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TikTok Advertising: How, When, and Why to Start

Laura Barker


By now, we’re all familiar with TikTok and the impact it’s had on popular culture. Once thought to be the “Gen Z” social media platform, TikTok is now an entertainment, news, and learning hub for teens and adults alike (as of January 2023, 37% of users are age 30 and above). 

With over 1 billion active users across 154 countries, TikTok is quickly becoming a hotspot for advertisers seeking target audiences of all shapes and sizes — and if you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet, now’s the time.  

If you’re new to TikTok advertising and groaning at the thought of learning how to navigate and strategize for yet another new platform, don’t worry. Here’s everything you need to know about breaking into the world of TikTok marketing.

TikTok for Business

Similar to Facebook Business Manager or Twitter Ads, TikTok for Business is TikTok’s centralized marketing tool. It’s designed to not only help businesses run ads, but develop and manage a holistic TikTok strategy. 

The platform offers a suite of solutions that help marketers:

  • Launch ad campaigns using a variety of ad types

  • Create ad content that users want to engage with

  • Build shoppable experiences that let users purchase directly in the app

  • Measure and analyze campaign performance  

How Does TikTok Advertising Work?

The basis of TikTok ads is generally the same as any other social media advertising network: Advertisers create ads (video ads, specifically), TikTok targets a designated audience based on demographic and behavioral traits, and then TikTok shows the audience the ad in one of several formats (more on this later). 

Though the process isn’t quite that simple, TikTok and other digital advertising partners like AdRoll make it easy to use the platform as an effective part of your overall marketing strategy. Let’s dig a little deeper into the specifics:

TikTok advertising cost

TikTok uses a number of ad campaign models to support its advertisers, the two most common being CPM (cost per mille, or cost per 1,000 impressions) and CPC (cost per click). On average, TikTok advertisers pay $10 per CPM, compared to $14.40 on Facebook. TikTok also requires a minimum campaign budget of $500.

Bear in mind, CPM and CPC will vary depending on the specified target audience and things like geographical location and age.

Examples of TikTok advertising

TikTok supports several types of ads, each serving a slightly different purpose depending on the advertiser’s objective. 

In-Feed ads

These are full-screen, skippable ads that appear in a user’s feed (called the “For You page”). In-Feed Ads tend to look and feel like organic content, making them blend into the user’s feed and feel less intrusive than other types of ads. They can be up to 60 seconds long and include a CTA link, and users are able to like, comment, and engage with them. 

TopView ads

These up-to-60-second ads occupy prime TikTok real estate, appearing immediately after a user opens the TikTok app. TopView ads auto-play with sound and do not compete with other content, making them perfect for increasing brand awareness.

Branded Hashtag Challenge ads

Featured at the top of TikTok’s Discover page, Branded Hashtag Challenge ads encourage audiences to participate in a trend (think: doing a dance, completing a task, etc.) associated with your brand. These ads are ideal for businesses targeting younger audiences that want to encourage the creation of user-generated content (UGC).

Branded Effect ads

TikTok Brand Effects lets advertisers create stickers, filters, and special effects that users can then apply to their own videos. These ads work best in tandem with other ad formats as an added layer of promotion. And like Branded Hashtag Challenge ads, they are useful in generating UGC.

Spark ads

Instead of creating new ad creative, advertisers can leverage their existing organic TikTok content or UGC with Spark ads. These ads appear in a user’s feed, but unlike In-Feed ads, can link to another TikTok account instead of a landing page. Their purpose is to “spark” conversation between brands, influencers, and the TikTok community at large.

To see these different ad types in action, check out examples of top performers here

Why is TikTok good for advertising?

Beyond its relatively low ad costs and diverse formatting options, TikTok offers advertisers benefits they may not be able to find on other social media platforms. 

Achieve more engagement

A Neuro-Insight study found that, compared to other leading social media platforms, TikTok “...creates a more pleasurable experience and enables users to be more receptive to brand messaging and calls-to-action from businesses of all sizes.” Additionally, TikTok consistently drives better engagement among users (15% better than other social platforms, according to the study) due to its content preference delivery system and short-video format.

Connect with niche audiences

With TikTok’s massive growth and popularity, it’s no surprise that niche communities, or “subcultures” have begun to emerge. Though there are 12 official TikTok industry categories including things like beauty and tech, users have gathered into corners of TikTok dedicated to virtually every hobby or interest you can think of. 

Why is this important for advertisers? They can now tap into extremely specific groups of people that align with their brand objectives — everyone from the fitness gurus of #FitTok to the avid readers and writers of #BookTok.

Leverage the power of influencers

Instagram is often considered the powerhouse of influencer marketing, but average influencer engagement rates are actually higher on TikTok. TikTok micro-influencers (influencers who have 15,000 or fewer followers and are often prevalent figures in subcultures) have a particularly impressive engagement rate of nearly 18%, compared to only 3.86% on Instagram and 1.63% on YouTube. 

Tips & Tricks for Creating TikTok Ads

TikTok is built on a foundation of creativity and self-expression, and it’s important to stay true to those values when creating your ads. That said, there are several guidelines to follow to ensure your ads resonate with your TikTok-specific audience and drive the results you’re looking for.

  • Communicate your primary message early. According to TikTok, 63% of videos with the highest click-through rate highlight the key message or product within the first three seconds. Be direct and to-the-point in your ads, especially at the very beginning.

  • Create content specifically for TikTok. TikTok recommends utilizing its vertical full-screen experience by shooting in 9:16. That means instead of repurposing video ads used on other platforms, you’ll likely want to create new, authentic content just for TikTok. 

  • Use sound. TikTok users are 15% more likely to skip an ad without sound, so you’ll want to leverage music and sounds as part of your storytelling strategy. Additionally, making your videos more accessible by adding closed captions can increase conversions by as much as 80% and impressions by 16%. 

  • Include a strong CTA. Advertisers can choose from a variety of call-to-action buttons that they can then easily apply to their creative. TikTok ads that give users a clear next step see 45% stronger recall than ads that don’t.

Choosing the Right TikTok Ads Partner

If you’re brand new to TikTok advertising, don’t jump in alone. AdRoll makes it easy to launch, measure, and optimize your TikTok and other social media campaigns from a single, user-friendly dashboard. By importing all of your campaigns to AdRoll's TikTok ads tool, you can view your data holistically to see what’s working and where to adjust your cross-channel strategy.

Ready to get started? Learn more about AdRoll's TikTok ads platform today.

For more guides, tips, and strategies for TikTok, check out the resources below.

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