In this week’s In-Ear Insights, Katie and Chris tackle Tiktok. What data is available to marketers and creators? What data is not available by normal means? What kind of analytics does Tiktok provide – and what kind of analytics do you need to obtain for yourself? Tune in to find out.
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What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for listening to the episode.
Christopher Penn 0:02
This is In-Ear Insights, the Trust Insights podcast.
In this week’s in In-Ear Insights, we are talking all things Tiktok.
The one of the largest, fastest growing social networks.
In the last couple of years, projected according to I believe it was either Gartner or IDC or somebody to reach 1.5 billion users putting it squarely within Facebook’s League.
It also according to a marketer recently has the highest engagement time of any social network, people spend more time on tick tock, than they do any other social network.
So today, I figured we take some time to talk about what analytics are available, and what we should be thinking about with the data.
So Katie, to start us off, you recently signed up for it.
I’ve been out for a while.
Katie Robbert 0:56
What have you been finding? And what are what are your first impressions? My first impression is that I am not the end user of Tiktok.
Um, I signed up purely to understand what the platform was.
And to me, it looks sort of like this mash up between Vine and Instagram.
And so basically, it’s just videos with some hashtags, music and maybe an annoying voice.
And so I am not the end user, I’m going to be completely honest, I am not the end user, it’s not my jam, I have a completely private account.
So you’re not going to find it.
I’m not going to post anything.
I just I don’t I post I don’t understand it, I don’t understand the appeal of it.
I don’t see why this is an entertaining thing.
I’m aging myself, this is just not my thing.
I also didn’t have a MySpace.
I also signed up for Facebook super late, and I barely use it.
I have a Twitter account that I just can’t get into, like, I am not the end user for these things.
That said, I get it, I get why it’s a powerful tool for marketers, I get why it’s really good for companies.
And so from that perspective, I can take my personal feelings out of it.
And then my curiosity is piqued of like, okay, so what do I know about this? What can I do with the information? And so when I’m looking at it from a user, I see things like follower numbers, I see things like likes, I see chats.
And so to me, those are standard metrics for pretty much any social media account.
So I would expect to see those, you know, in my suite of data, if that’s available to me.
So I guess my first question for you, Chris, is what’s available to the users of Tiktok? What’s available to the content creators, because it wasn’t clear to me as a content creator, where I could get that data?
Christopher Penn 3:13
That’s a really good point.
And the answer is a very little is available to content creators, other than sort of ad hoc stuff.
So if you publish videos, you get analytics about your videos, the number of views, the number of digs, is what they’re called.
But there’s basically a thumbs up or a Likes, Shares comments, you get some a few insights about, you know, how the video performed relative to others.
And then there’s within the application itself, there’s, it’s very, very hashtag and topic driven, right.
So you would put in things, you know, from the sort of the top keywords like you know, for your page, or specific topics, and that’s where that’s where the biggest gap is, right now, for us as marketers, we don’t have good insights into what is working with a topic in the same way that like we would with SEO, where we can go to a keyword tool and put a bunch of stuff in.
And so there are tools that can extract data from Tiktok, it does not have an official API.
So Caveat emptor, if you if you do use these tools, you will probably want to use it on an account that you’re not afraid of getting banned on.
Because that is technically a violation, the terms of service.
But the data you get out of it is much much richer.
Because you get things like a data about the author, how many hearts they’ve received, how many fans they’ve had, how many videos they post, you get information about the videos themselves, What dimensions how long they are.
You get things you can even do stuff and transformations with it to try and understand what are the like words and phrases and hashtags that are used within a topic so that you can put them in your video so that you get discovered more, that’s kind of where the opportunity lies right now for content creators is if they can get a hold of this data and perform the analysis on it, they have a better than average chance of being able to show up within their target demographic, their target audience, because they know what’s getting the outcome that they’re after, which is most the times views is people, I just need to have people see my stuff, like I posted a video on there got like 167 views like this is before I had access to all the keyword tools and things.
So I’m curious, my next time through to see with analysis, I can make the video do better.
Katie Robbert 5:41
So let me ask you this question, Chris.
So as a content creator, let’s say you don’t have the ability to, you know, create your own API to pull the data out.
How like, here’s what I don’t fully understand.
If my job is a content creator, and I am going to be judged on certain metrics, why would I be posting content on a platform where I can’t measure it, where I don’t know how it’s performing?
Christopher Penn 6:11
Because the metrics don’t aren’t available.
Because you do know where all the people are.
And even if you don’t know how things are going to perform, and you don’t have great visibility into it.
You do know that at least there’s people there.
And if that’s your target audience, like Tiktok audience does get skew younger.
Katie Robbert 6:30
If that’s where if that’s your demographic, under 40 Is your demographic then? Yeah, you need to it’s kind of like with anything, you got to plant the flag and at least be there to see what happens.
So, what can you do with this data? Like, is it could you run a predictive forecast on the topics and keywords to find out what people are looking for at certain times? Is it a platform that behaves that way? Or is it still just, you know, there’s no seasonality? It’s still too new anything goes?
Christopher Penn 7:11
So that’s a really good question.
I think we can answer that in two ways.
The first way is, let’s, let’s take a look at what some of the data is that is available, I’m going to share my screen here.
And if you’re listening to this, and an audio podcast, go over the Trust Insights, YouTube channel, go to trust insights.ai/youtube, you can see the screenshare.
And so what I’ve done is I’ve calibrated, this is just a real basic correlation analysis, nothing fancy of play count, versus all the other metrics to try and figure out is there any relationship between all these other metrics, digs, which is likes, shares, obviously have extremely high correlations comments, do as well, your popularity as an author, if you are a already, well, like author, your stuff will do better.
So that’s kind of a catch 22.
And then you can see a bunch of things here.
This is an analysis, I did have some flower stuff.
So over the weekend, I was talking with a friend of mine who’s a, an independent, sole proprietor, florist, in France.
And she’s trying to figure out like, how do I use things like Tiktok to promote my business as well, let’s take a look out of curiosity, at you know, things like flowers and florists and stuff as a hashtag on Tiktok.
Extract the data and see what is in there.
So what I did is I recycled some code that we wrote actually for Instagram a couple of years ago, and said, Get show me the top 100 hashtags in this big pile of videos.
And then let’s go through and tag all the videos by how many times they contain each of those words.
And then let’s do a correlation to say okay, if you use this word, what is the relationship between any given word and but the response variable, in this case is views.
And we see here things like flower roses for you the meta hashtag floral, DIY, these are terms that occur in videos whose performance these terms have something of a correlation to the performance now.
From there, you can get like super fancy if you have access to it, tools like IBM Watson Studio, for example, saying, Okay, tell me in a more sophisticated way, not just a basic correlation.
What are the things that that lead to or potentially could be causing I video play performance, and one of the interesting ones that popped out was tulips.
And I, I asked my friend, I said, I, this is not some I don’t know, flowers.
You know, I know they grow in my yard and that’s really about it.
Katie Robbert 9:40
I don’t know what they mean.
What what do you interpret this and and she said,
Christopher Penn 9:45
tulips are what people give, when they don’t want to give roses, particularly in Europe, but in general, she said that’s, you know, and they all the different colors have similar meanings.
And she said it’s not surprising to see that The case and so she’s going to try posting some videos of you know, various tools or arrangements.
But from our perspective as as marketers doing analytics, this kind of insight tells us okay, here’s some things we can now go test.
Right, we could go try it out and see if it works.
So if I were to do this for, say, analytics, or consulting or HR, we could see what terms came up.
And then if we were making videos about that, we could put those terms in and see how they performed.
So that’s part one is, did I miss anything there so far?
Katie Robbert 10:31
No, I don’t think so.
Um, you know, I have some questions about hosting this videos themselves that I wonder how that plays into this.
So I know on Instagram, for example, you don’t have to state the kind of content you will be posting because it’s your account, you can kind of post whatever you think makes sense.
When you sign up for Tiktok, you get asked a series of questions of what kinds of things are you interested in so we can show you those videos similar to if you sign up for a Pinterest account? As a content creator? Do you have to specify what kinds of videos like I’ll be posting animal videos or recipe videos or floral videos? Or is the AI just sort of like taking a look at these videos and saying, This is a dog video, this is a food video, and then also taking into account the hashtags, which then sort of back to your point and your analysis, the accuracy of the hashtags would then help show those videos to those people who are interested in those things.
Christopher Penn 11:37
I, from what I can see, and we don’t know, because we don’t have an independent confirmation from Tiktok, they’re not going to tell us it’s in their algorithm.
But what we can see is that the hash tags themselves do seem to have a pretty substantial role to play in, in the play count variable.
And again, that’s not surprising.
image recognition itself is complex and computationally heavy video recognition is even more so.
So I suspect very strongly that Tiktok algorithm is relying very heavily on what content creators put in the description in the text about new videos as a way of doing that that mapping because it’s computationally so much cheaper.
Katie Robbert 12:16
So you had done an analysis a couple of months ago of do hashtags matter on Instagram, and the high level conclusion was No.
Whereas on Tiktok, it sounds like they do matter, because that’s how your content is getting categorized, and shown to people who have said, I’m interested in what you see videos about these things.
Christopher Penn 12:39
And behaviorally, when you talk to folks.
Like in a number of the discord groups that I’m in when we when people are talking about tick tock, they’re talking about specific hashtags and topics.
So a very specific set of topics that they follow, that they want to see more of.
So they you know, a lot of networks like LinkedIn, for example, have introduced, you can follow a hashtag to limited success on Tik Tok, that is the primary way it seems at least again, from from discussing with folks who use it a lot.
That’s the primary way that they stay in tune with what they want to see.
Katie Robbert 13:15
it’s interesting that you bring up LinkedIn, um, I see LinkedIn as a very different kind of social platform than Tiktok.
And so Tiktok My understanding is, you know, still pretty limited, but it’s literally you can show videos, and you can show short form videos, whereas on LinkedIn, it has a whole host of features.
And you can write, you know, paragraphs of text and posts, newsletters and articles and jobs, whereas Tik Tok is not that kind of a platform.
So I’m I’m surprised that what works on tick tock doesn’t work on LinkedIn, because they’re not the same.
It’s not apples to apples.
And so when I think about platforms, like Tiktok, and I think about it in terms of what it can do for a company like ours, maybe I’m, you know, sort of limited in my thinking of it, but I can only imagine it would ever work for awareness.
I can’t imagine selling our services there because it doesn’t strike me as a bottom of the funnel channel.
Am I wrong and thinking about it that way?
Christopher Penn 14:28
It depends on what your funnel looks like for a company like ours.
Yeah, it would be hard to communicate the value of what we do in three minutes or less.
Right? Not impossible, but it is something that that’s one of the things we have to keep in mind too, is that Tiktok is primarily an entertainment channel, right? It is very much about entertainment, fun stuff, funny things.
Also, it’s stuff that we’re not very interesting, entertaining people.
Well speak for yourself.
From a video training from a video marketing perspective, yes, you’re right, you know, we are better off in terms of the way people behave in our buying cycle, we are better off with a network like LinkedIn.
For more of that mid funnel stuff, I truly believe that for the most part, except for E commerce companies, there are not many social networks that work well for bottom of the funnel stuff, because social media in general is not a bottom of the funnel thing, except for private social media communities like Slack or discord.
So I don’t think that would be particularly effective for us as a lead generation tool, I do think it would be it’d be a good awareness tool, I think that it has some, depending on how you message it and how creative you are, you could certainly get to people to talk about like, say, you know, downloading a new white paper or whatever.
And if you pay for the ads, you can get, you know, clickable links with all your standard attribution tracking to drive that traffic to your content.
Katie Robbert 16:07
your creatives got to be good Creatives got to be as entertaining as the other stuff in people’s feeds, so that they want to pay attention to it.
Katie Robbert 16:17
So you just brought up an interesting point that we should definitely talk about in terms of what data you can get out of Tiktok.
So again, I my knowledge is limited, but I know that you can advertise on Tiktok.
Um, you know, and so that’s going to be competing with the likes of a Facebook or an Instagram or any of these other social platforms that are Video Base.
Um, what data can you get as an advertiser? Because that I mean, an app, a social media advertiser spends a lot of money, theoretically.
And so they want to know, with as much accuracy as possible, what their spent Gotham.
So how does how does that work? If the data is still limited?
Christopher Penn 17:01
So the advertising you get the advertising metrics on Tiktok events helpful, but you put in your landing page, put in your UTM codes.
And then just like any other channel, where you can run your multi touch attribution through Google Analytics, or the the analytics tool, your choice, and get a sense of Okay, did this channel work for us in eventually contributing to conversions? Right, and because it supports, you know, a URL, you can put in all the UTM tracking codes you want, you know, the your source, your medium the campaign keywords content? And get a sense of okay, these are the pieces of creative that worked well, for us.
These are the campaigns that worked well for us and and get the same level of visibility you out of any other mature advertising platform.
Katie Robbert 17:47
So is Tiktok similar to Instagram, in the sense of, you know, if you like what you see Lincoln bio, or can you put the link directly in the piece of content, and someone can click out of Tiktok into the thing you want them to go to?
Katie Robbert 18:02
For the paid ads, they can tap right from the video itself into your your landing page.
Katie Robbert 18:09
So I see.
So that’s then an incentive for someone to put money into Tiktok to get people to have that smoother experience.
Katie Robbert 18:21
So I’m going to answer part two of your question.
Christopher Penn 18:26
Even though Tiktok has its own hashtags in its own ecosystem, we know that at the end of the day, it still is human beings consuming the content.
And so anything that any data that you have in terms of predictive forecasts for like keywords, and SEO, will have some spillover effect on Tiktok.
Because if people are thinking about tulips, right now, there’s a very good chance that that search interest will translate into interest in the same topic on any social network, because we’re humans, right? So we’re thinking about thing, we’re gonna go and consume the thing on YouTube on Tik Tok on Facebook, on Twitter, wherever it is.
So I would say, you know, to answer your question, well, what can marketers do? Look at your existing data.
And you know, the surveys, you run with your audience, the polls, the questions, the one on ones, the focus groups, with the feedback you get in discord, or slack, all that stuff can inform your content strategy.
And then you just have to figure out the creative aspect for you know, what makes Tiktok say different than Facebook, your creative will be different.
But the interest what the audience wants is pretty consistent.
Katie Robbert 19:43
It’s, you know, it’s just one of those.
Social media in general is just one of those things that I’ve never really been able to get behind for myself personally.
And so when I try to think about it and applying it to a bit business and how to grow a business and using it for that.
It’s a very different mindset, it’s, I would do things on a social platform that I would never do for myself, you know, number one post, you know, it’s probably the first thing.
But you know, when I try again, when I try to think about it in terms of, it’s an entertainment platform, but we have a marketing and data science company, where’s the intersection there? And then, you know, because we’re so heavy on the data, what data? Can you get out of it? Do you feel like as Tiktok popularity grows, they will create more of an analytics dashboard for the users? Or do you think that not having those metrics available is part of why people are so interested in it?
Katie Robbert 20:44
I think people market is interesting, because there’s a billion and a half people there.
That’s why they could be watching the videos of like cats dancing.
And then if that was all the platform was, if had a billion and a half users market is like, Okay, I need some of that.
Because we got to go where the people are.
Christopher Penn 21:03
I think over time, Tiktok will probably have to figure out how to provide content creators a bit more ease of use in terms of what to create, particularly corporate, and business folks who want to be using the platform for business development, even if it’s just in the advertising side, because I’ll be honest, mostly ads that are in check, they suck.
But you could tell it was put together by an agency that doesn’t understand tiktoks culture, it doesn’t understand the way that heavy users communicate with each other.
It’s like, it’s like that, you know, the Steve Buscemi video, Hello, fellow kids, you know, with the person who’s there’s clearly out of place and trying to integrate and not doing well out, as opposed to some folks like, Hey, we’re new here, we have no idea what’s going on, we’re gonna do our best.
But we’re not going to pretend to be the cool kids, because we’re clearly not.
And I think that part, something like that, too.
So that I get called brands, transparency, whatever would probably be actually worked to companies benefits to say, like, we’re here, we have no idea what we’re doing.
You tell us what you want to see out of us.
And I think that’d be a very interesting, particularly for companies where there isn’t a ton of transparency to begin with.
And you start, you’ve started to see with some brands do as well on places like Instagram, where they do more behind the scenes stuff, where they can show what’s what’s happening, you know, your husband works at Whole Foods, and, you know, in the meat department, I’m sure Whole Foods would never allow it.
But I’m sure that people would be very interested in knowing like, exactly what do you do, you know, and, and be able questions like, you know, which kind of meat should I get for, you know, this or that.
And that level transparency does translate? Well, I would I think, you know, again, this is not something that I could see either of the two of you putting together a Tiktok channel for, but you could see, you could see your husband doing an entire series of grill fails, like, here’s the always people just screw things up.
And like, don’t do this and just have me yelling at the camera.
Don’t do that.
Katie Robbert 23:15
That’s just feeding your dog at this point.
So basically, it would be him giving me a task and then him filming me trying to complete the task.
On a grill.
Exactly with exact probably burning my fingers trying to like the grill.
But it when you look at the different types of content that tend to perform well, it’s, it is all entertainment.
And as humans, we enjoy laughing at other people.
Christopher Penn 23:44
good or ill.
And and being able to understand that that way.
That’s why people are there and create your content around it.
Like for something for like you and I where yes, the work we do does not lend itself to entertaining video.
It really doesn’t.
But us literally just sitting here ranting about here’s the 22 things that people just do wrong consistent.
Like this is the dumbest thing.
Don’t do this.
You’re an idiot if you do this.
So like imagine like being the Gordon Ramsay of data size just like yelling, people.
Why don’t you You’re an idiot sandwich that would do well and we get people interested in okay, well what is this thing they keep talking about? You know, the this this crazy Asian guy yelling at people what is this thing that that they’re doing? And get back and help start get people out of the entertainment sphere and start the journey of okay, well, what is it that this company actually does?
Katie Robbert 24:44
It? That’s an interesting way to think about it.
And I think for B2B marketers in general, you know, we don’t see ourselves as like the work that we do very entertaining, but if you put the human element back into it, that in and of itself could work Now as we’re starting to sort of, you know, wrap up the conversation, I want to sort of go back to something that you said a couple of times, about, you know, the one point, however many billion people who are on the platform, and marketers want a piece of it.
I understand that as, you know, a marketer myself, but this the problem I’m still having is, if I can’t measure it, how can I demonstrate the effectiveness of it? Is it something that’s going to start showing up in my, you know, traffic in Google Analytics? Ideally, if I’m doing it right, you know, where else am I going to start to see that data? If I don’t have access to the full API, as you’re describing?
Katie Robbert 25:44
You’re gonna see it in two places.
If you’re doing it well, remember, all social media, like we’re talking about really is very much an awareness channel.
How do we measure awareness, one of the top ways to do that is brand new organic search, right? Asking, as you should see an increase in brand new organic search, if your videos are resident, like if you get a video on Tiktok, the clocks a million views, and you don’t see an increase in your branded organic search, it means that either you did a terrible job branding your video,
Christopher Penn 26:13
or you got an audience that just doesn’t, you got the wrong audience.
That’s fine, you still got a million views.
The second thing, which again, is should be table stakes table minimum for everybody is when you talk to customers, particularly B2B marketers who can afford to do this because you have the time, ask them how they heard of you, ask them where they’ve seen you.
And if the answer is never Tiktok, that you know, it’s not working, right.
But if the if they say, oh, yeah, I went to a webinar, and I saw one of the videos and Tiktok, and I read some emails from you, great, it’s in there, we know it’s in there.
And you can measure that.
So there are always ways to pull out that information of where people have heard of us in any data.
Katie Robbert 26:56
That makes sense.
You know, I always go back to I remember the very first MarketingProfs B2B forum that I went to with you in Boston, six years ago.
Now, I guess.
The opening speaker was a Avinash from Google.
And the thing that stuck with me about his talk was he was talking about those kinds of metrics.
He’s like, it’s great if you have a million followers on Facebook, but if nobody engages with the video, then those followers don’t matter.
And I think about I always think about that in terms of social media.
And so that’s why I’m really curious about the kinds of metrics and what is effective on a newer platform, like tick tock, where all you have is followers and likes or digs, I guess, and comments.
And that’s really all you can do with it.
Christopher Penn 27:52
I mean, think about it this way.
You should be looking at all of your retention metrics.
We talked about this a couple episodes, like returning users, is there a relationship between the number of Tiktok videos and the views that they get, and you’re returning users, because if there is, that means you’re reminding people that you exist, and they can, they can come back to you.
If there isn’t, then again, it’s probably not doing its job of getting people to remember who you are.
Awareness channel retention channel, just keeping your place in somebody’s brain in an increasingly cluttered world is what these challenges supposed to do.
And they’re and they’re clear, straightforward ways of measuring that.
So that’s, I think, where we should wrap this up is to say, Look, everything is measurable.
But the measurements in particular for tick tock that really work are the ones that work for any awareness, shell, random organic search, returning users, and asking people how they heard of you.
And if the answer is never ever the channel in question, then you know, the channels not working.
Katie Robbert 28:48
Interesting, you just gave me a couple of ideas of ways that we could experiment with some videos on Tiktok, which I’ll say for us to sort of think through a little bit more.
But you know, as, as more platforms emerge, especially with people wanting to move away from like, the standard, larger, older ones, I’ll just be continually interested.
So you know, I guess, Chris, thank you for being the one who really digs into and finds these new channels for us, because I’m definitely not that person.
I’m never going to be the one to say Hey, guys, here’s a new social media channel.
You have like, great that’s been around for 10 years.
Thanks a lot for that.
Christopher Penn 29:29
If you’ve got tips that you want to give on Tiktok, or a social media channel, we have not heard of pop on over to our free slack group go to trust insights.ai/analytics.
For marketers, we’re using over 2200 other marketers are asking answering questions all day long.
And wherever it is, you watch or listen to the show if there’s a challenge you’d rather have it on, except for Facebook, go to trust insights.ai/ti podcast where you can find us on most of the channels.
Thanks for tuning in.
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