DTC 34: 📦 Top TikTok Tactics
May 21, 2023
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Stars… they’re just like us!

And just like us, their Zoom fatigue is real.

This year’s Golden Globes – usually one of Hollywood’s most glamorous events – was no match for Zoom’s wrath.

The event had all the hallmarks of your classic conference call: dressed down attendees (shout out to Jodie Foster in her PJs), muted mics at crucial moments, and stress-inducing breakout rooms with colleagues you barely know.

Here’s Don Cheadle serving us big “this call could have been an email” energy:

New here? Welcome! You’re in good company with fellow DTC newcomers from Urban Barn, Hodo Foods, Vegan Cuts, Brooklyn Soap Company, Vivino, Diva Cup, and Staples.

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In this edition of the DTC Newsletter you’ll find:  

📦 A jump into TikTok ads, with our tactical walkthrough of the platform 📦 Shopify’s Kristin LaFrance with her four-step approach to community and the creative strategies brands are using to engage millions


📦 AspireIQ’s top three influencer marketing trends of 2021

📦 Which headline reigned supreme for our Snow Teeth Whitening Presell Page? Find out how we were 5x wrong 🥴

Read until the end to claim your FREE creative strategy session + set of branded, high performance creatives from D2C Design. 

Editor’s Note: After popular demand for more DTC content, our team is upping the ante to deliver two doses of DTC to your inbox. Starting this week, our OG Wednesday offering will be supplemented by a Saturday newsletter featuring new original DTC content for your weekend reading pleasure! See ya Saturday!

After a surge in popularity during the pandemic, TikTok has solidified its place in the hearts, minds, and app downloads of consumers. 

In 2020 TikTok was the most downloaded app worldwide with one billion monthly active users. It has surpassed LinkedIn, Reddit, Snapchat, Twitter, and Pinterest to become the sixth-largest social network.


TikTok has about 80 million monthly active users in the United States. Here’s a breakdown of TikTok’s US demographics: 

  • 60% female and 40% male
  • 80% are between the ages 16-34 
  • 60% are between the ages of 16-24
  • 26% are between the ages 25-44 

While some brands are hesitant to jump on TikTok, concerned that the

platform hasn’t developed its eCommerce presence yet, there are big plans for expansion which includes a new partnership with Shopify and their recent shoppable livestream experience partnership with Walmart.

The TikTok algorithm 

The content curated for TikTok users is based on user interactions (likes, shares, comments), video information (captions, sounds, hashtags), and device and account settings (location, language). 

These factors inform the content featured in each individualized “for you” section, which is the prioritized landing page of the platform. 

Unlike Facebook and Instagram, users spend the majority of their time on the “for you” page versus their “following” page. Moving away from a “follow-focused” distribution democratizes how content is shared on TikTok – which means anyone can create a viral video. 

TikTok ads

The difference between paid content versus organic content can be difficult to determine, which is GREAT, especially for advertisers. 

With less competition than Facebook, Pilothouse’s TikTok specialist Spencer Hay has seen clicks cost a third of what they are on other platforms. As a new platform, TikTok has some features that need to catch up to the juggernaut that is Facebook Advertising. However, we’ve seen good results from running paid traffic. Especially considering its single-session attribution model. 

Types of TikTok ads

  • Pre-roll ads that start as soon as users open the app 
  • In-feed ads that appear in between videos as users scroll down their feeds 
  • Promoted hashtag challenges that encourage UGC under a custom branded hashtag. 
  • Branded AR filters for creators to use in videos (similar to filters available on Snapchat and Instagram) 

You can also partner with influencers to create and share branded content, recommending your brand to their audience. This tactic is ideal for reaching a target group, building awareness and trust, and expanding your audience. 

TikTok tips: 

  • Don’t make ads. Make TikToks – This is CRUCIAL. If you’re going to make the leap into TikTok, you must be ready to make content that feels native to the platform. 
  • Be agile – success on the platform means staying up to date with TikTok trends and jumping on them when your brand can genuinely contribute.  
  • Song/sound selection – Use of songs and sounds matter more on TikTok than on any other platform. Users can search for content by a song or sound and can find trending songs in TikTok’s video editor. Make sure you incorporate them in your creative for a boost. 
  • Have a plan – don’t waste energy posting haphazard videos just to have a presence on the platform. First answer these two questions, is my audience on TikTok? If so, what type of content are they watching? Avoid the “spray and pray” method. 
  • Inspire UGC – Get real consumers to interact with your product by asking them to “duet” or “stitch” with your brand’s videos as part of a giveaway campaign. 
  • Use hashtags – Utilize the discover tab to find trending hashtags that connect to your brand. Look for the fire emoji next to hashtags, those are trending ones 🔥 
  • Find your niche – TikTok is home to niche communities like “FitTok” and “FoodTok” (there are sub-niches too such as “BreadTok”). Do your research and see if you can find (or create!) a brand-aligned community to contribute too. 
  • Jump on hashtag challenges – 16% of all videos on TikTok are tied to a hashtag challenge, and 35% of TikTok users have participated in a hashtag challenge. 

Looking for inspo? Here are some brands killing it on TikTok


Chipotle was an early adopter of hashtag challenges. Their #ChipotleLidFlip challenge resulted in the brand’s highest digital sales day. The hashtag currently has over 300 million views.

Ocean Spray 

Ocean Spray lucked into Nathan Apodaca’s (aka @420doggface208) now iconic video of him longboarding to Fleetwood Mac while drinking ocean spray. #Oceanspray resulted in Ocean Spray’s stock doubling overnight, and the hashtag has garnered 326 million views. While the initial success of the video was serendipitous, the brand has cleverly leveraged its virality, gifting Apodaca a new vehicle packed with Ocean Spray products and partnering to launch the #DoggfaceDanceVibes challenge for the SuperBowl. 


This sauce brand’s organic content consistently reaches thousands of view counts for their product-focused cooking videos. 

The Henna Plug 

This henna brand partners with influencers to post mini demonstrations of their product utilizing different trending video formats. This combo of influencer demonstrations and video trends has garnered The Henna Plug a follower count of 17K and the hashtag #thehennaplug 28 million views.  

Bottom line: 

With a gen-z majority audience, TikTok may not be the perfect demographic for you right now – but that doesn’t mean it won’t be eventually. After all, people said Facebook was only for college students.

You need to be as strategic as you would be on any other platform and delve into TikTok with a plan. Test a variety of creative aimed at capturing user attention and activate on trends while maintaining your brand voice. 

Time to get your customers saying “TikTok made me buy it”

Top Three eCommerce, Social Media, and Influencer Trends in 2021

URL has replaced IRL. 

As a result of social distancing, digital connections have become our primary ways to communicate, advocate, and shop. Now, brands are reprioritizing social media to create deeper relationships with influencers and their communities.

That’s why AspireIQ, the platform that empowers Glossier, HelloFresh, Samsung, and 400 more brands to build communities of influencers, ambassadors, affiliates, and more, released The State of Influencer Marketing 2021 report, leveraging thousands of data points to educate marketers on the evolving industry and offer benchmarks for success. 

Here are three trends that will drive marketing in 2021 and beyond. Download the full report if you want to unveil more crucial insights.

  1. The definition of influence is evolving

Historically, the term influential has been awarded to those with the largest audience. But the social landscape has shifted to a world where anyone has the ability to be an influencer. Take TikTok, which has a content-first algorithm that gives anyone the ability to go viral by creating engaging content. 

As more people find their voice on social media – whether it’s through their favorite dance moves, their fight for social justice, or their tips for staying sane during quarantine – brands are learning that traditional influencers aren’t the only people who have a significant impact on their bottom line. Communities of consumers, employees, ambassadors, industry professionals, and other brand fans all have the power to spread brand awareness and boost brand loyalty to their audience – no matter how small. 

  1. Social will be at the forefront of eCommerce

In the past, brands could intrigue customers with in-store promos and beautifully designed storefronts. But for brands operating digitally, building relationships with customers can be tricky.

Without being able to touch and feel products before purchase, consumers need trustworthy reviews and word-of-mouth referrals to whip out their credit cards. Fostering an engaged community and creating a sense of belonging has been foundational for top DTC eCommerce brands hoping to humanize the shopping experience. These communities encourage brand loyalty. In fact, community-driven referrals can lead to 3x the lifetime value of users acquired through traditional Facebook ads.

  1. Products will be built with, rather than for, consumers

It’s about interactions over transactions. Instead of only purchasing products, consumers want to contribute to the brands they feel truly connected to. 

As a result, successful brands are relying on their biggest fans to co-create products, produce branded content, provide product feedback, engage on social media, leave reviews, and more. Through co-creation, customers are served experiences and businesses gather invaluable innovation from the people who matter most.

Want to learn more about the importance of social-centered commerce? 

Continue the conversation at Aspire Higher: The Summit, the #1 virtual event for influencer marketers and eCommerce brand builders in 2021. This two-day event brings together industry experts from Glossier, Right Rice, and dozens more to connect innovative marketers across eCommerce, influencer, brand, social, and community. 

Register today!

DTC Customer Retention & Community Building with Shopify’s Kristen LaFrance

Well, this week’s poddy recap basically wrote itself!

That's because this week's cast features Kristen LaFrance, Twitter’s Mayor of DTC and Head of Resilient Retail at Shopify, dropping value bombs like there’s no tomorrow!

Kristen shares focused wisdom on the things brands get wrong about community building, walks you through the steps of community engagement, and shares her favorite community-building hacks that brands have come up with since the outbreak of COVID! 

This is a podcast you can’t afford to miss! Read on for the best bits, but bookmark the poddy as a must listen to seal in the knowledge later. 🔥🧑‍🍳 

📦 Relationships > Sales

Kristen sees brands make the same mistake over and over. New brands treat their customers as metrics, viewing them as sales vehicles rather than people to have relationships with. This shoots community building in the foot.

Why? Sales follow relationships. People don’t just buy an individual product, they buy the brand as a whole. Use leggings as an example. There’s no ‘legging’ community that gets together and talks about leggings. But there are people who value things like yoga and wellness and are looking for ways to integrate that desire into their lives. If you can offer people something that makes them feel closer to these objectives, both in the form of a brand-wide philosophy and the community that builds around it, the product will sell. 

📦 Core blocks of community

While the specifics of your community-building approach depend on your circumstances, these general steps apply to everyone. 

Step 1: Know your best-fitting customers 

Find who is interacting with you the most, commenting lots, and buying tons of product. These are the people you are connecting with the most, and they will form your original avatar. They are your golden eggs.

Step 2: Find out who they really are

Get on the phone! Find out as much as you can about these people’s lives. Find out about their day-to-day. You should especially focus on what problems they are facing and what jobs they have to do. Anything your brand might be able to jump in and help with. All this information is gold because you’ll be able to find out what value means to them. Once you identify that you’ll want to…

Step 3: Find out where they hangout online

The last thing you want to do is try to force behaviour that doesn’t exist! So find out which social media platform your golden eggs are already using and meet them there. It will save you a ton of hassle. If you don’t know, just ask them! Because this is where you are going to build your community...


People think that this just means written posts, SEO, blogs, web pieces, etc… but it’s so much more! Content is every interaction your brand has. Every comment, post, and reply. It's the conversations you're having with them, so think about every detail.

Every community will want something a little different. Some will want Clubhouse Chats, some will want webinars with experts, some will just want questions. Find out what they want, and then soak every last corner of your content with it. 

📦 Call your 100 best customers

We’ve hit this point already but it bears repeating. If you’re not calling your customers, you are missing out, People are surprisingly down to talk about the psychological process of why they bought something. This is incredibly valuable info for you, and it's just a phone call away.

TIP from Kyle: Consider keyword transcribing these calls to find out what recurring themes pop up when a customer thinks about your brand. 

📦 Think outside the box

Kristen had some honorable mentions of brands she thought had some clever community building tactics.

First was beauty brand Bloom. She loves two things this brand is doing. First, they are running a close friends Instagram page that you can opt into in order to feel more connected and exclusive with the brand. Second, they are running great SMS with simple replenishment and the occasional barcode for a free drink from Starbucks. While the Starbucks promo likely costs Bloom no more than a grand, customers feel like they have a best friend looking out for them, and post the heck out of it. Social proof and loyalty, all in one creative little promo.

Another Brand was outdoor survival gear subscription brand Battlebox. The biggest problem boxes face is churn, especially with niche items like weapons and tactical gear. But Battlebox has come up with some neat solutions. First, they have a Youtube channel that explains the uses of all the gear. Second, they have a Facebook group run exclusively by community members to discuss and generate hype around the products. Third, the piece de resistance, they built a trading group where customers can swap box items they don't use. It reduces the problem with churn, encouraging customers to trade instead of cancel, and bolstering their sense of excitement about receiving new gear

Another move she loved was Beard Brand opening a barbershop at a retail community driver/content house. Nice!

📦 COVID trends

Two retail trends Kristen loves coming out of COVID are video chatting and virtual styling. 

Video chatting allows store associates to chat with potential customers while a store has a slow time, using a product like Hero. That face-to-face encounter is a major difference-maker for buyers.

A similar solution is virtual styling, where brands like Nix have been able to do comfortable bra fittings virtually. Customers get to chill at home but get the onboarding experience and expertise of an associate.

In Kristen’s eyes, COVID has really highlighted the expertise sales associates need to have today. No longer angry highschool kids, associates are salespeople, specialists, eCommerce experts, customer supports, and brand reps. Make sure you’re making the most of your associates!

📦 Five steps to podcast content 

  1. Start with Customers. Ask for their stories!
  2. Go to your communities. What do they want to hear? What helps them?
  3. Ask your mom. Or someone not in your industry. They’ll have new ideas.
  4. Go to other pods and content sites. Are there guests you can take a different angle on?
  5. Pod away!

We recommend checking out the full pod here to learn about ways in which Kristen thinks online and retail can complement each other, where she would put a 50k grant, and what eCommerce content we should all be paying attention to.

Last week we hosted hundreds of DTC’ers LIVE on the Build a Presell Page challenge.

On day two we wanted to demonstrate how powerful presell pages can be when you can dial in key elements like your headline. 

So we set up a poll to ask you which headline you thought would perform best on this Snow Teeth Whitening presell page.

Here’s a refresher on the options: 

  1. World’s Most Advanced At-Home Teeth Whitening System is 40% OFF - LIMITED TIME 
  2. The World’s #1 DENTIST MADE Teeth Whitening System is now 40% OFF for a Limited Time
  3. SAVE 40% on the #1 Celebrity Loved, Dentist Approved Home Teeth Whitening System (LIMITED TIME)  
  4. 40% OFF Limited Time: Get the #1 Home Teeth Whitening System Featured in GQ, Elle, Vogue & Forbes 

We polled our readers and the Pilothouse staff and the majority of readers voted for option #4 

“40% OFF Limited Time: Get the #1 Home Teeth Whitening System Featured in GQ, Elle, Vogue & Forbes.”

But which was the real winner when it came to testing? 

After testing all four headlines over five days, the winner with the highest EPC was option #3: 

SAVE 40% on the #1 Celebrity Loved, Dentist Approved Home Teeth Whitening System (LIMITED TIME) 

Looking at it with fresh eyes (and clear data) reveals that this headline’s got it all…

  • SAVE 40% provides a clear and direct offer 
  • Two kinds of credibility, social and dental/medical, are offered in celebs and dentists
  • Use of the “Celebrity loved” triggers recall of massive celeb collabs from Snow
  • Limited time drives urgency 

Our assumptions about #4 being the best headline were WAY OFF, to the tune of about 5x EPC. That’s just nutty, and a perfect example of why you need to be building presell pages, AND why you need to test, test, test – starting with your headlines. 

If you’re looking for a place to get started with presell pages, you can check out Day 1 of the Presell Page Challenge on our Facebook page. 

If you want the whole course (and our ongoing library of best practices) consider joining DTCplus.co for just $1.

If you're a DTC Advertiser, fresh creative is your lifeline. That's why it's critical to have a design team that produces great content at a killer price. 


D2C Design might be the creative team you’ve been missing, and right now they’re giving away one free set of ads personalized for your brand – exclusively for DTC subscribers. 

They specialize in DTC creative that accelerates brand growth through conversion and personalized designs across your website, email marketing, social media, ads, and everything else you need. They’ve designed for category-leading brands. Check out D2C Design here!

Schedule A VIP Session For Your FREE Set Of Ads Here.

Calling all writers!

DTC Newsletter is expanding! We’re looking for a freelance technical writer to bolster our editorial team! 

If you love marketing, chatting with marketers, analyzing their funnels, and synthesizing their wins into highly actionable content… then we should chat.

If you’re interested in this role, or have story ideas you’d like to pitch, give us a shout!

🙌 Kristen LaFrance breaks down her favorite examples of brands building community

🚀 Twitter announces upcoming new features: 1) the ability for users to charge their followers for additional content 2) the ability to create and join groups

🚨 Four common scaling mistakes DTC/eCommerce brands commit 

📱 AT&T and T-Mobile have announced that they will no longer support shared short codes as of March 1st, 2021

🙌 Jay Desai launches Swpely, Pinterest for B2B

💇‍♀️ DTC hair color brand Madison Reed has raised 52 million in funding to fuel “omnichannel expansion” 

💻 Facebook dives deep into how brand marketing drives short-term sales 

💰 Affirm announces “buy now, pay later” debit card

🧠 Co-founder of Loom explains how the company grew from 0-500K users

🛠 Spotify announces a new set of creator tools and resources

💪 Everything you need to know about David Dobrick’s new app Dispo

😏 Facebook launches a new digital ad campaign called “Good ideas deserve to be found” 

⚽️ TikTok is partnering with more professional sports leagues including the MLS 

📈 Snapchat projects 50% annual revenue growth for the next several years as the stock skyrockets

💨 Seth Rogen announces his new cannabis company houseplant

🏈 Sports retailer Fanatics is entering China through a partnership with Hillhouse Capital 

🏋️‍♂️ Nordstrom partners with at-home fitness startup Tonal

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