Marshall Maher just wants TikTok to take his money. The Chief Marketing Officer at ServiceUp, a car repair startup, spends $40,000 to $80,000 on ads each month, and he’s tired of giving it to Facebook.
Maher doesn’t trust the social network after years of its error-filled reporting, especially now that Apple severed its ability to track people outside its app. He’s looking at TikTok to take its place.
“Facebook and Instagram are becoming very inefficient for us,” Maher said. “We need to do something else.”
A Window of Opportunity
TikTok today has a golden opportunity to take market share from Facebook, the kind that doesn’t come around too often.
After Apple effectively broke Facebook’s ad system by cutting off crucial tracking capabilities — the social network’s measurement can now be off by as much as 60%, per some marketers — people like Maher are looking for alternatives. TikTok, with its massive, engaged userbase, can sometimes be all they can talk about.
“This is 100% TikTok’s moment to scale,” said Sara Livingston, head of customer solutions at Rockerbox, a marketing analytics company.
Facebook’s travails may lead more marketers to test budgets with TikTok, she said, and if their ads prove effective, they won’t stop spending.
“Once they get in and establish a baseline of spend, it’s about growing that. And it’s really hard to get unseated.”
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Challenges to Overcome
For TikTok, winning over Facebook advertisers won’t be easy, particularly because of its own faults. The company is competing with a Facebook ad platform that is intuitive, easy and efficient to use. And though TikTok has hired an army of ex-Facebook employees to bring its system up to par, it’s just not there.
“What on Facebook would take me 15 minutes on TikTok would probably take me 45 minutes,” said Dylan Carpenter, founder of Koality Media, a digital marketing agency. “That’s a lot of extra time.”
Then there’s the creative side, which has its own learning curve. On Facebook, an ad with a single image or link can be effective. On TikTok, which is filled with short-form videos, a static image won’t suffice. To advertise effectively on TikTok, advertisers must learn the platform’s language and embrace its weirdness. The task can be daunting.
“There’s a whole lot of people like me who are looking at TikTok like a black box,” Maher said, “And just figuring out like, ‘What the hell am I gonna do with this?’”
Maher is the type of advertiser — online, savvy, with a midsized budget — that’s propelled Facebook to more than $111 billion in revenue last year. TikTok has the chance to win him over and keep him, but it will take some work. Facebook, meanwhile, is working diligently to rebuild its platform and measurement, so TikTok’s window is limited. It will need to act soon to capitalize.
Maher, for his part, now expects to spend more time looking into TikTok’s offering. He has an idea for where to start: “Literally Google ‘How to advertise on TikTok.’”
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Alex Kantrowitz is founder and reporter at Big Technology, author of “Always Day One: How the Tech Titans Plan to Stay on Top Forever,” an on-air contributor at CNBC and former senior technology reporter at BuzzFeed News.