Use of TikTok by young business owners doubles during pandemic

Small businesses are increasingly looking to TikTok to build their sales, according to our inaugural 'top online channels for small businesses’ list.

10 May 2022

Our new research reveals the top online channels that SME owners are using for their business.

Small businesses turning to TikTok to market products and services

The findings reveal that one in ten business owners under the age of 44 now use Tiktok, doubling since pre-pandemic, when just 5% used the platform. However, only 1% of small business owners over the age of 44 currently use Tiktok for their business.

The growing popularity of TikTok as a channel for small businesses to market their products and services reflects the growing number of people on the platform, with over 13 million active TikTok users in the UK.

Small business usage of social media channels has grown during pandemic

The use of social media channels by small business owners has grown over the pandemic, with a 14 percentage point increase in owners deploying Facebook, Instagram and TikTok to market their products and services.

The use of company websites remained the most popular online channel, with 40% of small business owners using them for their business. Facebook is the second most popular, having increased by 3 percentage points over this period, with one in three (37%) small business owners now using the platform.

In addition, one in five small business owners use Instagram (19%) compared to 15% pre-pandemic, overtaking eBay for third place. Nearly four in ten younger small business owners (37%) use Instagram for their business, yet just 11% of those aged 44 and over use it.

iwoca spokesperson Mark Di-Toro said: “The pandemic presented huge challenges for small businesses to get in front of their usual customers. Small business owners responded with entrepreneurialism, turning to new social media and online platforms to market their products or services. There’s no doubt that social media is now a fundamental marketing tool for many SMEs to increase revenue, whatever industry they operate in.”

Top online channels SMEs use for their business (pre vs post pandemic)

Top channels pre pandemicTop channels post pandemic
1. Company website 38%1. Company website 40%
2. Facebook 34%2. Facebook 37%
3. eBay 16%3. Instagram 19%
4. Instagram 15%4. eBay 15%
5. Amazon 9%5. Amazon 8%
6. Etsy 5% / Gumtree 5%6. Etsy 5% / Gumtree 5%

5 ways to maximise TikTok for your business

TikTok has a dedicated section on its website for small businesses (here), including a guide with five tips for getting started on the platform. 1. Showcase your best sellers: introduce TikTok users to your hottest item and focus ads on that product or service. 2. Talk to happy customers: use testimonials to establish trust and credibility with the audience.’ 3. Give them a look “behind the scenes”: create “behind the scenes” videos to showcase the attention, effort, and care that goes into every product made. 4. A day in the life: create “day in the life” videos to showcase the product or service in the context of users' daily routines. 5. List it out: create lists to concisely communicate your point, e.g “different ways to use your product”.

Millennial entrepreneur Anna Jenkins creates bespoke flower tributes for funerals and sells them on TikTok

These could be for weddings, baby showers, or any event – but it’s funerals that bring her most of her profits; customers will ask her to design specific things they remember their loved ones by, to put on their graves. And now she’s starting to attract a younger demographic – not traditionally associated with buying flowers – because of her business’ growing presence on social media channels like instagram, facebook, and tiktok.

She’s used her floristry skills to create Elvis Presley tributes, Del Boy, Buzz Lightyear, malteser boxes, swear words to put down the side of the coffin, Peter Rabbit, or specific chanel lipsticks used by the customer’s loved one – you name it, she’s designed it. One of her most memorable requests was a 15 foot name placard, which she said was ‘obscene’, took her 2 and half days to create, and caused her fingers to bleed for weeks. Another was a giant gateway to heaven tribute.

Eastenders even used her flowers recently for a funeral scene!

IMAGE ANNA JENKINS

Anna Jenkins tribute drum kit

Anna was able to grow her business by taking out an iwoca small business loan, and now she’s using social media channels to take it to the next level:

“The beauty behind using channels like tiktok and instagram, is that it’s not about just listing your products on an online shop (which in our case would be really sad due to the nature of what we do). With the options to create galleries, videos and reels, we can really show off the business’ personality. We can tell the story of our business, focus on the people behind it, and show the creativity that goes into what we’re building: it’s brand focussed rather than just pushing products for sale.”

“Most customers find us on socials, then call in to ask us to create something bespoke for them. People see all the personalised tributes we’ve made for others and get inspiration as to what they might want created.”

“Or younger people see our ‘build a bouquet with me’ videos on tiktok and then come to visit our physical store.”

“Social media is hugely important for us at the moment, but there’s still so much further we can take it. And I see Tik Tok being the channel that is really going to take us to the next level.”

Their biggest seller on social media is their bespoke funeral package:

“It’s a quick, cost friendly, and – most importantly – meaningful option for flowers: a special tribute to loved ones.”

Whilst Anna says she wouldn’t be where she is today without using social media to grow her business, she does warn others that these channels make you more vulnerable:

“Everyone and anyone can interact with your pages so it’s much easier to get into scrapes with customers who - whatever the level of service - want to damage your business’s reputation. You find a lot more customers like this online as it’s so easy for them to message instantly or leave lasting comments which are often unfair or untrue, that everyone can see. I once built a bespoke car (tailored registration plate and all), for someone who found me on facebook; even though I saw on this customer’s own social channels that the car was delivered as it was in all the photos of the funeral I’d designed it for, he said it never arrived and I got 5 negative reviews from him and his family.”

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Charlotte is a Senior PR & Communications specialist at iwoca. She's been sharing news and insights about the finance industry for over three years.

Article updated on: 20 May 2022

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