Jul 3, 2023
Growth Strategies
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 min read

Invest in your startup’s short-form video and TikTok growth strategy

Video content is King. There’s no denying the dramatic increase in video consumption across the globe. According to InVideo, individual Internet consumers spent 1 hour and 40 minutes per day watching videos in 2022. TikTok, in combination with COVID-19 lockdowns that began in 2020, created a perfect storm for the endless scrolling of quick entertaining and informative video content. What we in the industry didn’t know in those early days was whether short-form video content was here to stay once the lockdowns ended. It is my argument that short-form video is here to stay and in a big way. 

Today it is more important than ever to prioritize short-form video content along with having some form of presence on TikTok or one of its major competitors. The fact that influencers are moving their strategies to shorter-form content is a clear signal for startups to follow suit.

Keep reading while I discuss my experiences scaling TikTok from scratch while at Coinbase, along with what you should be prioritizing and how a startup can quickly execute with limited resources.

Getting started with short-form video

It can be tedious and time consuming to build out your short-form content as a startup founder, so I’ve distilled it down to three easy steps to get the ball rolling:

  1. Competitor analysis
  2. Ideate on content pillars 
  3. Hire creator talent 

The easiest path for creating your short-form video strategy is to look at what your competitors or top brands are doing. They have likely given their content a good amount of thought, and if you’re stalking bigger brands, you can certainly be assured that many resources went towards their strategies. If you’re in the supplement space and want to look outside of direct competitors, search for #supplements, #vitamins, and other relevant hashtags to get content ideas from creators as well. At Coinbase, I had many strategic syncs between the internal team along with bringing in outside creative agency talent that helped us formulate content and ad ideas. One of the creative agencies I worked with only made TikTok short-form content, and they prided themselves on being up to speed on the latest trends and styles.

Once you have a list of content pillars you’d like to use, create a doc outlining exactly what you want for each video. You’ll want to have bulleted pointers that you’d like creator talent to touch on, the setting and format of the video (i.e., lighting, selfie-style, etc.) and any ending call-to-action. From there, it’s time to find and hire talent that can shoot these videos for you. This is where creator marketplaces such as Billo or Backstage will help speed the process of finding talent, collaborating with them, and managing payments. These marketplaces keep it very simple for finding the right demographic of talent that fits your consumers’ persona.

TikTok-specific Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

While creating content for TikTok, it’s imperative to think about how to best optimize for SEO because of growing search trends on the social platform. A recent Pew Research Center study found that ~40% of Generation Z prefer researching topics on TikTok over Google. Let that sink in. 

Startups looking to crack organic traffic on TikTok must take this search trend into consideration and I’ve broken it down into a 4-tier formula: 

  1. Text Overlay
  2. Captions  
  3. Hashtags
  4. Audio 

Text overlays are the text you see in the video itself which gets added during the editing. Make sure to include your target keyword in the text overlay along with the captions and hashtags. Believe it or not, audio is also very important. TikTok is scrubbing the videos when you have subtitles turned on, so this is another area to mention keywords.

There isn’t a decade-long formula for TikTok SEO like there is for a Google search, but the main principles of creating quality content and including targeted keywords in relevant areas holds true. 

Staying up to speed on TikTok

As is the case with any growing channel, testing all new features and formats as they’re released can mean the difference between striking oil or drilling a dry well. I’d implore all startups to jump on new (beta) features on TikTok the moment they’re released to catch potentially easy acquisition wins. 

At Coinbase, we were early testers of many new features such as TikTok’s spark ads, which allow advertisers to boost ads from a creator’s handle. Instead of launching ads from the @Coinbase handle, we were able to appear more organic by boosting the same ads, but from a creator’s account. This ad format proved to be very successful for us and became an evergreen ad type in our account. Outside of new ad formats, TikTok has launched many more new features over the last year to make videos more engaging such as: Polls, Countdowns, Automatic Targeting, App Profiles, etc. 

Maximize your video reach

To maximize the videos once they’re created, make sure to publish them across all relevant social channels and formats. I believe that beginning in 2023, content generators will be entering an era of cross-pollination with video content. Instead of solely posting on TikTok, companies and influencers will leverage YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels user traffic as well. According to a report from Conviva Social Insights, YouTube Shorts uploads grew 51% in their 90-day comparison period for late 2022.

Language-learning app Duolingo has managed to grow a following of over five million on their TikTok with witty and fun videos featuring company mascot, Duo the owl. Here’s an example of them cross-posting their TikTok video as a YouTube short to maximize traffic. I expect to see an increasing number of brands leveraging the same content they’re creating on one short-form channel across the rest of the channels.

If I haven’t yet convinced you to invest in your startup’s short-form video content, perform a quick search on TikTok for your favorite major brands. I can assure you that you’ll find that a large majority of them are already investing in and creating short-form videos to boost their brand presence. Do the same and you will reap the rewards in 2023 and beyond!

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