How to use social media (properly) for business

Authors: Rae Yule Kim
Posted: Tue, February 07, 2023 - 11:03:00

Social media has been a game-changer for marketing. One successful hashtag challenge can generate millions of user-generated content (UGC) and billions of views. Here are four ways to trigger user-generated content on social media. 

For two companies recently, viral TikTok campaigns spun marketing wins out of virtually nothing. Consider their cases: In the first, Too Faced, a cosmetic venture, inspired a viral challenge where the users were showing off before and after applying a lip-plumping product. Hashtagged #TFDamnGirl, the campaign generated one billion views and demand for the six-year-old product spiked, selling out the product line. The second campaign, Chipotle, launched the #ChipotleLidFlip challenge, where users closed a burrito bowl with an acrobatic flip of its lid. The campaign generated 110,000 videos with 310 million views and the company recorded historical sales the next day. How did these two companies do it? 

As of 2023, 138 million people use TikTok in the U.S. and the company has 1 billion active users in the world. Approximately 80 percent of users are Gen Z or Millennials. Most TikTok users come from high-income households, where about 40 percent of them reported annual household incomes higher than $100,000. One characteristic of TikTok that distinguishes it from the other social media platforms is that the main reason to participate in the community is to do so via content creation. TikTok users do much more than scrolling. About 83 percent of users upload videos. Small or big, it is safe to assume that everyone on TikTok is an influencer aiming for virality. That’s why the most successful marketing cases on TikTok have been predominantly the brands that have exploited the TikTok community’s willingness to co-create, by plumping their lips, flipping a lid, or any other activity. In other words, successful TikTok marketers are aiming for virality not by creating cool content but rather by helping the users create content.

Still, many marketers I encounter are uncertain about how to use channels like TikTok to reach the younger demographics and promote their brands. Can campaigns like the ones above really be a strategy? The answer is yes. One successful hashtag challenge can trigger thousands of user-generated videos and generate millions of views. One piece of advice for marketers looking to exploit this fastest-growing new social media platform is: Let people do it.

Launch hashtag challenges

Hashtag challenges on TikTok can be the most cost-effective way to trigger user-generated content and improve brand exposure. On TikTok, millions of users spend substantial time and resources to create a 15-second video, hoping that the result will become viral. Brands’ hashtag challenges offer an easy win for these creators; by participating in the challenge users get access to cheap content that is part of a conversation. A simple challenge by Guess, #InMyDenim, where users simply showed themselves in denim was interesting enough to trigger more than 5,000 users to post videos and generated more than 50 million views. Another example is Marc Anthony’s #StrictlyCurls challenge. The name of the challenge is the name of the product line of their curl styling cream. This challenge—asking TikTok users with curly hair to post videos of their hair—generated more than eight million views and sales spiked 138 percent in the three months after launching the hashtag challenge. These cases show that TikTok users do not pass on an opportunity to create easy content. 

Keep it simple, fun, and approachable

TikTok has earned a reputation as a casual platform where users feel comfortable expressing themselves and having fun. The #ChipotleLidFlip and #GuacDance challenges from Chipotle generated 110,000 and 250,000 videos respectively, with more than one billion combined views. But Chipotle is certainly not the first company to ask users to do something. To understand why these campaigns work, consider a failed one: Buzzfeed’s video encouraging users to weigh in on whether New Year’s Eve should be referred to using the outgoing year or the incoming one, for example, NYE 2019 or NYE 2020. Viewers were asked to post videos about their opinions. The campaign earned just 1,000 views and no follow-up videos. It’s not that TikTok users couldn’t care less to take the time to articulate their reasoning to explain why the New Year’s Eve should be NYE 2019 or NYE 2020, but instead that Chipotle made it easy to make fun videos. Other successful challenges, such as #EyesLipsFace by E.L.F. Cosmetics and #InMyDenim by Guess, invited users to post a video about their everyday makeup looks or jean outfits. Approachability is the key to generating a successful challenge on TikTok. If the challenge seems to be difficult to replicate or not fun, users are unlikely to take the challenge. 

Create cause-related challenges

The Ice Bucket Challenge nudged many social media users to post videos of pouring buckets of ice on their heads to increase awareness of a disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and encourage donations. Initially, the popularity of hashtag challenges on TikTok started with the Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014, where #IceBucketChallenge has been viewed 59 million times. TikTok users care about causes. The #CreateForACause challenge launched by TikTok to invite users to post videos advocating for the causes they care about has generated 837 million impressions. One distinguishing characteristic of Millennials and Gen Z is that they are increasingly engaged with environmental issues. Nearly nine in ten Zoomers are concerned about the environment—and they believe that businesses should take action on environmental issues. Cause-related challenges about the environment, including the existing environment hashtags that are proven for customer reach, can be a powerful marketing campaign to increase brand awareness—and also to improve brand attitudes among Gen Z and Millennial consumers. Nonprofits have proven to be viral in this space too. The challenge #ForClimated, where the users posted videos about raising awareness on global warming, had 531.5 million views, and the #SaveourOceans challenge by Conservation International invited users to create videos that raise awareness on this topic, gaining 1.8 billion views in total. 

Partner with influencers

Eighty-seven percent of Zoomers follow at least one influencer. Moreover, almost half of Gen Z has made purchases based on recommendations from social media influencers, as opposed to 26 percent of older generations. Zoomers tend to find social media influencers more authentic and trustworthy as brand spokespeople compared to celebrities. For brands that are new to TikTok, customer reach can be challenging. Partnering with influencers to launch hashtag challenges immediately gains access to millions of followers who might be keen to replicate their favorite influencers’ videos. Kool-Aid ran its first hashtag challenge in 2019, bringing over four TikTok influencers to invite people to post videos of themselves enjoying the holiday season. The Kool-Aid’s first hashtag challenge, #OhYEAHChristmas, resulted in more than 10,000 videos uploaded and was viewed 1.9 billion times. F’real sells milkshakes at convenience stores across the U.S. and Canada. F’real partnered with a micro-influencer with around 100,000 followers to launch a funny video that promotes their milkshakes. The video received 1.5 million likes and it was shared about 20,000 times. Also, people started to upload their own funny videos with F’real milkshakes. The user-generated content uploaded with hashtags #F’real and #F’realMilkshake has more than 250 million views combined. The company’s TikTok account now has 700,000 followers and 12 million likes.

Using social media for business

Social media has been a game-changer for marketing. One successful hashtag challenge can nudge millions of user-generated content (UGC) and billions of impressions with relatively low costs. But some marketers might still wonder how fun videos can lead to sales. To answer them, we can look to other social platforms. Follower acquisitions on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter often tend to improve sale performance [1]. Successful hashtags challenges have increased the number of followers on the brands’ TikTok accounts, all of whom might directly or indirectly promote the brand to their followers, via user-generated content or simply liking and sharing the brand’s content on TikTok. 

There are concerns

TikTok has promising application prospects for marketing; however, there are concerns. Data protection is an issue that affects most social media platforms. The EU is carrying out new investigations on Facebook’s data processing operations over its potential violations of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) policies. TikTok often ranks as one of the worst social media platforms for privacy policies. Because TikTok is owned by its Chinese parent company ByteDance, concerns are growing over the potential government access to user data by the Chinese Communist Party. TikTok claims that they process all U.S. user data in Oracle’s servers, however, their policies regarding data access and transfer are opaque. It is worthwhile for marketers to keep an eye on TikTok’s progress in data protection.

1. Kim, R.Y. The value of followers on social media. IEEE Engineering Management Review 48, 2 (2020), 173–183. 

Posted in: on Tue, February 07, 2023 - 11:03:00

Rae Yule Kim

Rae Yule Kim is a professor of marketing at Montclair State University. His research provides insights for marketers looking to improve the digital presence of their business. [email protected]
View All Rae Yule Kim's Posts

Post Comment

No Comments Found