Ritika and Niki Shamdasani, two sisters and founders of Sani, a South Asian-inspired clothing brand, entered TikTok in early 2020 and by March, their sixth video had gone viral, racking up nearly 3 million views. This was the first video created with TikTok in mind – showing the process of creating clothes from start to finish, and thinking about the end product – rather than reposting content from other platforms.
While the timing wasn’t great because this was the beginning of the pandemic, and at the time, Sunny’s focus on formal wear for weddings, it allowed the founders to maintain brand awareness — and see what TikTok could do for the company.
Other small business owners have had similar experiences with the platform, posting organic content that goes viral and helps boost their business. In February 2021, Bruce Graybill, founder of Sider’s Woodcrafting, had posted a video “insanely viral at a time when I was considering closing my business,” Graybill said. “Financially, it just doesn’t make sense anymore. Then this video went viral on TikTok and our number increased.[ed traffic] to our site by 4000%. We sold everything we had on our website within 24 hours.”
As TikTok has continued to grow in recent years, marketers and businesses have focused on the platform, often as a way to diversify their social media mix, using organic and paid strategies to reach the more than 29 million monthly active users on the platform. At the same time, small businesses are starting to do the same, according to Danielle Johnson, Head of Small and Medium Business Account Management at TikTok, North America.
The Johnson team is working to develop more educational content for small and medium-sized businesses on the platform. “We’re having extensive conversations with small and medium-sized businesses,” Johnson said. “We spend so much time that we can’t just be with one-on-one. [small and medium-sized businesses] With hosting an education series for SMBs, helping them listen to the opinions of other content creators to help figure out how to achieve success on the platform.”
It is unclear how much TikTok advertising revenue is made up of small and medium businesses as the platform refused to share these numbers. However, the platform is looking to continue enhancing its offering for SMEs with an educational series as well as working closely with brands as they start spending on the platform to continue improving their experience on TikTok.
Since the early viral success in March 2020, the founders of Sani have continued to post videos on TikTok, where they have over 145,000 followers, to help grow their small business and credit nearly 60% of their monthly revenue to TikTok. Despite their tendency to take an organic versus paid approach, the co-founders have recently begun to test the placement of paid media behind their publications.
Graybill said success on TikTok has also been from organic publications, noted Sider Woodworking’s Graybill, which has seen $30,000 in sales from TikTok alone, adding that he has spoken at TikTok SMB events. “I have told my story to other companies about what works. What works for me may not work for others. But if you are a small business owner and you are not on TikTok, you are missing out.”
Duane Brown, founder of performance marketing agency Take Some Risk, is currently bringing two small and medium businesses to TikTok. “TikTok is attentive and eager to get e-commerce and DTC brands on the platform,” Brown said, adding that “there is an increase in both leads[ive clients] and existing clients [as] Everyone is looking to move money beyond Facebook.” (Brown usually works with brands DTC and said said clothing brands were looking to get TikTok.)
However, Brown warns small and medium businesses not to put their eggs in one basket with TikTok. “TikTok is hot and trendy…so everyone wants to join the cart. We only recommend when customers are generating a stable source of paid ad revenue on Google and possibly Facebook. It’s hard to test a new platform if you don’t have money coming in.”