From T-Shirts to Snacks: Small Businesses Go Real on TikTok


Small businesses are leveraging popular trends on TikTok to grow their brands and gain global followers.

Unlike its older peers on social media, popular content on TikTok tends to be more stripped down, which can give small businesses a boost, said Eric Dahan, co-founder and CEO of the agency. Open Influence influencer marketing.

“People thirst for this raw experience, behind the scenes, they thirst for authenticity. So businesses are able to create a much more human connection, ”Dahan said.

” It’s an advantage [small businesses] have, where they are rewarded for having a more human voice. For large companies, it is much more of a challenge for them to do this, ”he said.

The video sharing platform has allowed some niche business ideas to flourish. But with the marketing opportunities available on TikTok, small business owners also have additional time and responsibilities to deal with when looking to create and sell products while promoting themselves in a way that stands out in the virtual crowd. – and constantly increasing.

“TikTok is really that pure discovery platform. A lot of people, of course, will follow their friends maybe, but their friends don’t produce a lot of content. It’s really the place to go and discover content from the the whole world, ”Dahan said.

Under the hashtag #smallbusinesscheck, there are seemingly endless videos from companies showcasing products and sharing the stories behind them. In a corresponding “Small Business Check”, users use the background track to highlight their business name, products, and website that consumers can visit to make purchases.

Other videos feature more blunt sound, uploaded by Laura Barnes, the Scottish owner of Woah Dude Designs. In the videos, the creators present complex products in the form of cheerful audio playback: “It costs so much because it takes me hours. This down-to-earth voice has helped some companies’ videos go viral.

“It just helps provide a platform for businesses to be more authentic and can really share their story in a natural and fun way. You can sell yourself rather than a product, ”said Meghan Cruz, base director of the National Retail Federation.

Small business owners said TikTok gives them the ability to illustrate a story about their business, building a more intimate relationship with consumers than they could on platforms like Instagram, where products are at the center. center of attention.

“With TikTok, I want to step out of my comfort zone a bit and make people know me a bit better too, as a founder,” said Jina Chang, the 27-year-old founder of the jewelry company Girls. . Crew. “I wasn’t really comfortable at first – I feel more like a reserved person, so it was hard for me to break free – but TikTok was such a fun platform to be able to do that.”

Chang started his Los Angeles-based business in 2017, starting out by frequenting local markets. She took to TikTok in 2020 with videos showing everything from how she designed the products to how they were packaged, and the ShopGirlsCrew TikTok account now has nearly 108,000 subscribers and 1.8 million. of “I like”.

The company also increased more than the number of its subscribers. Chang said the Girls Crew team has doubled in size since 2020 and sales are expected to be five times higher this year than last year.

Barnes, 33, who creates and sells her illustrations and crochet designs, said TikTok has “dramatically increased” its engagement and sales on social media. Since launching her TikTok account in late May, she has amassed over 14,000 followers and over 203,000 likes, which she attributes in large part to the widespread use of her catchy sound.

“I think video content, and the reason it’s becoming so important to small businesses now, is because it gives your brand a face and a personality,” she said.

“With video content, you have a face, you have a personal brand in motion. And people, when they buy from you, feel a lot more like they are contributing to your dream and your brand, and they are a part of it. I think there is a great sense of community when you start to put your face on your brand, ”she added.

As small business content floods TikTok, however, business owners say there is more pressure for businesses to be creative to gain an audience.

To be successful, small businesses must strive to create content rather than advertisements, said Mason Manning, 19-year-old co-founder of Nice Shirt Thanks, which has become a TikTok trend.

“If you’re genuine with them and provide real content to something that they can actually take away, the participation rate will be much better,” Manning said.

Manning and his business partner Hayden Rankin, 21, said TikTok was a crucial aspect of their business strategy.

“TikTok is such a powerful tool just for the marketing itself,” Manning said.

“This has been our only marketing strategy so far, and it has worked really well for us. So if you are thinking of starting a small business, TikTok is your best friend, ”he added.

The custom t-shirt company was launched in November, after Rankin decided to challenge himself to monetize two of what he considers the most difficult fields: art and comedy.

“With Nice Shirt Thanks, we got the chance to do just that,” Rankin said.

Their clients are encouraged to send in a blurb explaining what they want on a t-shirt. The company is then responsible for creating a graphic image of the description and sending it back.

“For the first two t-shirts we sold on TikTok, we asked customers to make a video with it. And then those videos kind of took off and then it just became like a trend for people who were excited to get their shirts off so that they could make a video with it, and maybe get a chance to have it. do a duet, ”Manning said.

The requests range from the more mundane, fan-based interests, to truly unique requests. In one case, the founders were asked to put a photo of one of them eating dumplings on a shirt.

“It’s probably my favorite,” Manning said.

“Now someone has a shirt of me eating dumplings, personalized for them,” he said.

They attribute their success to branding through TikTok largely to the young base of the company. Like the founders, most of the company’s 300 or so designers are of college age.

“It’s a really good thing too, that our demographic is super young, we can relate to them, and we just work well with them,” Rankin said.

Even older generations are looking to younger staff for guidance as they venture into TikTok to grow their brands.

Margaret Barrow, founder of the plant-based snack company It’s Nola, said a new 18-year-old joining the company would help guide the company’s TikTok content.

The younger generation’s understanding and interest in emerging platforms is useful for small and new businesses, she said.

“I’ll be 56 this year, and I just don’t have the same passion,” Barrow said.

The Brooklyn-based snack company launched in 2018 isn’t Barrow’s first professional business. The business idea actually sprang from her time as a college professor, when her students encouraged her to sell the snacks she shared with them on campus.

As she continues to grow her business, she said It’s Nola will be more active on her TikTok account.

“What really started a fire and resonated with me was the fact that TikTok is a place where we can really be creative. And it’s free marketing, ”she said.

Unlike other platforms where users may be more likely to quickly browse photos or ads, on TikTok, users may take longer to stop when scrolling to watch videos, a- she declared.

“There’s a level of fun in there, where you actually watch human beings do something,” Barrow said.

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