TikTok Ads Guide: How to Capitalize on the Fastest-Growing Social Platform

Remember 2012? Advertising on Facebook was in its infancy, and brands that started experimenting with the platform saw hockey-stick growth over the next decade.

10 years later and we’re back at the beginning of an advertising renaissance–this time, it’s on TikTok.

TikTok shot past the billion-user mark in just 5 short years (compared to 8 for Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube), and advertisers are rushing to capitalize on it. Over 50% of TikTok’s 1B users are 30 years or older, so you can’t use the excuse that it’s just for teenagers.

But don’t worry, you’re not too late to the game. Take advantage of the fastest-growing audience on the internet with TikTok ads. Below, we’ll walk through the basics of TikTok ads and help you discover the platform’s language so you can reach your ideal audience.

What Are TikTok Ads?

TikTok ads are videos created by brands that reach specific audiences using the TikTok platform. In essence, TikTok ads allow you to reach the fastest-growing online audience with short, engaging, and entertaining videos.

Simple enough. So why not duplicate your Facebook or YouTube ads on TikTok?

Sure, it would save time, but it would be a waste of money. TikTok is a social platform sourced from the short-form video nature of Vine (remember that?), the creative expression of Instagram, and a karaoke machine. If you haven’t been on the platform, just look below at the difference between one of our TikTok posts and what we share on LinkedIn.

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What’s the Difference Between TikTok Ads and Facebook Ads?

There are 4 main differences between TikTok ads and the rest of the pack. However, we don’t expect them to change anytime soon because they’ve been differentiators for the platform (others are just trying to keep up).

  1. All About Sound: Original and repurposed sounds are the key ingredient to TikTok’s popularity.
  2. The Need for Speed: TikTok’s scroll is the fastest out of any social media platform. Speed wins.
  3. Respect the Aspect: TikTok’s native aspect ratio makes it exclusive, so you can’t repurpose it for other platforms.
  4. Are You Not Entertained?: TikTok is an entertainment platform first. Unlike other platforms, it’s still highly invested in supporting creators and content that entertain. Your advertising should start with engaging the audience instead of a sales pitch.

Read more: Reels vs TikTok: Which Is the Best Platform for Your Business?

Even though TikTok ads have a huge potential right now, the competition is growing, and you have even less time than Facebook or Instagram to stop the scroll.

Foundr tiktok ads course

How to Use TikTok for Business

You may already use TikTok for a quick laugh before you go to bed or as a way to entertain friends at a party, but how does it translate to business?

We asked the same question about Facebook in 2012 and Instagram in 2015. But TikTok is going to make it even tougher. The gorgeous product imagery that fits so well on Instagram and video sales letters that you boost from your Facebook business page won’t work on TikTok. Instead, you’re competing with the most entertaining content creators on the planet. And your stuff better be good.

Now, before you hire comedy writers to work on your TikTok ads, start by asking these questions about your business:

  • Is there an interesting visual representation of my business or products?
  • Can I show my product or service in action?
  • What’s my niche? What makes that niche interesting?
  • As a founder, do I already have a personal brand presence online?

A great example of an ecommerce brand using TikTok effectively is Hismile. They’ve balanced their organic and ad strategy while cultivating a visually creative brand that fits on the platform.

HIsmile tiktok ads

Using TikTok doesn’t have to change your identity as a business, but instead, source from what makes it interesting. Here are some examples of how to use TikTok for business:

  • Discuss a problem that your business meets.
  • Provide tips, tricks, or hacks within your business niche.
  • Educate your audience on a product or service.
  • Showcase a before and after the result of your product that’s shocking.
  • Display your business brand for recruitment and talent development.
  • Repost and reshare customers using your product or service (Ocean Spray, anybody?).
  • Capitalize on trends that connect with your brand or business.

Sometimes using TikTok for business is less about putting original content out there, and using it as a tool to listen to customers, capitalize on trends, and engage with new audiences. But in the meantime, let’s not wait to be the next Ocean Spray and work on sharing your messages through TikTok ads.

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TikTok Ads Manager

Just like Facebook ads manager, TikTok ads manager (business manager) is your home base for structuring campaigns that effectively reach audiences. Your TikTok ads manager is an umbrella where you can have multiple ad accounts.

Under each account, you’ll need to install a specific TikTok pixel to attribute ads to your site and track the users that enter through the platform. If you’re a Shopify user, TikTok ads manager has a pixel integration that makes it easy to set up.

Once your pixel is installed, download the “TikTok pixel helper” Chrome extension so you can go to any page, and it will tell you what event is firing.

TikTok Ad Campaigns

Under each account, you can create ad campaigns. TikTok offers 3 objectives for every campaign, with sub-objectives under each one.

  1. Awareness: Reach
  2. Consideration: Traffic, App Installs, Video Views, Lead Generation, Community Interaction
  3. Conversion: Conversions

Tiktok Ads Objective

TikTok Ad Budget and Learning Phase

Setting up the correct budget for your first TikTok ad can be tricky. Realistically you want to make sure you have enough to get started. Here are some questions to ask before you start spending on TikTok ads:

What is your overall marketing budget?
What are you willing to pay for a new customer?

Here’s a simple step-by-step process to get you started on a good foundation:

The learning phase is when TikTok is learning from your ad about you, your audience, etc. This allows TikTok to know who to serve your ad to. Once you pass the threshold of 50 events in 1 week, you “exit” the learning phase.

Pro tip: Any change you make to your ad will reset the learning phase, no matter how small. So don’t change the original ad (if it’s converting), instead duplicate it and make changes to the copy.

Setting Up a TikTok Ad

Once you’re at the step of setting up a TikTok ad, you’ll notice a toolbox of assets to help customize your ad. When you log in the first time, these won’t be populated, but over time each tool will be full of previous campaigns you can source from. You’ll need to walk through each asset before making your ad live.

  • Events: Choosing what the ad campaign’s goal is.
  • Creative: Where you upload your content and customize it natively for TikTok.
  • Audiences: Your customized or TikTok-sourced audiences for your campaigns.
  • Catalog: Where you upload your shoppable products.
  • Comments: How you can manage engagement from audiences on your ads.

Read more: 14 Punchy TikTok Marketing Strategies to Amplify Your Growth

4 TikTok Ads Tips for Beginners

TikTok ads manager will walk you through step-by-step how to set up your ads, and the TikTok Help Center is full of FAQs and customer support. But they won’t give away all the strategies for success, so here are 4 tips to get you off on the right foot.

#1 The T.A.C.O.S. Method

TikTok expert Gerardo Perez has received 11.2 million likes, generated over 100 million organic views, and has more than 323,000 followers. Here’s his proven method for beginners on the platform.

  • Target Audience (Tortilla): Identify who your product is for and research their tendencies. Find 2-4 hashtags that correspond with your product and see how people respond to the content.
  • Advertising (Avocado): Audiences also use TikTok as a discovery platform. Advertising proves what is working for your product messaging and can lead to sales growth.
  • Creative (Carne): The general principles of ad creative apply to TikTok ads, but having a strong hook is critical. The CTA button doesn’t appear until 3-4 seconds after the video plays, so having an engaging start is key to the effectiveness of an ad.
  • Organic Content (Onion): A curated organic content feed will support your advertising, so when audiences click through to your profile, there will be a unified brand voice. Plus, organic content is an easy way to test out creative.
  • Secret Techniques (Salsa): If you find a product message or creative that works, try retelling it in 10 different ways.

You can get the rest of Gerardo’s “salsa” secrets by watching our free TikTok ads training.

Foundr TikTok Course Tacos Method

#2 Make TikToks, Not Ads

Creative is the main thing that you can control in your campaigns. Everything else is at the mercy of your audience and the platform. So, make TikToks, not ads. It’s the main difference between TikTok and other platforms.

#3 Reuse Audiences Not Creative

Don’t reuse your creative from other platforms. TikTok rewards native content, and you’ll be penalized if you recycle old Instagram Reels or Snapchat videos. If you think your idea will work across platforms, make sure you upload the raw video files into TikTok and edit it in the app.

What you can repurpose are audiences. Pull data from your email list or customer database and import them into your TikTok ads manager. From there, you can target your existing audiences or build lookalike audiences to reach target customers.

#4 Keep Costs Low…For Now

Low-cost campaigns are great when you’re starting because you’ll be allowing the platform to optimize for your desired event and spend your budget.

But in the long term, it may not be in your best interest to continue with the lowest-cost campaigns. Instead, your lowest-cost campaigns should aim to find your CPA targets and winning creatives.

Once you build momentum with your creative, slowly expand your budgets and experiment with A/B testing.

5 Things to Know Before You Run TikTok Ads | Gerardo Perez


TikTok Ads Creative Center

If you’re looking for TikTok ads inspiration, explore the TikTok Ads Creative Center. Bookmark the site in your browser because you’ll want to return there daily to discover new TikTok trends and what type of ads are working.

Plus, TikTok Ads Creative Center has a music library that you can pull from for your videos. We suggest avoiding using copyrighted music for your ads. The last thing you want is a record label knocking on your door asking for money–no ROAS is worth that.

So visit the TikTok Ads Creative Center and browse the suggested free sounds you can use or, better yet, create your own.

So, Are You Ready to Start Using TikTok Ads?

You’ve just begun your TikTok ads experience, and there’s so much more to learn. Speed up your mastery of the platform with our free TikTok ad training. You’ll get Gerardo Perez’s proven frameworks to set up a TikTok ad strategy that maximizes your ad spend and builds your brand on the platform.

How To Run Tiktok Ads Masterclass