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How to use TikTok to promote your business

November 1 / US

Since launching in 2016, TikTok has rapidly reshaped the ways that brands interact with audiences. And it’s driving real impact—especially for small business owners. Hello Alice recently surveyed about 7,000 of the small businesses on its platform. The results painted a clear picture: of those that use TikTok, 58% have been on it for less than 6 months and reported that it had already helped them:

  • Increase revenue (59%)
  • Protect their business against the pandemic (42%) 
  • Raise capital (32%)

The opportunity is clear. But if you’re wondering how to use TikTok to promote your business, you aren’t alone. To help you get started, we connected with Phil Rosario, Uber’s TikTok Strategist and Creator, to compile tips for creating a presence on the platform that feels authentic, generates conversation, and produces meaningful results.

“One of Uber’s main goals on TikTok is to entertain people with content that inspires them to explore and try products from businesses like yours. We want to put the same tools and best practices that Uber uses at your fingertips so you can build a presence on TikTok that helps your business shine.” —Phil Rosario, TikTok Strategist and Creator, Uber

The atmosphere

As Phil sees it, TikTok is more of an entertainment platform than it is a social media channel. Businesses that use channels like Instagram and Twitter know that those are better suited for communicating announcements or updates, such as a new product release, a special event, or changes to operating hours. 

On TikTok, the story is a bit different. In fact, Phil notes that people consume content on the platform in a way that more closely resembles a streaming service. It’s a place where people want to feel deeply immersed in someone’s world.

“On TikTok, people don’t want to follow your life passively. They want to feel involved in every step of the process. Transparency and authenticity go such a long way on this platform. Communicate with your audience as a person, rather than an organization, as much as you can.” —Phil Rosario

The audience

Whether people realize it or not, TikTok is a place where many come to feel seen. Phil believes this creates almost endless potential to reach new people. Think about the “For You” page. That’s a personalized feed where the algorithm has been fine-tuned to serve content that matches your specific interests and viewing habits. Simply put, there is something for everybody on the platform. 

What does this mean for businesses? Phil recommends thinking about who you’re trying to reach (it may be more than one group of people) and developing content that feels relevant to their tastes, preferences, and day-to-day life.

“I really think every audience exists on TikTok. What’s important as a brand is understanding who you want your audience to be and creating your content for them. At the same time, you can also test out different formats that might appeal to new audiences you haven’t tapped into. The opportunities are really endless.” —Phil Rosario

Finding your inspiration

A platform with “endless” potential can understandably feel overwhelming, but you can find inspiration and get up and running relatively simply. Phil recommends taking the following steps:

  1. Follow creators who discuss how to use TikTok. Many creators post content about how to use the platform. Watch them and take notes.
  2. Identify what works on the platform. TikTok is all about participating in an ongoing conversation. Find what’s already creating buzz, and offer your personal spin. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
  3. Listen to your customers. Look at your reviews for recurring themes—either positive or negative—that you can tailor your content around. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. 
“At Uber, we got feedback from drivers that passengers were having trouble opening Tesla doors. We immediately went to TikTok and saw that there were a handful of viral videos addressing this same question. People were clearly interested about this topic, and we had a need at the company that we could address creatively.” —Phil Rosario

Check out the final Tesla TikTok in action:

@uber

PUSH ✍️ GRAB ✍️ PULL ✍️ #uber

♬ Lazy Sunday – Official Sound Studio

Guidelines and guardrails 

There is no “right” way to promote your business on TikTok, but a few pointers can help you put your best foot forward. Here’s how Phil sees it:

  • Don’t plan for a launch moment. You probably won’t create your first viral post right out of the gate. Use your first few posts to take the temperature of your audience. If it didn’t work out as planned, don’t sweat it. 
  • Establish a cadence. Once you post, set up a schedule that feels sustainable and hold yourself accountable to it. Because TikTok’s algorithm isn’t linear, there isn’t a hard and fast rule for the “right” cadence. Some businesses post 1-3 times per day, and others post 1-3 times per month. The most important thing is that you keep your account active. The more you post, the faster you can identify what type of content viewers respond to.
  • Highlight one product at a time. The hashtag #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt is viral for a reason. It allows people to fall in love with one single thing. When you’re creating content about your products, try to let them shine one at a time. It’s much easier for people to feel attached to a single item than an entire catalog or menu—especially if they’ve never heard of your business. 
  • Be strategic with hashtags. On channels like Instagram and Twitter, hashtags are generally used to group similar posts together. Whereas on TikTok, hashtags help the algorithm understand who should see your content. Because of this, it’s important that your hashtags relate directly to what you’re creating. It’s also wise to check the view count before you include any. Hashtags with only 100 views can limit your reach.
  • Use text to your advantage. Don’t let the videos fool you—TikTok is also a search platform. Use TikTok’s in-platform tools to add captions and text to your content. This can help the algorithm understand what topics you’re covering and who your content will be most relevant to.
  • Engage with comments. If people are commenting on your videos, keep the conversation going. You could even try experimenting with “I” and “me” pronouns (instead of “we” and “us”) in your responses to help your audience feel like they’re connecting with an actual person.
“As a business owner, identify one thing you think is special about your store. Then bring that to life in every video. It’s hard to fall in love with 10 products before you know who a business is.” —Phil Rosario

Looking for a concrete example? Watch this TikTok of Ferris Wheelers Backyard & BBQ on Uber’s channel:

@uber

they bought a 🎡 WHERE?! 🤯 #FerrisWheelers #ubereats

♬ SUNDAY BBQ – Abaco

Maximizing your impact and conserving budget 

One of TikTok’s greatest strengths is its accessibility. You don’t need expensive production equipment, in-house marketing teams, or large budgets to make content that stands out. In fact, some of the most viral videos are 5 seconds or fewer and shot on a phone. 

With that said, if you’re looking to make a bigger splash and you don’t want to invest in paid ads, consider tapping the expertise of an influencer. While some creators have rates for monetary compensation, others are happy to help in exchange for an experience or product sample. Regardless of what your budget appetite is, you can find ample opportunities to promote your business on TikTok with the help of these individuals. As someone who creates content on behalf of brands, Phil has suggestions for how to approach this:

  • Do your research. Explore TikTok and see if any influencers are visiting businesses like yours. Take stock of the content they’re creating and the products they generally highlight. See where your product might be able to fit in.
  • Keep it local. Look out for hometown heroes. Working with influencers who are well known in your area or excel at capturing the flavor of your neighborhood can give your business an important stamp of approval.
  • Keep it personal. Don’t be afraid to reach out to influencers directly, preferably by email if you can find their address. Otherwise, a direct message on TikTok can do the trick. When you make contact, try to forge a genuine connection. Tell them what you love about the content they’re creating and share specific examples. 
  • Show, don’t tell. Instead of asking for content creation immediately, offer influencers a chance to visit your store or sample a product. Inspire them to tell your story.
“If you want to build a relationship with an influencer, tell them why you’re interested in working with them. Share content from their own channels that you love most so they know what you would be most excited to see if they created something on your behalf.” —Phil Rosario

Give your business a platform to shine

You know firsthand how important it is to experiment on behalf of your business. Testing out new ways of operating—whether it’s the ingredients you use or the technology you leverage—is how you uncover ways to improve. Channel those strengths into promoting your business on one of the most downloaded apps, TikTok, which, importantly, has the highest consumer spending of all apps worldwide.

You’ve already tackled the hard part of creating a product that customers love. Now it’s a matter of bringing that product to life in a new way, in front of a new audience. Just remember to be yourself, build on what’s already working, stick with it, and have fun.

Need help getting the creative juices flowing? Check out Uber’s TikTok channel to see how Phil and Uber’s social team uplift businesses like yours. >

You can also visit TikTok’s creator portal to access tutorials covering topics ranging from creation essentials to developing your content strategy. >

For best practices about how to stand out on the Uber Eats platform, check out this Merchant Academy lesson on promoting your delivery business. >