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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

Setting up TikTok ads works similarly to other platforms. You’ll need to choose an advertising objective and ad group. This impacts the fields on the ad creation module. 

TikTok’s Ads Manager separates ads in three distinct parts:

  • Campaigns

  • Ad Groups

  • Ads

To get started, create your campaign and ad group. Click Next, which will take you to the ad creation tool.

TikTok allows you to upload videos and images for your ads. This is great if you have pre-existing creative assets. Alternatively, you can use TikTok Ads Manager’s creative tools to build your ad. Remember, each ad group has a limit of 20 ads. You’ll need to create additional ad groups for larger campaigns.

4 Steps for Creating TikTok Ads

  1. Enter your ad name. Decide what you want to call the ad. This helps distinguish between ads in an ad group and isn’t viewable by customers.

  2. Select your ad format. TikTok currently only supports video ads. Global App Bundle supports images and videos.

  3. Enter the ad details.  This step includes:

    • Adding media from your computer, existing assets, creating a new video, using the video template, or Smart Video functions.

    • Choosing the thumbnail (cover photo) to grab your audience’s attention. You can upload a custom cover photo or choose a pre-selected image.

    • Entering your text and link. Elements you’ll include are the display name, text, CTA, profile image, and URL you want to drive traffic to.

  4. Add Tracking Links: Add the appropriate TikTok Pixel or third-party tracking URLs to ensure you can track performance data.

Once you’re finished setting these details up, it’s time to preview the ad itself. Ad previews aren’t device-specific. TikTok adjusts them based on a user’s device or network conditions. Preview your ads on your device to see the published version. 

Once you’ve created the ad, click the Submit button to finalize it. You can create more ads for the ad group by clicking the Add button.

Clicking Submit will trigger an ad review to ensure compliance before it goes live. If you want a step-by-step process for launching ads on each platform, download our 2023 Everything You Need to Know About Social Ads guide.

Ultimately, the success of your TikTok advertising efforts really boils down to knowing best how to optimize TikTok ad campaigns.

Advanced TikTok Advertising Strategies

Once you’ve mastered the basics of TikTok ads, it’s time to consider elevating your strategy. The following tips can help you create even better ads that resonate with consumers.

Try an unpolished aesthetic

Most social media users—TikTok included—prefer content that feels organic, even if it’s a paid promotion with an influencer. For your ads, consider adopting the same approach. Create ads with a mobile device and edit the video as necessary. Phone cameras can shoot in 4K, so you’ll still have high-quality assets to work with.

One of the best parts of advertising on social media is that you can use current trends to source ideas. If you’re not spending time on the platform you’re using to advertise, you’re missing out on this crucial step. TikTok offers a wealth of inspiration. Use it!

Have an emotional message

Emotions are a big part of what makes content successful on social media, and TikTok is no exception. Many people who click on ads do so because it tugs at a specific feeling. When sharing your product’s benefits, consider targeting that versus the logic of why it makes sense to buy from you. People come to TikTok for entertainment. Make them smile or laugh with your branded content and ads.

Partner with Creators

Creators on TikTok know the platform’s ins and outs, and they have the respect and trust of the community. Seasoned influencers on the platform can help get your brand out there, serve as mentors, and drive results. 78% of TikTok users like it when brands interact with regular users, not just celebrities. Use that to your advantage!

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.

TikTok Advertising FAQ

If you’re brand new to advertising with TikTok, there’s a good chance you have some questions about how to use the platform to market your products or services. We answer some of the most common ones below.

Can TikTok be used for advertising?

TikTok has a robust suite of ad tools to help you create and serve dynamic ads to your customers.

How effective is TikTok advertising?

For the right audience and brands, TikTok ads are incredibly compelling. TikTok ads lead traditional media spend in ROAS ($4.1 to $2.1) and drive sales outcomes. It’s a fast-growing channel for product discovery with a healthy return on investment.

How much does it cost to advertise on TikTok?

TikTok may be one of the newest advertising platforms, but it shares many rules regarding budgeting. TikTok requires you to spend at least $50 per day and per campaign. The CPC for TikTok ads is $1. The CPM is $10. TikTok requires a minimum spend of $500 per campaign.

How does TikTok advertising work?

TikTok ads function similarly to other social media ads. Advertisers create video ads that are native to the platform and then set target audiences, create ad copy, and provide a CTA. Advertisers set bids in the TikTok auction and pay a fluctuating price based on these parameters.

Why is TikTok good for advertising?

TikTok is the platform of choice for Generation Z and millennial users. With more than 689 million active monthly users, it’s a prime advertising opportunity for brands that want to expand their reach to younger consumers. In addition to allowing native ads, it’s also a powerful tool for influencer marketing. 

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

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