TikTok media buying strategies for 2022

Brian Bowman, CEO of ConsumerAcquisition.com, offers detailed advice for anyone looking to advertise on TikTok.

TikTok is a hot spot for mobile app advertising right now. It’s not hard to see why. The platform’s massively growing userbase and affinity for short-form video make it an ideal environment for all mobile app advertisers. With 800 million monthly active users, TikTok has a user base more than twice the size of Twitter (340+ million) and almost double the size of Reddit (430+ million). That makes it the sixth most popular app globally based on the number of monthly active users, and one of the most downloaded apps in 2020, and we can expect this to continue in 2022.

TikTok is, at its essence, a video-sharing social media platform. It lets users create videos by recording them directly from their phones using the app. This direct recording often looks the most “native” on the app, but you can also upload video from outside sources. Just make sure they’re short – TikTok videos can only be 9 to 60 seconds (unless you use a special trick to stitch them together for a video of up to five minutes and they just announced up to 3-minute native ads). TikTok is conceptually like Instagram in that users can customize their videos with filters, stickers, background music, and other effects. But, unlike Instagram, TikTok content and its userbase have a reputation for being authentic. TikTok culture does not expect the visual perfection of Instagram, and that would be a disadvantage. TikTok is more playful, “real life” and authenticity driven.

It’s going to be more important than ever to have an effective TikTok advertising strategy going into 2022. From what we’ve seen, audience targeting, and bidding might not have quite as huge an effect on return on advertising spend (ROAS) as creative optimization does, but they are still essential to optimizing ROAS. Here, let’s walk through everything you need to know about media buying for TikTok including audiences, ad placements, and bidding and budgeting options in 2022.

TikTok Audience Targeting
TikTok lets advertisers target audiences by gender, location, age, interests, baheviors, categories, devices, connection speed, carrier, and even the price of their device.

This gives advertisers an enormous amount to test and opens some exciting possibilities for targeting and improving ROAS. Even just the “categories” targeting holds lots of promise for app advertisers. Each primary category has several sub-categories underneath it:

Custom Audiences and Lookalike Audiences
You can create custom audiences in a few ways. You can use your customer’s contact data aka a “customer file,”, website traffic, app activity, or ad engagement. TikTok also offers “auto-refresh” for custom audiences.

You can also create Lookalike Audiences to reach more people like your existing customers. Lookalike audiences can be created from three different “models” TikTok uses: “Specific”, “Balance” or “Broad.” Just note that TikTok recommends having a seed list of at least 10,000 people for Lookalike audiences.

Lookalike audiences can also be “applied” in different ways during different phases of ad delivery. Here are the options, with TikTok’s definitions for each:

  • Cold start: During this phase, “Lookalike Audience” can shorten the exploration time and help the algorithms learn more quickly which group of users will be interested in your ads and the product you are promoting, helping you obtain conversions faster.
  • Mature delivery phase: When your delivery curve is at its peak and has reached a satisfactory number of conversions, you can use “Lookalike Audience” to expand your audience further and maximize your ROI.
  • Decline phase: When your ad group delivery is in decline, you can use “Lookalike Audience” to extend the life cycle of your delivery.

Retargeting and the TikTok Pixel
Note that the minimum website traffic data audience size is 1,000 users. If you want to use TikTok Ads for retargeting, you will need to install the TikTok Pixel prior to launching your ad campaign. This will give it enough time to collect traffic data and match it to TikTok users.

Installing the TikTok pixel also helps with:

  • Measuring the effectiveness of your TikTok ad campaigns.
  • Optimizing ad delivery to users who are more likely to complete your ad campaigns’ objectives.
  • Removing audiences that have already converted so you do not spend your ad budget on unnecessary impressions or clicks.

Advertisers with access to the self-service TikTok ads platform can set daily or all-time budget caps. TikTok sets a minimum budget of $500 at the campaign level and $50 at the ad group level. This minimum spend is meant to ensure that your ad has enough budget to spend to reach your ad objectives.

Advertisers with smaller budgets should wait to see if the cost of advertising on TikTok will decrease. This has happened on other social networks as more advertisers join the platform.

Ad placements
TikTok’s Ads Manager allows you to place ads on more than just TikTok. Their family of partner apps includes:

  • Entertainment apps. TikTok, Babe (Babe is for Indonesia)
  • News or content discovery apps. TopBuzz (US and BR), BuzzVideo (Japan), NewsRepublic (worldwide).
  • Pangle “Pangle is the leading video advertising platform offering interactive and high-performance in-app advertising solutions,” according to TikTok’s support page. It is currently only available in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Egypt, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. Pangle supports all of TikTok’s campaign goals and automatic creative optimization.

You can also use Automatic Placement, which is what TikTok recommended. This will let the TikTok algorithm figure out where your ads will perform best.

Here is what the setup options look like:

TikTok placements vary considerably by location. See their “Placements and Available Locations” table for the most current information about where your ads might show.

TikTok also allows advertisers to block which media platforms or apps their ads might appear on. You can define a “block list” in the placements section of the campaign setup. Block Lists allow advertisers to block up to 2,000 app ids at a time.

On TikTok, ads appear in the “For You” feed. Other possible placements on partner apps include:

  • BuzzVideo, they appear in-feed, details page, post-video
  • TopBuzz: in-feed, details page, post-video
  • NewsRepublic: in-feed
  • Babe: in-feed, details page

Note that there are three in-feed ad positions: The recommended news feed, the video details page, and post-video ads.

This is what those placements look like:

Placements on Pangle are a little different. See TikTok’s support page for more details.

Optimization goals
There is more to optimize for than app installs. Way more. You saw that long list of possible events to measure in TikTok ads. So, use it. App installs are nice, after all, but $200 LTV buyers are better.

TikTok supports these four primary advertising objectives: Reach, Traffic, App Installs, and Conversion.

TikTok is working on offering their version of App Event Optimization (AEO), but it is still in beta and is only available for select accounts. If you happen to have a TikTok ad account manager, definitely ask them if your account might qualify for their beta, or if you can get your account near the front of the list as they roll this functionality out. For more information, read TikTok’s detailed online App Event Optimization (AEO) Manual.

How much do TikTok ads cost?
This is a question we get a lot; so much that we have written a FAQ page for it.

The short answer is that TikTok ad costs have come down and are now competitive with other social platforms. So, you will not be paying premium prices, but pricing will vary depending on:

  • Ad Formats*
  • Ad objective: traffic, conversions, or app installs
  • Bidding method and amount
  • Audiences (based on gender, location, age, language, interests, connection types, and OS versions)
  • Your industry

TikTok ads cost can be influenced by Ad Formats. A TopView video that appears at the top of a user’s feed and can run for up to 60 seconds is likely to cost more than a short, 9-second InFeed video that may be several screens down and placed between a few organic videos. It is a more enveloping brand experience and thus is more expensive.

Generally, TikTok ad costs start at $10 per CPM, but we have seen many CPMs < $2.00. Reports from AdAge in late 2019 show that TikTok’s cost of advertising can be between $50,000 to $120,000 depending on the ad format and duration and of course ad objective and bidding method used.

Their platform is flexible and there are many different ways to advertise aside from TikTok’s native paid advertising program to find the right fit for your program. You can always go the organic route, partner with rising influencers, and build visibility for your brand over time.

While TikTok advertising is highly compelling, reaches a massive audience and is rapidly evolving. Their ad platform offers more many placements, and campaign controls, and optimization choices to give UA managers controls to optimize performance.

With the TikTok userbase’s affinity for videos and games, there is every reason for mobile app advertisers to test TikTok ads right now. If you wait, their marketplace will only get more expensive!