How To Run Ads on TikTok

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How To Run Ads on TikTok

There’s no denying it: TikTok has changed the face of video content for social media marketing – and entertainment as a whole for that matter–since bursting onto the scene in 2016. After years of relative creative stagnation, TikTok’s meteoric rise has fundamentally altered the way brands use content to engage audiences and convert them into shoppers, opting for an emphasis on entertainment above all, and sales second.

For brands considering advertising on the platform, it’s normal to feel a little intimidated. TikTok has its own language, and the sponsored placements can look a bit different than their now more familiar counterparts on Facebook and Instagram.

What will work on other channels won’t necessarily work on TikTok, and vice versa. It’s important, especially with this platform, to make sure your content is native to the app and that you are leveraging their various trends and ad formats wisely.

In this post, we’ll run down what TikTok advertising looks like, how you can best use it to support your brand, and what you should consider before crafting your first TikTok sponsored post. 

Why You Should Be Running Ads on TikTok

Let’s start with the value of TikTok. In this industry, it’s not uncommon for hype to push and move strategy. In this case, the hype is real.

Over the last two years, TikTok has experienced unprecedented increases in both its user base as well as the time that the user base spends on its app. If you’re only considering joining TikTok now, the truth is that you’re late.

So why do we think TikTok ads are one of the best things you can do for your brand? We have three reasons.

TikTok Ads Are Far Reaching

There’s one undeniable asset when it comes to TikTok: its audience. With its addictive scrolling feature and powerful algorithm, TikTok has managed to build a devoted and loyal community, all while attracting new users.

In fact, eight new users join TikTok every second of every day. The app has over one billion monthly active users. And when we say active, we mean it. TikTok users are engaged in the content and spend an average of 25 hours a week on the app in the United States.

While TikTok is most commonly associated with Gen Z audiences, it’s also making gains in other age demographics. The percentage share of users between the age of 25 and 54 grew by 10% from 2020 to 2021. So if you ever hear someone say that the app is only for young people, tell them they should take a closer look. It’s more than just millennials and Gen Z.

Audiences on TikTok are diverse in age, ethnicity, and lifestyle. Niche interest groups find their people there. Just about any content can find its audience on TikTok. 

TikTok Ads Are Low Cost

What about the ads themselves? Why do advertisements on TikTok deserve a slice of your precious marketing budget?

There are a number of reasons related to efficacy which we’ll go over next, but one compelling reason is the maximal ROI that can be achieved on TikTok. Consider how much money it would take to produce a television spot. Even Instagram-sponsored content can get pricey when you start investing in the production budget.

You could put together a big studio production for a TikTok advertisement, but you might be missing the mark. TikTok user content is authentic, human, and raw. Advertisements should follow suit.

TikTok ads can be shot on a phone with vertical video and edited within the app itself. A team of a few devoted social media managers and an editor can have as big of an impact — if not bigger — than a large-scale and expensive piece of media.

Some of the best-performing ads on TikTok are the least produced, making this platform convenient from a cost standpoint. 

TikTok Ads Are Effective

Perhaps most importantly, there is growing evidence to support that TikTok ads are some of the most effective social media placements on the market.

According to a 2021 study of 17,000 TikTok users, over half of the respondents described TikTok ads as “fun and engaging.” Not only is the content itself valuable and entertaining, but it’s also informative and compelling.

Conversion rates can vary, depending on the industry and content, but on average, brands are seeing anywhere between 5-16%.

A third of TikTok users say they’ve researched a product after seeing an advertisement on TikTok. Thirteen percent of users surveyed said they downloaded an app after seeing an ad, and 12% said they made a purchase after seeing an ad. What’s more, TikTok users on average add 8.5% more dollars into their shopping carts.

From app installs to actual purchases, these are staggering statistics for a social media placement. TikTok users aren’t just engaged with the content; they’re taking action. For that reason alone, it’s one of the most valuable social apps available right now for brand marketers.

What Do Ads Look Like on TikTok?

Now that you understand what makes TikTok ads so valuable, let’s discuss the types of TikTok ads available to you.

In-Feed Video Ads

This is the most standard form of advertisement on TikTok. When users are scrolling on their For You Page, in-feed ads appear intermittently, distributed between regular content. For brands, these videos will look like posts from their page.

While ads are marked as sponsored content, they largely look the same as other videos, helping to encourage users to watch as they would anything else.

Like all TikTok videos, in-feed video ads auto-play with sound on. They can be up to 60 seconds and will cover the user’s full screen — and if you make them right, their full attention.


If awareness is your goal, TopView ads are definitely one format to consider.

TopView is a sponsored media placement that puts your branded content at the top of every user’s feed. It’s usually a short, three to five second piece of media. Any time anyone opens the app, the first thing they’ll be greeted with is your brand. Considering how often users pick up their phones and open TikTok, that’s a pretty compelling burst of exposure.

Spark Ads

Spark Ads work a lot like Facebook’s Boost Ads and are intended to “spark” conversations between creators, brands, and the community. Rather than having to create advertisements from scratch, Spark Ads allow brands to capitalize off of the virality of already trending organic posts from Content Creators, Influencers, and more, given there is mutual consent, of course. 

Keep an eye on video views. If you notice a piece of content performing beyond expectations, then we’d recommend boosting it to see if it has the legs to go viral and reach a wider audience for a longer period of time.

Any engagement you receive from both your organic and paid audiences will aggregate on that same post, extending the life cycle of the content. In addition to being able to boost your own posts, you can also boost user-generated content (UGC), so long as you have permission from the content creator. 

Carousel Ads

Most of the content on TikTok is video-based, but you can also post photos. In addition to full-screen photos, you can purchase a carousel ad spot, which allows a brand to post up to 10 images with unique captions.

These look fairly similar to carousel ads you’ll recognize from other platforms and work particularly well for step-by-step guides and instructions. TikTok is story-based, so we wouldn’t recommend you use a carousel ad for a chance to simply show off images of your products. Give users a reason to keep scrolling to the right. 

Branded AR Effects

Next up is branded AR effects content. If you’re familiar with TikTok, you’ll know just how prevalent AR effects are on the platform. From games to stickers to filters, AR presents an opportunity to bring users even deeper and engage with them on an interactive level.

Branded effects can feature simple rotary games, in which the filter answers a question like, “what pizza topping are you?” or complex features, like placing objects around the user’s environment. Beauty brands in particular have used this capability to help consumers try on makeup or hair colors without ever having to leave the house. 

Hashtag Challenges

It’s likely that one of the first pieces of content you interacted with from TikTok was a part of a hashtag challenge. Challenges were one of the first big content pushes which set TikTok apart from other platforms. 

To this day, challenges are embraced by the platform, whether it’s about showcasing a relatable moment or dance skills. Other platforms like YouTube are trying to recreate what TikTok has done with challenges. It’s TikTok’s claim to fame.

A branded hashtag challenge is simply a call to action. A brand will create a challenge, record an example version (preferably with a recognizable face) and then ask TikTok audiences to join in on the fun. Done right, it’s a chance to create the new TikTok trend and therefore dominate users’ feeds. 

Sponsored Content

Last but not least, there is sponsored content. This isn’t necessarily something that you’ll find in the TikTok Ads Manager, but it is an essential component to running advertising on the platform.

Sponsored content works on TikTok much like it works on Instagram. You can work with content creators to produce authentic, engaging sponsored posts. You’ll agree to a set price for publishing on their page as well as when the ad should be posted and how long it should be visible there. Like Instagram, content creators will need to add a sponsored tag when they’re posting branded content to follow FCC guidelines. As a brand, you can use Spark Ads to bolster the post with your own media budget.

Sponsored content is a smart way to leverage TikTok’s best asset: its people. Content creators have huge, engaged audiences and these audiences trust these creators. Working with the right content creator can have a huge impact on how these audiences perceive your brand.

How Do TikTok Ads Work?

We’re not going to get into the nitty-gritty of how to produce a TikTok ad and get media running, but there are a few things you should understand about how TikTok advertising works. 

The TikTok Pixel

In any TikTok ad you run, you’ll include a call-to-action, asking users to complete a number of behaviors, whether you want them to visit your website to learn more, download an app, shop from your store, or contact you directly.

In any case, you’ll want to install the TikTok Pixel on whatever landing page your ad leads to. Like Facebook and Instagram, the TikTok Pixel tracks how many users came from TikTok to arrive at that page, closely monitoring conversion so you’re able to attribute behavior directly from your ad. It’s a valuable piece of data, especially when your ad begins working well.

TikTok Ads Manager

Like other social media platforms, TikTok has its own ads manager. Branded channels will need to set up a TikTok ads account to start running media from its page.

From there, you can identify an ad group that fulfills your target audience goals. You can use TikTok’s suggestions when creating an ad group or design your own custom audience, based on whether the audience has or hasn’t engaged with your business before. TikTok also allows you to use a lookalike audience, so you can reach more people who act like your followers with similar likes and interests.

TikTok has a system of automated bidding, which will decide when and where your advertising is placed. A small business could do ad placement on its own, but our recommendation for major brands is to have an agency team monitoring this system of bidding and optimizing the approach as needed — more on that later.

How To Approach Running Ads on TikTok

If you’re looking for templates, you’re out of luck. There’s no one way to run a TikTok ad campaign, but these are our best tips for ensuring your content is engaging enough to stop the scroll and delay creative fatigue. 

Keep TikTok Ads Timely

We understand there is a lot of red tape when it comes to branded marketing, but TikTok moves fast. It’s vitally important that a TikTok media manager keeps their finger on the pulse of trending audios, transitions, and user behavior. When deployed in a timely fashion, a brand can have a hit on its hands. When deployed late, the effect loses lots of steam.

The key campaign objective for any content on TikTok is to be relevant. 

Keep TikTok Ads Authentic

As we said before, authenticity is important when it comes to TikTok content. When users are scrolling through their newsfeed, they’re especially skilled at picking out user content from ads. An overproduced or boring ad will have them scrolling immediately.

That said, don’t try to be something you’re not. Stick to what makes your brand distinct and talk about it truthfully and with enthusiasm. Your marketing strategy shouldn’t change dramatically just because you’re using an unconventional app.

Keep TikTok Ads Snappy

TikTok is letting brands and users post longer and longer videos, but there’s something to be said about keeping it concise. Remember that users are constantly scrolling on this app. If you have a message to share, try to get it right up top or use a storytelling hook that will encourage people to stick around.

Like in eCommerce, you want your CTA to be simple, direct, and easy to understand. 

Keep TikTok Ads Platform-Specific

One of the worst mistakes you can make on TikTok is to poorly retrofit other ads and try to make them work on TikTok. Make sure your content is specifically designed for TikTok, and keep a close eye on specs.

Ad text should appear only in the safe zones where TikTok UI text doesn’t appear. It’s a rookie mistake and an easy one to avoid if you stay on top of it. 

Keep TikTok Ads Coming

Last but not least, it’s important to stay consistent on the app. Rather than just trying one advertisement out to see how it goes, give TikTok a real chance as a platform, posting organically, replying to comments (and commenting) regularly, and monitoring metrics often.

Your cost per click (CPC) and cost per thousand (CPM) will probably be all over the place at first, but the only way to get a solid sense of how you’re doing is to give it time and try different approaches. Experimenting is key.

Make Your Brand a TikTok Business

When it comes to TikTok marketing, we could fill a book with our best advice and every little detail you need to know about its advertising platform.

That’s why working with an agency like MuteSix is so important. Our staff is intimately acquainted with the nuances of working with TikTok and skilled in converting TikTok marketing into tangible results. 

If you’re struggling with how much daily budget to set aside for this platform, we can help with that. If you’re not sure what type of content to post there, we can help with that. If you simply want someone to explain what TikTok really does, we can help with that too. 

Reach out to our team today to see what TikTok Business can do for your brand.


23 Important TikTok Stats Marketers Need to Know in 2022 | HootSuite

TikTok’s latest good news: its ads are sticky and effective, and rich people spend a lot of time there | Digiday

TikTok Ads Cost (2022) | Business of Apps

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