#tiktokmademebuyit: Community commerce for customer acquisition
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I started my Sunday morning out as everyone does—laughing at the dogs of TikTok, trying to decide whether or not I have “Renegade” worthy dance moves (I do not), and searching for Shibu Inu advice (Ohhhhhh, I should have bought last year—thanks TikTok).
An hour later, I emerged from my virtual cocoon with—surprise!—three new products on the way to my house and $250 less in my bank account.
While my intentions were strictly to seek entertainment, the result was several fun new purchases. The TikTok made me do it. 😈
I’m not the only one falling victim to making unplanned, but pleasant, TikTok purchases. See.
In fact, there’s an entire hashtag dedicated to the phenomenon: #tiktokmademebuyit.
If you take a quick peek at the #tiktokmademebuyit page, you’ll see the hashtag has 6.1+ billion views.
But, what does this mean?
It means that community plays a significant role in influencing purchasing decisions.
Need more convincing?
Research shows over 82% of consumers will either research or purchase a product after seeing a member of their community (e.g., friends, family, influencers, etc.) post about it.
It’s also trendy—especially among the crypto crowd—to turn to online communities to ask for recommendations for what they should purchase.
Take a gander at any of your favorite Ethereum Apes/Punks on Twitter, and you’ll see what I mean.
Here’s the best news.
Brands have a unique opportunity right now to leverage this new-ish social commerce trend and use it to blow their customer acquisition goals out of the water.
Let’s dive deeper.
What is community commerce?
Let’s start with social commerce. Social commerce includes all selling opportunities that happen across TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Think times you’ve seen sponsored content on Instagram and then made a purchase directly from Instagram. That’s social commerce.
Community commerce is a type of social commerce, but it’s slightly more nuanced and involves a few extra key players.
Social Platform (TikTok) + Purchasing Features (TikTok Shopping) Entertaining Content (That video was hilarious) + Creators (Hi, Kylie Jenner!) + Brands (@KylieCosmetics) + In-App Community (TikTok users talking about a brand/product/hashtag/challenge) = Community Commerce
If you pop into TikTok, the equation above may look a little like this:
The gist of community commerce is explained perfectly in TikTok’s recent business report:
“Community commerce is...entertaining, compelling content that just happens to feature brands. It is creator-driven, word-of-mouth marketing that has taken over the TikTok platform and injects a new opportunity into content creation on social that is more authentic to its environment.”
What role does community commerce play in customer acquisition?
Now that we know what community commerce is, let’s get to the exciting stuff—how does community commerce help with customer acquisition?
Let’s break it down.
1. Creators are relatively new to the marketing game & they are a customer acquisition goldmine
Older stats report customer acquisition costs (total spent on marketing/# of new customers) as notoriously high.
In fact, the following commonly circulated stats are almost business scripture:
- The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60% to 70%, but the probability of selling to a new prospect is only 5% to 20%
- It costs 7x more to sell to a new customer than to sell to an old one
- Nearly 65% of a company’s business comes from repeat customers
Traditional Marketing Translation: Thou shalt favor retention strategy over customer acquisition.
No one is going to argue that customer retention isn’t a big deal. It is. But, it’s also critical to remember these stats are outdated, centered around traditional digital marketing, and often don’t account for more modern and evolving market methods—specifically ones that include partnering with influencers/Creators.
More and more brands report that influencer marketing efforts are helping brands acquire more customers, and 51% of marketers say it helps them get better customers.
The full-service digital agency C/C/G shows a proven track record of helping brands lower CAC by partnering with Creators in unique ways.
For example, C/C/G worked with La Brea Bakery with the goal of expanding its customer base. By leveraging content from key influencers, La Brea Bakery saw:
- 1.5 million average social impressions per month
- 237.2% increase in engaged users month-over-month
- 421.5% increase in followers month-over-month
- 169.9% increase in engagement month-over-month
It makes sense that La Brea Bakery grew its audience by investing in help from Creators.
When you partner with Creators, you’re not starting from scratch. You’re leveraging already highly-engaged and trusting audiences that look to Creators regularly for purchasing guidance.
- 70% of teens trust influencers more than traditional celebrities
- 49% of customers depend on influencer recommendations
- 82% of people trust social networks to guide purchasing decisions
To put it plainly, consumers regularly scroll through their feeds, ready to purchase based on Creator recommendations. And brands that are partnering with creatives are winning out.
It’s also why 66% of marketers plan to boost their influencer marketing budgets.
2. Communities tell each other what to do and buy
If you remember the equation mentioned earlier, community commerce isn’t only about tapping into the widespread influence of Creators on social networks. Yes, that’s a huge part of it, but it also means entertaining, interacting with, and engaging a community of people.
To put it in simple terms, it’s about brands infiltrating active in-app social communities and leveraging the power of peer pressure (for lack of a better term).
The whole idea of a TikTok challenge is rooted in social psychology.
If someone told you to walk on an unstable pyramid of milk crates, would you do it? Seems absurd and doctors say to put a stop to it, but thousands of people have participated in this challenge.
TikTok banned this particular challenge/hashtag because it wants to keep its community safe. But it’s a compelling example of the power of community influence.
Another example? Remember when a group of redditors (wallstreetbets) broke the stock market by barking loudly (see what I did there?) about DogeCoin and then collectively buying up shares of the meme coin? To the moon!
Simply put: others affect the decisions we make.
Recent research from TikTok & its partners shows that communities engage heavily on TikTok.
In fact, 78% of consumers are spending more time than ever before interacting with brands through virtual channels, according to the report.
Tik Tok isn't just blowing up in the United States and Canada, it’s a stable trend and a global one, with similar numbers reported across other countries including Indonesia, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, UAE, UK, France, etc.
Interacting with brands through virtual channels is also equally popular across several demographics—not only Gen Z as may be expected. Eight-one percent of consumers aged 35-45 reported they engaged more with virtual communities, which is 8% higher than the numbers 18-24 year-olds reported (73%).
What’s the reason people are spending more time on social networks? Community. Seventy-four percent of TikTok users say that scrolling TikTok helps them feel close to popular challenges and trends.
There is no better time than now for brands to slide into the feeds of highly active virtual communities with entertaining, trendy, and shoppable content.
TikTok puts it best:
“There is huge potential for brands to engage audiences as they congregate around particular interests, trending hashtags or creative stories. By infiltrating these communities, brands can offer consumers a genuine value exchange. Consumers head to certain social platforms for entertainment and discovery, cultivating a playful and curious mindset that creates a powerful space for brand communications, placed right at the intersection of creator content, community and traditional social commerce.”
3. Online community influences brick-and-mortar purchases
Community commerce doesn’t start and end in the virtual realm. Robust online community engagement opens the doors for consumers to make more informed purchases once they are in brick-and-mortar stores.
And, consumers do make purchases based on what people are gabbin’ about on TikTok and IG. According to an Adweek survey, 36% of Gen Z and 15% of all adults say that they make purchases based on what they saw on TikTok.
Here’s an example.
If you’re a bibliophile like me, you’re probably religiously following #BookTok and even making suggestions of your own.
Barnes & Noble is a brand that understands the significance a community of chatty book-lovers can have on sales.
As such, when you wander into Barnes & Noble, one of the first tables you’ll see is the #BookTok table with—you guessed it—all the stories people are most recommending on TikTok.
And, it goes both ways. If you’re at the #BookTok table scratching your head, you can pull up TikTok, and get recommendations from the active #BookTok community in less than a second.
How can brands tap into community commerce?
We know communities are ready and waiting on TikTok to become your brand’s next biggest fan, but what can your brand do to ensure you connect with the right community and in meaningful ways?
Here are some community commerce best practices.
1. Partner with Creators
By and large, the best way to reap the benefits of community commerce is to partner with Creators.
Creators influence how others perceive your brand—for positive or negative. In fact, a Google study shows that 61% of YouTube subscribers report Creators have influenced their views of a brand.
The evidence of Creators’ influence on brand perception extends back for years with plenty of anecdotal examples.
Do you remember Dave Carroll’s viral video, “United Breaks Guitars?”
To sum it up, United Airlines broke Dave’s guitar and did absolutely nothing about it. So, he wrote a song about it, released it on YouTube, and saw over 21M views. There’s even a book about it with the apt subtitle of “The power of one voice in the age of social media.”
Everyone has a story about poor customer service from airlines, and Dave’s video definitely struck a chord (see what I did there?). It’s estimated that his video cost United millions of dollars in damages.
The overall results of Dave’s video is best summed up in a comment from one of the subscribers:
United Airlines - sales down. Taylor Guitar - sales up.
The reason Creators are so influential is that they are the voice of the customer.
Creators are intimately connected to their online social network, they know what content their niche communities will enjoy, and they can present your brand in creative ways they know will garner a positive response.
Creators are the gatekeepers to the community your brand wants to reach, and the best thing you can do is partner with them, give some basic parameters, and then let them do what they do best—create.
It’s also worth mentioning a common misconception about Creator partnerships. Some brands think the only way to get your money’s worth out of influencer marketing is to partner with a beloved celebrity.
I have good news for you. Creator partnerships aren’t only successful if you have Reese Witherspoon, Issa Rae, or Drew Barrymore on your team.
In fact, 70% of YouTube subscribers say they relate to Creators more than traditional celebrities, according to the Google study referenced above.
Other studies say TikTok creators with mid-level reach may be the most effective for successful brand partnerships.
Lesser-known Creators still have large communities—and those communities are accessible. The added benefit is that social communities love their favored niche Creators, can interact with them, and even feel connected to them in ways they don’t with celebrities.
Matt Pierce, CEO of Versus Systems, explains there is a particular difference between the fans of short-form content creators than the fandoms of celebrities.
He says, “there’s a whole generation of people who would walk through a wall to meet a YouTuber but might know even know who Angelia Jolie is. It’s because they feel a connection. There’s a sense that, as an audience member, you can be part of the community that you couldn’t possibly be with a movie star.”
2. Make engaging videos
It’s no secret that video is the most consumed type of content across the internet.
Hello TikTok. Hi Instagram Reels. What’s up, YouTube? Hey there, Snapchat.
If you want your brand to stand out in a world where Creators inundate their communities with cool videos, your videos have to be on fleek.
If you haven’t seen Hashtagpaid’s recent article, “The TikTok method that scored Run Gum 7k followers in 6 Hrs,” now is a great time to check it out. If you have, here’s a quick review of Jessie’s advice on how to make viral TikTok videos:
- Find a niche that works for your brand and create videos that resonate with communities interested in that niche
- Center your videos around a main character or persona
- Follow a storyline when you make videos
- Generate a custom hashtag and include it in every video
- Measure the results of your videos and make adjustments to your video strategy as needed
To get some additional insight into how brands can make killer videos, I interviewed some members of the creative team at the popular ad agency Harmon Brothers. You know Harmon Brothers—the agency responsible for the viral video ads for brands like Lume, Poo-Pourri, Chatbooks, and Squatty Potty.
Here is what the Harmon Brother’s creative team had to say about how to create videos that your target community will love.
Communicate that you understand customer pain points
Brandon Cummings, Creative Director at Harmon Brothers, explained that while the visual elements and storyline are important in making a video, the best way to create an engaging video is to communicate that you understand their problems.
“When you create a video, make sure you read and understand what your customers are saying about the problems your product solves. Don’t only talk about how sexy your product is, but focus on the problems it solves and the pain it helps you eliminate,” says Brandon.
Youthforia incorporates this strategy well in its TikTok videos. Its videos often start out by addressing a common skincare or makeup concern.
For example, one common concern about putting on make-up every day is the time it takes to remove makeup at the end of a long day. No one wants to fall asleep in a full face and end up with pimples days later.
Youthforia knows this and uses a 13-second video to highlight how Youthforia isn’t just make-up—it’s makeup that has healing properties and is safe enough to sleep in.
Conduct basic community research
Bryan Fugal, Producer and Post-Production Supervisor at Harmon Brothers, agreed that the most important thing to consider when making a video is the community’s needs.
Bryan offers additional advice for brands when he said, “Don’t preach to your audience—create something that targets their needs. You can do this by conducting research, talking to people in the community, and gathering as much information about the community. This will help you learn exactly how to serve them.”
Use creative tactics like humor and viral trends
Harmon Brother’s Creative Director, Jake Christensen, told me that the best way to create engaging videos is to make the audience laugh. He says, “When you make people laugh, you are uniting everyone around a common theme, and that helps them stay entertained and connect with your brand.”
Jake likes Vessi’s TikTok videos. “Vessi’s videos are short, funny, and relatable,” says Jake.
Check out this short and funny TikTok that expresses how pretty much everyone feels about shoes.
The text reads: When you already have too many pairs of Vessi’s but the style you’ve been wanting is on sale.
The sound bite Vessi uses? “Say it with me, Natalie. We (we). Don’t (don’t). Need it (need it)....I’m gonna get it.”
The visual follow-up action? The girl opens up the computer and buys the shoes.
It’s funny and everyone relates.
While Jake believes brands should create a fun storyline with funny jokes, he says, “If you want to create a viral brand video campaign on a channel like TikTok, you can’t rely on humor alone. You also have to play into trending challenges and hashtags. Communities are literally telling brands exactly what they are interested in via popular hashtags and challenges. These viral trends open the door for brands to join the conversation.”
Look at the cleaning hacks TikTok trend. #Cleaning currently has 19.8B views and #cleaninghacks has 3.1B views.
People turn to TikTok regularly to get ideas on how to keep their homes tidy. And once someone posts a hack, it seems everyone tries it.
Consider the viral Fabuloso toilet refresh hack. The idea is you cut a hole in a bottle of Fabuloso, put it in your toilet’s water tank, and every time you flush—it cleans your toilet and leaves your bathroom smelling fresh.
Every clean freak is doing it. And people are openly crediting TikTok as the reason they are trying the hack. Check it out.
Cleaning brands like The Pink Stuff, Mrs. Meyer’s, Folex, Zoflora, and Minky, to name a few, are reaping the benefits of TikTok community trends.
For example, Folex has seen steady sales growth due to social media chatter.
Additionally, The Aug 24th Exploding Topics Newsletter reported that brands Zoflora and Minky saw products sell out after Mrs. Hinch promoted them.
To sum it up, brands that are joining community conversations, especially after a Creator with a large following makes mention of them, are getting more customers.
Leverage the expertise of TikTok Creators
When I interviewed the creative team at Harmon Brothers, Brandon also said how beneficial it is for brands to partner with recognizable Creators—not only to star in videos but also to offer consulting services.
He often hires members of the Studio C comedy troupe to write and star in the video ads he directs. And there’s a reason for that.
He says, “Creators know how to connect with audiences. Their passion and livelihood depends on whether or not they can get people to laugh, interact, and follow them. As such, Creators are the perfect resource to help you make videos that people will enjoy.”
Brandon also offered the following advice to brands. He said, “When you pick a Creator to work with, you want to find someone who your customers like—someone relatable and inspiring.”
He continues, “The Creator you partner with doesn’t have to look exactly the same, but if they do have the same wants, needs, and desires as your target audience, people will like them, the video will help you connect with new customers, and it will motivate people to take action.”
3. Build your own community
This is a pivot away from the TikTok/social media community conversation, but it’s impossible to talk about community commerce comprehensively without acknowledging the NFT craze.
As a quick review, NFT stands for non-fungible token. In English, that means a digital asset (jpeg, gif, video, song, etc.) that takes up its 100% unique space on the blockchain.
While it’s neat to buy a unique digital token like a CryptoPunk, ownership alone isn’t what makes an NFT project popular. What makes an NFT project popular is gaining access to a community of elite collectors.
In a recent Real Money article by Timothy Collins, Timothy equates NFT ownership to being part of a digital country club.
Here’s what he has to say:
Owning an NFT isn’t about collecting art. It’s about participating in an exclusive new social class. It’s about being a part of the CryptoPunks, the Bored Ape Yacht Club, The Lazy Lions, GOATz, the Gutter Cat Gang, etc.
Taylor Howe, a marketer and NFT enthusiast, explains what the appeal of investing in NFTs is. You probably guessed it, but his reasons are tied to community too.
Now, you may be wondering what NFTs have to do with brands and retail opportunities.
Here’s where it gets super interesting.
To set the stage, consumers already show they are brand advocates in several ways. They follow brands on social media. They subscribe to newsletters. They join loyalty programs. They show up at events. They wear branded merchandise.
NFTs and the hype around exclusive communities provides yet another creative way for brands to continually engage customers.
And some brands already have a head start.
Rootine is launching its NFT initiative, Apex Optimizer. Check out Rootine’s Apex Optimizer launch email.
The idea is you can buy one of Rootine’s Apex Optimizers (a pfp collection of 8,888 leopards). If you buy one of the leopards, you gain access to a Discord community of individuals interested in a healthy lifestyle.
You also get access to:
- Exclusive experiences with athletes
- Interesting content
- Product drops
- And more!
As an Apex Optimizer, you wouldn’t only have a leopard NFT, you’d be part of this exclusive community and reap all the associated benefits.
So, how can brands win at customer acquisition in a quickly evolving digital world?
In a word: community.
There’s no better time than now for your brand to participate in conversations that are already happening.
This could mean partnering with Creators and leveraging their niche audiences to create compelling videos and capture more customers.
It could also mean building your own NFT communities and creating a unique space for your customers to interact and receive exclusive benefits.
However you move forward, remember community is driving commerce. It’s the way of the future.