Think TikTok is just for the kids? Think again. Here’s how retailers can reach key customers through strategic use of the popular social media app—and how to get started.
The idea of having one more social media platform to manage may have you shaking your head, but there are plenty of good reasons for independent storeowners to take note of TikTok. The video-creation and sharing app is perhaps the easiest and most effective social media platform for getting (and staying) close to your customers right now.
New Mexico Dancewear, in Albuquerque, started using TikTok in August 2020 with the hope of bringing in extra business during the back-to-school season of one of its hardest years. “I’m confident that with consistent use, TikTok will connect us with a younger generation—the ones who direct their parents on what to buy them,” says Fiona-Maria Hernandez, general manager of the store. It’s also been helpful in dealing with the business challenges of the pandemic. “We usually attend competitions, recitals and annual shows to see what dancers are wearing and what trends are happening,” says Hernandez. “With literally everything canceled here in New Mexico last year, we were unable to use those events as guidance for stocking our store. So, this platform was a really helpful visual tool in keeping up with that.”
TikTok, which became available worldwide in 2018, is a destination for short-form, mobile videos ranging from 15 to 60 seconds. The largest demographic among its 100 million U.S. active users is age 10 to 29. With its roots in dance and music, TikTok is where dance retailers will find a lot of their customers hanging out these days. So why not meet them where they are? What’s more, in June 2020, TikTok announced a new set of marketing tools, TikTok for Business, aimed at helping companies connect with their customers and turn users into brand ambassadors. TikTok businesses can advertise through in-feed video ads, which appear between content videos; branded hashtag challenges (see a description of one later in this story); and branded stickers and filters. TikTok has also created a Small Business Resource Center, which includes templates, tips and webinars on creative best-practices and how to get started in TikTok Ads Manager.
“TikTok is a storytelling platform,” says Nicole Leinbach Reyhle, founder of Retail Minded. “It’s an entertainment destination for a lot of people, and as a retailer you are positioned to tell a story: the story of your purpose and your inventory.” The platform’s design helps. Instead of users scrolling through a feed from accounts they follow, they are directed to a “For You” page that features suggested videos based on their account settings, previous interactions and viewing preferences. That means a store can land in front of local dancers just by using the right hashtags and captions in their posts, which is exactly what motivated Dancewear Centre in Toronto, ON, to join TikTok last spring. Since then, the store has been using the platform to create behind-the-scenes videos of their photo shoots, tours of the store and fun dance videos.
If you want to connect to your customers in this fresh way and generate more buzz for your store, here’s how to get started.
Getting Started With TikTok
At first glance, TikTok can feel a bit overwhelming. Fear not. We break down the important features here so you can get off and running filming your own videos.
When you open the app you will immediately be directed to TikTok’s home page, where videos from your “For You” feed will immediately start playing. (Be sure your ear buds are connected!) Spend some time here whenever you visit TikTok. “Like and comment on videos in your feed,” says Reyhle. “It is a social platform, so it’s important that you engage.” That way, when you start producing your own videos, they’ll get pushed higher up in the algorithm and get seen by more people, she adds.
The “Discover” tab on your bottom tool bar is where you will find trending hashtags, songs and challenges, and feeds of videos with those tags. Be sure to search this page for the best songs (called “sounds” in TikTok) to use in your videos and any hashtags that make sense for your store. “A dance store definitely has to participate in the dance trends or at least use any trending sounds where we can,” says Kandace Montoya, who is responsible for creating most of New Mexico Dancewear’s TikTok content. “As long as the sound or dance is family-friendly, we try to be on it! Trends are constantly changing, hour by hour, day by day, so on the days we are closed, I look for fun new trends we can be part of.”
Create Your Own TikTok Videos
When you’re ready to make your first video, the filming tools are, thankfully, very intuitive. However, there are some exciting features that differ from other video platforms that are worth noting.
Tools within the app allow you to add filters, rearrange or trim clips, change your voice or add in a voiceover. You can also select songs from a library of sounds or add effects to make your videos look better. For example, you can add fun transitions between clips, turn a segment into slow motion, or clone yourself for a trio instead of a solo performance.
Feeling a little unsure what to film first? Reyhle suggests first-timers try out the “Duet” feature. When you Duet with another video it creates a split-screen effect that shows your video on one side and the original on another. “Have your staff Duet with a popular dance trend,” says Reyhle. “Mimic the dance moves, and it becomes entertaining to your audience.”
“Stitch” is a feature that allows you to weave segments of other videos into your own. You can play around with adding your own endings or reacting to portions of the original video. Both features are highly interactive and will help inspire you when it comes to creating your own content.
When you’re ready to try an advertising campaign, look to other brands for inspiration, even bigger, nondance ones. One recent example of how this unique form of advertising can work across categories to attract customers is Cheetos. Based on its Super Bowl commercial that starred Ashton Kutcher, the brand sponsored a hashtag challenge: #ItWasntMe. Videos from users featured the popular song by Shaggy and told entertaining stories about snack thieves that played off the successful TV commercial. Cheetos certainly has nothing to do with dancewear. However, Oklahoma City Ballet soloist Autumn Klein shared a video of herself chasing down her own stolen snacks in a tutu and pointe shoes. Her video was entertaining to watch, and it helped Cheetos reach a new audience of dancers. By thinking creatively, you can relate pop culture trends to your business and grab the attention of potential customers.
If you’re ready to get started, see “3 Dance Retailers Share What They’ve Learned So Far About TikTok Marketing” for more inspiration (and practical advice).
Libby Basile is a former editor in chief of Dance Retailer News. She reports regularly on visual merchandising, retail strategy and store design.