Building trust in the digital age with TikTok

by Jochen Bis?hoff
The platform offers brands useful sources that can enhance transparency.

In an era when trust is the foundation of consumer-brand relationships, the digital landscape poses challenges for businesses that strive to connect with their customers. Not only are consumers looking for engagement beyond the sales transaction, they look to brands to lead positive societal change and be authentic and transparent. Brands that fail to meet these expectations and do not establish clear brand trust and values risk losing the loyalty of their customers.

Brands have an opportunity to bridge this trust gap by providing an open line of communication and fostering genuine interactions on digital platforms. TikTok’s features, for example, are designed to encourage creativity, joy and authenticity and to play a role in bridging the trust gap between brands and consumers. An engaging format and community-driven content allow TikTok to provide a space for this.

Research confirms the platform’s ability to help brands grow consumer trust. According to the “What’s Next 2024 Trend Report”, after seeing an ad on TikTok viewers trust the brand 41% more, are 31% more likely to be loyal to the brand and are 33% more likely to say the brand is a good fit for who they are as a person. This is driving action in real life as well as on the platform.

The report focuses on the most actionable and enduring trends on TikTok, defined as trend signals, which are content patterns that show emerging behaviours and interests that brands can leverage to inform their longer-term content strategy.

One of the trend signals that every brand aiming to strengthen consumer loyalty should keep in mind while planning a marketing strategy on TikTok is that the platform’s community has created a universal language for its users. It is redefining words, reshaping them for new philosophies and aesthetics. The word “luxury”, for example, has expanded into #quietluxury and #affordableluxury, while #cleangirl is a TikTok-bred aesthetic all about minimalism. The hashtag #girldinner, on the other hand, turned “dinner” into a fun joke and sharing activity that has more than 240,000 video creations. In South Africa, specifically, the #TikTokThatsHau hashtag now unites educational videos that provide users with insights and useful information about various topics, from food recipes to DIY, and from beauty tips to tech ideas.

For marketers, keeping up with cultural conversations or the latest trends on the platform may feel overwhelming at first. The most successful will be those who manage to tap into the community’s interests, distinguish and focus on trends that are the most relevant for them, and create content through the relevant cultural lingo cultivated on the platform. A good example of this is the way the Ultra Beauty cosmetics brand natively incorporates the #girlmath trend, promoting the rewards money of its loyalty programme for spending so that it feels like free money.

Another trend signal revealed by the report that can help build trust is called Trusting the Process. For brands, this is about being bold enough to be vulnerable and allow audiences into the full process of and story behind the brand. Users tend to have less trust in brands that come to TikTok with over-polished messaging that may feel artificial and distant.

Trust emerges from the community’s openness to share and receive feedback, which unlocks honest community conversations such as are rarely found in other spaces. For example, #skincare unites conversations that go beyond traditional beauty audiences to include all skin types and all genders and redefines “perfect skin”. And #pregnancy content on TikTok grew hugely in 2023 as creators shared their experiences, answered questions and exchanged tips with other expecting families. This is something brands from different industries, including skincare, health care and wellness, can easily tap into.

Marketers wanting to capitalise on the trend signals discussed above need to focus on three things:

1. Make trend watching a large part of your work with the platform. Invest and use all the available sources to educate yourself about what the community is interested in and what feelings and ideas are being raised, and always keep your finger on the pulse. One of the most useful sources TikTok provides to help marketers with this is Creative Center. This is a treasure trove of real-time dashboards to track growing hashtags, songs and creators and find inspiration for ad scripts and top-performing keywords for ad campaigns. Spend time on TikTok to learn about what’s trending in real time.

2. Work with creators who are relevant to your brand, will be able to communicate the brand’s identity natively to the TikTok community, add their own creative spark to the brand narrative and contribute to your brand-user love story.

3. Learn and grow through tracking your video creative performance, breaking down audience interactions and potential creative improvements to inspire your next videos. TikTok’s Video Insights platform allows brands to explore broader performance trends in their video library and make comparisons with industry benchmarks for each metric.

Jochen Bis?hoff is the head of global business solutions for Africa at TikTok.

Useful resources:
The Red Zone
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