TikTok advertising expert Savannah Sanchez tells us what really works

Based in Las Vegas, Savannah helps E-commerce brands increase their sales through creative ads on TikTok.

In this episode, she explains how TikTok is taking over both Facebook and Instagram for advertising in terms of scale and performance; how targeted advertising works on TikTok and the importance of an ad not looking like an ad!

Savannah also talks about how she uses “engagement bait” to ensure success for her clients. If you’re interested in exploring TikTok as a form of marketing or want to take Savannah’s TikTok course to learn her media buying and ad creative tips and tricks, her website is thesocialsavannah.com

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Andrew Veitch: Welcome to the Joy of Marketing with me Andrew Veitch. I’m a huge fan of TikTok watching rather than creating, I will say. So I’ve been really looking forward to this episode’s joining us from Fabulous Las Vegas we have Savannah Sanchez, The Social Savannah, who is the number one expert in TikTok advertising.

Welcome to the show.

Savannah Sanchez: Hi, thank you so much for having me. And thanks for the great intro.

AV: So just I guess, before diving in, I mean, I suppose Instagram really was the top platform for this demographic, but TikTok is now you know, growing pretty rapidly. I mean, what would you say is the main differences between the two from the perspective of an advertiser?

SS: Yeah, definitely more eyeballs on TikTok now, especially in the age group of like 18 to 34. So it is still pretty broad.

We’ve seen that we’ve been able to achieve lower CPAs or cost per purchases on TikTok as well with the short form videos and that people are buying from this platform as they’re scrolling through videos. They are using it as a discovery platform to find new products and brands that they love. So we’ve seen a massive growth on TikTok, in terms of advertising spend, and the effectiveness of our advertising.

And especially last year with all the iOS 14 issues with Facebook and Instagram, we saw performance really go down on those channels. So a lot of brands pivoted from Facebook and Instagram, put their budget towards TikTok and are now seeing a lot more effective performance on TikTok which is cool to see.

AV: Sure. I mean I guess Instagram have been pushing back with with reels, is that gaining much traction?

SS: I don’t think it’s getting, well definitely, nearly not as much traction as TikTok.

So I’m, I’m a consultant, I help E-commerce brands with their TikTok advertising. I have clients that also advertise on Facebook as well and I’ll set up campaigns where I’ll target just reels placement, and we’re not seeing nearly as much scale or performance targeting reels as we are on TikTok. So it is a small percentage of our budget that we’re spending on reels but definitely nothing significant compared to TikTok right now.

AV: Yeah, I mean, is there a price difference between TikTok and Instagram?

SS: Yeah, in terms of like this, the CPM, so like the cost to reach 1000 users across the board, it’s at least a fourth of a price for my clients on TikTok, as opposed to Facebook and Instagram. So just being able to get in front of people much cheaper, is definitely a main advantage of TikTok. And then coupled with the fact that people are actually like making purchases decisions, like they’re not just 13 year old scrolling through TikTok. That you’re reaching like, these are like real people, these are customers in your demographic, and they’re ready to purchase and like they’re in the mindset of looking for brands and products. So it’s definitely been an explosion, I would say, especially last six months, of brands really being able to scale on TikTok ads as a profitable platform.

AV: Yeah, so tell me a bit more about the demographics. I’m, embarrassingly enough, I’m very nearly 50, believe it or not, so I’m getting the sense I’m maybe on the old side as a TikTok user. So is it sort of under 30s mainly on TikTok, do you think?

SS: I would say right now, it’s definitely more broad. It’s not just like teenagers or under 30s. There’s definitely, the bulk of their demographic is under 35, but I have clients where we are targeting, like woman 45+ on TikTok and we’re actually seeing that as like one of our best performing audiences right now. Lots of moms on TikTok as of late, so there’s definitely no shortage of like an older demographic on TikTok, if that’s what you’re looking to target. Because like I said, my clients doing 45+ and we’re seeing good results there. So not just kids, but I would say definitely the bulk is under 35, but still a good audience above as well.

AV: Just something else, I think as a user on TikTok is I don’t actually see very much advertising. I think I definitely see less advertising on TikTok than I do when I’m using Instagram.

SS: Yeah, I’ve noticed them early, in terms of like the amount of like organic videos you see in between each ad seems to be more spread out, maybe it has to do with just advertiser competition. Like just simply put, there’s way less advertisers on TikTok than there is on Facebook and Instagram, which contributes to why the CPMs are lower. And it’s cheaper than on Facebook and Instagram because you don’t have that much competition in the market.

I wonder if a year from now, or however long of time it takes for more advertisers to jump on TikTok and start spending significantly, if they will, I mean, I could, I would assume they would start plugging more ads in to get that inventory.

AV: Well, I’m certainly old enough that, you know, when I started out, I remember paying 10 cents a click for Google Pay per click, and it was one of the cheapest media.

So absolutely. I mean, it did obviously go through that path of getting steadily more expensive. So maybe, maybe as it matures, we’ll see a similar thing on TikTok, but I guess, let’s, let’s buy it, buy it while, it’s cheap.

SS: Yes, exactly.

AV: So you mentioned earlier about people buying directly, because I wanted to understand a bit about where TikTok is in the funnel. You know, is it more about awareness, getting people to think about your brand? Or is it actually just a straight direct ad that people you know, click, click on the ad and buy?

SS: It’s definitely a bit of both, like we see a good chunk of people they’ll see the ad, they’ll click on the ‘Shop Now’ button and that’s where they’ll put in their payment method and ultimately purchase.

But then we also see it more as like top of the funnel as well, where people see a TikTok ad, they go to the website, but maybe they’re not in the right mindset to purchase and they’re still just wanting to browse through videos; then they will get retargeted with a Facebook ad or Google ad or search direct later, and then purchase days or however long later.

So we see both paths to purchase. I think it depends a lot on the product price, like clients that are selling cosmetics that are $30, people are going to be much more likely to make an impulse buy on TikTok, especially if in the TikTok ad we call out like “go get 15% off when you purchase right now,” those, those call to actions, to add urgency, that we see a lot, more people click on the ad and you’re like, okay, just lipstick, nothing I need to consider.

But then I have clients that are selling like $150 kitchen appliances, for instance, something that takes a lot more research and discovery and consideration. And that’s where we see more of like a top of the platform for awareness, and then ultimately retargeting them with Facebook and Google and on other channels to remind them to come back and do more research.

AV: Yeah. And then in terms of targeting the ads, I haven’t used them, is it similar to Facebook with the sort of demographic targeting and the interest targeting?

SS: Yeah, it’s very similar. So you, you have different interests that you can target. You can target people by hashtags, which is pretty cool. So if people are searching hashtags related to like lipstick, and you’re selling lipstick, you could target those people.

Another cool targeting feature, you can target followers of certain users. So if there’s a celebrity or someone that you think that they’re followers would be a good perpetual customer for you, you could target their following, which is pretty cool. So those are the top targeting options.

AV: Yeah. So are there any resources you can recommend for research to learn about what TikTok ads work?

SS: Yeah, so in terms of getting inspired for TikTok ads, I think number one is just going going on TikTok, spending time on the platform, and taking notes of the different content that you’re seeing and the different ads that you’re seeing.

I would say secondly, I go to the TikTok ads creative library, which is a library created by TikTok where they show the top ads on the platform, which just cool, because you can search by industry, you can see ads that have the highest watch time, the highest engagement. So I spend a lot of time on the TikTok ads library.

I also look at Facebook ads libraries of brands, because a lot of brands are running TikTok style creatives on Facebook, because that style is just working really well on Facebook and Instagram as well.

So between the TikTok library, the Facebook ads library which is researching different brands and competitors and sorting by industry, it’s it’s really easy to get a tonne of inspiration.

AV: Yeah, I see a lot of TikTok movies on Instagram, just organically because I think people do tend to post them. If you’re doing an advert would you, I guess, you’d want to be careful not to have the TikTok logo on it if you’re putting it onto Instagram?

SS: Yes, without the TikTok logo. One thing that I do like if I’m making a TikTok is, I have like a fake TikTok account like with no followers and if I want to try to download that video to use as an ad, I’ll post it, and then I’ll use a service called Musical Down, and there’s also other ones out there if you type in like TikTok Video Downloader you can find many websites that do this, but that’s one that I particularly use. When you post the TikTok you essentially paste the URL into one of these web services that will download the TikTok video for you without the watermark. So their AI just senses a guess where that, where the TikTok overlay watermark is and will delete it from your video and let you download it.

So that’s my typical process, it’s posting it on a fake account, downloading it via Musical Down, or any other service, if type in TikTok watermark remover you’ll find a bunch, and then use that video for Instagram and Facebook ads without the watermark.

AV: That’s great. Never thought of that.

So I mean going more than on to the creative. I mean, do you think, have you got a formula sort of for a TikTok advert?

SS: There are a lot of formulas and I definitely follow the formulas when I work. I work with different clients, E-commerce brands will come to me and say, hey, we need new videos for TikTok advertising campaigns and I have a creative team that will execute on creating those videos. So we have like our TikTok formulas that we know to work super well, I would say in general, keeping it between like 15 and 30 seconds is a must, vertical, make sure that you’re utilising TikTok organic text overlays. The biggest thing is it has to look like a TikTok, it can’t look like an ad. So in that way, meaning it needs to be filmed on an iPhone utilising organic TikTok texts, transitions and animations that are built natively within the TikTok app.

AV: Actually, is there a maximum length actually of a TikTok? Because they all seem to be fairly short.

SS: For TikTok ads I’m not sure just because I’m so in the mindset of creating ads between 15 and 30 seconds, that I’ve never tested the upper limits. I’m sure there is. But I know it’s probably like longer than a minute is like the upper limit.

AV: Sure. So obviously using, I can see that using these standard graphics is important because you are then going to feel that this is a TikTok that you’re seeing. I mean, the moment you start seeing, I guess almost the overly professional stuff, you just suddenly feel like you’re out of TikTok and watching an advert.

SS: Exactly. And the best comments I get on my ads is like I had no idea this was an ad. And that’s really what you should aim for. Like it should be so natural, someone talking to the camera, giving a testimonial.

And some and I think with TikTok it’s all about the hook like what’s in that first three seconds. So some hooks that are working really well right now are saying like things “TikTok me buy” and then going into them, “I found this blender on TikTok and I was not sure about it, and so I ended up buying it and then I tried it and this is how it works and it’s super cool.”

So “things TikTok made me buy” as a hook has been amazing.

Similarly, like “stuff I found on the internet that I can no longer live without”, “things I found on Amazon,” I would say are hooks like that work really well. Where it seems like it’s just someone organically giving a testimonial and just wanting to share with the TikTok community and all the awesome stuff they’ve they found like whether it’s a phone case, or makeup or apparel, whatever it is. So I think thinking about the hook is super important with TikTok ads and how to make it seem natural to the platform.

AV: And actually you just mentioned Amazon there. So is this people who are Amazon merchants who are using TikTok to get people to go to Amazon?

SS: 100% because organically on TikTok, like on the non ad side, there is a huge trend of people sharing like their favourite Amazon finds, stuff they found on Amazon. That’s just something that people are searching for in terms of like hashtags like Amazon finds, stuff like that. So organically, people are already creating videos like this. So a lot of Amazon advertisers are now saying okay, we need to put some ad spend and do some TikTok ads that are very similar to these organic videos of someone just saying like, oh, their favourite things they found on Amazon, especially like low priced items. Like if you want to take “oh like if you really like this expensive dress, I found like a really cheap dupe on Amazon for $30, and this is the quality, it looks amazing”. So especially with people who are more price conscious, and are trying to find like lower cost alternatives to goods, a lot of people are looking for Amazon and that’s why people will give like their favourite Amazon leggings recommendations or their favourite Amazon home decor.

And of course, just the ease of Amazon, everyone loves that two day shipping in America. So I personally will look to Amazon before I look at any E-commerce store when I’m looking to buy something just for the convenience of it. So I would say Amazon merchants have been really utilising TikTok as of late to drive awareness.

AV: Yeah, I mean, I mean, in terms of the organic side too, does a TikTok advert get shared, like a normal TikTok?

SS: It depends. I mean, it depends on the content. If it doesn’t look like an ad and you do a good job of it, then it has more of a chance of getting shared. The more it looks like an ad like why would someone really want to share an ad with their friends?

So like I said, just making it seem very organic in terms of just finding a product that you love. I would say one thing that I try to keep in mind when creating ads I call it engagement bait. So essentially having something in the ad that is going to make someone want to comment on the video or share the video or interact with it, because TikTok favours ads that get a lot of engagement.

So when I say engagement bait, I have a client that sells iPhone cases, and I created a TikTok video for them where in the first three seconds, I bite the iPhone case, and then I go into the ad. But I have so many comments on this video people saying like “why did she bite the case?” Just because it’s weird and it doesn’t make sense. There’s no reason for me to bite the case before talking about the case, but because it’s gotten so many comments and people arguing about why I’m biting the case, that’s actually really helped the ad performance and has gotten a lot more organic views because there’s so many people commenting on it and tagging their friends and starting these debates. T

here’s another example we have a client that does coffee, and the creator on my team drank the coffee out of a wineglass and it is just sparked this huge comments debate about like, why you drinking coffee out of a wine glass? And people on pro drinking coffee out of a wine glass side and con drinking coffee out of the wine glass side.

So I would say when you’re creating ads, if you can put that little nugget in there of just something weird that’s gonna make someone comment, like why are they doing this? – that’s really gonna help the engagement and help it get way more virality

AV: Yeah, I guess on TikTok, TikTok really is full of memes isn’t it? Something, something suddenly takes off and everyone is doing it. I mean, as an advertiser, should you be trying to go there too? Or is that something just going to kind of go out of date pretty quickly?

SS: I don’t recommend to follow trends for advertisers, for that reason they, they’re by the second, they’re in one week, they’re out the next week.

I always think about longevity of ads, like I want something that looks like a TikTok so in terms of the styling and in the way that it’s filmed, like I don’t want it to stand out as an ad but I also don’t want it to be so into a TikTok trend, where if I try to run it a month from now, it’s going to be out of trend. I would, so I would say I steer away from trends.

You also can’t use copyrighted music in TikTok ads. So it is even more difficult to hop on trends since a lot of these trends revolve around music. And then of course, like dances and stuff, it just doesn’t really make sense with the E-commerce products, to try to incorporate that into it. So I always say make it evergreen, steer clear of trends.

I would say on your organic profile, like if you’re a brand, that’s a good place to create more trending content and to try to follow trends more. But for your TikTok advertising, like if you’re going to be running ads on the platform, stick to evergreen concepts.

AV: Are there other common mistakes that you see advertisers making in creative?

SS: The number one thing is advertisers taking what they’re running on Instagram stories and trying it on TikTok and then saying, “Oh, I think this didn’t work”, because it’s not formatted for TikTok in terms of the text overlays, and the styling just looks too much like an ad. So that was the number one mistake I’ve made.

Number two, I would say, I would say most commonly brands will think “okay, I need TikTok ad creatives, I’m going to contact a bunch of TikTok ad creators and send them product and hopefully they’ll come back with ad content.” And I found that that’s not a very effective process just because TikTok creators can be really great at creating engaging videos for their page, but doesn’t necessarily mean that they understand like E-commerce marketing, or like what a hook is, or how to effectively sell a product in 15 seconds, I think those things are very different. So I always say like, you kind of plan to fail if you don’t give an influencer or content creator a really great brief and script and outline of what you’re looking for in the ad.

So that’s, that’s why I see brands mess up the most is that they’re like, “oh, like I’m having such a hard time getting great ad creatives,” but they’re just sending products to influencers and hoping for the best.

So when I work with content creators, I have a number of content creators I work with, I have a very detailed shortlist that I need: I have a script, I know the pacing of AD, I’m sending them different ad examples that I like. So the more involvement that the marketer has in the process in terms of the person that understands E-commerce marketing, that can assist the Creator, and of course like you want their creativity and their voices shine through too, but I’ve seen the best success when I’m giving them a lot of direction. And I think that not a lot of brands will invest the time or maybe just don’t have the expertise to give these very detailed ad briefs to get the type of content that is going to perform.

AV: Sure. And just in terms of budget, I mean, what would you say is the sort of minimum budget that you would need to start out on TikTok as an E-commerce brand?

SS: I would say like at least a couple $100 a day, like when I’m working with a new E-commerce client, my general recommendation is like, let’s start at $300 a day, just so we can get through the learning phase. The learning phase on TikTok, meaning that you have to get 50 conversions a week on any ad set, in order to exit learning.

So you don’t want to have so small of a budget where it’s going to be difficult to exit learning. But it is dependent too on the average order value, if you’ve a much more expensive product it’s going to take a larger budget to exit the learning phase and get that 50 conversions a week.

So it is dependent, I just came out with a TikTok course and in that course, I actually have a budget calculator where you enter in your product price, your budget, your estimated cost per purchase, your cost per add to cart, and it kind of spits out like what you’re going to need as a daily, weekly, monthly budget.

So there is more of a formula to it, but I would say if I was gonna give like a fast and hard rule, I would say at least a couple $100 to start so that you can get some significant learnings.

AV: Great. And we’ll add a link to your course in the description. And in terms of then once a, once it’s actually working, and I know this is probably going to be different for different brands, but I mean, is there a point where you know, the budget begins to top out and that you can’t really spend any more while it’s still remaining effective?

SS: I think it depends, I mean, part of it is like making sure that you have new creative to rotate in. Because as your budget increases, you’re going to see more creative fatigue, so the speed of creative testing becomes more important.

I would say seasonality, of course, is important too, like around Black Friday and Christmas time, there’s going to be a much higher ceiling to scale, as opposed to in March when not many people are thinking about buying.

So keeping those factors in mind, I do have a client that we were able to spend up to $12,000 a day last weekend and we just lowered it to $9,000 a day because we were like maybe $12,000 a day was a little too aggressive. So are kind of teetering around like nine to 12,000 a day to see what the best sweet spot is.

So there definitely is opportunity to spend like in the six figures a month on TikTok, I think it just depends on the brand.

And those factors I mentioned and the creatives, the price point, in terms of getting there with this client, I’ve been working with them since January of 2021. When we started it just a couple $100 day, so it took a while to figure out the creatives that worked and to be able to get this level of scale. So it’s not something that you can just flip a switch and and be spending $12,000 a day on TikTok I mean, maybe you can and that would be super impressive, but I would say it’s taken experimentation, it’s taken trial and error but now we found a really great group of videos that are working well; we have our audiences that are working well and now it’s just teetering with the budget to see, as we increase budget, how does our CPA reflect and find that sweet spot to where we’re the most profitable.

AV: Well, thanks very much. I know that was absolutely fascinating. I’ve learned a huge amount. What’s the best way for people to get in touch with you if they want to try TikTok themselves?

SS: Absolutely, my website is thesocialsavannah.com and on my website, you can get in touch with me if you need help with your TikTok ad creatives. Or if you want to take my TikTok course to learn my media buying and ad creative tips and tricks, you’ll find my course on my website as well.

AV: Well, that was absolutely fascinating. I certainly learned a lot about TikTok and certainly sounds right now is a good time to jump on.

It was also a personal milestone as I think that was my first sober conversation with someone from Vegas.

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