Every Ecommerce Merchant is Talking About TikTok: Here’s How to Use It to Grow Your SMS List
August 26, 2022
Reading Time: 9 minutes
Remember the Wild West days of social media? Before there were algorithms and advertisers? Back when bots creeped around completely unnoticed? Ah, the good ol’ days!
That old school approach to social media feels like a lifetime ago, but there’s one channel that’s giving us the same kind of “uncharted territory” vibes: TikTok.
It’s hard for brands to keep up with every social channel and its followers, but ecommerce marketers are taking notice of TikTok and its incredibly complex algorithm that continues to leave some of us scratching our heads.
TikTok explains it like this: “A stream of videos curated to your interests, making it easy to find content and creators you love…powered by a recommendation system that delivers content to each user that is likely to be of interest to that particular user.”
Perhaps what’s most enticing about TikTok is that you don’t have to pay to play. You can come up with a video in minutes that can garner millions of views. Millions!
And that opportunity is one you’ll want to capitalize on—especially if you can turn some of those viewers into SMS subscribers.
Here’s how to do it.
But First—a Message About Compliance
You didn’t think we could go into a list growth article without mentioning the elephant in the room, did you?
We detail exactly how you can collect compliantly on TikTok in this article but, as with any place you mention signing up for texts, you must clearly display compliant language. This means the easiest way to get people to sign up for texts is to direct them to a compliant opt-in landing page.
But there’s one small caveat here as well.
Although this is a great start, the newest Tiktok algorithm blocks content that says “link in bio,” so you’ll want to be clever here. What does this mean?
“TikTok probably wants to keep people on their platform, rather than redirect viewers to users' websites or competitors' platforms,” says Grey Idol, Director of Marketing for altLINE. “By shadowbanning content that calls for viewers to view the link in bio, TikTok creates a friction point that keeps users on their platform. This means as an ecommerce brand you need to be stealthy about promoting the link in bio on your content. You can switch letters around (“bink in lio”) or add spaces to your written CTA (l i n k in b i o) to avoid TikTok”s filters.”
A Few Things You’re Gonna Wanna Do (But Shouldn’t)
TikTok might be the Wild West of social media today—but we’re gonna have to rein you in, cowboy. There are still a lot of no-no’s when it comes to shouting out your SMS program.
Please refrain from posting your short code or toll-free number in a video or live broadcast. TikTok will flag this!
Do not include your short code or toll-free number right within your bio. Instead, link to your compliant opt-in landing page.
Oh, and please, please do not say your short code, opt-in keyword, or toll-free number in a video either. TikTok will flag this, and then you’ve got non-compliant subscribers to deal with.
Once more for the folks in the back: Create a “link in bio” experience (using LinkTree or other alternatives) that allows you to include a link to your compliant opt-in landing page among your other links. You can even include a “👇 TEXT US” above the link, as long as it takes someone to a compliant opt-in page.
Once you’ve got these best practices in place, it’s time for the fun stuff!
The Things You Can (and Should) Do
Promote New Product Drops
One of the no-brainer ways to leverage TikTok for list growth is to tease out new products in your videos and let followers know that the first folks to gain access are your SMS subscribers.
Promote the sign-up link in your bio and let followers know that this is how they can be among the first to know when a new product drops.
For example, Frost Buddy creates universal can coolers, and when their hotly requested Modelo-sized cooler was finally coming out, they took advantage of their highly engaged TikTok audience to promote the upcoming drop.
Here’s what that looked like.
After collecting an email, visitors would then be served this message too.
Extend this best practice to all of your most engaged social channels—not just TikTok. If you’re looking to grow your subscriber list, this is a fast way to do it.
Collect and Encourage Feedback
If your brand is constantly creating—whether it’s new flavors or new patterns of a best-selling product—TikTok is a great place to collect feedback from current and future customers.
Toss up a quick video and ask followers to weigh in via comments.
Or, use TikTok’s Q&A feature to engage your community and answer questions about your brand or products.
Here’s what TikTok says about using this feature: Q&As are a vital part of the TikTok comment experience, and the comments section can be a place in which trends and culture are created and shaped on TikTok. Q&A empowers you to engage with your community, build meaningful connections, and learn more about your audience.
In some cases, you may be able to educate commenters about your SMS list when you post your answers.
“If someone asks how to get free shipping for instance, or how to be the first to know of a new product release, answer them directly on TikTok,” says Melanie Edwards of Olipop. “Let them know that subscribers receive complimentary shipping, along with access to new releases before anyone else.” TikTok can be an extension of your customer service experience, especially since you’re interacting with customers one-to-one, just as you do on SMS.
Once you’ve got that feedback, alert those engaged followers to your VIP list where that new scent/pattern/color/flavor they voted on will be available to those on your text chain first.
Use Hashtags to Be Seen
If you’re brand-new to TikTok, an easy first step in promoting your brand is using the #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt hashtag. With over 20 billion views (and counting), it’s a great way to promote your products with a short, snappy, and fun video. One of our very own Postscript merchants, Glow Recipe, has seen a ton of success in using this.
And consider all the other “toks” out there where you’d want to be seen—beautytok, foodtok, you name it. Click around using the “Discover” feature and find relevant hashtags on brands already doing well.
Don’t forget to create your own branded hashtag, too. It can be a great way to collect UGC for any customers who want to talk about you on TikTok.
The more traffic you can get to your page, the more opportunities you’ll have to convert them into SMS subscribers.
Make Your Own Unique Content
So, what are the boxes to tick to create a solid TikTok video?
Is it creative? Would someone stop to watch it?
Is it fun?
Is it authentic to your brand?
Does it showcase a personality? Whether it’s a founder or influencer?
Will it encourage engagement?
Does it have a viral aspect to it?
More often than not, it’s not a formula to follow—but your video really needs that certain je ne sais quoi to appeal to folks scrolling through.
Our best advice for engaging with new and existing followers on TikTok is to make sure you’re creating content just for that channel. Sounds like familiar advice, we know (if only we had a dollar for every time we told merchants not to re-use the exact same email campaigns on SMS). But we say it because TikTok truly is different from every other social platform.
If your team doesn’t have the bandwidth to build out TikTok, you can always outsource an influencer or use TikTok’s own Creator Marketplace to find creative users who can make content for you—whether it’s posting a product review or promoting a new product drop that pushes other users to follow your channel (and then hopefully sign up for your SMS!)
Another thing to remember is that TikTok is an avenue to build a community—it’s not the place for being overly promotional or constantly pushing products for your customers to buy. You’ve got to be able to showcase your brand’s personality and be authentic.
“Brands that show up authentically and make their audience feel like they truly know the Founder and team tend to win,” says Paige Goldstein, Enterprise BDR for Postscript. “People are human, so they want to buy from a brand whose products they love, but also like the team and feel connected.”
You can’t put up one TikTok video every few weeks and expect your followers to grow exponentially. The key here is putting out regular content.
If this feels like a herculean task right now, try and use TikTok to create an ongoing series—whether it’s a Taco Tuesday bit or a quick What I Wore Wednesday piece—just to start dipping your toes in the TikTok waters and getting comfortable.
A TikTok video doesn’t need to be overly produced or edited. In fact, the quickly thrown together videos are often the most compelling and relatable.
Just be mindful of your presence on that platform the same way you would for any other social media channel. Output is crucial to TikTok success.
This need for consistency extends to reminding people about your SMS program, too. Make sure you mention it whenever relevant (new products coming out, upcoming sales or events, etc.) to keep collecting phone numbers at a steady rate.
Promote TikTok Everywhere
Since usage on TikTok only continues to grow, capitalize on having a big TikTok moment by promoting that channel to your current email and SMS subscribers.
When beauty brand The Fit Fine Flawless had a video begin to go viral on their TikTok channel, they decided to leverage it in a campaign to their SMS list.
They received an immediate onslaught of keyword responses, which in turn meant tons of subscribers received the special promo code.
Not only did this send boost their TikTok video and generate big ROI, but it also became a part of their SMS strategy moving forward.
And Now for a Lightning Round of Content Ideas with Our Very Own In-House TikTok Star
We have our very own TikTok star here at Postscript—Travis Yee! Since he’s both a Customer Success Manager at Postscript and a TikTok celebrity in his own right, we decided to challenge him to a lightning round of ideas merchants in various industries can use to make a name for themselves on TikTok.
Organic Makeup Brand
Those in the skincare or makeup space have some of the biggest opportunities on TikTok. #MakeupTok alone has over 1.6 billion views.
Travis suggests filming a quick video of someone picking the raw ingredients that go into one of their products, then dumping them into a blender and blending. Then, transition to the product being pulled out of the blender as the final result.
And there’s always the classic glow-up. “Use a viral sound and film a before/after sequence with the products,” he says. “A makeupless face that then transitions into being fully glammed up.”
TikTok is the perfect place for food and beverage brands to solicit feedback.
“I’d use the current economy and talk about how things are getting expensive, like buying a coffee every day,” says Travis. “Show how your coffee brand can save people $X per day—but in a creative way, not just a straight advertisement.”
Want a more viral idea? Rather than bury someone in sand, bury them in coffee grounds—as a way to show how many scoops you get in a bag. “It’s a unique way to say, you’ll get enough coffee grinds in each bag to cover a child!” Travis says.
Men’s Clothing Boutique
Clothing brands have so much room for fun, viral content. Travis suggests doing a makeshift runway show, making up a dance routine in different outfits from your shop, or even doing a before-and-after makeover using clothes from your brand.
“For a more engaged post, have followers pick out your outfit for the day. Try on 3 different ones and then ask people to comment and vote!” says Travis.
A Brand Selling Gummy Vitamins for Hair Growth
If you’re in the health supplements space, it’s important to note here that TikTok flags “before and after” videos, so brands selling products like hair growth supplements cannot use this strategy. This has to do with liability if results are not true.
“I’d go the funny route for some viral videos in this space,” says Travis. “Walk into a store that has gumball machines and have them labeled as pain points for adults—things like back pain or hair loss. Show someone grabbing the one for hair loss and immediately their hair grows.”
Overall, Travis’s best advice for every brand?
“Just sign up and create an account,” says Travis. “Get comfortable with the app and then get out of your head and start creating.”
Take a deeper dive into growing your SMS list with TikTok by reading this help center article. But more importantly, start rolling! TikTok hit 1 billion active users in 2021, so you’ve got a lot of potential subscribers—and customers—just waiting for you.
Senior Content Marketing Manager
Laura is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at Postscript. She has spent the past decade working in ecommerce. When she isn't writing about her favorite topic (marketing) or listening to podcasts about her other favorite topic (ecommerce), she's hanging out with her two sons on an island off the coast of Maine.