James Arnold, Chief Digital Officer at Rooster

For the second year in a row, TikTok earned praise from users as having the most engaging ads for consumers, according to a Kantar study. Now the seventh-largest social media network in the world, TikTok allows users to make short videos, generally 15 seconds to three minutes in length, in different genres such as comedy or dance.

It’s edgy. Controversial. A little gross, to be honest. There are a lot of things not to like, chief among them the fact that it offers the chance for the under-20 crowd to operate as global trendsetters. But engagement is off-the-charts; its users today spend 80 minutes per day on the platform, compared to 58 minutes on Facebook. The more engaged the audience, the better for brands.

So, is it time for ag agencies and companies to jump on the TikTok bandwagon? Probably not. But like the internet circa 1993, or Facebook in 2009, this is a trend that’s not going away. And it’s worth taking the time to get acquainted with the platform.

Who is using TikTok? If you said kids, you’re right – sort of. TikTok has more than 1 billion users worldwide, with 80 million active users in the U.S. This puts the service looking up at Facebook (302 million), YouTube (197 million), Instagram (115 million), and Snapchat (105 million), but it’s gaining rapidly. It has engaging content built for the short attention span audience, which is why so many young people are avid fans.

At last count, 62 percent of TikTok users were younger than 30, and most of these were younger than 20. But this means that nearly 40 percent of the base is older than 30, and a surprising number of GenX and even Boomers are getting on board. TikTok launched by targeting the cool and hip younger crowd before attracting the early-adopting older, more B2B-marketable set.

Having said that, TikTok is still a young person’s medium. Which is why you’ll find scores of dubious challenges on the platform, such as filing your own teeth, eating Tide pods, or mocking those with disabilities. Few ag companies will be able to walk the brand safety line that’s required on TikTok, as a single swipe could easily lead to a scantily clad person dancing (or worse). But if you’re targeting a younger audience, such as FFA members, or trying to recruit high school or college students, TikTok can offer opportunities other media can’t.

How to use TikTok. Recently I’ve seen a publisher put music behind free-flowing headlines of the day, and an ag company repurposing a 15-second spot it created for YouTube. Both of these are bad ideas. The reason TikTok’s ads are so engaging is because marketers treat the medium differently. The ads have to be just as cool and entertaining as the content they’re interrupting. It’s native, how native should always have operated.

If you’re going to use TikTok successfully, you have to treat it as a standalone effort. One way is to create your own YouTube channel, invest a little into that audience, and test and play to see what hits and what doesn’t to drive people to the channel. Better yet, if you haven’t used TikTok at all, find social influencers who are using it successfully and partner with them. Their audiences have already self-selected for ag interest, and you can piggyback on their popularity with appropriate-for-the-channel messaging.

How much does TikTok cost? Like all media, it depends. Brand takeovers, with 5 million guaranteed impressions, run more than $50,000 per day, far more than most ag companies are willing to spend. But there are several ways marketers can advertise on the platform, from in-feed ads to branded hashtags to lead generation tools.

In-feed ads, the video ads displayed inside the native news feed on the viewer’s “For You Page” are the most economical, with CPMs as low as $1 and CPCs as low as 19 cents. Your total advertising cost on TikTok will be similar to what you spend on other social channels. If it makes sense for an ag company to be there, the price isn’t necessarily a limiting factor.

But there’s the question we started with: Does it make sense for an ag company to advertise on TikTok? In my humble opinion, not yet. The audience is wrong, and the risks are too high. But I’m going to keep a close eye on this platform. Once all the teenagers have moved on to the next new/cool space, this could be a viable way to reach ag customers.