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TikTok Ads For Beginners: A Complete Guide & Steps To Success

Learn the TikTok advertising basics, best practices, and expert recommendations that will give you an edge over your competitors.

With more than 1 billion active users in 2022, the phenomenon that is TikTok has captured the attention of marketers and brands.

Since its start in 2016, the social media video-sharing platform has taken the digital world by storm and expanded into over 150 markets.

Despite this stellar growth and large audience base, TikTok advertising opportunities are still something of a mystery to many.

If you’re one of those sitting on the fence wondering if you should invest in TikTok ads, you’re not alone.

This TikTok ads guide for beginners can help you learn how this advertising platform works, how to get started with TikTok Business Manager, and the steps for creating a new campaign.

Plus, we’ve included some best practices and recommendations. Let’s get to it!

To TikTok Or Not?

Before considering running ads on TikTok, ask yourself – is my brand a good match for TikTok?

Is my target audience even on TikTok?

TikTok for businessScreenshot from TikTok For Business, April 2022

With a very young audience, TikTok is quite different from the likes of Facebook and Instagram.

In fact, it was reported that most users are under 30 years old, and Gen Z and Millennials represent the largest age groups of people using the app.

Besides, when we consider its global footprint, TikTok certainly benefits from widespread adoption worldwide, especially in the U.S., the Middle East, and Asia.

So if your products or services resonate with younger audiences and you have international aspirations, TikTok might be the biggest yet untapped opportunity for your brand.

That said, even if you run a smaller, local business, it’s possible to make TikTok ads work for you (more on that later), but for now, let’s look at how to get started with the advertising platform and what’s required to create your first ad campaign.

Check out this list of over 40 TikTok facts and statistics to learn more.

Step 1: Sign Up For A TikTok Business Manager Account

First, create a TikTok ad account.

Even if you already have a user account, this separate login is necessary to create ads.

When you sign up, you will need to provide some basic information about yourself and your business.

Once this is completed and your account is confirmed, you will be ready to start using the self-serve platform.

Step 2: Create Your First Campaign

Once the above formalities are out of the way, the fun can begin!

Create your first campaign giving it a descriptive name, and choose between the objective options you are presented.

Campaign objectives in TikTok are Awareness, Consideration, and Conversions.

 TikTok Ads Manager create campaignScreenshot from TikTok Ads Manager, April 2022

As the names go, these are pretty self-explanatory.

Choose Awareness if you would like to drive as much reach and visibility to your brand as your budget allows, or narrow down your targeting

Choose Consideration if you want likes and to grow your followers for a higher engagement through website traffic, app install, or video views.

But if your marketing goal is mostly to drive conversions, choose the Corresponding campaign objective.

With the latter, you will need to ensure you have the TikTok pixel installed and configured to properly track and measure the success of your ads.

This is a necessary step, and very much the same as installing the Facebook pixel or any other tracking code on your website.

The TikTok algorithm will also use the pixel to optimize your campaign and help you achieve your goals.

For the campaign, budget options are either a daily budget or a lifetime budget.

Note that no matter which of these two options you choose, the minimum investment required to advertise on TikTok is $50.

Step 3: Create Your Ad Group(s) And Select Your Ad Placements

At this stage, you can choose to run your ads on one or multiple properties, including the suite of apps that are part of the TikTok network such as BuzzVideo and Pangle.

The easiest option to start with is auto-placement.

More advanced users can also choose fully manual and select the placements where they prefer to run the ads.

TikTok create ad groupScreenshot from TikTok Ads Manager, April 2022

First-time and less experienced users can get started with auto-placement and let TikTok optimize and test different combinations based on the target objectives as the algorithm learns which options work best.

Leaning further on the automation, it is then possible to select the automated creative optimization.

Again similar to other platforms (think Google or Facebook, for example), TikTok lets users upload various assets and then build ad variations to test for finding the best performing combinations.

This is a great option for businesses lacking the resources for ad creation and testing, but possibly not for those who would rather keep more control and/or have strict brand guidelines to adhere to.


For those familiar with Facebook Ads, ad group (the equivalent of Facebook ad sets) settings define the target audience(s), and the options are very much the same: Demographics (age and gender), location, device, behavior, and interest targeting.

TikTok Ads Manager demographicScreenshot from TikTok Ads Manager, April 2022

Some would argue that interests can be quite loose and broad and therefore not as precise (or refined) as what you have on Facebook, or that the list of interest categories to choose from is short and limited.

However, we are sure that as TikTok’s advertising will keep evolving; options will increase and provide more value.

Customer Lists

Using customer lists, it’s possible (and often advisable) to create lookalike audiences for prospecting campaigns, while leveraging website traffic and engagement to set up custom audiences. Having the TikTok pixel installed and working is required.

Like any other form of push advertising, the time and effort you put into carefully crafting laser-targeted audiences and effective ads will pay off with better and more rewarding results.

So let’s look at what the options are when it comes to the creative.

Step 4: Choosing the Right Ad Type and Building Effective Ads

TikTok offers a range of ad options, but not all are affordable to all advertisers; some are rather expensive and more suitable for larger brands.

In-feed Ads

These are the ads that will show within the feed on the user’s “For You Page” and natively integrate with it making them look more organic and less intrusive compared to some of the other formats.

Additionally, users can interact with these ads as they can like, share and leave comments.

TikTok For BusinessScreenshot from TikTok For Business, April 2022

Brand Takeover Ads

Suited for brands looking to make an impression and with a budget that allows it, this ad is visually effective and memorable.

A Brand Takeover ad will show as soon as the user opens the app and visits a category with a short full-screen video for three to five seconds.

TikTok only allows one takeover per day per user to maximize the impact.

As mentioned, this comes at a cost. You will have to budget a minimum of $50,000 for it.

TopView Ads

Similar to a Brand Takeover ad, TopView ads will also show at the top of the user feed and are the first video users see when they open the app.

They also show on full-screen. However, they can be up to 60 seconds long.

According to TikTok, TopView ads boost brand awareness and trigger interactions, with 72% of users saying they prefer TopView.

TikTok For Business Balenciaga adScreenshot from TikTok For Business, April 2022

Hashtag Challenge

Branded hashtag challenges are ad formats that promote awareness and engagement, and encourage users to create content aligned with the brand’s products, services, and values.

Hashtag ads are shown at the top of the discovery page and lead to a landing page on TikTok showcasing a collection of other videos from the challenge.

TikTok For Business Photosi adScreenshot from TikTok For Business, April 2022

Branded Effects

Similar to other platforms, TikTok Branded Effects allow brands to create their very own stickers, lenses, and general effects that users can share and engage with the business using TikTok’s AR.

Branded Effects can last up to 10 days.

TikTok For Business slide featureScreenshot from TikTok For Business, April 2022

Spark Ads

Spark ads are a native format that leverages existing posts and turns them into ads.

Brands can use their own organic posts, or posts made by creators, and all views, comments, shares, likes, and follows are attributed to the organic post.

Search Ads

As of the previous week, TikTok has started testing search ads – video ads with a ‘sponsored’ label displayed within the users’ search results.

Once you start running ads in search results, you may retrieve the search terms for the ads that converted and utilize those terms with high click-through rates as titles for your best-performing TikToks, to add value to your video advertisements.

While it is unclear if search ads are only for managed accounts, we do know this is an excellent opportunity to get in front of your target audience with high purchase intent.

Final Considerations

Now that we have quickly seen which ad formats are available to advertisers on TikTok let’s discuss what it takes to build a good and effective ad.

We have seen that TikTok is quite a different platform from other social media networks, and as such, content creation and distribution must take those differences into account.

First, there is a strong sense of community within TikTok.

This is likely because a large majority of its users are part of a young generation that strongly resonates with authentic content.

These users want to engage with brands that are also authentic and share common values.

With that in mind, it is pivotal that the content advertised is natural and adds value to TikTok users.

Boosted organic posts, UGC, or sponsored creators’ content are all good options for businesses that treat the platform as a long-term investment and are willing to get started with TikTok ads.

With these TikTok ad basics, best practices, and recommendations under your belt, you’ll have a good leg up on the competition in TikTok advertising.

More resources: 

Featured Image: maridart/Shutterstock

Andrea Atzori

Andrea Atzori is a digital marketing expert and the co-founder and director of Ambire, an award-winning digital marketing agency based ...

TikTok Ads For Beginners: A Complete Guide & Steps To Success

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