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Demystifying TikTok Metrics for Brands (Especially Small Businesses)

13 March 2024 | 1 comments | Posted by Che Kohler in nichemarket Advice

Reviewing tiktok metrics

Watching social media platforms proliferate and take over the internet has been quite a ride for marketers. Who would have thought that a few power websites would come along, host all our content, and generate millions of jobs worldwide?

I didn't.

The internet promised decentralisation and optionality, and we were excited to have our websites. Still, economies of scale came along, and bloggers, shop owners, journalists, and many more professionals found themselves on social media as a profile page on Facebook, and that's where you lived online.

In the early days, it was a good trade-off with content discovery on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and the like, all relying on user engagement and not too much on algorithmic ordering. The content was displayed nearly chronologically, spam was less prevalent, content volume was still manageable, and trending content was driven heavily by shares from your social circle and your curated feed of pages.

During this first decade of social media, you could build up a following and drive massive amounts of traffic to your page and, even better, to your website without boosting posts with cash or trying to rage-bait anyone.

Traffic flowed where their interests would lie; there was still a sense of randomness in discovery, but there needed to be more optimal for the platforms. Giving social media pages too much free traffic and sending users offsite needed to stop, or how would these sites ever generate a profit?

That's when the big squeeze began, the walled gardens of social media rolled around, and the big bouncer that is algorithmic curation took over.

Keeping users engaged on the platform

Social media platforms make money by keeping users glued to their feeds. If users click on a link and leave the platform for another website, that's less time they're spending seeing ads or engaging with content directly on the social media platform.

Social platforms have tweaked their algorithms to prioritise content that keeps users within their ecosystem, like videos or articles hosted directly on their platform.

The longer they can keep users on the site, the more ads a user can see per session, and the fewer users leave social media, the better the floor price for auctioning off external traffic through their native ads platforms.

Rise of "native content"

It hasn't been enough to curb your leaving; social media platforms are also pushing users to use the native tooling instead.

Many social media platforms are now developing their own features to compete with external websites.

For instance, Facebook Watch and YouTube both offer video content, reducing the need for users to click out to other video-sharing platforms.

Similarly, Twitter threads can now offer more in-depth content that might have previously been the domain of a blog post.

History doesn't repeat, but it rhymes

So why am I giving you this boring history lesson, and what does it have to do with TikTok?

As users were marginalised on one platform, they would jump to the next; the first migration was to services like Vine, Snapchat and Instagram, which was far more open in terms of discovery and had its gold rush period.

Instagram was by far the most popular platform, but it eventually became overly monetised when Facebook absorbed it and "did a Facebook" to Instagram feeds.

So people jumped yet again, and this time, they went to TikTok.

Whenever you asked TikTok users why they've moved over, it boiled down to the randomness of content discovery and the juiced dopamine hits of their vanity metrics.

Receiving views or engagement, such as likes on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, just got too damn hard, and people gave up, but TikTok gave users another chance to chase these metrics. Metrics that have become an industry standard, metrics that can be used to sell ad space on your profile and metrics that can be complete nonsense.

Why do Marketers push shiny metrics?

The world of TikTok is a glittering vortex of viral dances, hilarious skits, and, of course, influencers with impossibly perfect lives. But for brands, especially small businesses, lurking beneath the surface can be a deceptive layer of metrics – the fool's gold of social media success.

Marketers love TikTok metrics because they're flashy, easy to understand, and hold prestige. Remember when I said a Like is hard to acquire on other social platforms, so it carries weight? On TikTok, it's easier, but some people tend to infer the weighting is the same.

It's not; 100 likes on TikTok differ from 100 likes on Instagram or Twitter.

A million views sound impressive, right?

But if those views translate to something other than sales or brand loyalty, then what was the point?

Marketers often push these vanity metrics because they can paint a picture of success, secure bigger budgets, and keep you on the hook paying for TikTok marketing.

The truth behind the numbers:

With more than 800 million monthly active users, TikTok has many users brands would love to reach, but reaching the right person, with the right offer, in the right region at the right time isn't easy despite the volume of users on the platform.

Sure, you can get juicy vanity metrics on your profile, but these metrics can easily mislead you into doubling down on a failed experiment for your business

When looking at TikTok metrics consider the following:

Views Don't Equal Engagement:

A million views might sound great, but how many of those viewers watched the whole video, interacted with it, or remembered your brand? Likes and comments are a better indicator of genuine interest.

Fake Followers are a Dime a Dozen:

Buying followers is a common tactic, but these are essentially empty shells. They won't buy your product, interact with your content, or spread brand awareness.

The Algorithm is Fickle:

Going viral on TikTok is like catching lightning in a bottle. The algorithm prioritises trends and fresh faces, making it difficult for small businesses to build a lasting presence.

Comments are riddled with spam:

Comments are often seen as the best of the engagement metrics; a user is taking the time to engage in a unique and meaningful way. But if they're spamming emojis, dropping one-word replies, or asking questions that were handled in the video or video caption, is this real engagement, or is it just spamming comments? It's spam and should be discounted to zero. Only when a user actively tries to source information meaningfully would I consider a comment on TikTok real engagement.

A reminder of the marketing funnel

Every user you engage with on the internet, whether through your website, email, SMS, app, or third-party-owned real estate like social media, will fall into a different stage of the marketing cycle.

  • TOFU - Top Of The Funnel - Awareness
  • MOFU - Middle Of The Funnel - Evaluation
  • BOFU - Bottom Of The Funnel - Conversion

Every platform niche and product will have a different percentage allocated to each cohort.

To make things easier, let's focus on TikTok and promoting iPhone covers as a seller. Everyone knows what an iPhone cover is; they need to be educated on it, so the user is likely to be at the middle or bottom of the funnel.

Since you're one step deeper, your content can focus on showcasing the product, comparing it to others, and showing its USPs, designs, and options—basically, an extension of what you would have on your product pages or complementary blogs.

If you're selling something like financial services, you're going to be at the top of the funnel. You first need to explain why financial services exist, what they do, and how they work, and educate the user from scratch long before you can even give them any options. This is a much longer sell and requires a lot more effort.

What brands focusing on TikTok don't understand is that sometimes the juice is not worth the squeese. They get caught up in the views, likes, and comments count and need to remember that your effort is meant to generate a higher churn of users in your funnel.

This doesn't mean you should judge TikTok only on conversions but rather on how many TikTokers eventually make it into your funnel, how many first points of contact come from TikTok, and the lifetime cost to convert them.

As you put effort into these platforms, you might find that moving users down the funnel costs far more than on other platforms, and you're throwing good money after bad.

So, What Should Small Businesses Do?

Instead of chasing vanity metrics, focus on meaningful engagement. Here are some tips:

Review your target Audience:

Refrain from assuming your audience is on TikTok or that a meaningful portion will be on TikTok. Research your customers' options on TikTok, and see what content is already available and gets much attention or engagement.

Have a look at:

  • Content in your niche + location and how many views it gets
  • Audience potential size from TikTok ads
  • TikTok ad pixel audience sizes
  • Brands in your niche and their public metrics
  • Influencers and accounts in your niche and their public metrics

Track the Right Metrics:

Look beyond views and likes and start with reach metrics like:

  • Follower growth
  • Total views
  • Average view length/time
  • Shares
  • Profile views

And then overlay this with conversion metrics like

  • Track website clicks
  • Coupon redemptions
  • Direct messages
  • On-site conversion (forms, chats, emails, calls)
  • On-site eCommerce sales

If you're unsure where to start, your best bet would be to create a TikTok KPI dashboard, load up these metrics and track your efforts over time

  1. CVR (Conversion Rate)
  2. Impressions
  3. Reach
  4. CTR (Click-Through-Rate)
  5. CPC (Cost per Click)
  6. CPV (Cost per View)
  7. CPA (Cost per Action)
  8. ROI (Return on Investment)
  9. Cost per 100o Impressions
  10. Engagement rates

Run Targeted Ads:

TikTok has started to develop native advertising options that allow users to reach a specific audience based on demographics and interests.

While it's nowhere as granular as what Facebook has, it is a method you can use to gauge the quality of traffic for your topic and niche before you spend time building a content or influencer strategy for the platform.

Build a case for TikTok:

Building a successful presence on TikTok takes time, effort, and lots of data, so don't half-arse your TikTok attempt.

Either hire an agency to run your account or focus on creating valuable content, building genuine connections, and tracking the metrics.

After a 3-6-12 month campaign, you can audit the numbers for the period and see if they contribute to your business goals.

You can pull:

  • Views
  • Likes
  • Comments
  • Comments with substance
  • Traffic
  • Traffic quality stats
  • Assisted conversions

If you've been running ads, pull your ad data in and compare it with your organic TikTok data to give you an idea of the platform's viability and costs.

It's okay to miss out on TikTok:

If you've collected the data, crunched the numbers, and have proof that TikTok isn't worth your time, then you won't feel FOMO as other brands chase these numbers that fool them into competing for the converting costlier users.

Let your competitor have those leads while you focus on reducing your CPAs. Sometimes, you have to lose a few battles to win the war.

Contact us

If you want to know more about digital marketing or feel this entire GA thing is too much of a bother and you need it sorted by experts, then we’re happy to assist. Simply contact us, and we can sort out your data migration for you.

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If you require a more detailed guide on how to create your profile or your listing, then we highly recommend you check out the following articles. 

Recommended reading

If you enjoyed this post and have a little extra time to dive deeper down the rabbit hole, why not check out the following posts about tracking?

Tags: Social Media Marketing, TikTok Marketing

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