TikTok, the internet’s shiny new toy

Problems abound when it comes to monetizing TikTok in any sort of substantial way.

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I have a dog; other than my girlfriend, my dog is the love of my life. Problem is, my dog gets distracted super easy. Throw something shiny or squeaky down the hall and my dog is lost for hours.

Marketers and ecommerce pros can be like distracted dogs. Every year or two the shiny new toy comes out and everyone gets distracted. People forget about ROI, forget about real value, forget about what works and all of a sudden, some magical new platform will cure their problem.

TikTok is the internet’s new shiny toy, offering all kinds of new options…that we kind of already have. Granted, kids are using TikTok because kids love dynamic video, but problems abound, especially when it comes to monetizing TikTok in any sort of substantial way.

  1. TikTok gives credits. Like a drug dealer who gives you a taste to get you hooked, TikTok offers users promotional codes so that $1,000 in advertising gets you $2,000. However, these numbers are suspect. Again, it’s all about the ROI. What will $1,000 or even $10,000 get you on TikTok that you can’t get on Snapchat, IG or Facebook? Like old school video game cheats, these game the algorithm and make it look like you have some real value for your dollar. But when we sat back and measured our results, they just weren’t the same. Sure, kids are using TikTok, but are they on the app to buy products or just mess around and communicate?
  2. Privacy. FTC fines, shady practices, illegally collecting information from children younger than 13, accusations of it being a cover for espionage…and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s no secret that the magical app has serious privacy concerns, but what’s not clear just yet is how brands are reacting. Users are still downloading it, the company is valued at $75 billion at last count, but again…are those users there to buy or to watch? If you remember those old Sharper Image stores at the mall, they were great to walk into, but no one was really buying those $2,000 massage chairs that felt so good. Spectacle is great, but core ecommerce is driving sales and getting value for every dollar spent.

I preach value, day and night, value, value, value. Facebook is a much more sophisticated tool, and while it has serious issues of its own, we can gauge what does and does not work. Native ads are on the rise because of targeting and cost. These might not sound as sexy as some random media buyer claiming s/he can create a star-spangled TikTok campaign for $40,000 that’ll wow 16-22-year-olds, but when the retailer looks at results, it’ll be severely disappointed.

Ignore the shiny new toy and remember what matters. No one in the 12th century could fathom indoor plumbing let alone the internet, but basic business principles still apply. Buy for a dollar, sell for two. However, you promote, make sure it makes cents and dollars. Snapchat is practically a forgotten relic, but it has broad appeal, followers and a measurable algorithm. Let’s not crown TikTok just yet.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Nick Shackelford
For the past 7 years, Nick has been lead to large teams and small in the paid media landscape, working with brands from PepsiCo and Apple to fresh and young brands like Ministry of Supply and Diff Eyewear. All things paid media and performance-related within the ecommerce landscape are what Nick focuses on these days.

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