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What Every Financial Brand Needs to Know About TikTok

By January 15, 20214 min read

TikTok has been the social media platform, getting all the attention as of late – the good, bad and downright weird.

It’s one of the fastest-growing social media platforms, with U.S adult users growing 5.5 times faster than other sites in the last 18 months and becoming the second most downloaded free app (behind WhatsApp). It’s an app every financial brand should focus on understanding. TikTok has impacted how users engage with more mature platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and sparks questions around data privacy and ethics, which is not to be taken lightly, especially in the financial services industry.

Seriously, pay attention to TikTok

While TikTok has a reputation as social media rage of Gen Z, it is the fastest growing social platform with consumption reaching into older generations. According to Omnicore and Statista research, TikTok has seen:

  • 68% of users over the age of 20, with 30% 20-29, 16% 30-39, and 14% 40-49
  • The average user spends 52 minutes a day on TikTok (compared to 38 on Facebook)
  • 26.5 million active users in the U.S
  • U.S users open TikTok on average 8 times a day
  • 46 million U.S TikTok downloads in 2019

In June alone, TikTok was downloaded 7.5 million times in the U.S.

It’s just a fad? Many thought the same about Instagram

The formula for TikTok’s success is taken directly from Instagram’s playbook. Instagram was initially built to share photos to multiple platforms quickly with a feature that few other apps had – a simple method for making your photos look good (you know those picturesque filters). TikTok took this playbook and applied it to video, making it easier for users to edit, add audio, and share across platforms. It gave the user a higher quality experience, all from their mobile phone.

So, how should bank brands process this information?

Video-based content is clearly a winner

Apps like TikTok are popular because video and music help us communicate where we are, what we are doing, and how we feel. According to Neilson, during the pandemic, video-sharing has thrived with an anticipated 60% increase in consumption as YouTube, Facebook, and Zoom experienced dramatic upticks in usage. Video streaming continues to infiltrate all of our lives where technology comes into play, from our phones to smart TVs and refrigerators.

Memes are video too

Who doesn’t love communicating your feelings with a good meme? TikTok is changing the nature of the single image meme. Taking popular songs and layering them with 6 or 7 different popular media images to represent your emotional status takes it to a far more engaging level. You don’t have to copy everything on TikTok, but finding ways to bring a meme into your brand’s voice could be effective. By putting your bank or loan officer’s personality in a creative video, you can show your community who you are and how they can relate to you.

Fast Following

In business, we often use the term “fast following” to describe scenarios when waiting for others to make the first move and then follow their lead. TikTok takes fast following to a new level. Many popular TikTok profiles wait for the latest video to begin to spike, use the same audio and follow the meme formula to success. This strategy of following the trends, repurposing them across your accounts is a phenomenal way to connect while making them your own. Check out #ChoresInThisHouse for a late August 2020 inspiration trend.

Should our bank be on TikTok?

The answer is, “it depends.” Most risk assessments will heavily weigh the concerns and perceptions of overseas decisions around the platform. Even outside the U.S, TikTok has generated many controversaries around not adequately safeguarding data and ethical concerns around content distribution, with India briefly banning TikTok for “morality issues.“ These concerns have been seen in the U.S. over national security concerns.

There is clearly a lot that needs to be taken into consideration when adding any new social media platform to your bank’s channel mix, but starting with understanding the intricacies of the platform, especially around data and privacy, will be critical, particularly if you are building a business case around it.

The perception of TikTok has surrounded young Gen Z’s dancing, but as more brands and demographics diversify, many more types of content are developing rapidly. I spoke with one mortgage lender who estimates half of his new loans will come from TikTok referrals. This is a testament to developing appropriate content for a specific target audience. TikTok can be a powerful conversion engine to grow your business. In this situation, the reward outweighed the risk.

While your bank may not need to be on TikTok today, understanding “what’s popping” will put your brand in the driver’s seat to understanding how to adapt quickly to the changing trends and stay abreast of the risks associated with delving into new territory. With the high level of controversy surrounding TikTok, combined with the rapidly growing user adoption, you can’t avoid paying attention.