TikTok targets small businesses with new ‘Follow Me’ educational program

TikTok announced today a new initiative designed to help small businesses better market themselves on its app — and eventually become TikTok advertisers. The company is introducing a free program called “Follow Me,” which will offer guides to using TikTok’s range of business and creative tools, advertising and promotional features, as well as coaching from other small business owners.

The program’s launch comes at a challenging time for the social video app, as it’s again under increased scrutiny in the U.S. for its China ties after a BuzzFeed News report revealed its parent company ByteDance employees had access to U.S. user data. As a result, Senate Intelligence Committee membersĀ have asked the FTC to investigate whether TikTok may have misled lawmakers about this matter. It’s also now facing a regulatory investigation into its privacy policy changes in the EU related to issues surrounding user consent for personalized advertising.

However, today’s launch of the Follow Me program signals TikTok’s ambitions to become the next big social ads giant for a younger generation that has abandoned Meta’s Facebook, forcing Meta to try to turn its photo-and-video sharing app Instagram into a TikTok clone.

As consumers’ interests shift, a multibillion-dollar advertising market could be up for grabs — and TikTok aims to court those advertisers looking to diversify their social ad spend beyond Meta, Snap and Twitter.

Today, Meta generates the vast majority of its advertising revenue — which totaled $115 billion in 2021 — from small business advertisers. TikTok ad revenue, while still only a sliver of that, is quickly growing. The video app’s ad revenue is expected to triple in 2022, to reach $11.6 billion, beating both Snap and Twitter combined, according to estimates from Insider Intelligence. By 2024, it may reach $23.58 billion, the firm suggests. But if TikTok ever expects to reach Meta’s scale, it will need to convince smaller businesses to market themselves through TikTok videos.

There is, of course, a learning curve involved with that — which is where the Follow Me program comes in.

Through the series, TikTok is offering businesses an introduction to its various tools that would help it to achieve its goals of getting small businesses onto TikTok. The program includes different roadmaps SMBs can follow based on their goals and invites them to a six-week email series that walks them through running their first TikTok campaign and integrating their brand’s story into videos, TikTok says. The program will also teach them how to set up their Business accounts, how to access TikTok’s Creative Center for content inspiration and how to use other tools like TikTok’s Ads Manager and Promotion features. The latter are ultimately TikTok’s end goal as they provide the revenue stream that sustains its business.

The company has also recruited successful SMB owners to serve as “Small Business Ambassadors,” who will provide coaching and tips on how to reach TikTok’s community to drive results. Among these are Cassie Sorensen, the owner and founder of a small tassel-making company, Tassel Amor, and Jacob Zander, owner and founder of an online retailer called Feel Your Soul.

The program kicks off today and is free of charge to interested SMBs.