If you’re creating an online advertising strategy in 2023, you’d be remiss to overlook TikTok. TikTok is one of the fastest growing social media channels and is on track to hit 2.25 billion users by 2027.
But TikTok users aren’t just on the app for memes and dance challenges—they’re also ready to shop. TikTok reported that its users are 1.5 times more likely to purchase a product after seeing it advertised on the platform.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to create TikTok ads and use the ads manager, and offer best practices to get the most out of advertising on TikTok. Plus, learn tips and tricks from lingerie brand Parade, a company that’s made a big splash with its own TikTok ads campaign.
TikTok advertising 101
Let’s start with an overview of advertising options TikTok offers, as well as some technical details you’ll need to know before making an ad of your own. Learn about costs, specs, and ad formats.
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What kinds of ad formats can you place on TikTok?
There are several ad formats you can use on TikTok. The bread and butter of TikTok advertising is in-feed video ads—ads that appear as someone is swiping through the app to watch videos.
These are the most affordable and accessible ads offered by TikTok, and also the ones we’ll be focusing on in this tutorial. They make the most sense for small to medium-sized businesses and are a great starting point for a TikTok campaign.
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In-feed TikTok ads fit seamlessly into the experience of using the platform. They look exactly like user-generated content on TikTok, except for a small “Sponsored” tag under the video’s caption. After a few seconds, a call-to-action button appears, such as Shop Now or Learn More, that is determined by whoever places the ad. This can be used to link directly to your website to achieve goals like boosting conversions or increasing app installs.
Although a user can immediately swipe past an in-feed ad, ones that are made well and fit into the culture and style of TikTok will be able to generate views, likes, shares, and comments, just like any other TikTok.
You can create and launch an in-feed ad yourself using the TikTok Ads Manager, which we’ll dig into below. TikTok also notes that ads can appear in several different places, including in-feed, on the detail page, post-roll, and via story. This depends on what placement you select.
TikTok also offers more premium ad options to its managed accounts, including the options outlined below.
Branded Hashtag Challenge
Challenges are a popular part of TikTok’s culture, and this campaign has brands create their own with a hashtag that is then promoted, giving the Branded Hashtag Challenge option built-in viral potential.
TikTok’s huge library of fun video effects can be added to with a branded effect created in partnership with an advertiser. Like a hashtag challenge, a branded effect encourages users to interact directly with your branding.
While TikTok ad formats can result in high engagement, they’re also out of reach for most brands. They’re typically used by major companies, like Apple or McDonald’s, or to promote a new movie. As you can probably guess, that means a high price tag, more technical expertise required, and the need to work directly with TikTok.
What are promoted TikTok videos?
If you’ve already spent some time making TikTok videos, you may have seen the option to promote a TikTok (or boost organic content). This is not the same as placing a TikTok ad, but there are some similarities.
TikToks can be promoted natively on the app by tapping the three-dot symbol on your own TikTok, then tapping the Promote button with a flame shape. From there, you can choose a goal for your promotion (such as directing users to your website), define your target audience, and set a budget for your campaign.
This system uses “coins” if you have an iPhone, the same currency users can buy to give gifts to their favorite creators. This is the cheapest way to pay for placement on TikTok, with the cheapest option being a one-day campaign of 200 coins—about $2. If you use Android, you’ll pay with your local currency.
Promoted TikTok video vs. TikTok ad campaign
A promoted TikTok could be used as a way to test the waters on the app, but its options are less sophisticated than the TikTok Ad Manager interface, which offers more precise audience targeting and allows you to upload a brand new video to serve as an ad.
The ads manager will also provide more detailed analytics about the success of your campaign, allowing you to A/B test different spots. These promoted TikToks are also available to all users, not just those with a business account. You can only promote TikToks you’ve already posted to your own feed, as opposed to uploading a video that’s only intended to be an ad.
How much do TikTok ads cost?
TikTok’s self-serve in-feed ads allow you to set your own daily budget, starting at $5 per day when using TikTok’s simplified ad placement options. Obviously, the more you spend, the more potential you have to reach new customers.
For more experienced marketers, there are more customizable options that include bids, but you don’t need to worry about that if you’re new to advertising on TikTok.
Overall, your budget will be determined by many factors, such as how much your business has allocated to marketing and which platforms you’re targeting.
TikTok ad specs
Let’s get to the technical details. Regardless of the ad type you choose, there are requirements for any video you place as a TikTok ad that you’ll need to fulfill. You can see a full list in TikTok’s help center, but here are some highlights:
- Aspect ratio: 9:16, 1:1, or 16:9, with vertical videos being the most popular
- Video resolution: Resolution must be ≥ 540 x 960 px, ≥ 640 x 640 px, or ≥ 960 x 540 px
- File type: .mp4, .mov, .mpeg, .3gp, or .avi
- Length: Up to 60 seconds, but TikTok recommends nine to 15 seconds
💡Tip: Use video creation tools designed for social channels to help you create attractive video ads within the correct specs.
How to create your first TikTok ad in 8 steps
There are two ways to create campaigns for your business on the TikTok Ads Manager—a simplified version and a custom version. The custom version is designed for experienced marketers and has more options, like creating an ad group or using a bidding strategy. But for a small to medium-sized business, the simplified version is straightforward, easy to use, and doesn’t require technical expertise.
For this tutorial, we’ll be looking at the simplified version. When you navigate to the TikTok ads manager, make sure to select Simplified Mode on the first page when prompted.
Step 1: Make sure you have a business account
In order to use the TikTok Ads Manager, you’ll need to have a business account for the platform. Switching over is both free and easy.
In the app, simply go to Settings and Privacy, then Manage Account, and tap Switch to Business Account. As a bonus, this will give you access to analytics that can tell you the best time to post on the app, as well as other features, such as a link in your bio.
Step 2: Turn on TikTok integration for your Shopify store
If you have a Shopify store, install the TikTok app. This offers other options for automated ad creation. As well, if you’re located in select countries, you’ll be able to launch a shopping tab on your TikTok profile.
Step 3: Open the TikTok Ads Manager
Step 4: Set your advertising goal
When you select Simplified Mode within the TikTok ads manager, you will be presented with four options to determine a goal (or campaign objective) for your campaign:
- Increase traffic. Pick this if you’re hoping to get people to your store to be potential customers. This option is ideal if you want to drive traffic to a website with the goal of generating a soft lead (email capture).
- Drive community interaction. A good option if your goal is to simply grow your presence on TikTok. Building community is a great way to promote your brand in the lead up to a launch.
- Generate customer leads. This method is designed to capture information from viewers via a contact form that can be used to retarget potential customers and nurture existing fans.
- Get website conversions. Good if you’re looking to drive more conversions on your store’s webpage.
Step 5: Select your audience
The next screen in your TikTok ads manager account will let you decide who exactly will see your TikTok ads. You can select “Automatic audience” to let TikTok decide for you, but it’s also easy to add a few parameters of your own if you’d rather go the “custom audience” route.
You can select your target audience of TikTok users in the TikTok ads manager based on gender, age group, languages, and location. Based on what you select, a handy slider in the top right corner of the page will let you know the size your audience will be.
You can also drill down further into areas of interest, such as clothing, cooking, or pets. For example, if you sell coffee online, you can target “coffee” as an interest. If you run a skin care business, you can target “beauty.” You can target users who have a history of interaction with TikTok content, such as liking and commenting.
Then, TikTok will ask if you’d like to show TikTok ads on just TikTok or add placement on Pangle, which the ads manager refers to as a “Premium global publisher network.”
📚Learn more: How To Reach Your Target Audience: 8 Strategies
Step 6: Set your budget and schedule
Next, you’ll determine your daily budget, starting at a minimum of $5 per day or $70 for the lifetime of the campaign. You’ll then decide how long to run your campaign for. You can also select “No end date” to run your campaign indefinitely and stop it later on when you feel it’s done its job.
Step 7: Create your ad
You’ve made it to the fun part of creating TikTok ads. On the next screen within the TikTok ads manager, you can either select one of your existing TikTok videos to run as a video ad or upload a new one that won’t appear on your regular TikTok feed.
You’ll also be able to write a caption for your ad and create a call-to-action button, such as Shop Now, with a link to your website.
Here are some things to keep in mind for your ad:
- Adhere to TikTok’s technical guidelines for vertical video ads.
- Do not place text in the video that will be covered by the caption.
- Authenticity is key on TikTok, so your ad should fit into the look and feel of other TikToks.
When in doubt, the best advice is to spend time on the app getting to know the culture and trends on TikTok to create a TikTok ad that blends in seamlessly. Scrolling your For You page will also bring up other ads to get a feel for how various brands are using the platform.
Step 8: Submit
You did it! When you hit Submit, your TikTok ad will go into a review process before it goes live to the world. You’ve now created your first ad on TikTok and you’re ready to explore the impact the platform can have on your business.
As your ad runs, you’ll want to monitor your results to learn what works and what doesn’t, so you can optimize for your next campaign.
TikTok Ads case study: Parade
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Parade’s TikTok ad campaign was executed by Darya Dziadzenka, a growth marketing manager at the company. Darya gave us some insight into how she ran the campaign, including how it set its goal and created the actual video ads, and some advice for budding TikTok marketers.
Parade tried a variety of goals for its campaign, including a mid-funnel approach that was simply optimized for getting a potential customer to initiate a checkout. But at the end of the day, Darya says conversion became their goal.
“It’s one of the strongest growth channels for us,” she says. “So the complete purchase was the conversion goal.”
3 TikTok ads best practices (according to an expert)
The results of Parade’s success with TikTok ads were a set of best practice guidelines for others looking to get started with advertising on TikTok.
1. Delivery matters more than follower count
For the campaign, Darya focused on recruiting smaller influencers to star in Parade’s TikTok ads. “I find it not to be super important what the follower count is, but more so the delivery and if the creator feels authentic to the brand,” she says.
The benefit of that is the ads feel like any other fashion TikTok you might find on the app, so they blend in seamlessly when someone is scrolling. “The key thing to success on TikTok is making the content as organic to the platform as it can be,” Darya says.
That also meant incorporating humor into the TikTok ads to create a relatable brand voice. Parade chose the sounds or music for each video and gave each influencer a brief with guidance on what styles to model, but each star was able to lend their own flair to each ad. Again, it’s all in the name of keeping things authentic.
2. Mistakes are opportunities to learn
Darya says there were some stumbles along the way. At one point, they tried creating more editorial-style ads that you would normally associate with a fashion brand, with more calming music and less humor. But they didn’t perform well.
“They just didn’t scale as much as the trending fun sounds that feel more on brand and more aligned with what Gen Z wants to hear,” Darya says. “I think the sounds that have words in it play very well, because people are less likely to scroll past those.”
3. Authenticity reigns
Darya says that to make your ads work, you need to think like a creator. That means spending time on the app watching TikToks and interacting with content to understand what people like watching. Simply bringing over an ad that might work on another platform doesn’t cut it.
“Try to make ads that don’t sound like ads, but something that you would actually enjoy watching on TikTok yourself, and incorporate the message within that,” Darya says.
Start advertising on TikTok today
Now that you know the basics of creating a TikTok ad campaign and have some great advice from Parade, you’re ready to start doing it yourself. Sign up for a business account to activate your TikTok ads manager account and you’re ready to get started making TikTok ads a regular part of your content strategy.
Remember that every marketing strategy will take some trial and error. Start small, review your metrics, and optimize as you go to create TikTok ads that will work for your brand.
TikTok Ads FAQ
How do TikTok ads work?
TikTok ads work by targeting viewers based on demographics, interests, and behaviors. Advertisers can create ads in the form of video, image, or hashtag challenges. The ads are then shown to the target audience in the form of sponsored videos, ads in the For You feed, hashtag challenges, or promoted trends. TikTok also allows advertisers to track their performance and make adjustments to their campaigns in real time.
How much are ads on TikTok?
The cost of ads on TikTok varies depending on the type of ad, targeting, budget, and other factors. You can set a daily or lifetime budget for your campaigns.
Is TikTok advertising worth it?
The answer to this question depends on the goals of your business. TikTok ads can be effective for reaching younger audiences, but it is important to conduct research to determine if this platform is the best fit for your business.
Additionally, it is important to carefully plan your TikTok ad campaigns and track your results to ensure that you are getting the most out of your ad spend. Within the TikTok ads manager, you can narrow down your audience to target only the TikTok users that resemble your target customer.
Are TikTok ads successful?
TikTok ads can be successful if used as part of a strategic marketing strategy. To maximize success, marketers should create ads that are creative and entertaining, and that target the right audience (you can select this audience in the TikTok ads manager). Additionally, having an optimized profile, engaging with followers, and using relevant hashtags can help to boost your TikTok advertising’s effectiveness.