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Over the last couple of years, TikTok has become one of the most pervasive social media platforms — driving everything from what users wear to what they eat and buy.
According to Forbes, it was the most downloaded app for the second year in a row. And with eight new users joining every second (Hootsuite), there are endless opportunities for viral products on TikTok.
Data.ai reports that the platform is expected to reach 1.5 billion users by the end of 2022. These aren’t just any users, though; they’re highly engaged users.
In fact, TikTok is the most engaging of all social media apps, with Statista reporting an average user session time of 10.85 minutes.
The binge-worthy nature of TikTok makes it the perfect place for consumers to consume — whether it’s content, hacks, or product ideas.
For brands, it provides the ideal backdrop to showcase new products and existing ones.
According to Sensor Tower data, consumer spending on TikTok increased by 77% in 2021.
Throughout the year, users spent $2.3 billion dollars on the app on cosmetics, food, pet supplies, and even color-changing strawberry pens — so much so that NBC News revealed that retailers are actively turning to TikTok to predict the next product trends.
Video Source: @thinkertoysca
The “sharing is caring” aspect of TikTok — with videos posted by real-life people using real-life products — gives shoppers the confidence they need to buy a product they may have been more skeptical about had they only seen it in a print ad or a sponsored Instagram story.
Viral videos (and the products they feature) have a specific course of action.
TikTok sprinkles them across a handful of “For You” pages (FYP) to see how people interact and engage with them. The FYP curates a library of TikTok videos a user might be interested in based on their past viewing habits.
If the videos get a lot of likes, shares, and comments, TikTok will show them to a few more people. This can quickly create a snowball effect that can see products take off literally overnight.
When users open the app, they’re shown videos that others have already heavily engaged with, which acts as a form of digital word-of-mouth marketing. When a product really takes off, it can create a ripple effect and clear the shelves in a matter of minutes.
Over the past couple of years, there have been countless products that TikTok users have sent viral all around the world.
In the U.K., budget skincare brand CeraVe had products sell out across retailers — like Superdrug — due to viral TikTok videos, as reported in VICE.
The videos showed before-and-after clips of consumers using CeraVe to demonstrate how the product was clearing up their skin.
The nearly 15-year-old brand reported a 65% week-on-week increase in sales in one month — and TikTok users are constantly complaining that their favorite CeraVe products are sold out.
Video Source: @Hyram
In the U.S., NBC News reported that sales of Gap’s “high-rise cheeky straight” jeans and “sky-high straight” jeans skyrocketed after a series of TikTok videos that showed users trying on the jeans in front of the camera to demonstrate their great fit and high quality.
The brand saw a 200% increase in the number of jeans sold online in just a day.
TikTok essentially gave a struggling brand (which had closed more than 100 stores the year before) a new lease on life.
Video Source: @hkonopka
French skincare brand Caudalie had the help of the Kardashians and other top-name beauty influencers in its journey to virality. Again, this isn’t an emerging brand. In fact, it’s been around for over 20 years.
As Grazia reports, Caudalie’s Instant Detox Mask went viral after amassing more than 2.9 million views under the hashtag #caudaliedetox.
Viral videos showed users promoting before-and-after images of how the mask had helped their skin and made a difference to their appearance — ultimately introducing the product to a new target market.
Video Source: @nidalodean
It’s a mistake to think that the viral products on TikTok are brand new, innovative ideas dreamt up by an imaginative bunch of Gen Zers.
In fact, lots of the products we’ve mentioned here aren’t new at all — they’re tried and tested; some dating back 20 years or more.
The products we’ve seen go viral are often well-established products that have been reinvented for today’s audience but, most importantly, they solve a specific problem: CeraVe offers an affordable skincare product that actually works; Gap’s jeans make the dreaded task of jean shopping a whole lot more bearable; and Caudalie provides a way for shoppers to clear out their pores quickly.
If we boil it down, viral products have three key ingredients. These products are:
Products can go viral by pure chance, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes there are a group of savvy social media marketers sitting behind the scenes concocting a TikTok strategy that will get their products seen by millions.
Here are some tactics that we’ve seen work in the past.
According to AdAge, stalwart brand Vaseline enjoyed a resurgence after the “slugging method” — which involves using petroleum jelly as the last step of your night-time skincare routine — went viral on TikTok. While the term is a relatively new one, the practice is very much traditional.
Part of the challenge the brand faced was to take old habits and make them relevant for the younger generations on TikTok.
So many people were already familiar with Vaseline, a staple in many households. By re-framing the kind of content it was putting out to focus on tips, tricks, and hacks, the brand was able to increase awareness and make the trend stick.
Image Source: TikTok
Brands aren’t paying for their products to go viral on TikTok. Quite the opposite — the idea is that these items are picked up by influencers and smaller accounts to create a snowball effect.
According to the Digital Marketing Institute, 70% of teens trust influencers more than celebrities.
Most viral products are backed up by countless influencer posts promoting them. This acts as a digital word-of-mouth strategy, which ends up selling out the most popular items.
Hashtags group similar posts together and, if a hashtag is trending, the topic, brand, or product it’s promoting has a good chance of trending, too.
The #skyhighmascara hashtag that promotes Maybelline Lash Sensational’s Sky High Mascara has more than 520 million views and features thousands of “reaction” videos from both big-name and small-fry TikTokers.
Image Source: TikTok
Viral products often sell out. There have been plenty of complaints from consumers who can’t get their hands on the Maybelline Sky High Mascara in Superdrug or find Gap’s famous TikTok jeans anywhere in-store.
Even feta cheese became scarce when a feta pasta recipe went viral on TikTok.
Video Source: @d_shaba
But it’s hard to know which brands are being truthful with their sold-out labels and which are doing it as part of their strategy.
Marking a product as sold out increases the sense of urgency around buying it and taps into that all-consuming fear of missing out (FOMO).
No one wants to feel like they’ve been pipped to the post by every other shopper out there.
TikTok has a large and relatively young audience that’s eager to find new products (or old ones) that tackle their biggest pain points.
And, once they find something that works, they’re well-positioned to share it with their friends, family, and followers.
This has led to an increase in viral products that have quickly sold out around the world.
To create your own viral opportunity, make sure you have a product that has a specific purpose — and tap into relevant influencers and their audiences to get started.
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