You might be an avid user of TikTok already, or perhaps your son, daughter, niece, or nephew is a fan. With a billion users worldwide, it’s almost certain you know someone who has been drawn in by this hugely influential app. What’s remarkable is that it’s only five years old, and already has three times as many users as Twitter, which is well into its teenage years.
If you’re running a business, there’s a chance you are aware of its use as a marketing tool; but it also has plenty of potential for customer service, too. There’s something about the medium, the user demographic and the filters and tools that make it perfect for the task – and with new tools always in the pipeline, it might just be the perfect time to investigate this social network more closely for customer interactions.
What is TikTok used for?
TikTok is a social media platform that is based on videos. Users make relatively short videos, which can be anything up to three minutes in length (however, this does get extended from time to time). They can add filters, captions, and stickers, and interact with other creators’ videos. Viewers swipe through their stream of videos until they see one they want to watch.
Because of the limited time available for a video, creators have learnt to be incredibly efficient, as well as creative. The best ones know exactly how to grab viewers’ attention in the first few seconds, then develop the video into something watchable and shareable, and win followers along the way. Typical themes are humour, pop culture, beauty tips, music, dance and so on – but the platform itself is serious business, making millionaires out of some of its young creators.
How to use TikTok for business
Not surprisingly, many brands have leapt onto the platform, creating a TikTok business account, and some have leveraged it brilliantly. Gymshark, Nando’s, Red Bull and even Ryanair are just some of the brands getting in on the act, making content that’s entertaining, as well as successful from a marketing perspective.
The trick is not to lay the marketing on too thick, even to the point of poking fun at the brand. Everyone knows it’s advertising, but you can still get tongues wagging if you find the right tone. You don’t even need to use paid advertising on the platform, either – sharable content is valid and can work, as long as your creative juices are flowing. Here are a few tips for the platform:
- Know your audience: TikTok’s main users are Gen-Zers, so make content that appeals to them. If your business isn’t aimed at that age group (e.g. mortgages, pensions), this might not be the platform for you. But don’t rule it out – Instagram was only used by young people once.
- Use influencers: if you have a budget for social media marketing, consider influencers in your sector – they’re often willing to give you mentions and links if the price is right. There are even corners of TikTok that small businesses can take advantage of, so explore your patch well – you might be able to ride on the back of someone who can guide customers to your storefront.
- Remember the format: TikTok videos are designed for mobile, so keep them in portrait mode and as short as possible.
- Find the balance between professional and informal: spend time getting your videos perfect, but don’t overproduce them – most popular videos look like they’ve been shot on the spur of the moment, even though they usually haven’t.
Should you use TikTok for customer service?
Now that you’ve got your following and your creative team is working on TikTok, some intriguing new possibilities open up. One that’s really garnering some interest is using the platform for customer service. It’s proving to be a popular way to interact with customers.
This is not an entirely new concept in social media – or indeed in TikTok itself – as many companies use social monitoring and dedicated helpdesk staff to sort out customers’ complaints, compliments, and queries. You might have grumbled about your broadband going down, only to find a DM or public message from the provider asking how they can help. It’s a win-win for companies as it usually stops the customer complaining and makes the company look helpful and proactive.
TikTok obviously has its own audience, which is why you can use it to keep in touch if your business happens to have a foot in one of the sectors that make the platform so successful (e.g. beauty, fitness, fashion, art etc.). Here are two ideas for using TikTok for business in your customer service.
Use the Q&A Filter
Since early 2021, all creators have been able to use the Q&A filter, and it has proven to be a popular addition. Essentially, a user poses a question to a creator, who then makes a video in response, with the initial question displayed as a text sticker on the screen. This has clear implications for help desks, who can use TikTok to answer frequent or anticipated product questions in the format its users are accustomed to. As a business, it gives you a voice and a face, and you can physically demonstrate how to do things, too, all without requiring users to launch a separate app.
Stream videos using TikTok LIVE
There could be occasions when you might want to send out a mass message to users, for example, exciting launches, product recalls or your take on a news story that affects your business. With TikTok LIVE, you can broadcast a message to your followers and respond in real-time to any comments or questions they raise by text. You’ll need to let users know it’s going to happen by promoting it in advance, but because it’s live, you can create a real buzz, with users dropping by to see what’s going on. LIVE broadcasts are deleted after 90 days, so it’s a great way of ensuring your content remains fresh and relevant.
Drawbacks of TikTok for customer service
There are a few disadvantages that you should take account of when considering TikTok for customer service:
- The platform can change policy at a moment’s notice, and you could lose all your good work.
- It’s not yours to personalise or modify beyond the available filters and features.
- If your business grows, you’ll have to grow your TikTok presence in accordance with its size, which might not be sustainable.
- There’s no way to transfer your TikTok CS data to a separate CS platform – it will forever exist in a silo.
- Everyone isn’t on TikTok, so it should only ever be used in conjunction with other systems.
TikTok’s unique vibe and the types of users it attracts might make it the perfect platform for you to reach out to customers, or to allow them to reach out to you. We’d never recommend having it as your only CS solution, of course – it’s always better to be in complete control and have your customer interactions backed up with a fully functioning CRM suite.