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Tiktok’s Battle-Tested Business Model, Unconventional In The West But Well-Practiced By Its Chinese Parent Bytedance.

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“There are several ways to measure TikTok’s success: It took just four years to reach 1 billion monthly users; its average user in the US spends more time with the service than with Facebook and Instagram put together; and its most popular video, an 18-second clip of someone flying on a magic broomstick, has claimed 2.2 billion views.

But what of TikTok’s moneymaking power? I wrote about the ways that the app’s operators are turning its popularity into a huge business in the latest issue of Bloomberg Businessweek. To rival and outdo social and ad giants like Meta Platforms Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, TikTok relies on a battle-tested business model that’s unconventional in the west but well-practiced by its Chinese parent ByteDance Ltd. Here’s a look at the ingredients.

At the core of TikTok’s appeal is Its Algorithm, the ability to discern a user’s likes and dislikes from their activity on the platform, picking up on how long you watch, say, a cat video or a cooking tutorial. The same model of content distribution is now being used on ads and sponsored content, helping TikTok serve more appealing ads and triple its ad revenue to an estimated $12 billion this year. Even Meta is now trying to rewrite the algorithms of Facebook and Instagram, so its services can surprise and delight people with videos they didn’t know they wanted to see. It’s a departure from Meta’s old approach of filling a user’s feed based on their social connections.

The other key thing is Branding. TikTok’s most lucrative ad accounts feature companies more interested in building their brands than stimulating direct sales. McDonald’s Corp., for instance, won’t count on TikTok to sell burgers, but it will likely want to use the platform to woo the young people using it. TikTok connects brands with influencers and helps them create viral challenges, goofy camera effects and immersive full-screen videos. That’s why its motto goes, “Don’t make ads. Make TikToks.”

On top of all that, TikTok is jumping into E-Commerce in ways that could challenge Amazon.com Inc. It’s rolled out an in-app marketplace in regions like Southeast Asia and the UK, where users can jump from live streams and short videos to shopping portals without friction. The idea is to create a closed loop where TikTok handles each and every step from a user discovering something to actually purchasing it — instead of directing them to an Amazon listing or a Shopify Inc.-powered web store.

To be sure, TikTok and ByteDance still have enormous challenges ahead. For one thing, commercial success across the globe demands navigating fragmented markets that don’t share the same culture, user preferences, regulations or tech infrastructure. And politics remains a big risk, even after TikTok survived President Donald Trump’s attempted ban. The perceived security threat from TikTok’s handling of US user data probably won’t go away as long as Beijing and Washington keep tussling in the geopolitics arena.”

Source: TikTok Turns On the Money Machine By Zheping Huang

 

Business Insights

Consolidating Marketing Efforts into a Social-First Framework: A Data-Driven Approach

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In the rapidly evolving digital landscape, consolidating marketing efforts into a social-first framework has become essential for brands seeking to maximize the effectiveness of their marketing channels, content strategies, and influencer collaborations. This comprehensive approach leverages the power of social media to create a cohesive and data-driven marketing strategy that enhances engagement, reach, and ROI.

Understanding the Social-First Framework
A social-first framework prioritizes social media as the primary channel for marketing activities. This approach ensures that all marketing efforts are integrated and optimized for social media platforms, where consumers increasingly spend their time. By consolidating efforts into a social-first strategy, brands can streamline their marketing processes and make more informed decisions based on real-time data and consumer insights.

Benefits of a Social-First Framework

Unified Marketing Channels:
Consolidating marketing efforts into a social-first framework allows brands to create a unified strategy across multiple channels. This ensures consistency in messaging and branding, leading to a stronger and more cohesive brand presence.

Example: Coca-Cola effectively uses a social-first approach by maintaining consistent branding and messaging across all social media platforms, which reinforces their brand identity and enhances consumer recognition​​.

Enhanced Content Strategies:
A social-first framework enables brands to develop content strategies that are tailored to the preferences and behaviors of their social media audiences. By analyzing social media data, brands can create content that resonates more deeply with their target audience.

Example: Starbucks uses social media analytics to understand what types of content their audience engages with the most. This data-driven approach allows them to create highly relevant and engaging content, from seasonal promotions to user-generated content campaigns​.

Optimized Influencer Collaborations:
Integrating influencer marketing into a social-first framework ensures that influencer collaborations are aligned with overall marketing goals and strategies. Social media data can help identify the most effective influencers and measure the impact of their campaigns.

Example: Daniel Wellington’s influencer marketing strategy is deeply integrated into their social-first framework. By leveraging data to identify influencers who resonate with their target audience, they have successfully driven brand awareness and sales​​.

Implementing a Social-First Framework

Centralized Data Collection and Analysis:
To implement a social-first framework, brands need to centralize their data collection and analysis. This involves using tools that aggregate data from various social media platforms, providing a comprehensive view of consumer behavior and campaign performance.

Example: Sprout Social offers robust analytics tools that help brands gather and analyze social media data, enabling them to make informed decisions and optimize their marketing strategies​​.

Content Creation and Distribution:
Content should be created with a social-first mindset, ensuring that it is optimized for the platforms where it will be shared. This includes creating visually appealing graphics, engaging videos, and interactive posts that are tailored to each platform’s unique features.

Example: GoPro’s social-first content strategy involves creating stunning visual content that showcases their products’ capabilities. By focusing on user-generated content and sharing it on platforms like Instagram and YouTube, GoPro effectively engages their audience and promotes their brand​ (Latest Insights)​.

Leveraging Real-Time Engagement:
Social media allows for real-time interaction with consumers, providing an opportunity to build stronger relationships and address customer needs promptly. Brands should use this capability to engage with their audience, respond to feedback, and foster a sense of community.

Example: Nike’s real-time engagement strategy involves actively responding to customer inquiries and comments on social media. This proactive approach not only improves customer satisfaction but also enhances the brand’s reputation as responsive and customer-focused​.

Conclusion
Consolidating marketing efforts into a social-first framework provides a comprehensive and data-driven approach that maximizes the potential of marketing channels, content strategies, and influencer collaborations. By prioritizing social media, brands can create more cohesive and effective marketing campaigns, engage with their audience in meaningful ways, and drive better business outcomes. Adopting a social-first strategy is essential for brands looking to thrive in the digital age and stay ahead of the competition.

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Elevating Traditional Marketing Efforts Through an Always-On, Social-First Lens

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In today’s digital age, traditional marketing efforts such as experiential marketing and customer service can be significantly enhanced through an always-on, social-first strategy. This approach not only increases engagement and reach but also creates a seamless brand experience for consumers. Here’s how brands can scale and elevate these efforts:

1. Transforming Experiential Marketing

Digital Amplification of Live Events:
Experiential marketing, which focuses on creating immersive brand experiences, can reach a broader audience by leveraging social media. Live streaming events, behind-the-scenes content, and interactive social media campaigns can extend the impact of physical events to a global audience.

Example: Red Bull’s Stratos Jump was not just an in-person event but a global phenomenon, thanks to its extensive live streaming and social media coverage. By sharing real-time updates and encouraging user-generated content, Red Bull created a massive online buzz that amplified the event’s reach and impact​​.

Creating Virtual Experiences:
Incorporating virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) into experiential marketing allows brands to create immersive experiences that can be shared on social media. This not only engages users but also encourages them to share their experiences, further extending the brand’s reach.

Example: IKEA’s AR app, which allows customers to visualize furniture in their homes, was widely shared on social media. This social-first approach turned a functional tool into an engaging experience that users were excited to share with their networks​.

2. Enhancing Customer Service

Always-On Customer Support:
Social media provides a platform for brands to offer real-time customer support. By utilizing chatbots and AI, brands can ensure 24/7 availability, quickly addressing customer inquiries and issues. This always-on support enhances customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Example: Nike uses Twitter to handle customer service inquiries efficiently. Their dedicated support account (@NikeSupport) provides real-time responses, demonstrating the brand’s commitment to customer care​.

Personalized Customer Interactions:
Brands can use social media to offer personalized customer service, leveraging data to tailor interactions. Personalized responses and proactive engagement based on past interactions make customers feel valued and understood.

Example: Spotify uses data-driven insights to personalize their interactions with users on social media. By addressing users by name and referencing their listening habits, Spotify creates a personalized experience that enhances customer satisfaction​.

3. Scaling Content Through User Engagement

User-Generated Content (UGC):
Encouraging customers to create and share content related to their brand experiences can significantly amplify marketing efforts. UGC not only provides authentic content but also increases engagement as users feel part of the brand community.

Example: GoPro excels at leveraging UGC by encouraging users to share videos and photos captured with their products. This content is then featured on GoPro’s social media channels, showcasing real user experiences and inspiring potential customers​.

Influencer Partnerships:
Collaborating with influencers can scale traditional marketing efforts by leveraging their established audiences. Influencers can create engaging content that resonates with their followers, extending the brand’s reach and authenticity.

Example: Daniel Wellington’s influencer marketing strategy involved sending free watches to influencers, who then shared their experiences on social media. This approach helped the brand achieve significant growth and recognition​​.

4. Integrating Data-Driven Insights

Real-Time Analytics:
Social media platforms offer robust analytics tools that provide insights into consumer behavior and campaign performance. Brands can use this data to refine their strategies, ensuring that marketing efforts are continuously optimized for better results.

Example: Starbucks uses social media analytics to track customer sentiment and engagement. By analyzing this data, they can adjust their campaigns in real-time, ensuring that their marketing efforts are always relevant and effective​​.

Feedback Loops:
Social media allows for immediate feedback from customers, which can be used to improve products, services, and marketing strategies. Creating a feedback loop where customer insights are regularly integrated into business decisions helps brands stay aligned with consumer needs.

Example: Sephora utilizes social media to gather customer feedback on new products. This feedback is then used to make adjustments and improvements, ensuring that the brand meets customer expectations​ (Sprout Social)​.

Conclusion
By adopting an always-on, social-first approach, brands can scale and elevate traditional marketing efforts such as experiential marketing and customer service. This strategy not only extends the reach and impact of these efforts but also creates a more engaging and personalized experience for consumers. Leveraging social media’s capabilities for real-time interaction, personalization, and data-driven insights ensures that marketing efforts remain relevant and effective in the ever-evolving digital landscape.

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Business Insights

Humanizing Brands Through Influencer Marketing: A Guide to Resonating with Social-First Audiences

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In today’s digital landscape, humanizing a brand is crucial for resonating with social-first audiences. Leveraging influencer marketing effectively can bridge the gap between brands and consumers, fostering authentic connections and enhancing brand loyalty. Here’s how brands can utilize influencer marketing to achieve these goals:

1. Authentic Storytelling
Influencers as Storytellers: Influencers are adept at weaving personal stories into their content, making them ideal partners for brands aiming to humanize their image. By sharing their genuine experiences with a product, influencers can create relatable and engaging narratives that resonate deeply with their followers.

Example: Nike collaborates with influencers who share their fitness journeys, personal challenges, and triumphs. These authentic stories not only promote Nike products but also inspire and connect with audiences on an emotional level​​.

2. Micro-Influencers for Relatability
The Power of Micro-Influencers: Micro-influencers, those with smaller but highly engaged followings, often come across as more relatable and trustworthy. Their recommendations feel like advice from a friend rather than a sales pitch, which can significantly humanize a brand.

Example: Beauty brands like Glossier leverage micro-influencers to showcase everyday use of their products. This strategy has helped Glossier build a community-driven brand image that feels personal and approachable​.

3. Interactive and Engaging Content
Engagement Through Interaction: Influencers can facilitate direct interaction between brands and consumers through Q&A sessions, live streams, and interactive stories. This type of content allows consumers to engage directly with the brand, fostering a sense of community and connection.

Example: Starbucks often collaborates with influencers to host live coffee-making sessions or behind-the-scenes tours of their stores. These interactive sessions allow followers to ask questions and engage in real-time, making the brand more accessible and human​.

4. Highlighting Brand Values and Social Causes
Championing Causes: Influencers who align with a brand’s values and social causes can help highlight these aspects authentically. This not only humanizes the brand but also builds trust and loyalty among consumers who share similar values.

Example: Patagonia partners with environmental influencers to promote its commitment to sustainability. These influencers share stories and content that highlight Patagonia’s environmental efforts, resonating with eco-conscious consumers​​.

5. Behind-the-Scenes Content
Transparency Through BTS: Behind-the-scenes content provided by influencers can offer a glimpse into the brand’s operations, culture, and people. This transparency can humanize the brand by showing the human effort and passion behind the products.

Example: Brands like Ben & Jerry’s use influencers to share behind-the-scenes content of their ice cream-making process, their fair trade practices, and employee stories. This approach helps consumers see the brand as a collection of real people and values, not just a corporate entity​.

6. User-Generated Content and Community Building
Empowering Consumers: Encouraging influencers to create and share user-generated content (UGC) can amplify the voices of everyday consumers, making the brand feel more inclusive and community-driven. UGC campaigns often lead to higher engagement and loyalty.

Example: Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign, where influencers and consumers shared personalized Coke bottles, created a massive amount of UGC. This not only promoted the product but also built a sense of community and personal connection around the brand​​.

Conclusion
Influencer marketing offers a dynamic and effective way to humanize brands and resonate with social-first audiences. By leveraging authentic storytelling, engaging content, and aligning with influencers who share their values, brands can foster deeper connections with consumers. This approach not only enhances brand perception but also drives loyalty and long-term engagement.

In a world where consumers crave authenticity and connection, influencer marketing stands out as a powerful tool for humanizing brands and making them more relatable to their audiences.

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Business Insights

The Shift to Social-First Marketing

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Social media has significantly disrupted and redefined the consumer journey, positioning itself as a primary touchpoint for influencing purchase decisions. Innovative marketers now prioritize a social-first approach, which has proven more effective than traditional media-led strategies.

A social-first strategy involves prioritizing social media channels in marketing efforts, from product discovery to post-purchase engagement. This shift has been driven by the increasing influence of social media on consumer behavior. Platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest are not just for connecting with friends or entertainment; they have become critical for discovering new products, evaluating them through user-generated content, and ultimately making purchasing decisions.

Influencing Purchase Decisions

Social media’s role in the consumer journey is multifaceted:

Product Discovery: Social media has become the leading channel for product discovery, particularly among younger generations. HubSpot’s 2024 report indicates that social media surpasses internet searches for product discovery among Gen Z, Millennials, and Gen X. These consumers prefer finding new products through social media, making it a vital platform for brands looking to reach new audiences​.

Consumer Trust in Creators: Influencer and creator marketing has surged, with creators now being more trusted than traditional advertisements. The LTK report reveals that trust in creators has grown by over 20%, making them pivotal in guiding consumers through their purchase journeys. This trust is particularly strong among Gen Z and Millennials, who are significantly more likely to make purchases based on creator recommendations​​.

Engagement and Customer Service: Social media has also transformed how brands interact with customers. Direct messages (DMs) on platforms like Instagram and Twitter are increasingly used for customer service, with many consumers preferring this method over traditional channels. This direct engagement helps build stronger relationships and enhances customer satisfaction​.

Brands Leading the Social-First Movement

Several brands exemplify the success of a social-first approach:

Glossier: This beauty brand has built its entire marketing strategy around social media, leveraging user-generated content and influencer partnerships to create a strong community and drive sales.

Gymshark: By focusing on social media and influencer marketing, Gymshark has grown from a small startup to a major player in the fitness apparel industry. Their effective use of fitness influencers has been key to their success.

Nike: Known for its innovative marketing, Nike utilizes social media not just for promotion but also for storytelling and engaging with their audience on a deeper level. Campaigns often feature inspirational stories that resonate well with their audience.

The Future of Social-First Strategies
The trend towards social-first marketing is set to continue, with more brands recognizing the importance of social media in the consumer journey. As third-party cookies become less reliable for tracking user behavior, first-party data collected through social media interactions will become even more valuable​​. Additionally, the integration of AI tools for creating engaging content and managing customer service will further enhance the effectiveness of social-first strategies​​.

In conclusion, social media’s role in disrupting and redefining the consumer journey cannot be overstated. Brands that adopt a social-first approach are well-positioned to influence purchase decisions at every touchpoint, ultimately outperforming those that rely solely on traditional media-led strategies.

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Prime customers – Grubhub Expanding Partnership with Amazon.com Inc.

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Grubhub, the struggling US meal-delivery business, announced May 30 it was expanding its two-year-old partnership with Amazon.com Inc. and giving Amazon Prime members free food delivery.

As part of the new deal, Amazon also incorporated Grubhub’s delivery service directly into its shopping app and website, and increased its financial stake in the company owned by Just Eat Takeaway.com NV.

Grubhub Chief Executive Officer Howard Migdal told me this deepened relationship with Amazon will be a key catalyst for user growth and revenue. Prime members are a “good cohort” of customers as they tend to order more frequently than Grubhub’s average customer, he said.

So far there has been an immediate boost: Grubhub’s app downloads jumped 90% in the week of the announcement compared with the previous week, and the number of users opening the app rose more than 9% for two straight weeks, outpacing that of food and grocery peers. That’s according to Bloomberg’s analysis of data tracked by mobile research firm Apptopia.

But this could prove challenging to sustain. While the pace of overall order declines reported by parent Just Eat’s US and Canadian business has slowed in recent quarters, third-party data from market research firms SimilarWeb and YipitData show that the initial 2022 Amazon-Grubhub partnership hasn’t reversed the streak of losses in orders and users for Chicago-based Grubhub.

The company has dropped a significant amount of market share to delivery rivals DoorDash Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc. as they ramp up competition through offerings beyond just takeout meals from restaurants. Yipit’s data shows Grubhub market share fell to 6% in March from 11% in August 2022, with a loss in urban users the most pronounced.

Rivals in recent years have raced to expand the number and types of stores on their sites and improved their technology to let customers bundle multistore orders without additional cost, which Grubhub hasn’t allowed.

DoorDash and Uber, in particular, have enhanced their routing algorithms so their delivery couriers can seamlessly pick up a last-minute drugstore item, drinks from a liquor store, or condiments from the grocery store while en route to grab a restaurant order nearby. These upgrades let the companies “upsell” consumers and advertise relevant items to bundle into their order, helping expand the size of the basket and increase ad revenue from brands.

Making the Grubhub+ subscription free for the 180 million US shoppers who are part of households with a Prime membership could entice those consumers to keep their Prime accounts, which would be a boon for Amazon. But at the same time, it wipes out potential customers for Grubhub’s subscription service — and the revenue they might have generated. That makes the sale of Grubhub, which Dutch parent Just Eat has been considering since 2022, “less likely,” according to Bloomberg Intelligence analysts.

So far, a customer who tries to place a Grubhub order within Amazon won’t find it as easy as described. According to Grubhub, users can visit a dedicated website to start a Grubhub order; or they could be directed to that site through a variety of paths from Amazon.

On Amazon’s mobile app, the Grubhub button is hidden within the “Groceries” tab, below buttons for Amazon Fresh, the grocery delivery service, and Amazon’s Whole Foods. Alternatively, users can type “Grubhub” in the Amazon search bar to access the Grubhub banner. At least two more clicks are needed to launch the restaurant ordering interface in an in-app browser window, which makes the experience foreign to the Amazon app.

This makes the integration more of a bonus than a feature of convenience. Whether the deal can effectively convert new users to loyal Grubhub customers remains to be seen.

Source Natalie Lung Bloomberg

 

 

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