TikTok Ads Guide: 7 Steps to Get Started (and 6 Opportunities You Don't Want to Miss Out On)

TikTok Ads Guide: 7 Steps to Get Started (and 6 Opportunities You Don’t Want to Miss Out On)

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While most business run Facebook Ads, have you considered running TikTok Ads?

TikTok is a marketing channel that too many business are overlooking. It’s proven phenomenally popular as a source of entertainment for a global audience. But it’s also a valuable marketing platform—if you know how to use it.

Our TikTok Ads Guide will help you understand the platform’s user base, the app’s benefits, and the nuts and bolts of advertising here. 

Is TikTok right for my business?

what is a _____?

TikTok has evolved from a dance meme viral platform that it was originally known as, and your mindset about the platform should evolve as well.

Since its broad launch in 2018, TikTok has attracted a massive, widely-distributed audience. The app has been downloaded more than three billion times, and is amongst the most-used social platforms in the world—surpassing Facebook Messenger in 2021. 

It is also the one with the longest average user session. Once people go onto TikTok, they tend to stick around on it for about eleven minutes at a time.

TikTok itself says that the app is available in over 150 markets in 75 languages. Take a look at the chart below, users of the app tend to be on the young side, with several members of Generation Z (i.e. people born between 1997 and 2012) making up a significant portion of the user base. 

This could mean that if you’re looking to encourage customer referrals (through refer a friend software, for example) TikTok’s audience may prove a poor fit for you. Businesses need to ensure their marketing efforts are seen by (and resonate with) their target audience.

tiktok users by gender and age

However, the number of older TikTok users is increasing. Even if TikTok isn’t something you’ve considered, its increasing popularity suggests you should at least bear it in mind going forward.

How much does TikTok cost to use?

Ad costs on TikTok are shaped by the app’s bidding model. However, there is a minimum spend you must take into account. At a campaign level you must have a daily budget of $50, and at an ad group level you must have a daily budget of $20.

Like all advertising campaigns, TikTok has significant ad costs to consider. Whether these are too high depends on your business goals and target audience. If your audience skews older, you may find TikTok a poor fit for the time being. 

Of course, the platform’s use of video may help you offset that problem. Affiliate marketing, for example, frequently makes use of video content to work more effectively. It increases conversions by expanding a brand’s audience, improving credibility, and offering content people want to see. 

Further Reading: The 16 TikTok Stats Your Business Needs to Know in 2024

How do I get started?

If you think TikTok is the right advertising platform for you, that’s great! This TikTok ads guide is here to help. After looking into how to create content and things like video editing, here’s how you set up an account and start advertising here.

You can read the instructions below, or for a shortcut, you can get started on TikTok Ads Manager here.

1. Create an account

create a TikTok ads account in TikTok business center

The first step is to, obviously, create an account with the TikTok service. However, you can’t use a typical user account. If you’re a business, similar to the Facebook Business Manager, you should get up on the TikTok Business Manager where you can easily create and add an ads account, so you need to go to the TikTok Business Manager page and create an account there. 

Fill in the information requested, and normally instantaneously you will get the following email telling you that your account has been approved:

TikTok for Business ads account approval email

If your account doesn’t get immediate approval, you will have to wait for a TikTok representative to contact you. This individual will tell you if your business qualifies for the service. 

Either way, this is a good opportunity to think about what, exactly, you want to achieve with your ad campaign. That’s because TikTok may ask you about your objectives for the campaign at this point. This sets a clear objective for the campaign and keeps you on track. 

Current options they could ask you to choose from include:

  • Show your ad to the most people
  • Send people to a particular URL
  • Encourage people to download an app
  • Maximize plays of a video advertisement
  • Collect leads with a pre-populated form
  • Get people to buy or subscribe to something
  • Prompt a purchase from a product catalog, using a dynamic advertisement

Once you’re good to go, creating an ad account inside the business manager is extremely easy to do.

2. Create & install a pixel

create a TikTok pixel

This refers to a piece of code that is added to your website. When the code is added there, it gives you important information about your site’s visitors. This includes how they arrived on the site, the device they’re currently using, and where they are in the world. Just as digital marketing performance requires that you track certain metrics, TikTok marketing depends on you tracking the outcome of your marketing efforts.

You can acquire this code by setting up a Web Event in the TikTok Ads Manager interface. Paste the resulting code into your website header to get it working properly. Before you do so, though, review the pixel’s cookie settings to make sure you’re collecting the data you want to collect. 

Once a pixel is in place, you should ensure it was installed correctly. The TikTok Pixel Helper plugin can make this task easier. 

A TikTok pixel isn’t required for installation by Tiktok. However, if you want to see how successful your marketing efforts are, it’s strongly recommended.

3. Create a campaign

tiktok ads campaign advertising objectives

With the pixel in place on your site, it’s time to put the campaign itself together. Go to the Campaign tab on the TikTok Ads dashboard and click the Create button. 

At this point, whether your aim is to drive traffic, increase conversions or boost app installs, you need to give your campaign a name that makes sense to both you and your colleagues. 

Another thing you might want to think about at this stage is how to get affiliates or recruit influencers as part of for an additional campaign. TikTok is suitable for use in affiliate or influencer marketing, as its video format makes promoting products straightforward. While this isn’t something the TikTok dashboard directly facilitates, it’s still worth considering.

Further Reading: TikTok Influencer Marketing: The Complete Guide to Get You Started

4. Set a budget

Next, choose the budget you want to set for the campaign as a whole. You can set a budget for the entire cost of the ad campaign, or set it on a daily basis instead. Depending on your broader campaign objective, you can receive a suggested bid for an ad campaign.

If money is no object, you can even choose the No Limit option for your campaign budget. Of course, for many businesses this is inadvisable.

5. Create an ad group

Within TikTok advertising there are three levels of activity to think about. A campaign refers to your overall activity, whereas ad groups and ads are functions within this campaign. Different ad groups can have different target audiences, allowing you to refine your ad strategy.

To create an ad group, you need to establish the following features:

  • Goal (e.g. encouraging people to install an app)
  • Choice of ad placement (i.e. where the ads will actually appear). Can be automated.
  • Creative type (which creates content variations and tests their engagement)
  • Target audience (defined via things such as location, gender, age group, and other criteria)
  • Delivery type (i.e. standard or accelerated delivery). Standard means your ad is shown at high-traffic times, with a consistent budget spread. Accelerated means your budget is used to maximize the number of eyes on your ad instead.

For businesses experienced in advertising on Facebook, you will a find a similar plethora of targeting options here:

tiktok ads targeting options

6. Create your ad

At last, you can get down to creating the ad itself. As you may expect, there are several different approaches you can take here.

The questions you need to ask here concern your desired advertising format. Many ads on TikTok are auction ads; to show them to your audience, you need to manually bid on an ad slot within the TikTok network. 

These in turn come with different pricing models. You can pay on a cost-per-click, cost per mille or cost per view basis. You can also (as previously established) target ads based on an audience’s age, gender, location, or something more customized.

The specific type of these ads can also vary. Some of these other formats need both a larger budget and a partnership with a TikTok account manager. However, they’re a great opportunity to boost your brand on the platform.

We’ll take a more detailed look at the types of ads you can create later.

7. Brush up on best practices

Regardless of the ad you’re making, there are some surefire strategies for marketing success. For a start, it’s best to keep your ad short. 21-34 seconds is a good target here. You should also use both sound and captions in all your videos, and add relevant hashtags regularly.

Another good move is to mix up your creative style on a regular basis. Avoid making videos that feel too overproduced, and consider working with influencers for additional authenticity. 

However, don’t forget to follow any relevant influencer guidelines. Especially when the burden of compliance falls on you, rather than the influencer.

Finally, make sure to look at your analytics to see what’s working. Views, interactions and click-through rates are especially useful metrics, and can provide insight on whether you need to try something different. Even if they’re a slightly different branch of marketing, content hubs can help you tap into what people are talking about for a data-driven marketing approach. 

Further Reading: 17 Best TikTok Management Apps for Scheduling, Analytics & Much More!

TikTok advertising opportunities

There are several different approaches you can take to advertising on TikTok, many of which have different advantages. Continue reading our TikTok ads guide to learn about some of the more popular options, and when to use each one in your marketing. 

Popular options available to you at the moment include:

1. In-feed video 

These ads appear alongside the app’s native news feed. They can be found on the ‘For You’ page. As the standard ad format on the app, they offer many points of interactivity; users can like, comment on and share them, or interact with a clickable CTA (call to action) button. As such, they’re a great choice for a variety of business objectives. 

2. Spark ads

These ads allow you to use organic TikTok posts for advertising purposes. You can use either your own content or somebody else’s—as long as you get permission to do so. This could be part of a broader partner marketing strategy.


Spark ads lend your marketing a greater sense of authenticity, and support popular TikTok features like Duet, Stitch and Sticker. They also frequently lead to an increase in ad performance, as well as long-lasting market impact and improved return on investment.

3. Image ads

These visual-led advertisements can be placed in TikTok’s news feed apps: specifically, BuzzVideo, TopBuzz and Babe. They include some kind of image, a brand/app name, a description and a CTA button. There are some limitations with regards to text and image resolution.

4. Brand takeover

This refers to a large-format ad that pops up when someone first opens TikTok. It appears across the entire screen for a moment before transitioning into an in-feed video ad. While impactful, only one advertiser can use them each day.


5. Hashtag challenge

This ad type encourages users to create additional content using a shared hashtag that you create. The hashtag accompanies a video of something that’s easy and appealing to reproduce, such as a dance move. 

Hashtag challenge ads give you a lot of leeway on both the content and tone of your advertisement. They’re also suitable for encouraging ad engagement amongst your users, and spreading a marketing message without your direct involvement.

Here is a brief introduction to them straight from TikTok!


Starting a Branded Hashtag Challenge? Check out these best practices to make the most of your moment! #tiktoktips #tiktokmarketing

♬ original sound – TikTok for Business

This ad type allows you to share a series of at least two (and up to 10) images, each with unique captions. This allows you to include multiple URLs within a single ad. Square and horizontal images are both supported. 


Carousel ads offer clear storytelling opportunities. They’re also ideal if you want to run TikTok ads for ecommerce purposes, as the carousel lets you show multiple different products (and CTAs) within a single advert. 

If you’re struggling for content ideas (rather than mere advertising formats) you may want to consider this article on finding fresh content ideas. It’ll give you a jumping-off point for re-using content and exploring new approaches to your marketing. 

That’s a wrap!

TikTok is a marketing channel all businesses should keep an eye on. A rapidly diversifying audience and a flexible content platform each offer multiple opportunities. 

To use TikTok effectively, you need to have a clear sense of your resources and business goals. You also need to understand the features that TikTok has to offer, and which ones are best suited for your marketing campaign. Take the steps in this TikTok ads guide to best capitalize on an exciting social media platform.

Further Reading: TikTok Marketing: 5 Reasons Why, 5 Strategy Tips How, and 5 Examples to Help You Master the Channel

Author Bio

Sam O’Brien is the Chief Marketing Officer for Affise—a Global SaaS Partner Marketing Solution. He is a growth marketing expert with a product management and design background. Sam has a passion for innovation, growth, and marketing technology. Sam has also written for other domains such as Brightpearl and Marketing AI Institute. Here is his LinkedIn.

Hero photo by Jonathan Kemper on Unsplash

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