TikTok Advertising: The Why & The How Of Getting Started

Disclaimer from the authors Jessica Busalacchi & Emily Martin – Since TikTok is growing at a rapid pace and their advertising platform is so new, a lot of features are continuously changing. We will do our best to keep this guide updated! 

Over the past year, TikTok has taken the world by storm with its substantial growth. Replicated off the Chinese app Douyin and later merging forces with Musical.ly, TikTok became available for download in 2018. 

In October of 2020, the app surpassed 2 billion global users worldwide.

What It Is & How It’s Different

First, if you haven’t already, we recommend you download and check out the app for yourself. Due to the nature of the video content, including unique trends, challenges, and hashtags specific to the app; it’s almost hard to fully explain the app to someone who hasn’t actually used it. 

TikTok has created a community that makes users feel like a part of an inside joke with close friends…even though most videos you watch will be of total strangers.

TikTok features 15 – 60 second videos. Unique to the app is the users ability to edit their videos directly on platform and choose from a variety of sounds, filters, speeds, and popular music tracks. Users are also able to follow and interact with friends, celebrities, brands and other creators. 

Video interaction includes liking (heart), commenting, sharing, or dueting, which is unique to TikTok. Dueting is a new fun feature that allows a user to create a video and upload it to play at the same time as another user’s video on the same screen next to each other. 

Not quite sure what we mean? Here is an excellent (and hilarious) example. 

“Influencers,” who are users with over 1K followers, also have the capability to go live on the app to interact with their followers.

The app layout is very basic and user friendly. At the top of the app, you can select the “For You Page” (#FYP) or “Following” feed. Your FYP feed will be your personal feed of recommended videos based on your activity (liked, interacted with, or searched). 

The Following feed will only include videos from the creators you follow. Currently, ads only show on the FYP. However, our prediction is that this is most likely to change in the near future.

Why add TikTok to a media mix?

While 56% of TikTok users are between the ages of 13-17, users ages 25+ are their fastest growing demographic as the app interests continue to shift to an older market. 

The uniqueness of this app is it reaches an audience that’s not on other platforms. 45% of TikTok users are not on Facebook and 50% are not on Instagram.

TikTok Users

TikTok advertising would allow you to reach this untapped market most likely not being exposed to your ads on other platforms.  This could naturally increase awareness of your brand to new potential customers you’re likely not reaching on your other advertising platforms.

Setting Up An Account

You will first need to create a business account on TikTok before you can run any ads. You need to decide if a “Self-Served” or “Managed-Served” account makes more sense for your business. Lucky for you, we will break down the pros and cons of each. 

How to set up a TikTok TikTok Managed Serve Accounts


Video Creative Options

One of our favorite aspects of TikTok is the opportunity it gives its users and brands to express their creativity and personality through music and video. 

As mentioned above, TikTok allows users to either upload a video or create a video right within it’s app. Users can edit their videos in-app by choosing sound effects, transitions, popular music, filters and more.

The unique style of videos on TikTok can intimidate some brands because they feel like they don’t know where to start or how to create a successful video campaign. 

When talking to a TikTok rep, we mentioned that a large roadblock for a lot of smaller clients with limited budgets would be having creative that would feel natural to TikTok. 

The rep recommended running ads that have quick transitions and captions at the very least for best practice.

Advertisers can take advantage of the Creator Marketplace. This is essentially TikTok’s own influencer marketing platform where brands and top TikTok influencers can connect. 

Brands can search the marketplace for creators whose audiences best fit the target market of their campaign & easily see examples of the videos they have already created. 

Another awesome feature I learned about when talking with our rep is that you can also hire creators on the marketplace to make ads or edit videos with their “style.” But they don’t necessarily need to star in them. This may be a more cost-efficient method.

TikTok Ad Types

At this point, you may be wondering what types of ads can you run on the app. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

  • In Feed Ads (Most Common & Affordable)
    • Video 9 – 60 second long or Image
    • Can include CTA with clickable link
    • Viewers can comment, heart and share the ad
    • Similar to what you would see on an IG feed, but on TikTok’s FYP
  • Brand Takeover
    • Ads that appear immediately when a user opens the app
    • More direct than In-feed because it is the first thing a user sees vs having to scroll
    • Can include CTA with clickable link
  • TopView
    • Similar to Brand Takeover except they appear 5 seconds after a user opens the app
  • Branded Hashtag Campaign (Expensive!)
    • Sponsored hashtags that are featured in the Discover Page
    • When user clicks on the hashtag is redirects them to a landing page with sponsor logo, link, challenge description and the most popular videos using the hashtag
    • Very expensive however, a creative workaround could be to partner with an influencer to get a challenge going organically
    • Brands can customize their ads using AR filters, stickers, lenses and branded sharable stickers

Campaign Objectives

TikTok’s ad campaign objectives will look very familiar if you have done advertisements on other social platforms. Everything seems pretty straightforward. However, after speaking with a rep, it sounds like they are working to add new objectives soon. So stay tuned!


  • Reach
    • Use when you are trying to get your campaign to reach the maximum number of people
      • Optimization: Reach & Frequency
      • Billing Event: Impression (CPM)


  • Traffic
    • Use when you are trying to drive users to a specific URL
      • Optimization: Click
      • Billing Event: Click (CPC)
  • App Installs
    • Use with you want to send people to the app store to download your business’s app
      • Optimization: Click or Install
      • Billing Event: Click (CPC) or Install (oCPC)
  • Video Views
    • Use when you want to have the maximum amount of people play your video
      • Optimization: 6s VV or 2s VV
      • Billing Event: Cost Per View (CPV)
  • Lead Generation
    • Use when you are trying to collect 1st party user data
    • Similar to Facebook Lead Generation campaign, this objective allows you to create an in-app lead form that allows users to enter intheor information without leaving the app
      • Optimization: Click or Conversion
      • Billing Event: Click (CPC) or Conversion (oCPC)


  • Conversions
    • Use when you want users to take a desired action specific to your business’s site such as purchase 
    • Note – You must use a TikTok pixel to run a conversion campaign
      • Optimization: Click or Conversion
      • Billing Event: Click (CPC) or Conversion (oCPC)
  • Catalog Sales
    • Use when you want to sell products directly through a product feed
    • Note – Currently only managed account sin the US and Indonesia can create catalog campaigns
      • Optimization: Click or Conversion
      • Billing Event: Click (CPC) or Conversion (oCPC)

Audience Targeting

TikTok’s advertising targeting is also very similar to other social platforms. However, many users will tell you it’s almost scary how well the algorithm is at knowing exactly what types of videos you want to watch. 

If the organic targeting is this good, think of how well TikTok’s paid ad targeting can be.

When setting up your TikTok campaign, you will have a couple targeting options to choose from or mix and match.

TikTok Audience Targeting

Additional Audience targeting options include:

  • Gender
  • Location: Country-level, state-level or DMA (beta)
  • Age Groups: 13-17, 18-24, 25-34, 35-44
  • Language: (English, Spanish, Japanese, etc.)
  • Operating System: iOS & Andriod
  • Network Type: WIfi, 4G, 3G, etc.
  • Interests & Behavior: Interest Topics, Content engagement & Creator followers (beta)
  • Custom Audiences: Device IDs, Lookalikes, Retargeting & Phone/Email Matching (beta)

Privacy & Attribution

Privacy continues to be a hot button issue. It’s no different on TikTok. Here is the most up-to-date privacy policy on TikTok advertising: 

TikTok Advertising operates on single-session attribution. This means once a user leaves the original session, tracking is lost. The exception for now is those who use Shopify get an advanced 7-day attribution lookback option that allows additional visibility. 

Because of the single-session attribution, most concerns around cookies and third-party data don’t impact this platform. The majority of their audiences are generated within the first-party data collected in the app itself. 

This also means however, that once a user leaves their initial session, you are unable to track if that view impacted their purchase decisions if they convert later on.

Expected Timelines For Campaigns

So now you’ve decided you want to try TikTok Advertising. What does that timeline look like and how can you set up your campaigns? 

If you have never run advertising on this platform before and have content in hand, we would recommend a complete timeline of 5-6 weeks for preparation, launch and data collection

This includes 1-2 weeks for account set up/launch and a minimum of 4 weeks for a campaign flight to gather enough data for analysis. 

Once you have picked your objective and launched your campaign, you can also control your auctions by the creative you launch, audience you target and the bids & budgets that you set.

Take Advantage of the Opportunity

While TikTok might not be for everyone, it is for more than you think. With the unique ability to reach potential customers not likely on other social platforms and growth in key demographics (25-35), it is no surprise that advertisers across numerous verticals are taking advantage. 

From cleaning supplies to lawyers, restaurants to job recruiters, there is likely an opportunity for you to reach new customers. 

TikTok has options to make it easy to create new content and promote it on their platform. So go ahead, download the app, see what the buzz is about and start your advertising journey on TikTok.


This post is co-authored by our resident TikTok experts: Jessica Busalacchi & Emily Martin.