How to Make a Killer TikTok Ads Strategy

After a breakthrough year during the pandemic, TikTok has climbed the ranks to be one of the most downloaded social media apps in recent history.

With a wealth of users spanning a wide variety of ages, content niches, and countries, TikTok presents a unique and interesting opportunity for marketers looking to capitalize on the app’s growing popularity – which is especially true since the app launched its internal self-serve advertising platform.

As an AI-first, data-driven digital agency, we always recommend that strategies are backed by data and solid, well-defined success metrics. Much like the other social media platforms, in order to be successful on TikTok, you should have a clear, flexible strategy that addresses why you’re using the platform, what you aim to get out of it and how you’re going to achieve your goals. In this article, we’ll break down how you can make the most out of TikTok by crafting a great TikTok ads strategy.

What is TikTok?

In its most basic form, TikTok is a social media app that allows its users to upload and engage with short-form video content. Users can utilize the platform’s wealth of licensed audio content, filters, and effects to share videos that are up to a minute long.
In 2021, TikTok launched its self-serve advertising platform, making advertising on TikTok more accessible to small to medium-sized businesses. This update allows companies to share personalized ads to their target user on the app, track analytics, and measure conversions and return on investment.

From a business perspective, TikTok ads can help:

  • Build brand awareness
  • Get feedback from customers
  • Sell products or services
  • Launch targeted ads

Why Should I Use TikTok Ads?

Let’s be honest, the main reason you’re probably looking into this at all comes down to the following statistic:

TikTok has been downloaded over 2.6 BILLION times worldwide.

But does that automatically mean you should devote all your marketing spend to creating and sharing TikTok ads? Any good digital marketer will tell you that just because your audience is somewhere, doesn’t mean it’s the best place for you to spend your marketing budget – especially if there are other platforms that are more conducive to your goals.

But, the truth is, there are a lot of pros to using TikTok ads – the hyper-engaged audience is the biggest draw, but the platform itself is easy to use (lifting its structure almost directly from Facebook Ads Manager), and TikTok is excellent at generating brand awareness. Honestly, the only reason we wouldn’t recommend TikTok is if your business is predicated on fixing short-term, immediate issues like plumbing, pest control, or legal issues.

That’s not to say you can’t use the app organically if your business delivers similar services – the audience size on the app basically guarantees you’ll find your niche but it’s up to you to determine whether or not it’s worth investing time and money into creating quality video content. If you want the whole pros and cons breakdown, check out our article on “should your business be advertising on TikTok?

Getting Started on Your TikTok Ads Strategy

TikTok users love trends, but a lot of the time trends feel really random, with popular transitions, sounds, and dances seemingly coming out of nowhere. So how do you make a strategy for an app where the algorithm randomly determines what’s popular? The answer is creating a comprehensive, agile TikTok ads strategy that fits within a broader digital strategy.

We know that’s easier said than done – but luckily you don’t have to do it alone – we’re here to help by giving you a rundown on what that strategy should look like.

Step One: Download Tiktok

Seems like a given, but we don’t just mean download it – we mean to use it. Explore the app, its features, its hashtags. Find out how the average TikTok user engages with the app, and do some reading up on how the algorithm works. The more you know about the app from an organic point of view, the better equipped you are to run a successful paid Tiktok advertising campaign.

Step Two: Decide Who Your Audience Is

Tiktok ads are still ads, and a good ad needs a well-defined audience. So before you pick up the camera and start recording, it’s best to ask yourself what kind of audience you’d like to reach on the app. Once you figure out who you’re looking to engage on TikTok, you can start researching the type of content they usually like to engage with – do they participate in hashtag challenges? Are there prolific content creators in your niche? Do they like specific sounds or filters?

When you gauge what’s likely to appear on their feed, you can serve them a feed ad that actually feels like it belongs – building brand awareness without interrupting their user experience.

Defining your target audience will also help you create a tailored ad group in the advertising platform, but that’s not to say that you should only be targeting who you think will engage with your content. TikTok is a diverse app with many users, so you should definitely look at testing broader audiences – you might find an audience you didn’t even know you had!

Step Three: Audit Your Competitor’s Ads and Organic Presence

If your competitors are running TikTok ads, you should definitely keep an eye on what they’re doing. Essentially, you want to perform a SWOT analysis on your competitors on the platform. This allows you to “pick up the slack” and fill the hole that may be left behind by your competitors in the space.

Scoping out your competitors is a great way to see how people in your field are working with TikTok advertising and can provide you with a significant competitive advantage. This can be done by taking note of what they’ve done well (creative and engaging content, popular branded hashtag challenge, cool branded effects), as well as what they aren’t doing well. By completing a competitor audit you can utilize the things they’re doing well for your own TikTok ads, and fill any gaps left behind in their content.

TikTok is also home to lots of content creators and influencers – many of whom will likely operate within your content niche, so it’s also worth including these types of creators in your SWOT analysis.

Step Four: Define Your Messaging

A lot of guides will actually skip this part, but you should always be aware of the image you want to portray in your advertising. This part of the guide shouldn’t take too long because the messaging you pick will pretty much align directly with your business’s mission statement and value proposition.

If your business is predicated on selling luxury goods that are ethically sourced, these elements should be communicated not only in your ads but also in your choice of TikTok influencer and your organic content. After all, nailing the messaging is key in attracting your ideal TikTok user and potential customer.

Step Five: Set Some Measurable Goals

The reality is that there’s no real way of knowing if TikTok ads are going to work for you without having some actionable, measurable goals in place. TikTok’s ads manager is sophisticated and can measure campaign success according to the goals your business has. Setting up and understanding your campaign analytics is crucial in determining where you should be directing your ad spend – if your top view ad isn’t performing but your branded hashtag challenge is delivering great results, you know where your budget should be going.

Although it feels like it should go without saying, goals help you and your Tiktok marketing team validate whether or not an advertising avenue is worth the time and money investment. It can also help you figure out if a particular ad format is working if you should prioritize an in-feed ad over a spark ad, or even just determine which ad group is the most valuable to your business. 

Step Six: Get Creating, and Get Posting!

After figuring out what you want to say, who you want to say it to, it’s time to create a TikTok video. Take advantage of all the great features that TikTok has to offer, and start experimenting with different types of videos. 

Get to know the ad types so you can start creating tailored content for your ads. Here’s the basic run-through of the different ad types available to use via TikTok ads manager: 

  1. Topview ad: Topview ads are the ads users see as they open the platform.
  2. Brand takeover ad: Brand takeover ads are viewed as the user opens the app but without the button CTA, or option to like or comment. 
  3. In feed ad: Ads that appear in feed are the most like organic content, appearing as users swipe on the app amongst other content. 
  4. Branded hashtag challenge: Gives users the ability to participate in your campaign and create content around your niche. 
  5. Branded effects: Any filters, stickers and special effects built by a brand for the platform. 

Step Seven: Measure Success

TikTok’s ads manager has inbuilt analytics so you can track the performance of your campaigns, and we recommend using them. Analytics lets you know if your ads are doing what you want them to, so we recommend you check in with your analytics at least once a week just to make sure that your ads are spending your marketing budget in the best way possible.

Analytics also provides you with the outcomes of tests – and as data people, we cannot undersell how important it is to check your numbers, especially if you’re testing out a new ad format or ad style.


TikTok is a great app with a lot of potentials to make businesses succeed in an environment that is extremely competitive – but that may be difficult without an agile ads strategy in place. Hiring an agency (like us) with experience in delivering platform-specific strategies may help mitigate the stress and confusion surrounding a new platform.

If you’re interested in finding out more about what TikTok can do specifically for your business, and you’re looking for an agency backed by data and artificial intelligence, book a free discovery session with the head of our digital marketing team to discuss if TikTok is the right app for you.

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