Over the past year, TikTok has experienced significant growth, pushing past 800 million active global users, drawing in major digital influencers and celebrities, and becoming one of the most watched video apps in the U.S. At the same time, it has struggled to monetize that expanding audience, with some hesitant advertisers concerned about its relative lack of ad targeting and campaign performance data as well as its reliance on manual ad sales.
But today, it’s rolling out a suite of marketing tools apparently aimed at easing brands’ worries.
First up is a self-serve ad platform, which TikTok beta-tested last year and is now opening up to all businesses. Self-serve ads are the opposite of manual ad sales, and they can be a key factor in how quickly and easily platforms are able to move ad inventory. Manual sales, which TikTok relied on until now, work like this: If a brand wants to advertise on a platform, it has to contact a member of that platform’s sales team and work directly with them to buy ad space. Self-serve ad sales–which competitors like YouTube and Facebook have long used–allow brands to instantly buy their own ad space through a backend management tool, without having to contact a salesperson.
TikTok says its self-serve platform offers a certain degree of ad targeting to help businesses “get discovered by new engaged audiences,” flexible marketing budgets that can be adjusted “at any time,” and creative tools with templates to make and preview ads before they’re placed.
As you can see in the screenshot below, the self-serve platform’s placement tool lets businesses choose between allowing TikTok to place ads for them in any location, or specifically selecting where they want their ads to run:
According to TikTok’s NewFronts presentation, where it first unveiled the ad platform, marketers can also use the tool to buy ad space on other apps owned by TikTok’s parent ByteDance, including Vigo Video, Helo, Babe, TopBuzz, BuzzVideo, and NewsRepublic.
Ad formats marketers can buy include TopView (which pops up as soon as a user opens TikTok), Brand Takeovers (a three to five-second video/image ad), In-Feed Videos (up to six seconds with sound), Hashtag Challenges (a call-to-action inviting users to make content for a specific hashtag), and Branded Effects (which allow a brand or product to be added into the foreground or background of a video in 2D, 3D, or augmented reality).
TikTok has also pledged to give $100 million in ad credits to small businesses
The portal also lets companies sign up for the other marketing TikTok is launching today: business accounts. This new type of account will “provide additional tools customized to business’ needs,” TikTok says. It’s not clear exactly what business accounts have that regular accounts don’t, but the platform notes that the extra capabilities are centered around campaign performance analysis and audience engagement.
In addition to these tools, TikTok has officially launched its Back-to-Business Program, through which it will give out $100 million in ad credits to small businesses around the world that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. “Small businesses are the lifeblood of our local communities, and we want to be there with them and to provide support as they navigate these challenging times,” the platform wrote in a blog post about the updates. (It first announced this program back in April, and is far from the only social platform offering free ad space.)
Businesses that would like a slice of the credits can apply here.
The new tools and Back-to-Business program are part of TikTok “continuously building for the future and aiming to meet the growing needs of our partners,” Blake Chandlee, TikTok’s VP of global business solutions, said in a statement. “We’re excited to continue supporting our community by providing the tools and resources for small business owners to navigate these challenging times.”