A TikTok guide for Hospitality Venues

Marketing 15 minute read 25th February 2021

You’ve probably seen a TikTok video or two already this year. Even if you’re not on the platform yourself, it’ll have arrived via a WhatsApp message or been shared on a platform you do frequent, like Twitter or Facebook.

It is, without doubt, the latest social media sensation. But if you discard the skits, impressions and dog shenanigans, and peel back the surface of TikTok, you’ll find an incredibly impressive social media platform that’s ripe for marketing.

Powered by some of the most sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI) the world has seen, TikTok is expected to be worth billions if it’s ever floated on the stock market.

But does this mean you should use it as a marketing channel if you’re running a hospitality business? Is there really any value in TikTok marketing at the moment?

There really is. And let’s be honest, that’s why you’re reading this blog post!

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Ok, I’ll bite. What is this TikTok?


TikTok’s raison d’etre is beautifully simple. It provides a platform on which people can create and share short videos.

Unlike the short-form video platforms of old (think Vine), TikTok has opted for 15-second max recording times for each video. However, users can then string together four of these for a maximum of 60 seconds.

Despite this, videos created elsewhere and uploaded to TikTok can actually be longer than 60 seconds.

That’s it. TikTok bundles in the usual effects you expect from modern camera apps, but its beauty lies in simplicity. This has led to the platform being primarily used for short comedic skits, dance-offs, lip-syncing and viral challenges.

Who is using TikTok?


At the time of writing, TikTok has around 800 million active users across the world. That places it just within the top 10 social media sites, but it comfortably beats the likes of LinkedIn, Twitter and even Snapchat.

In Q1 of 2019, TikTok became the most downloaded app on the App Store with a staggering 33 million downloads in just three months. As you’d expect, that has led to a sizeable and pretty eclectic user base.

Around 41% of TikTok users are aged between 16 to 24. But there are plenty of older users on there, too. Certainly, the sheer speed with which content on the platform is shared across other networks means it is rapidly reaching the status of a household name and therefore prompting other generations to take a peek at what they’re missing out on.

For hospitality businesses, TikTok represents a rich hunting ground of potential customers and brand advocates.

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What kind of content works on TikTok?

Imagery has become more important than ever in hospitality. But TikTok has taken proves that video offers a next level of authenticity and engagement.

Most importantly, it has made short-form video content eminently digestible and shareable, contributing to a surge in the ‘trend culture’. This is why the best performing content on TikTok is often the stuff which can be easily replicated by everyone.

You’ll see this in the form of dance videos and challenges. They’re not new concepts, but TikTok appears to have finally provided a platform from which to share one’s participation. The fact that celebrities regularly get involved themselves certainly helps drive attention towards TikTok trend content.

Despite this, there are other forms of content which appear to work really well. Original, creative videos may not be as easily copied by the audience, but TikTok’s requirement to distil the message down to just a few seconds makes them far more impactful.

There’s one theme threaded through most TikTok videos, though: humour. Whether it’s laugh-out-loud funny or simply capable of drawing out a wry smile, TikTok content has arrived at a time when people arguably need it most. And brands are cottoning on to how powerful this might be.

What you need to know about TikTok as a business

When TikTok was launched in 2016, its creators will undoubtedly have had grander plans for it to become a key marketing channel for businesses. We’re now reaching the point where that’s becoming a reality. In 2020, TikTok surpassed two billion downloads, which means the audience is approaching YouTube levels.

However, before you get involved in TikTok marketing for your business, there’s some homework you need to do.

  • Thoroughly research how TikTok works. We’ve scratched the surface today, but a quick search of Google will reveal countless articles and guides which will help you get under the skin of TikTok. That’ll help you understand how it could benefit your business.

  • TikTok’s ads platform is now fully explorable, so take time to understand how it work to see if it’s worth spending some of your budget on.

  • Think about how you can encourage your audience to respond to or copy your TikTok content. This is what the platform is all about, after all.

  • Create a persona for your business. The face of the brand you show on TikTok needs to be unpretentious and capable of poking fun at itself. At the moment, that might not be how you see your business.

The above will take you a while, but it’s worth the effort. Because then you can move onto the exciting TikTok marketing ideas below.

5 ideas for TikTok venue marketing


So, how do you put TikTok to work for your business?

The great thing about TikTok’s simplicity is that it encourages simple marketing tactics. And, as we know, those always result in the most successful marketing strategies.

With that in mind, here are five great ideas for TikTok marketing if you run a hospitality business.

1. Native ads TikTok native ads are bit like Instagram stories in that you can add website links and product order buttons to your content. They appear within users’ feeds, and are skippable, but get the content right, and you’ll catch their eyes. TikTok advises that a successful ad has the same attributes as a successful TikTok video, they should be imperceptible, not just a blatant promotion. It’s all about the quality of content.

2. Hashtag challenges Think of a challenge (or copy one - that’s fine) and create your own hashtag related to it. Then, film each of your staff members (if they’re up for it) undertaking the challenge and post the resulting videos on TikTok. Share them on your other social feeds, too.

Check out a campaign from Mexican food chain Chipotle which asked users to Use the morph effect to show past Halloween looks and their latest costume this year. Users had to Include the hashtags #Boorito, #contest, and use the Monster Mash sound. Six winners bagged free Chipotle for a year!


halloween 2020 be like 👻 show ur best costumes using ##boorito, ##contest & this sound. you could win 1yr of free @chipotle 🌯 terms: chip.tl/boo ##ad

♬ Monster Mash (Ethan Fields Remix) - Chipotle

3. Show your skills One minute might seem like a very short amount of time to show someone how to do anything, but the time restriction is one of TikToks strengths. Discard unnecessary information and you’ll end up with a snappy, watchable and engaging video. Maybe that’s making a house cocktail, a chef demonstrating some of the basics, or a walkthrough behind the scenes of your venue. Be authentic and make every second count.

We’re fans of chef @sad_papi who has carved out a niche in showing high-quality cooking skills.


I was told to change my outfit more often :) ##foodtiktok ##tiktokcooks ##learnontiktok ##frenchfry

♬ cantina band ~ star wars lofi - Closed on Sunday

4. Jump on a trend See something that makes you laugh on TikTok? Maybe there was a challenge posted that you reckon you could conquer. Even if it’s totally unrelated to your business, go for it; get involved! Trending topics on TikTok are what gets brands noticed. Copying and adapting trends is one of the building blocks of the platform and can be a quick and effective way to build traction.

5. Lip sync! Songs, film scenes, other TikTok videos. They all get the lip-sync treatment. Adapt a video and feature your venue or staff and you’ll take advantage that the sound you’ve used is already recognised by the TikTok algorithm. It’ll add warmth to your brand and give your staff a moment in the spotlight, without them feeling uncomfortable about speaking on camera.

We’re still in the early days of TikTok, but no one can argue with how quickly it has grown. That means it really is worthwhile jumping on board now while interest is at its peak as it will become increasingly harder to build an audience as more people join the platform.

The potential audience is huge and ready to be significantly engaged with your content. So, what are you waiting for?

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