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Lessons from a Successful Teen’s Marketing on TikTok

November 6, 2020

Rolling Stone just published an article on how one teen music artist has been marketing on TikTok, and it’s a potentially insightful case study involving what is still a relatively new social marketing platform.

The piece deals with 17-year-old Tate McRae, who signed a contract with RCA last year after her music found some success on YouTube. Among the brief article’s interesting observations is the fact that she didn’t even have a TikTok account at the time. Now, however, she’s a regular fixture of the micro video sharing site, and it has helped to increase raise her number of YouTube views by another 400 million.

The rapid growth of McRae’s following is a testament to how quickly someone can receive a return on investment for marketing on TikTok. But the details of the story make it clear that the upfront investment can be substantial, as individual personalities often need professional help in order to get a foothold.

Details are sparse, but Rolling Stone indicates that McRae’s first two months’ of activity were self-directed, and that they yielded some results. But those results were presumably much smaller than what she received once RCA launched a full-scale influencer marketing campaign, connecting her account with those of other established personalities and accelerating the momentum she’d started through organic interactions.

It’s probably safe to say that neither aspect of McRae’s marketing on TikTok would have been quite so successful on its own. With that platform in particular, professional connections are invaluable, but are no replacement for genuine interaction between account owners and their fans.

Indeed, an overview of McRae’s marketing on TikTok makes it clear that a large portion of her success is attributable to the fact that she’s sincerely interested in what the platform has to offer, and that she often uses it like any other teenager. This means that she’s not only pushing out content to a waiting audience, but is actively engaging with what they produce, even to the point of informally collaborating with followers.

This sort of ongoing, back-and-forth interaction is something that everyone should aspire to when marketing on TikTok. And the same can be said of marketing on other platforms, too, especially when the target audience skews very young.

People who have been raised on social media may be more keenly aware of outright advertising than most other consumers. And that awareness makes it easier for them to ignore sale messages that are delivered to them by traditional means. Social media marketing, and especially marketing on TikTok, can blur the lines between selling an experience and actually engaging in it.

The success of this new way of marketing actually promises to revive a very old sentiment about communications technology: sometimes the medium is the message.

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