TikTok is impossible to ignore…
It’s changing the way people consume content online…
So how can brands use it as a growth strategy?
My guest Morry Mitrani currently leads the growth and marketing team at Citizen. He was the first growth marketing hire at Bumble, where he built the team from early stage to post-IPO.
In this episode, he’ll share what brands need to know about TikTok, including:
- Setting up a company profile vs working with creators
- What tactics align with the TikTok advertising model
- How to brief a content creator (and why scripts don’t work)
- What parts of the funnel does TikTok address
- The top 3 tips to get started
- And more
Mentioned in this episode:
Voiceover: This is Performance Delivered, Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success with Steffen Horst and Dave Antil.
Steffen Horst: Welcome to the Performance Delivered Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success podcast, where we talk with marketing and agency executives and learn how they build successful businesses and their personal brand. I’m your host, Steffen Horst. The topic for today’s episode is using TokTok as a growth strategy. Here to speak with me as Morry Mitrani, who is the vice president of growth at Citizen.
Citizen is the number one public safety app in the US with a mission to make the world a safer place. Citizen provides 911 alerts so people can use their phones to keep themselves and the people and places they love safe. Morry uses his expertise in creative and analytical thinking to develop and execute powerful growth strategies. Before Citizen, he was the first growth marketing hire at Bumble, where he built a team from the early stage to post IPO. Morry, welcome to the show.
Morry Mitrani: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. Glad to be here.
Steffen: Before we explore today’s topic, tell our listeners a little bit more about yourself. How did you get started in your career? And what led you to being the VP of growth at Citizen?
Morry: Yeah, for sure. So I started my career in digital marketing on the agency side, and I got pretty deep into SEO. So I was doing both local SEO and non-local SEO eventually. And then that led me to my next role at a company called Spiceworks, where I was primarily doing SEO on a pretty massive site that we had, and then started dabbling into paid acquisition as well at Spiceworks.
And then kind of like the pivotal moment in my career is when I joined Bumble, at a super early stage. And at Bumble I was the very first growth marketing hire. I think I was employee number 12 at the company. We were actually still in like a two bedroom apartment that was our office.
So very, very early stage at Bumble. And I just grew, the team grew the budget. And we grew pretty massively. So it was a wild ride. By the time I left Bumble, it was four and a half years in, it was about six months after we IPO’d. And I was leading a team of about nine people primarily on the paid acquisition side. And then after Bumble, I went to a company called Niche in the education space.
And then after Niche I landed at Citizen where I am right now. And yeah, I’ve been at Citizen for almost a year. Focusing on all sorts of things like growth marketing, lifecycle marketing, and then also dabbling in the product growth side as well. So yeah, it’s been a fun ride so far.
Steffen: Interesting. Now, when you manage or when you are responsible for growth for the company, there are your, air quotes, standard channels, like the ones that you always use. Like paid search. You know, when you’re ecommerce, you use Facebook. Even for b2b, you can use Facebook, but you know, LinkedIn might be a channel.
But at some point these channels, you know, you might hit a point of diminishing return in those channels. And then it’s about what other channels are out there that we could try that potentially could help us engage with our target audience. Now today we want to talk about TikTok, obviously. So Morry, tell our listeners, why does TikTok matter? Does it matter for b2b and b2c?
Morry: Short answer is I would say yes. So why it matters is TikTok has become such a large and massive platform that it’s honestly impossible to ignore now, is kind of my hot take. It has, I believe, over a billion MAU now. So it is a very, very massive platform. And you know, b2c, that’s an obvious one. Like b2c companies. We were running TikTok at Bumble, at Niche and at Citizen. So it’s worked, you know, tremendously at all those companies.
To be honest, I haven’t been on the b2b side. But I do believe that there’s absolutely a spot for it. So I think if you’re getting the content right, and you’re providing value, you will find your community on TikTok, absolutely. If you’re a marketing platform, b2b marketing platform, there is a massive, massive community of marketers on TikTok. So I would say it’s a pretty valid platform for any business.
Steffen: Interesting. Now, when you want to engage with your target audience, segmentation features or targeting features are really important. Can you talk a little bit about what TikTok allows you to do or allows you not to do?
Morry: Yeah, so I guess we’ll probably take this conversation both you know, on the organic TikTok side and in the paid TikTok side. On the paid side, very, very similar to Facebook. You have a lot of different interest targeting. I’ve personally found the most beneficial just being broad targeting with some basic demo targeting.
I like to layer on some lookalikes at some point. But really, if you’re just starting, like broad targeting is not a terrible way to go. As long as you’re optimizing for the right conversion events. So if you’re doing that TikTok’s algorithm, just like Facebook’s has become is pretty smart and understanding who will buy or who will download etc.
Steffen: Now, I might have jumped the gun with asking you the targeting part, but talk about how does TikTok work?
Morry: Yeah, TikTok is a very fascinating place. If you have not downloaded TikTok, I would suggest downloading it, but make sure you go into it knowing that you might get stuck into it for a while. But TokTok has a very sophisticated algorithm that understands exactly what you want. And it understands it pretty quickly after you start interacting with a few videos. And it shows you those videos that you want with a pretty precise targeting.
So it’s unlike something like Instagram where you have to follow things to get exposure to the videos. TikTok will just know oh, you liked this? You will like this video. Here it is. And it’s a cool platform, you discover stuff that you didn’t know you knew about unlike on like Instagram where you have to follow those things.
Steffen: But can you be a little bit more precise on how does the system know that? Is that how long I’ve watched your video? Whether I liked your video, for example, whether I share a video?
Morry: Yeah, I think it encompasses all of that. So you’ll actually probably start to see if you start liking a creator, for example. And if you start watching more of their content, the algorithm is just going to naturally know to show it more and more.
So you can sometimes trick the algorithm by liking certain things and then you’ll pretty confidently you’ll be able to get exposure to that creator in the future. But, you know, because you’re liking certain types of content or certain types of creators, TikTok understands the web of connections to other creators and other types of content that it understands that you’ll like.
Steffen: How important is it to set up a profile as a company in TikTok?
Morry: I think it depends. It depends what route you want to go, if you want to have an actual presence as a company that works. Or you can go the other route, which is working with creators and focusing on that. Doing both will actually be somewhat difficult. So if you think about a platform, like Duolingo is kind of like the best example right now that has a very strong brand on TikTok.
But then you see other platforms, a company I used to advise called Ladder, which is a fitness app. Their presence on TikTok is large, but their network of creators that are posting about Ladder that’s much, much, much larger. So it kind of depends, you know, what you want to focus on.
I would probably suggest working with creators first, just because they already have the platform, they already have the audience, and they know how to create really good content. So that’s a pretty good way to get stuff going. And then kind of from there, you can start building your own internal brand presence.
Steffen: Let’s dive a little bit deeper into that. So what ways of advertising exist? You talked about creators. So I would assume that’s kind of like influencer marketing. Right, you engage with people that have a following, so you kind of air quotes live off of the fact that these people are already known. And X amount of people are watching their videos, right?
Morry: Yeah, I mean, in a sense, yes, influencer marketing, but some of these people aren’t even technically influencers to some extent. We can talk about smaller creators, like what you might call micro influencers, just getting going. If someone has a few 1000 followers, they could easily create a video that could get a million, 2 million views. That’s the beauty of TikTok.
Steffen: Interesting. And then on the other end, the advertising end, where I would assume you create creative. So, creative that displays the service product that you’re offering. How do people need to think about that? And how is that different potentially to what people already do on Facebook slash Instagram?
Morry: So TikTok is unique. TikTok advertising, so paid media on TikTok. It’s unique in that you need to update creative very frequently. So sometimes you’ll see creative start to fatigue within a few days. And that’s actually somewhat natural. And that’s just because the exposure to videos on Tiktok is so frequent that it’s very easy for it to get stale quickly.
So with that, it’s almost, I would claim it’s pretty hard to just have an internal team building creative for Tiktok and that’s honestly why I love working with creators and getting a nice network of creators to create just consistent iterative content for you.
And that becomes, yes, this realm of influencer marketing that exists across the ecosystem of TikTok. But also that power is your paid growth engine, in that you can put money behind these videos that people, that creators are building.
Steffen: So how does that work, working with creators, Morry? I mean, they want to get something out of the relationship too, I assume.
Morry: Yeah, there are a few different methods. One of them, well really if you’re working with early creators, you can actually partner with them. And they can kind of be your, like part of your growing brand. Because if you start putting money behind their ads, they’re going to start getting a ton of just extra incremental views.
Just simply because you’re putting money behind those videos. There’s obviously a point where you know, creators want to start making money. So there’s a few different routes. One of them is just kind of like, you know, I’ll pay you a certain amount for each video you create, or maybe you put them on like a monthly retainer, and they’ll create a certain amount of videos. But then I’ve also seen a commission style output as well.
So if creators are sending traffic to a certain piece of content or an app or something, and then you can potentially have a coupon code or something that they use to track, that’s another way and then you’ll give them some kind of percentage of that, of the traffic that they bring in.
Steffen: Now, from a creative perspective, a few minutes ago, you said that obviously, there’s an element where the creative might fatigue relatively quickly. We’re not talking about like Facebook, where you might update your creative once a month, right. Here it needs to be refreshed much quicker. Now, from a company perspective, that might raise a lot of questions.
People think about creative in the form of how we see better creatives, you know, and those kinds of things. And that cost a lot of money to create, right? How does that work for TikTok? We’re talking about the same type of creative? Is it different?Do you really need the full blown, you know, creative agency to do that, or are there, air quotes, cheaper ways to get creative done?
Morry: Yeah. So the kind of the tried and true, I guess, banner ad approach, you know, that you would see on Facebook, that still exists to some extent. It’s really not the case on TikTok. And what you’ll see on TikTok work really well, are native feeling, organic style TikTok videos that subtly sell. That’s how I like to say it. Like, you’ll see if you can easily call out an ad for being an ad. But if it’s entertaining and you know, TikTok style, very organic feeling ad, it can do very well. And I’ve seen those types of ads do really well.
Steffen: What do you see the cost is for these type of ads? I mean, do you think a company can create them themselves? I mean someone needs to write the story I assume, right? But if you engage with an agency, what would you think the costs are to get these creatives developed?
Morry: It really depends what’s, just where you are as a company. I would say if you’re very, very small, starting out, you really don’t need an agency. You can just kind of call cold call, but like really DM creators on both TikTok and Instagram, assuming that they create good TikTok content.
And just if you’re like, really, you know, strapped for cash, I would suggest the commission model. And yeah, just say like, hey, like, let’s just say your marketing b2b company. Just noticed you create really good marketing style content. Would love to partner with you, and you know, 15% commission, something like that.
Steffen: Okay. Now, let’s talk about tactics. What tactics align with the TikTok advertising model?
Morry: Yeah, so for tactics again, I would, I would tie back to the, one, your biggest lever is always going to be creative, so that you need to get that set out straight. Like you need to understand how you’re going to be sourcing creative. Again, I love working with creators, so you need to get some kind of pipeline in there.
And you’ll find your community. I almost guarantee you’ll find your community of creators. And then once you do that, what I like to do is I like to combine different types of campaign. Some of them being you’re, you’re basically uploading the videos that creators are building as the ads, and then some of them are what are called spark ads on TikTok.
And that’s where you’ll put money behind the organic video that already exists on the creator’s page. So I’d like to test both those out. I’ve seen both of them work, so like to run them both. And we talked about audience, where if you have a strong seed audience, it’s harder to create a stronger seed with with iOS changes. But if you have a strong seed, a good general look alike would be fine to start with.
I mean, it also depends, you know, what style company you are. So I’ve worked with pretty broad b2c companies where this broad audience has actually worked well. But you can get pretty sophisticated with targeting. And yeah, that’s how I set up my campaigns. Again, you need to be updating creative very frequently.
Steffen: Interesting. Now, jumping back on the creative topic here. Does TikTok creative change the way creative in general is produced? Has that changed for you? We talked earlier about Facebook, you know, and then didn’t go too deep into that.
Morry: I really think that TikTok is changing the way that people absorb content online. So, you know, you used to, YouTube used to be, I mean, YouTube is still massive, but you would have, you know, on YouTube and on Instagram, this kind of higher production feel.
And, you know, it’s almost to some extent, fake, to some extent, just because people are really, you know, editing these videos, etc. And on TikTok, what you’re seeing is, yes, there’s editing involved, but you’re getting a much more organic and realistic style content from people.
And I think that what that’s doing to just the entire video landscape on the internet is that it’s changing the way that people absorb content. And they really want to see this realistic feel from people too, right. So you’ll see a lot of videos that do really well on TikTok are featuring people. And it’s just I think it’s like, the natural progression of how we absorb content, is we want this very natural feel style video.
Steffen: Don’t you think consumers at some point will look through that? I mean, you know, from my perspective, you know, when we started with influencer marketing, or when influencer marketing kind of picked up a lot. You know, you took micro influencers or even celebrities, to promote products, you know, people bought into it, but I also feel that there’s a little bit of fatigue on that, because they know that they get paid for, you know, showing you the products. Is that different on TikTok, because it’s more of this natural feel, or is there a danger that that might happen too?
Morry: I think, to some extent. And you want to work with creators that have a very strong audience, and it doesn’t need to, like, like I said before, it doesn’t need to be a big audience. But, you know, it’s an audience that trusts this creator. And yes, if the creator is only creating paid videos, and these brands that they’re promoting are all over the place, and some of them are kind of sketchy, then, you know, obviously, that’s going to diminish the power of that creator.
But if the creator has a very strong audience, in terms of they trust them for the specific topic, or different types of content that they create, then when they promote a video, it should feel very natural that they’re promoting this video. And, quite frankly, it should be a product or service that the creator would be promoting anyway, because it’s part of what their audience wants to get exposed to.
So that’s where I’ve seen creative work the best when working with creators. And again, like the creator will be, you want to make sure you find a creator that can create this content that does not feel that it’s a very salesy ad. It’s really like I’m promoting this thing to benefit you, my audience.
Steffen: Yeah. How much would you be as a company involved in the content creation? So obviously, your creator is creating the content, but do you need to provide them, or should you provide them with a script, what they should say? Should you control once the video is done, what the video says etc? So where should you start, where should you stop, kind of air quotes interfering with the creative process there?
Morry: I’ve never seen a script work just because it is too specific in really throttling what the creator can do. So what I’ve seen work the best is giving, and this is actually an art you know. It’s an art and a science to create a really good brief. And this brief gives the creator all the different talking points of here’s what the company does, here’s why it’s beneficial to your audience, etc. But it’s not word for word that they are reading out.
So then the creator can take that and then you know, amend it to be something that they know that their audience would build or would enjoy. And then from there what they’ve built is, you know, a piece of content that you can do maybe like one to two iterations on with them and you can give them you know, feedback on it. But yeah, I would, I would stay away from a script. That’s too specific on what you want.
Steffen: Yeah. Are there any best practices in regards to how often, when you use creators, how often that creator should promote your products?
Morry: I guess it depends on how big your budget is. Because again, if you’re spending a good amount on TikTok, then you’ll need to create this, or you need to update your creative pretty frequently. So I would say there’s no there’s no specific amount and the creator actually you know, you might be able to make a deal with a creator to do a certain amount. Some organic, some paid, and then they will want to probably stop you at some point saying, okay, this is just like too much promotion on my page.
Steffen: When it comes to cost, right, when we talked about that when you work with creators, you know, there are several ways on how you can engage with them, whether it’s on a CPA, so cost per acquisition or commission model, whatever you want to call it. You know, a single fee or, you know, pushing, helping them push their already videos that they have, etc. But on the paid media side, so when you actually run ads on the TikTok platform, how does the cost compare to that of, for example, the meta platform?
Morry: From what I’ve seen, CPMs have been lower. Click through rates can really depend. I’ve seen click through rates be a lot better on TikTok than on meta platforms. So, again, it kind of depends on, kind of depends on your industry, it depends on the creative. But in terms of CPA costs, I’ve seen TikTok generally be less expensive than Facebook and Instagram. Now that that’s obviously in the platforms, or the brands that I’ve worked with.
But generally, I’ve seen them be better. At first, it might be harder to scale, as much as a Facebook, but at a point, you know, we ‘ve run more budget on TikTok than I have on meta at some points. So it will get there. You just need to get your creative arm very powerful. And you need to have the sophisticated funneling of new creative in there.
Steffen: How do you think about setting up TikTok campaigns compared to meta campaigns? Is there a huge difference? Or can companies, agencies use a similar approach?
Morry: I would probably use a similar approach. You’ll see that the TikTok ad platform, or the TikTok ad manager is very similar to the meta ad platform. You’ll see the same types of audience creation. So yeah, I wouldn’t shy away from trying to overthink that part. Again, your biggest lever is going to be creative. So that’s where I would put your real focus in.
Steffen: Okay. Now, when we run advertising, you know, there are channels that allow us to engage with people, when you’re really at the bottom of the funnel. You know, they’re ready to convert, and already taken action. Then there are channels that are more in the mid or upper funnel. Where from your perspective does TikTok sit? Does it sit mid, upper, or lower funnel, or across the entire funnel?
Morry: I would say it sits the same place that meta sits. So somewhere between that upper and mid funnel. Just like you know, Facebook and Instagram, TikTok is an entertainment platform. And that’s where people are there. So you need to really stick out and make sure that you create some kind of memorable aspect to what you’re doing on that platform.
Just like you would Facebook and Instagram. But I would think of it just in the same realm as other social platforms. So Google, you’re obviously you know, looking for information. So it’s very deeper down the funnel. But here, yeah, I would say upper mid. Something around there.
Steffen: It’s about discovery. Building of a product, service and then taking them as far as possible. Probably a sales message in TikTok might not really work quite well, the way you probably would have it on Google, for example, or any other search engines that you might use.
Morry: Yeah, but when you are, I mean, this is very nascent, but like what you’re also seeing, to some extent, take this with a grain of salt, is you’re seeing TikTok become a search platform as well. So I don’t know how this relates to every industry, etc. But you’re seeing people start searching in TikTok for information as they would on Google.
A good example is my wife and I are planning a trip to Italy. We actually planned almost all of our trip on TikTok and we didn’t use Google at all. We’ll probably use Google to validate and like actually purchase tickets and stuff. But the exploratory phase was all through TikTok, so it’s something to think about.
And they also just released, maybe not just released but somewhat recently released a search placement on TikTok as well. So when you search on TikTok, you’ll see all the videos that come up and you can now pay for sponsored placements in that search results page.
Steffen: Interesting. Interesting. Now, before we come to the end of today’s episode, Morry, what are the top three tips that you would give someone you know, after listening here, saying you know what, I should really, you know, I should really give it a try.
Morry: It’s probably no surprise the first thing I’m going to say is really focused on your creative. And I think the very first thing if you’re just starting out is spend some time on TikTok. Look for a community that’s in your realm of industry. Find one to two creators that are not massive, so not someone with hundreds of 1000s of followers, and start talking to them. Get to know what they might be looking for in a partnership.
And maybe that turns into like a very quick and easy way to get some new, to get some first creative running. And then you know, after that I would focus on, so that’s kind of like getting them to post organically, and then after that I would focus on putting some paid behind that. You’re gonna have to have some kind of budget. I think it’s roughly the same as meta where you need, I think something like 50 conversions a week to get started.
So keep that in mind when you’re running. You might need to optimize for something higher end funnel. So put some paid behind it. Test both uploading the creative and the spark ad approach. From there, I mean, I would really just like start building out what you might consider a good brief so you can start escalating this to a number of creators. That’s going to be your key and your number one lever.
Steffen: Okay. I would assume probably what I heard you saying a lot for off the conversation, it’s like, start off a broader audience, you know, and maybe lay over some some look alikes for example. Or if you start with a broader audience, make sure you look at what the results are across the audience and start maybe to slice them a little bit to see where your responses are better. Versus the audiences where you don’t get some great responses. Whatever the goal of your campaign actually is.
Morry: Yeah, I guess the caveat is, it depends. I’ve worked with some really massive b2c apps. So that has worked for me. But I can’t say that that would work for a niche b2b company. So if you are in that spot, TikTok also has really good targeting options as well. So I’d probably start with a look alike, but it depends.
Steffen: Okay, perfect. Well, Morry, thank you so much for joining me on the Performance Delivered podcast and sharing your thoughts and knowledge on TikTok. If people want to find out more about you, and Citizen, how can they get in touch?
Morry: Yeah. For Citizen, you can go to the App Store. Google Play and iOS App Store and type in Citizen and you’ll find it there. We are US wide. And then for me, you can add me on LinkedIn. We can chat there. So don’t know what my LinkedIn handle is, but Morry Mitrani. You can find me there.
Steffen: Perfect. As always, we’ll leave that information in the show notes. Thanks, everyone for listening. If you like the Performance Delivered podcast, please subscribe to us and leave us a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast application. You want to find out more about Symphonic Digital, you can visit us at symphonicdigital.com or follow us on Twitter at Symphonic HQ. Thanks again and see you next time.
Voiceover: Performance Delivered is sponsored by Symphonic Digital. Discover audience-focused and data-driven digital marketing solutions for small and medium businesses at symphonicdigital.com.