ikTok has changed the way that brands, influencers, and Gen Z communicate and receive information. With its slogan “Real People. Real Videos,” the short-form video app first captured the attention of Gen Z through videos featuring dances such as the Renegade and challenges to Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road.”
But since the beginning of state and country-wide lockdowns in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the number of downloads have skyrocketed and TikTok currently boasts over 800 million users worldwide. Not only were people using the app to laugh at outrageous videos, learn new dances, or (virtually) explore new places but to combat loneliness.
Influencers, entertainers, and musicians also utilized TikTok Live to connect with their audiences and bring them reassurance and comfort.
This article will cover what TikTok Live is, how influencers and brands have used the innovative feature, and how your brand can make the most out of live-streaming on Gen Zers’ favorite app.
What is TikTok Live?
TikTok Live launched in late 2019 as a way for influencers and brands to interact more intimately with their followers. This feature put TikTok in the ranks of other social platforms such as Twitch, whose whole platform is based on live streaming, Facebook, and Instagram which rolled out live streaming options in April 2016 and November 2016, respectively. However, unlike Instagram Live (which you can read more about here), users can’t currently save live streams and there are a few restrictions to go live on TikTok.
TikTok users must have over 1,000 followers and be older than 16 (even though the minimum age requirement for the app itself is 13) to go live. If users meet those two requirements, they can film a video and have other users watch it in real-time. Simply put: TikTok Live is a live streaming feature that is once again changing the way creators and brands use the app.
TikTok Live taps into users’ desire for more ephemeral content that allows them to directly engage and interact with their favorite influencers, celebrities, or brands. It creates a more intimate experience and for brands, could help strengthen their ties to their customers.
How Does It Work?
TikTok Live is similar to other live streaming apps or features in that viewers can log on to watch a video at a certain time.
Users who meet the two aforementioned requirements will see the option to begin a live video on their main recording screen. Before recording, users need to come up with a creative but descriptive title to let their audiences know what the live stream video is about. These captions can also include viral or branded hashtags that can help users find the video more easily and expand their reach.
Other users will be able to click on that account’s profile image and can comment, like, and react in real-time. However, once the TikTok Live video is over, it’s gone forever.
The TikTok Live feature also allows users over 18 the ability to receive virtual gifts. These virtual gifts can be sent by any user and can later be traded in for real currency (although the exchange rate is currently very low.)
It’s also important to remember that TikTok Live content must also follow the community guidelines set forth by the platform, which prohibits content such as harassment and bullying, hate speech, and self-harm or dangerous acts.
Who’s Using TikTok Live?
Brands, celebrities, and even TikTok itself have used the TikTok Live feature to communicate, entertain, and inform the platform’s millions of users.
High-end fashion houses such as Dior, Saint Laurent, and Louis Vuitton have used TikTok Live to show off new collections in place of their annual shows during the pandemic. These activations served the dual purpose of allowing fashion fans from around the world to watch what is usually a closed-off event and introducing a younger generation, along with new potential audiences, to the brands and their offerings.
Celebrities like Liam Payne, a former One Direction member, have also used the feature. Earlier this September, a TikTok Live video of Payne listening to Harry Styles’ sleep meditation clip with the Calm app, went viral. Not only did many of Payne’s 3.2 million TikTok followers tune in, but many stans took to Twitter to praise both singers.
Other celebrities have used the streaming feature to host live performances during the coronavirus pandemic when concerts worldwide have been canceled or postponed. On Oct. 5, 2020, Austrian singer-songwriter Guy Sebastian streamed a performance on TikTok Live in support of World Mental Health Awareness Day. He was joined by his brother, Chris (of The Voice Australia fame), and TikTok star JasmineTxo. Joining in to raise awareness for this cause was American DJ Diplo, who partnered with TikTok to host a live event called "Diplo & Secular Sabbath with Rhye - Looking For Me(ntal Health Awareness) LIVE" to raise money for the JED Foundation.
TikTok itself promoted the feature during its #HappyAtHome Event which brought together celebrities and influencers for a week-long live stream event. Over the five-day event, TikTok users tuned in to hear Derek Hough on Motivation Monday; Charli D’Amelio on Kickback Tuesday; Jordan Fisher on Show & Tell Wednesday; Bill Nye on EduTok Thursday; and Meghan Trainor and DJ Khaled, among many others, on Sound Check Friday.
TikTok has also ventured into the world of retail. Back in August, it partnered with NTWRK, a virtual shopping network, to host a live stream event selling a fashion line targeted at Gen Z. This collection, designed by sketch artist and designer, Joshua Vides, was a milestone for TikTok as it was the first time a user could shop directly from the app instead of being redirected to a separate page. This opened many doors for other ecommerce brands and will continue to be an important part of TikTok in the future.
How Can Marketers Use TikTok Live?
TikTok Live has opened many new ways for marketers to use the popular app. If your brand has over 1,000 followers, you should start utilizing this feature to engage with their audiences in a more intimate and personal manner.
For example, you can use the feature to create behind the scenes or myth-busting videos which can satisfy audiences’ search for transparency. These TikTok Live videos could show your customers how a product is made or highlight employees who often work behind the scenes. Or, if there’s common misconceptions about your brand on a micro or industry level, then you could use TikTok Live to correct those preconceived notions and recast your brand.
You can also create how-to tutorials or host Q&A sessions about new products or features. These types of videos are informative and engaging by letting the audience know that you want them to best understand your product or service and you value their questions.
TikTok Live is also a platform where you can host special events featuring influencers or celebrities. This can help you gauge reactions to new people or products in real-time while incorporating some of your target audience’s favorite influencers to increase engagement.
If your brand is eligible to create TikTok Live content, then make sure to generate buzz surrounding the event. You can make posts on other social channels leading up to the event so your followers know when and how to access the live stream.
Even if your brand isn’t on TikTok or doesn’t meet the follower requirements, that doesn’t mean you can’t use the feature. Your brand could reach out to an influencer and ask if they’d be willing to do a live stream where they feature your brand’s product or service. This both captures the attention of your target audience and expands your brand’s presence on the app. It also directs fans of that influencer to your brand account or website and could be a way to generate leads.
TikTok has captured Gen Z’s (and, let’s face it, everyone from your grandparents to your financial advisor) attention and isn’t slowing down any time soon. The TikTok Live feature is just one of many ways the company is looking to keep both customers and brands on the app and adding value to each user’s everyday life.
TikTok Live offers an ephemeral and engaging feature for marketers to more intimately interact with their target audiences. The thrill of knowing or watching content that not everyone can see is one of its major draws and also serves as a sort of community binding agent among those who can tune in to watch the same live stream.
Marketers who can positively identify the best ways to reach Gen Z and young Millennials will reap the benefits of their support and see massive success.