This post was written by Heather Heddens. Heather has been helping advertisers increase their profitability via digital marketing for the past five years and is currently a Growth Manager at Thesis Testing where she helps DTC E-commerce clients scale their growth.

The time old phrase “you can’t put all your eggs in one basket” has never been more relevant. While most digital advertisers are currently putting the majority of their spend into Facebook advertising, opting out of testing other digital platforms is ultimately limiting your access to potential new customers and market growth.

Despite launching ads for the first time in just 2019, TikTok has quickly become a go-to platform for industry leaders looking to diversify more of their spend off of the increasingly competitive Facebook ads platform. The app has been downloaded more than 2.6 billion times worldwide and is estimated to have about 1 billion active monthly users.

When advertisers launch ads on a new platform we tend to start with what we know - mirroring our Facebook strategy and Facebook optimization tactics. However, TikTok is vastly different from what we’re used to on Facebook in two different capacities: measurement and creative.

At a simple glance TikTok CPAs post launch are going to appear shockingly high. Resist the urge to stop spending! These numbers aren’t as bad as you think. Unlike Facebook, TikTok can only attribute conversions from a single session attribution window. Facebook offers a variety of attribution windows historically spanning as wide as 28 days. When using one of Facebook’s larger attribution windows, a user who clicks on an ad and returns to the website to make a purchase days later, we still receive an attributable conversion. TikTok can’t attribute a conversion unless the user makes the purchase in the same web-session in which they engaged with the ad. If a user clicks your ad, visits the site and returns 5 hours later to purchase - you won’t receive an attributable conversion from that user.

Below is what that actually looks like for one direct to consumer e-commerce brand in January of 2021. On the chart below you can see TikTok’s in-platform reported CPA represented in purple. It stays the same because it can only report on a single session attribution window. Facebook is represented in blue and you can see how the CPA reflected in Facebook Ads Manager drastically increases as you switch to a smaller and smaller attribution window. By the time you get to the smallest window Facebook offers for attribution (which is still slightly larger than the single session attribution native to TikTok) the performance is much more comparable. What initially appears as a shockingly high CPA from TikTok, is actually pretty similar to the performance they were getting from Facebook.

Below is a look at another DTC e-commerce brand in a completely different vertical. However, this data is pulled from October of 2019 which was the last month they decided to run TikTok before killing the campaign because it wasn’t hitting their target $20 CPA. Note their goal CPA was made for their default 28-day click, 1-day view attribution window and when we pulled the data to reflect the attributable CPA as the attribution window narrowed you can see the same results as above.

Is the CPA for the above brand worse on TikTok? Yes, no doubt. However, it’s performing about 15% worse rather than the 48% they initially thought. This brings us to the next challenge of TikTok. When you know you’re measuring performance correctly but you’re still 15% away from your target, how do you increase performance? The answer is strong creative.

Creative is single handedly the most important mover when it comes to increasing performance and driving conversions on TikTok. High performing TikTok creative can be broken down into three major pillars: quantity, sound and authenticity.

Oberlo reported that the average TikTok user consumes content on the platform for 52 minutes a day. TikTok videos can run from 15 to 60 seconds long, so that’s a minimum of 52 videos consumed in one sitting. When users are blowing through content that quickly, creative fatigue happens more rapidly than on other platforms. At minimum, you’ll need fresh videos to launch on a bi-weekly basis. Maintaining a large quantity of videos to launch regularly will be pivotal to scaling performance.

In addition to launching new creative frequently, you’re going to have to adopt sound. Most advertisers don’t put much effort into their ad sound as it’s well known that most users on Facebook watch about 85% of videos without sound. In contrast, sound is pivotal on TikTok and you’ll find that most videos don’t even make sense without sound. In fact, at a bare minimum, TikTok requires all videos to include sound. If you try to run an ad without sound your ad will quickly get rejected by TikTok’s automated ad moderators. We strongly suggest that instead of opting for a simple background song to get your ad approved, you utilize your sound in the same way you would the visual aspect of your creative. For example, use the audio as an opportunity to highlight customer testimonials and feature walkthroughs of your product’s uses and benefits.

Arguably the most important aspect of your TikTok creative is authenticity. TikTok is not the platform to sport highly produced, polished and branded assets. If you don’t capture users immediately with an intriguing hook you’re going to get a swift swipe up. Dare to shoot your video on an iPhone instead of a DSLR! Don’t shy away from content that’s grittier and more authentic to how your actual customers will engage with your product or service. The nuances of what specific creative types perform on TikTok could be an entire article on it’s own, but in reality the only way to fully understand what thrives on TikTok is to spend hours on TikTok. Make an account and don’t shy away from becoming comfortable with the organic side of the platform. One phrase we hear our TikTok representatives say over and over that rings incredibly true is, “Don’t make ads, make TikToks.”

Combine terrific creative with accurate reporting and you’ll be on the fast track to increasing conversions, driving profit, and growing your business on TikTok.