How Brands Are Using TikTok to Reach Young Audiences

By now, you’ve probably heard of TikTok, the newest social media app to take the internet by storm. The app has accumulated more than 500 million active users over two years and is making headlines as its memes, challenges and songs have gone viral. For example, the country trap hit “Old Town Road” first appeared via a meme on TikTok, which propelled the song to Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.

Through TikTok, many brands have capitalized on navigating the app’s uncharted territories, as this social platform does not yet have defined best practices or rules regarding what works and what doesn’t. With more experimentation and creativity, brands are showing themselves to consumers in a laid-back, humorous light to grow their global audience and expand their demographics. 

NBA on TikTok

NBA(@nba) has created a short video on TikTok with music Summer Days. ? ☀️ The Gorilla shows out for Phoenix Suns #teamday! #mascot


What sets the NBA apart from other leagues is the way they showcase its players’ personalities. Silly, behind-the-scenes content is nothing new for this group as they often post content of basketball stars goofing around with each other on the NBA’s website, offering a look into the human side of the athletes. However, social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter focus on game highlights and stats. 

“Two years ago we saw an opportunity to grow our fan base and reach a unique audience,” NBA vice president for emerging media Bob Carney said. “It was very young, the platform skewed female and the content was substantially different than what we were doing on other platforms. It ticked a lot of boxes and made sense for us to add to our portfolio.” 

On TikTok, the NBA’s content is all-inclusive rather than geared to sports lovers. One of its best-performing videos showcased mascots making backward half-court shots and was viewed by more than 5 million people. Other popular videos include stars like DeAndre Ayton and Mo Bamba dancing to “Call Me Maybe” and compilations of soldiers surprising their families during halftime. 

San Diego Zoo on TikTok

San Diego Zoo(@sandiegozoo) has created a short video on TikTok with music Walk This Way. #pengwinning #duet with @montereyaq #penguins #happyholidays

San Diego Zoo

It’s well-known that animal videos are likely to go viral. Remember Grumpy Cat? Even CNN covered the beloved cat’s passing earlier this year. At the time of her death, Grumpy Cat had 1.5 million followers on Twitter, 2.4 million on Instagram and 8.5 million on Facebook. That being said, the San Diego Zoo’s content strategy is no secret formula, showing videos of cute animals with fun music in the background is a surefire way to gain a loyal following. However, the placement on TikTok is what makes the zoo’s social game so wildly (like the resident animals) successful, raking in more than 416,800 total likes — much more than any zoo brand on the platform. 

The San Diego Zoo’s TikTok content markets itself to the teens and tweens that may not be coming in for regular visits. Popular videos include “dueting” with other animal-friendly accounts such as the Monterey Aquarium, where zoo animals battle via dance competitions. By partnering with other animal-focused accounts, the zoo doubles its exposure, and the only thing better than one animal video is two. 

We are a newspaper. on TikTok

We are a newspaper. (@washingtonpost) has created a short video on TikTok with music Post Bachelorette Recap. Went to the wrong meeting again smh #bachelorette #countrymusic #demdebate

The Washington Post

One of the earliest brand adopters of TikTok was, surprisingly, The Washington Post. The esteemed publication allows viewers to see the brand as something other than serious or investigative, using the account to post behind-the-scenes looks into the newsroom and funny commentary on current events. By presenting news in a more playful and lighthearted manner,  the Post is able to spark interest within a younger audience. While the subject matter is important, it’s far less intimidating to delve into when presented in such a way.

Most of the top-performing videos showcase the goofy side of the staff and shenanigans that go on in the newsroom, like this video of one of the journalists celebrating his story making the front page. The post received 1.5 million views and nearly 370,000 likes. 


The hub of creativity and humor on TikTok allows brands to embrace a more personal and laid-back tone, making them appear more relatable or trustworthy to younger potential customers. Soon TikTok will be a regular part of brand marketing strategies.