An Introductory Guide to TikTok

With more than 689 million monthly active users (as of January 2021), TikTok is the current social media darling. This mobile video platform for creators is engaging a younger generation to craft 30-second to minute-long vertical videos. 

There are more than 100 million U.S. users (August 2020), and while the app was made popular among Gen Z, the user base is growing up. In the U.S., 60 percent of users are 16–24, and 80 percent are 16–34 (June 2020). More than 90 percent of users use the app daily — with an average watch time of 53 minutes (July 2020). Overall, more than one billion videos are viewed per day on the app. 

How does this apply to travel? There are more than 22.4B views under the #TikTokTravel. At current, few DMOs and travel brands are activating, so there is a huge opportunity to get organic distribution and connect with audiences in a new way. Plus, this is a top-of-the-funnel approach to marketing. Yes, your specific demographic might not be on TikTok — but are their kids or grandchildren? Maybe they’ll see a cool restaurant, attraction or activity and tell their family about it.

But how do you go about using the app successfully?

1. Develop Influencer-Created Content

Users follow — and engage — most with TikTok influencers. Brand engagement is relatively low but slowly increasing with every hashtag campaign. Brands with products under $200 and those in the entertainment, sports and music industries typically do best. 

TikTok has invested in its users with the Creator Fund. This helps app users come up with the best content for themselves and potentially for your DMO. Learn more about the fund here.

You can extend your destination’s brand reach by working with relevant, established influencers. Your brand doesn’t necessarily need to film its own content if you organize a group of reliable tastemakers who love your brand as much as you do. In exchange for a monetary amount, they may talk about your product on their page, post about it in the video description and/or link to your brand in their account’s description. 

For example, Addison Rae (80.3M followers, 5.2B likes) partnered with the app Houseparty and this video received 7.9M likes. 

Two influencers stayed at a cozy Airbnb and posted an inspirational TikTok about it for hundreds of likes and a lot of exposure. 

@braybraywoowoo @chelseamealo and I stayed at this funky treehouse in the forest. Would you spend the night? 🌲 #treehouse #airbnb #cabin #luxuryhotel #nature ♬ Soon It Will Be Cold Enough to Build Fires - Emancipator


Laura Reid creates 60-second travel guides to places all over the world. This is a great form of content for the app as it shows off a specific area with tons of information to inspire.


@laurareidd EP 2 #60secondtravelshow ft. #caramoan off the beaten path travel for sure in #thePhilippines #philippinestravel #caramoanisland #travelguru #travelph ♬ Savage Love (Laxed - Siren Beat) - Jawsh 685 & Jason Derulo

2. Curate & Share UGC

While TikTok’s nature is fun, playful and casual, it takes some real thought and creativity to produce content that delivers on that premise. One of the best ways to begin is by curating user-generated videos, with their permission, of course.

Matador Network showcased a user’s video of the giraffe hotel in Kenya, and it received 72.1K likes and was shared more than 6,000 times.

@matadornetwork Who needs a vacation here immediately?!? 🎥 @venelinkondakov #giraffemanor #kenya #traveltiktok #giraffelover ♬ original sound - Alec Townsend

And Pure New Zealand worked used The Kiwi Dad’s hilarious interpretation of swings to the tune of 10.3K likes.

3. Monitor & Test Top Performing Content Themes

With so many active users, there are many “sides of TikTok” your brand can be on. These sides are extensions of trending themes. It’s best to figure out what works for your brand — but, consistently, animals/pets, extreme sports/adventure, off-the-beaten-path findings, nature and food are top categories.

Zoos are incredibly popular accounts on TikTok, and the San Diego Zoo is no exception. This hilarious video shows off adorable goats with a trending (at the time) sound.


Parkour Markhor 🐐

♬ original sound - Patty b

Use the app to show off your hidden gems and unique events, as Visit London did for a Christmas-themed pop-up.

@visitlondon Magical Christmas Moments at Backyard Cinema ✨ #london #VisitLondon #ChristmasInLondon ♬ original sound - Visit London

Shot through a dirty car window, this TikTok from Utah shows off the state’s incredible beauty in an easy (and cheap from the aspect of shooting video content) way. 

@elisolidum Utah has some crazy nature #travel #travelblogger #utah #fyp #ItBeLikeThat ♬ Lion King - Big-Reg

This video from Visit Dallas showcases their Margarita Mile project. Miles worked with Visit Dallas at the start of the campaign to curate user-generated content using Cinebody. You can learn more about the Margarita Mile and user-generated content from The State of the American Traveler, Destinations Edition 2019. It is a great example of using content already in existence on the website and on other platforms for use on TikTok to further invest in attractions and spaces.

@visitdallas Think you’re a margarita fan? Prove it. Become a Rita Rookie on the Margarita Mile only in Dallas, TX. #WorthTheWait #visitdallas #traveltiktok #drink ♬ Sunny Day - Ted Fresco

4. Incorporate Trends & Challenges

There is always something happening on the app. This platform is more trend-based than any other social media. Each day there seems to be something new to tap into. The best way of partaking in the trends is to mold them to your brand. But it is wise to participate since these usually garner the most views. Some are funny, some are personal — just pick the ones you think best suit you. If you’re looking for inspiration, the Washington Post does an excellent job of this. 

You can also create your own and have influencers drive that or sponsor your own challenge with an ad. The TikTok world is truly your oyster. Chipotle is a great example of using a challenge and hashtag to perform for them with the #GuacDance, encouraging users to dance to a particular song, using a specific hashtag all while talking about their distinct guacamole.

Ryanair took part in a trend about COVID-19 and Hot Girl Summer in this hilarious take, with 30.8K likes.

Personal stories are an upward trending theme on the app as well. The Korean Vegan crafts beautiful 60-second videos like this one about taking her father to Italy for the first time.

@thekoreanvegan My Dad & #Italy. #travel #foodtiktok #storytime ♬ Up Beat (Married Life) - Kenyi

5. Utilize Hashtags & Trending Creator Features

Like with other social media apps, hashtags are the best way for people to discover your content. When creating your caption, use trending hashtags and anything relevant to what you’re posting. Some examples include: #Travel (38.5B), #VisitColorado (2.5M), #NewZealandTravel (1.7M), #VisitDallas has (502.6K). If you have characters remaining a #foryoupage or #fyp never hurts to get your video onto the main page of more viewers. 

You can also create your own hashtag and work with influencers to push it out. Loreal created #LetsFaceIt to encourage people to wear their masks (and wear Loreal makeup). The hashtag generated 17B views. 

Much like video-style trends, certain sounds and effects will be trending too. It’s a good idea to look at the trending sounds when you upload your video and select one to put as background music. You can even turn the sound completely down, but it will still show up on the page with the rest of the trending videos. 

Long Island New York used a trending sound to combine clips of how epic summer is in the area. 

@longislandnewyork Long Island are you ready? 😎 Summer 21 LETS GO #longislandnewyork #IFeelWeightless #discoverlongisland #summer21countdown ♬ After life x Tongue Tied - Rona.Bois

 Samoa used a trending sound and trending hashtags to show off a traditional dance. 

@samoa_tourism Tick-Tock (TikTok) around the clock. Clock Tower in the heart of Apia. #tiktoktrends #samoantiktok #beautifulsamoa #samoa #polytiktok #pacificisland ♬ original sound - user71309811407

6. Review Analytics to Improve Performance

TikTok’s expanded analytics for Pro Accounts gives insight into performance to educate your next steps. It’s broken up into three sections — overview, followers (growth, demographics, when your audience is online) and content (traffic sources, view time, average watch time, likes). All of this is very similar to Instagram’s analytics page for Business accounts. You can review weekly or monthly and then save the data to note trends in top and bottom performing videos. Using the app’s specific data can help inform you about how your videos are performing in their algorithm. 

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