TikTok challenges: what they are and why they’re great for brands
Totally new to the concept of TikTok challenges?
Challenges are a cornerstone of TikTok and represent some of the platform’s most popular videos. From the dance-offs to make-up hacks and beyond, TikTok creators aren’t shy about answering the call to create content.
Heck, TikTok hashtag challenges like the #OldTownRoadChallenge or Chipotle’s #GuacDance boasts over a billion views each.
Perfect for building awareness and encouraging awesome user-generated content, brands are rightfully scrambling to find TikTok hashtags for their own challenges.
But getting engagement for a challenge doesn’t happen by accident.
Below we break down which TikTok challenges work and the best practices for brands looking to leverage them.
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What are TikTok challenges?
Challenges on TikTok are campaigns (or trends) that invite people to create their own videos based on performing a specific task. These tasks might include:
- Displaying a talent
- Showing off how you use a product (for example, achieving a certain look with a beauty product)
- Using a filter
- Performing a dance or skit
- Lipsyncing with a specific TikTok sound
Hashtags make these trends and the content created for them more visible and easier to find. Although some TikTok challenges are totally organic (like the #OldTownRoadChallenge), others represent branded promotions (like #GuacDance).
What are some examples of popular TikTok hashtag challenges?
Below are some notable TikTok challenge campaigns that highlight what challenges look like and the kind of engagement they can drive:
- Guess’ #InMyDenim challenge is an early TikTok success story. Inviting TikTokers to show off their denim fits, the campaign resulted in 5,500+ user-generated videos and 10 million views during its initial run.
- wet n wild’s #BiggerIsBetter challenge, a product launch centered around a brand-created TikTok sound which earned a staggering 1.5 million video creations.
- Scotts #DoTheScottsSlide, a challenge that invited creators to recreate a dance outside on their lawns as well as entering a sweepstake contest. This branded hashtag challenge resulted in 2 billion video views and 1.3 million user videos created in only two days.
What are the main types of TikTok challenges?
Let’s look at a snapshot of the various types of challenges on TikTok and how they’re different.
Branded challenges are challenge-based campaigns created by a brand. Typically, brands partner with creators to promote these types of challenges to drive awareness for both the promotion’s hashtag and the challenge itself.
Community challenges are totally organic, usually stemming from a viral trend or question that’s been buzzing on TikTok. These challenges aren’t tied to a specific brand or product.
Similarly, community challenges are more niche and speak to a smaller set of creators versus the entirety of TikTok. The #3MinuteMakeupChallenge is a good example of this.
According to recent data from TikTok, hashtag usage and categorization have grown by more than 150% since 2021. TikTok communities (think: beauty, fashion, fitness, gaming) all have their own sets of unique challenges and respective audiences.
Uncovering trending community challenges often means spending time engaging with your target audience and customers. Unfortunately, TikTok’s native search leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to finding challenges.
Although community challenges are organic, many of them do involve the usage of products or shout-outs to brands. For example, plenty of beauty brands got mentioned last summer when the Farrah Fawcett Flip was trending.
Hashtag challenge ads are a TikTok ad format that serves as a takeover of the platform’s discovery page. Reserved for big box brands, these hashtags are denoted by the “sponsored” label but otherwise look like they’re organic.
The most common goal of these challenge-based tags is encouraging user-generated content. Below is a straightforward but effective example via Calvin Klein’s #OnlyInMyCalvins challenge.
What are the benefits of promoting TikTok challenges?
If you’re skeptical about whether TikTok challenges are worth it, we get it.
That said, there’s a reason why challenge hashtags have become a staple of using TikTok for business.
Granted you have the appropriate audience to participate in a challenge, below’s a breakdown of the potential benefits.
Earn meaningful UGC for your brand
Want to engage your audience, introduce yourself to new customers and get some valuable user-generated content at the same time? Challenges can make it happen.
That’s because hashtag challenges serve as a natural call-and-response between you and your audience. Coupled with an incentive (think: a contest, reposting), challenges represent a powerful motivator to get people posting about your brand.
Sure, some industries like beauty and fashion lend themselves to challenges more than others. That said, products and brands go viral on TikTok all the time. Look no further than the 10+ billion views on #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt for evidence.
Build brand awareness
It’s no secret that competition is fierce on TikTok as the platform rapidly expands its audience.
The more people you have talking about you, the better. According to TikTok themselves, branded hashtag challenges can drive “unparalleled” awareness and engagement.
Why? Because challenges put your brand front in center in the feeds of creators. Given that “everyday” accounts typically earn more reach than branded accounts, participating in a challenge is more likely to get more eyes on your brand. This explains why many of the branded TikTok challenges noted above center around partnerships with creators and influencers.
Establish your brand’s personality and voice
Recent social media demographics highlight TikTok’s younger audience versus competing platforms.
Speaking to Gen Z and the younger crowd means speaking their language. Most TikTok hashtag challenges are playful, fun and don’t feel like traditional promotions.
Translation? Rather than stick to stuffier ads and promos, challenges allow you to do something unique and relevant for your TikTok audience.
Capitalize on relevant TikTok trends
Keeping up with TikTok trends can be tough how quickly content moves on the platform.
That said, hopping on trends (and trending audio) is one of the best ways to engage the TikTok community at large. Trending challenges create a sense of immediacy as participants want their video to shine while a trend is still timely.
Tips and best practices of TikTok challenges for brands
To wrap things up, here are some tips for brands that are serious about getting on board with TikTok hashtag challenges.
Consider piggybacking on challenges before creating your own
Notice that most of the branded hashtags mentioned above come from big brands and household names.
While earning millions of views on a challenge tag is possible, it’s definitely not the norm. Earning that sort of reach requires either a massive built-in audience or partnerships with influencers.
That’s why it makes more sense for up-and-coming brands to piggyback on existing challenges or trends themselves.
For example, a beauty brand is better off encouraging customers to shout them out in their #3MinuteMakeupChallenge video versus trying to build a trend from the ground up.
If you’re eager to participate in an existing challenge:
- Regularly check the “Discover” and “Sounds” sections of the app to uncover trends, popular audio and potential hashtags you can hop on.
- Make sure that any given challenge is relevant to your audience, timely (think: the tag’s recent views and traction) and isn’t owned by a competitor.
- Participate in the challenge yourself through an employee or influencer—this sets expectations for future participants.
If you’re set on starting your own challenge:
- Draw inspiration from popular challenges in your industry but avoid copycatting what’s been done before.
- As noted above, set clear expectations and rules for the challenge in terms of what you want people to create.
- Again, work with influencers and creators to raise awareness as you launch your campaign.
Pick a challenge hashtag that pops
Since TikTok has relatively small character limits your tag should be short, sweet and stylish.
Branded hashtag campaigns like #GuacDance and #InMyDenims are great examples of challenge tags. Make your challenge can’t-miss by pointing to it in your TikTok bio and content strategy.
Keep in mind that your challenge tag should be campaign-specific and not a general branded hashtag. The more subtle your hashtag is about being branded, the better.
Do TikTok challenges make sense for your brand?
Hashtag challenges are an awesome way to engage the TikTok community and grow your brand awareness, because challenges represent the best of what TikTok has to offer brands—entertaining, authentic content that gets people talking.
If you have a branded hashtag or challenge in mind, make sure you go through the steps so your tag earns the attention it deserves.
Need help in that department? Check out our guide to hashtag campaigns to learn the best practices for expanding your campaign’s reach.
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