your niche is, you’ll be able to create a following if you know where to look.
6. Peachybbies Slime
Peachybbies Slime, a Texas-based ecommerce slime store, grew to 4.7 million followers and more than 135 million likes on TikTok with their behind-the-scenes manufacturing videos. They create videos showing the manufacturing process with voiceovers answering comments and FAQs like the right texture of slime to purchase and the next restock date.
With its videos going viral, all of its restocks sell out in minutes (with over 28,000 website visitors on the day of one of its restocks.) This shows the impact that TikTok can have on an ecommerce store: With an engaged community and consistent videos here, even niche products can sell faster than the speed of restocks.
Along with leveraging a range of hashtags like #SoSatisfying, #Slime, and #HowTo, its branded hashtag #PeachySlime now has almost 800 million views on TikTok.
Tips to achieve TikTok success as a brand in an underrepresented category
As a brand, your TikTok strategy should include some specific things to position you for success. Here’s how to get started:
1. Define a target audience for the platform
TikTok is loved not just by tweens and teens but by all age groups below the age of 50. This makes it convenient for any brand to discover its own specific target segment.
The wide range of age groups present means brands need to clearly define their target audience to avoid diluting their following. Plus, having a clearly defined audience will also help you create focused content, fast-tracking your growth, and establish strong communication with your audience.
Take, for example, Abercrombie & Fitch, written off as a dinosaur brand in the 2000s and 2010s. For their comeback, they used TikTok and narrowed their target audience to Gen Z and the millennials. This allowed them to create content that appealed to the specific target group by speaking with nuances and understanding their needs. It now boasts more than 26,000 followers and more than 358 million views on the hashtag #abercrombie.
2. Collaborate with influencers in your niche
Partnering with influencers, if done right, is a sure-fire way of capturing followers from your target segment. Being in an underrepresented category makes it more important for you because of the tight-knit niche communities.
The right influencers will have the same target audience as yours, but without being a competitor. However, choosing the wrong ones can confuse your existing audience and result in a loss of investment, too.
To identify and partner with the best creators, use a creator marketing platform like #paid, which matches you with ideal influencers for you.
For instance, Hershey’s decided to rejuvenate its sub-brand Cookies ‘N’ Creme by partnering with several TikTok influencers like Julian Bass, Marissa Gulley, and Hunter Fekete and creating the #sweetestcollabever. The creators were asked to integrate the brand’s colors and wrapper designs into their videos to drive greater penetration among the Gen Z audience.
The results spoke for themselves as the videos served in in-feed ads generated 13 million views and an increase of 32.8% in ad recall.
3. Create content relevant to the platform (and your niche)
Creating content that’s fun and in tune with trends should be your primary focus. You can also offer viewers behind-the-scenes access to your products, facilities, or employees.
TikTok is primarily an entertainment-heavy platform and so, strategies that prioritize that are likely to succeed are mascot videos, memes, sketches with creators, and more.
Red Bull partnered with Twitch streamer Keeoh for a funny product placement video where Keeoh appears to be pouring a can of Red Bull into a mug. He later shows the mug to be empty, after which his friend appears in the camera, revealing the can was emptied into his mouth. Red Bull didn’t force-sell anything and used a soft-sell technique to associate their brand with a young and funny videogame streamer. The video garnered more than 936K views.
Pro tip: Not all trends will fit well with your niche and audience.
You might also find trouble with content inspirations because of the low number of established brands in your space. Use this opportunity to come up with unique and unconventional posts, similar to your brand. Your underrepresentation could be your biggest strength. Discover what content your target audience likes to view and then integrate your brand with that type of content.
4. Use relevant hashtags
Hashtags are more important to you than other common niches. With hashtags, you’ll be able to access niche communities easily, narrowing down your target segment while amplifying your reach. Hashtags like #booktok, #personalfinance, and #plantsoftiktok represent viewers who are dedicated to watching niche content and primed to receive your content.
Find hashtags that are popular in your niche and are being used by your competitors. Alternatively, identify the hashtags your ideal audience is following. The right hashtags can propel your views and engagement to the next level. Mix popular hashtags with branded and less popular ones to increase your reach
TikTok’s 100-character caption limit allows only a handful of hashtags. Make sure you use as many hashtags as you can to expand your reach while keeping captions short and sweet. Also, it helps to keep your hashtags current and updated.
5. Utilize sound and captions to the fullest
Audio is as important as video on TikTok. Using the latest audio trends on TikTok makes the algorithm reward your content.
You can discover the latest trends like lip syncs from the ‘Add Sound’ section or by following the hashtag #trendalert.
Make sure to check the ‘last used’ date for the sound you want to use to avoid being late to the trend. Get creative in cases you don’t find many niche examples of videos on a trendy sound.
In-video captions are also incredibly helpful to reach the 69% of people that watch videos on mute or simply enjoy information being integrated into the video itself. Use captions and even charts or graphs to make the most of the short-form format of the platform.
6. Lean into your brand’s quirks
As a niche that’s unconventional, you have an upper hand over established players to create unique content. Identify the aspects that set you apart and highlight them through your content.
Your audience might also have a lot of unanswered questions about your niche and product. You can answer them in your videos with voiceovers by taking up your audience’s comments. This is a popular format on TikTok with the hashtag #AnsweringComments having more than 57 million views and #ReplyingtoComments having 2.5 billion views.
You can also do storytimes narrating interesting customer incidents that bring to light your brand’s values.
Daisy Cases, a phone accessory ecommerce brand, frequently creates videos responding to comments, highlighting the brand’s personality and the product’s uses:
TikTok is still nascent—get on board now
TikTok is not just for beauty, luxury, and lifestyle brands. Its users go to the platform not just to be entertained, but also to learn from it. TikTok, in general, is promising for creators and brands that have the ability to appeal to the aesthetic sense of its users. It doesn’t matter, then, if it’s videos of falling dominoes or neatly stacked bunk beds and cupboards.
No one knows how TikTok will evolve over time. It’s still in a nascent stage and evolving rapidly, but there’s a niche for every brand. Create an aesthetic and voice unique to your brand here and arm yourself with a thorough understanding of the platform’s intricacies. With time, you too can likely become a TikTok success story.