Mastering Tiktok Customer Acquisition

October 5, 2023

TikTok is more than a social media platform. When users open the TikTok app, they aren't doing so to chat with friends. They go to TikTok for entertainment.

The nature of the platform's For You Page gives brands a unique opportunity. You don't need loads of followers for your content to be discovered. As long as your videos are entertaining and relevant, they find their target audience.

This is part of what makes TikTok marketing a powerful customer acquisition channel that helps brands spread awareness, build supportive communities, and drive conversions. 

While the company has faced its fair share of controversy, it’s one of the most-used social media apps in the world. As of April 2023, 44% of the US digital population uses TikTok. That means utilizing TikTok as an acquisition channel gives your brand access to over 116 million people.

That growth is backed by the user base’s strong purchasing power. TikTok’s in-app purchases amounted to nearly 500 million USD in the first quarter of 2023 alone.

After reading this blog, you’ll have all the information you need to harness that purchasing power with a winning TikTok customer acquisition strategy.

Organic TikTok customer acquisition

Open TikTok today, and you won’t be seeing many 15-second dance videos. The app’s culture has evolved significantly since its pandemic-era rise to fame. It’s still an entertainment platform, but user behavior classifies TikTok as a search engine, too. 

According to Senior Vice President Prabhakar Raghavan (in charge of Google’s Knowledge and Information organization), “Almost 40% of young people, when they’re looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search… they go to TikTok or Instagram.”

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Their purchase intent and the platform’s searchability factor create a strong foundation for organic customer acquisition. 

Here’s how you can implement organic TikTok marketing content into every stage of your customer acquisition funnel:

Building awareness among TikTok's users

When it comes to building brand awareness without an established following, consider TikTok an asset. TikTok's users spend the majority of their time on the For You Page. It’s a constant stream of content cherry-picked by the algorithm. While some of the content is from creators they follow, most of it is stuff they’ve never interacted with. 

Brands can take the already insurmountable amount of reach even further by working with influencers. A steady stream of organic content is key to building a community of potential customers.

Fostering consideration with user-generated content

Value-focused content is ideal for users in the consideration stage. They’re aware of your brand— now it’s time to show what your products can do for them.

The credibility associated with user-generated content is also beneficial for nurturing familiarity into consideration. Find UGC by checking branded hashtags, account mentions/tags, and by using a social listening tool. You can also commission influencers from the TikTok creator marketplace to make native TikTok videos about your products– just remember to maintain transparency for all sponsored content. 

Inspire decisions with clear CTAs

Inspire users to make a purchasing decision by implementing clear, specific calls to action at the end of your TikTok videos. Your CTAs should be tailored to your TikTok audience. Tell your viewers exactly what steps they need to take to make a purchase. The steps will vary depending on what conversion pathway you set up. Try to make the process easy and fast. 

Strengthen your CTAs further by providing TikTok-exclusive offers like discount codes, freebies, or even a dedicated landing page designed just for your TikTok audience. 

Maintain loyalty with community management

Don’t forget about your customers once they reach the purchasing phase. Promote long-term customer loyalty through community building and customer service. Continue creating engaging content, manage customer queries from your comments and DMs, and grow customer lifetime value by releasing limited edition versions and special offers on a semi-regular basis. 

Paid TikTok customer acquisition

While TikTok ads may not be as well-established as other industry players, they still play an instrumental role in TikTok customer acquisition.

Best practices for TikTok creative

If you want a successful customer acquisition strategy on TikTok, you need high-quality, entertaining videos. The following tips can help you improve your video content:

Use the right video specs

Optimal TikTok video specs:

  • Aspect ratio: 9:16
  • Minimum resolution: 540x960px, 640x640px, or 960x540px.
  • File type: .mp4, .mov, .mpeg, .3gp, or .avi
  • Max file size: 500MB
  • Optimal video length: 15-60 seconds for organic videos and 9-15 seconds for paid ads.

Know your TikTok safe zones

Safe zones are the areas where your content is displayed on screen, unobstructed by any buttons or sidebars. Be mindful of the safe zones to ensure all valuable content is clearly visible.

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Be strategic with your TikTok video structure

Here’s a common product-focused TikTok video structure:

  • Hook: Give your viewers a reason to stick around by showing them what they can expect if they watch your video to completion. One way to do this is by teasing your solution.
  • Problem: Empathize with a problem they face.
  • Your solution: Show viewers an easy solution in action. 
  • CTA: Tell your viewers what to do next.

This structure can go full-on infomercial, leaning into the cheesy vibe for comedy, or it can follow a subtler approach. Some brands like to break the fourth wall in an effort to prove authenticity. 

Be genuine, even with ads

Life hacks are all over TikTok for a reason– they appear genuine and actually useful. This is the connotation you want to replicate with your content. You understand the viewer’s unique problem and have a solution to make their lives easier. 

Whether you’re making an organic video or an ad, follow the native TikTok format and design your content to fit the app’s unique culture. Basically, create your TikTok ads as you would any product-focused TikTok video. 

Use engaging features

Use all the features TikTok has to offer. Trending sounds, voiceover, closed captions, on-screen text, jump cuts, effects, colors, filters, and the like are all scroll stoppers that keep your audience engaged.

Remember intellectual property

Be mindful of any intellectual property used in your ads. IP boundaries are muddy on TikTok, but disputes currently in the works should be taken as a warning sign to brands using other users’ original audio for advertising purposes. 

Further reading: Check out our blog post “How to Nail Your TikTok Ad Creative”.

What products are TikTok ads best for? TikTok Advertising product alignment

TikTok ads are ideal for products that meet a need or solve a specific problem. Communities on TikTok are more niche than on other platforms. Organic hashtag research can lead to subcultures that align with your target audience.

The question is less "Are my target customers using TikTok" and more "What content do I need to put out to find them?" 

Your TikTok ads should visually represent your product's value proposition. This is one place where partnering with creators can change the game, as they are typically skilled at producing native videos that entertain while showing off your product's value.

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How to structure TikTok ad campaigns for customer acquisition

TikTok ads follow the campaign<ad group<ad structure. Brands can differentiate campaigns by objective, product, destination (app, website, or brick-and-mortar store), budget, offer, etc. Ad groups are a way to organize creatives. 

To get the most out of your ad spend, consider only displaying your ad in the TikTok feed. Include at least 3-5 unique, active ad groups per campaign and 2-3 unique creatives per ad group. When posting your creatives, uncheck the video download feature to keep your video from being saved and reuploaded by another account. 

Read this blog next: Every TikTok Ad Format You Need to Know and How to Use Them

How long does it take to test and validate TikTok ads?

The TikTok testing period can last 1-2 months. It takes time to gather enough conversion data to identify performance patterns. Factors that impact the testing period length include:

  • The conversion event
  • Sales cycle length
  • Audience behavior

If your optimization goal is conversions, TikTok recommends not making any changes to the targeting, bid, or budget before it passes the learning phase. This type of ad group typically exits the learning phase after 50 conversions. Post learning phase, keep your budget within 20-50% of the previous budget. 

How much does TikTok customer acquisition cost?

Here is the average cost of TikTok customer acquisition (TikTok CAC) according to Business of Apps:

  • Average TikTok engagement rate: 5-16%
  • Average TikTok Ads CPM: $10
  • Average TikTok Ads CPC: $1
  • Minimal spend per campaign: $500
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TikTok advertising budget best practices

Make the most of your TikTok advertising budget by adhering to the following recommendations:

  • Use automatic bidding, as manual bidding is too susceptible to spend volatility. Opt for manual bidding only when you have a specific window of time during which your ads should run.
  • Leave your campaign budget open.
  • Daily budgets for campaigns must be greater than  50 USD
  • Daily budgets for ad groups must exceed 20 USD. 
  • If you select Daily Budget for the campaign, you have to select daily budget in the ad group. If you select lifetime budget for a campaign, you can choose either lifetime budget or daily budget at the ad group level. 
  • When choosing a Bid Cap or Cost Cap bidding strategy, set your budget to be at least 20 times the CPA. 
  • Use app Event Optimization to run app installs. Keep your AEO budget over $100, covering at least 20 times the targeted deep conversion CPA.
  • When running conversion campaigns, select conversion as the optimization goal and Lowest Cost as the bid strategy. The initial budget should be 20 times the target CPA minimum. 

Delivery types: standard vs accelerated 

Standard delivery spends the budget as evenly as possible throughout the ad period. This method prevents leftover balance and optimizes the return. 

Accelerated delivery spends the budget in whatever way produces as many results as possible in the shortest period possible. This can result in a higher or lower fluctuating cost for a single result, but the average cost will still align with your bid. Accelerated delivery aims to get the highest exposure as quickly as possible. 

Measuring TikTok CAC (customer acquisition cost) ROI

While dividing the total ad campaign cost by the number of new customers acquired is the most effective way to measure ROI for a conversion campaign, brands can also measure the impact of their ads by calculating the difference between the view time per impression and the view time per viewer. The bigger the difference between these, the more people are rewatching the ad. 

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Step up your TikTok Customer Acquisition with MarinOne

MarinOne’s TikTok integration gives advertisers better insights and improved performance for their TikTok campaigns. 

Powerful analytics and advanced optimization enable you to run better reports, compare TikTok ads with other paid social campaigns, customize KPIs, automate bidding according to your campaign goals, respond to external signals with custom bid modifiers, refine messaging with search intent targeting, and more.

Jumpstart your TikTok customer acquisition with MarinOne today.

Katie Sullivan Porter

Marin Software
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