Grab your phone. Open the app store. Download TikTok. Create an account. Then sign in. And do it sooner than later. Because TikTok trends are always changing. And staying on top of them can be the difference between your brand going viral or not, which can be the difference between extra millions on your bottom line or not.
- What are TikTok trends?
- Their brand value
- Latest TikTok trends
- How to identify TikTok trends
- How to make them your own
Be honest: are you avoiding TikTok because you think it’s just for pre-teen dances or cat videos? If the answer is yes, then this is your official notice to get on the social media bandwagon, because it’s not just for the kids anymore. And why would you not want to watch cat videos?
ICYMI: TikTok was the most downloaded app worldwide in 2021, and TikTok trends are its lifeblood. If you want your brand to be successful on TikTok, you need to embrace TikTok trends through branded content or by working with creators.
Here’s our guide to understanding TikTok trends, identifying them, and creating your own authentic and engaging videos.
What are TikTok trends?
TikTok trends are a collection of viral short videos that use popular features, songs, sound effects, and/or hashtags. New trends emerge every day, and they’re a big part of why TikTok is one of the most entertaining of all the social media platforms.
Trends are essentially “memes 2.0,” according to Evan Horowitz, CEO of Movers+Shakers, and the mind behind the most viral campaign in TikTok history, which his agency created on behalf of e.l.f. Cosmetics. “I’d say over half, maybe the vast majority, of TikTok content follows a trend,” he says.
Trends are basically a community-wide conversation across TikTok, and people express themselves through their various interpretations of them. Brands that want to join this conversation need to understand this process so they can engage with TikTok users in an organic way.
The brands that do this well are able to seamlessly join users’ feeds, becoming part of the community without coming across as too polished or salesy.
“When people are going through their feeds and your [brand’s] video comes up, it’s like, ‘Oh, that was really funny how that brand hopped on that trend and worked their product or their message or whatever in just a fun way,’” Horowitz says. “It makes your brand just be much more relevant in the conversation.”
The brand value of TikTok trends
Participating in TikTok trends isn’t just a chance to push your product by turning the latest craze into an ad. It’s about engaging with users and increasing your visibility on the platform.
Expand your brand’s reach
TikTok’s algorithm gives preference to trending TikTok videos, so you’ll get more views — and engagement — when you jump on a trend. Plus, users enjoy exploring various interpretations of trends and will often watch video after video, which can lead to organic discovery of your brand.
“Trends are so important for brands who are looking to increase their relevance on TikTok, because it gives them that extra viewership,” Horowitz says. “You tap into the algorithm, and also, it gives you that credibility, like you get the conversation on TikTok, and your brand fits in really natively.”
Make your brand relevant and relatable
Having a brand channel on TikTok and participating in trends is all about reaching your audience where they are. It demonstrates that your brand understands the platform, can entertain users, and have fun. In other words, it’s top-of-funnel awareness marketing.
While it’s difficult to drive click-throughs on TikTok, it’s easy for brands to derive a “cool factor” from it, according to Horowitz.
“A lot of brands are trying to figure out how they fit into the TikTok conversation in a native way,” Horowitz says. “If you want to have a successful TikTok presence as a brand, trends [are] just a super amazing hack to grow your audience faster and increase your engagement.”
Discover potential influencer partners
Because of TikTok’s huge reach and incredible rate of growth (especially among Gen Z and millennials), it’s more important than ever to find and partner with TikTok influencers who are already on the platform.
You can find relevant influencers by searching for specific hashtags. Beauty brands could search #BeautyTips. Apparel brands could search #OutfitInspo or #Fashion. Or you can browse TikTok’s For You page (FYP) or search #foryou.
You can also tweak your language to search for influencers by location. For example, if your target audience lives in Europe, you could change your language to German or French so TikTok’s algorithm displays more European influencers.
Stay abreast of user sentiment
If your brand is investing in social media marketing, you may already be tapping into social listening as a way to collect customer sentiment. And if you’re not, now’s the time to start.
You should definitely care about straightforward metrics like trending videos, number of views, likes, and shares — which are available in TikTok Analytics if you have a professional account.
But ultimately, user sentiment goes beyond the metrics. To stay on top of user sentiment on TikTok, you’ll also need to use a sentiment analysis tool that uses natural language processing (NLP) to glean insights from comments and hashtags.
Stay informed of competitor strategies
TikTok users spent $2.3 billion on in-app purchases in 2021, a 77% increase from 2020. So, you really can’t afford to miss the boat — your competitors sure won’t.
So take this opportunity to do a little research and see how your competitors, industry influencers, and audience are interacting with the social media platform to gain some fresh insights on your own social media marketing strategy.
Follow your competitors on TikTok to see what people are posting about them and what types of content are netting them the most engagement.
You can also search #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt, which has about 8 billion views, according to The Indicator podcast. This viral hashtag helps to drive sales for previously unknown brands and can help you stay current with the next wave of competition.
Latest TikTok trends
There’s no limit to what kind of video content will be popular on TikTok, but there’s certain types of videos that are evergreen TikTok trends. TikTok video doesn’t have to stick to just one trend. Often, you’ll see multiple types of TikTok trends appearing in single videos.
When you think of a TikTok trend, dance is probably the first thing that comes to mind. These trends involve a specific type of choreography that everyone is doing and interpreting in their own way.
Challenges are a huge part of TikTok. While some are a duet, lip-syncing, or dance challenge, others are about storytelling, and some are more like dares.
The #putafingerdown challenge, which currently has 4.4 billion views, viewers are invited to “put a finger down” if they’ve done or never done a list of things. (Sidenote: makes for a great drinking game. Drink every time you put a finger down.)
The #copycatchallenge, with over 343 million views, is an example of how users are using one of TikTok’s features to adapt Sid’s singalong from Ice Age.
Numerous songs have gone viral on TikTok. In fact, the song “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” from the Disney movie Encanto now holds the number two spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 list, thanks to the app. It’s also the soundtrack in over 800,000 TikTok videos.
But while the music is definitely important, the specific way a user tells a story to that song is just as significant. For example, you’ll find many videos that play the song as someone tries something difficult or completes an unconventional, normally hidden task, like putting on makeup, taming unruly hair, clipping clubbed toenails.
The trending videos in this category are less about a specific song and more about a recognizable snippet of sound or spoken word and how it can be worked into a video.
Take a look at the various ways users have integrated this original coughing sound into their videos, many of which seem to poke fun at the worldwide paranoia of listening to someone cough during a pandemic.
These TikTok trends involve filters and editing tools unique to the app.
TikTok’s new stitch feature is used to respond and add to someone else’s content.
TikTok’s seamless transitions make it an ideal platform to show transformations over time. Often, these trends are makeup tutorials or glow-ups. They can also be a great way to show an inspiring achievement or life change.
For example, user @hele__.__ posted a video of her journey with acne, which earned 1.3 million likes. In the video, she shared a compilation of video clips and photos of her acne over the course of seven months, along with text overlay that described some of the treatments she underwent.
7. Choose your character
The #ChooseYourCharacter trend is a riff on the common video game prompt. TikTokers use it to dress up in different costumes and experiment with cosplay. The hashtag has 1.7 billion views on TikTok.
Many TikTokers use it as a way to parody typical personalities they see online, like a beauty guru or health foodie.
Or they might use it to poke fun of themselves and the person they became during quarantine, as @kristinchirico did.
The app allows users to add multiple songs to one video. One way that aspiring DJs use it is to layer two or more popular songs on top of each other or transition between them to make a new mashup.
The most important aspect of these TikToks is the audio, so many of the posts using #tiktokmashup2022, which has 76.7 million views, aren’t videos at all. They tend to have an interesting image with text overlay describing the different songs combined in the soundtrack.
How to identify TikTok trends
Some TikTok trends are immediately obvious, but others can be tricky to recognize. Use these techniques to help you sharpen your trend-spotting skills and identify the next big thing.
Spend time on the platform
The best — and certainly the most fun — way to begin to identify a TikTok trend is to simply use the app.
If you don’t already have one, create your own TikTok account. Scroll through your home page, explore the Discover tab, and pay attention to what you’re seeing — and hearing.
Take into account everything on the screen. From the angle of the camera to the specific sounds and effects the creator used, all are moving parts that give you the opportunity to spot TikTok trends.
Look outside your lane
TikTok’s algorithm does a phenomenal job of giving users exactly the kind of video content they want, so it can very quickly funnel you into a very narrow content lane.
“Part of the reason why TikTok is so popular is because it very quickly gets you, and it will put you into a lane of content on things that you love and you engage with,” Horowitz says.
You can discover viral TikTok trends outside your own feed by doing the following:
- Use someone else’s TikTok app to stumble on videos you’d never encounter on your own.
- Explore the Discover page often.
- Click on a sound, and see what people are doing with it.
- Use the search box to find topics and hashtags relevant to your brand, products, and customers.
Focus on the music
Scroll through your For You page on TikTok, and you’ll likely hear the same song again and again. This is because TikTok is built for music, and these trends provide a wealth of opportunities for users to create their own remixes and interpretations.
While individual users can integrate songs and sounds into their videos without much concern for copyright issues, Horowitz cautions brands to refer to their legal teams before publishing. Brands may have to acquire a license in some instances.
“When it’s just on your organic page, it’s definitely a legal gray zone,” he says.
See how pop culture and current events play a role
TikTok creators are quick to respond to what’s happening in the world, so brands that want to remain relevant should do the same — when it’s applicable.
For example, right now (March 2022), you’ll see a lot of content related to the war in Ukraine. And during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, countless TikTok trends emerged around handwashing and quarantine life.
Exploring current events certainly won’t apply to every brand, but it’s a natural fit for some. For example, the Washington Post does an impressive job of exploring breaking news and implementing humor and unique TikTok features to tell stories.
Follow TikTok experts and hashtags
Like any social media platform, you can also follow certain users or hashtags that relate to your interests. Follow the hashtags #trendalert and #newtrendalert, or visit the TikTok Trends page to easily stay informed of the latest.
Consider the trend lifecycle
While some TikTok trends have more staying power than others, the topics and themes of top videos change quickly.
“Trends are going week to week, and sometimes day to day,” Horowitz says. “Some of them last for a month or a few months, and there’s a few that are eternal (such as the #SavageChallenge), just like the best of. But mostly they’re in, they’re out. You really have to be close to it to understand what’s happening.”
How to make TikTok trends your own
Participating in trends, especially as a brand, involves inserting your own personality into the video while still making it clear which trend you’re taking part in. Here’s how to do that.
Identify your unique take
When considering a trend, look for ways your brand can interpret it within its own voice.
There are countless TikTok trends out there, but think about which ones are relevant to your brand and how your brand wants to appear.
For example, while at first glance, you may not expect e.l.f. Cosmetics to post a video set to the lyrics, “Somebody come get her, she’s dancin’ like a stripper,” the brand did just that. The challenge was for users to employ the freeze-frame effect to create a pole to dance on. And e.l.f. jumped on board cleverly and on-brand by using a stick of eyeliner as the “pole.”
Determine your own look and feel
Brands can take part in TikTok trends while still maintaining a consistent look and feel. It’s all about identifying your brand’s point of view.
“There’s lots of things to think about here,” Horowitz says. “Some brands show up with a certain color palette, a certain level of zoom. Some brands do a lot of product close-ups. Other brands, it’s really about the people. Some brands are about dancing. Some brands are not about dancing.“
TikTok can certainly be an effective platform to showcase your products and introduce them to potential customers. But creating engaging content for the app is about authenticity.
“It’s just about like jumping in and having fun with it,” Horowitz says. “That’s what TikTok responds to. Having someone on your team or an influencer you work with or whatever jump on the trend — even if it’s not a good dance. It doesn’t matter.”
Create your own trends
Once you develop an understanding of TikTok trends, your brand can begin to create its own trends.
For example, cold medicine Mucinex may not seem like the type of brand to be engaging on TikTok, but it had great success with its #TooSickToBeSick challenge.
How to measure your brand’s TikTok success
Marketers inherently want to analyze, quantify, and measure results, but determining ROI can be challenging on TikTok.
That’s because, as we noted before, building brand channels and jumping on trends is a top-of-funnel activity, and there’s little opportunity to organically click out to your brand’s website or product pages.
A better approach for brands looking to make their mark on TikTok is to focus instead on engagement, views, likes, and channel growth. Learn more about marketing on TikTok with our in-depth guide.
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