From followership to friendship: strategies for creating connection on TikTok

From followership to friendship: strategies for creating connection on TikTok

September 20, 2023
5 min read

In the ‘Insight to Impact with Mintel Consulting’ series, thought leaders on our Marketing Intelligence team expand on research and insights identified in Mintel Comperemedia research. Today’s article is inspired by Compremedia’s Winning Strategies: Key Brand Opportunities on TikTok, and explores platform content recommendations for CPG, beauty and retail brands. 

There is no denying the power and popularity of TikTok, which gained traction amid the pandemic and now boasts over one billion active monthly users. From its short video content style to its algorithm that creates a hyper-personalized experience, the platform is the first of its kind in many ways. Perhaps more important than new capabilities and innovative features, TikTok is playing an important role in helping consumers find and feel connection; something many have found more difficult in an increasingly digital, post-pandemic world.

Rather than disrupt consumers’ carefully curated feeds with overt ads, brands should consider how to contribute to the platform’s positive movement. Using brand attributes, products and people to facilitate a sense of connection and community can transcend traditional advertising, ultimately driving brand equity and acquisition.

Be a mutual friend

Life tasks and routines such as work, grocery shopping, exercise and socialization are increasingly turning toward the home, making it more challenging than ever to build social connections. According to recent Mintel research, 57% of consumers agree they find it challenging to make new friends, and 45% wish they had more friends.

While an increasingly digital life can promote feelings of loneliness and isolation, seven in 10 TikTok users agree TikTok makes them feel like they are a part of a community. In the early months of the pandemic, brands rallied together to keep consumers’ social lives afloat by hosting virtual cooking classes, happy hours and workout classes. Now, many brands are leaning on TikTok as a fresh way to meet consumers’ ongoing need for support in the areas of socialization and friendship.

 “From booktok to fintok, TikTok fosters real-time engagement and connection among individuals over shared interests”

-Marisa Frys, Digital Marketing Analyst  

An emphasis on friendship and togetherness is a common theme among brands finding success on the platform. In the below examples, Crocs recommends a shoe swap with your bestie, Target provides product recommendations to meet new people in college, and Dunkin’ encourages viewers to surprise their friend with a bevy.


Pro tip find a bestie with the same size feet 💕 #CrocTok #Sportmode

♬ original sound – Crocs

Be So For Real (bsfr)

Social media and advertising in general have both been faulted for creating unrealistic standards, negatively impacting consumers’ confidence and well-being.

Mintel’s recent research on Multicultural Young Adults & Social Media shows six in 10 consumers aged 18-34 agree they feel more connected to brands and retailers that use everyday people in their ads. As a result, brands have increasingly said no to photoshop and filters over the last few years, leaning on more minimal production styles and less editing. 

The short video format and casual nature of TikTok can help brands build upon the preference for authenticity and further humanize themselves. Brands can use TikTok to challenge traditional advertising norms by speaking to consumers in an everyday, conversational way, granting exposure to company leadership and pulling back the curtain on products and production.

“TikTokers don’t gatekeep; users and creators are open to sharing new discoveries and products that have impacted their lives and are encouraged to collaborate on thoughts and ideas.”

-Marisa Frys, Digital Marketing Analyst 

Aerie uses TikTok to further introduce the brand’s “everyday” models, Cocokind commonly shares in-depth information on product ingredients, production and suggested usage and makeup brand founder Patrick Ta reveals his best tips from his experience as a celebrity makeup artist.


No retouching. Always REAL! #AerieReals #MyAerie 🎥: @Balkanina

♬ original sound – aerie

Our new chlorophyll discoloration serum is here! Here is a deep dive on what to expect💚 #hyperpigmentation #chlorophyll #serum #darkspots #cocokind

♬ original sound – cocokind

Try Using My Technique Using My Major Headlines Cream Blush Over Powder @patricktabeauty In Shade She’s A Doll

♬ original sound – patrick ta

Be a TikTok Tutor

Similar to any other social media app, consumers’ primary goal on TikTok is to be entertained. However, there is an emerging behavior, to use the platform as a tool for searching and learning. This trend is especially prominent among younger consumers. The core TikTok demographic is in the midst of a pivotal, transitional life stage, and brands can play a role in ushering them into adulthood in a non-intimidating way.

Mintel data on Marketing to Gen Z shows that TikTok is second only to YouTube as the social platform best suited for learning something new. This educational hook creates room for brands to educate on the topics they are uniquely qualified to talk about. Given that nearly 7 in 10 TikTok users agree the app feels like a safe space, instruction and information should be approachable, digestible and fun. 

This can be an especially effective strategy for brands in categories related to everyday life skills and responsibilities such as cooking, cleaning or health. In the below examples, Chipotle shares some must-know avocado hacks, Home Depot rounds up essential tools for first-time homeowners and OxiClean teaches TikTokers how to keep their whites bright.


Need to brighten your whites? Here’s how with OxiClean White Revive. 🤍 #oxiclean #cleaninghacks #cleantok #cleaning #laundryhacks #laundrytok #laundry

♬ original sound – OxiClean

What we think

Meeting consumers where they are, with what they need, is the golden rule of any effective marketing strategy. To gain momentum on TikTok, brands should focus less on logistics, such as scripts, production and posting times, and more on the emotion that stops scrollers’ fingers. Facilitating connection, both virtual and IRL, humanizing the brand, its people and its products, and offering approachable education are three ways brands can begin to conquer the algorithm and find their TikTok tribe.

If you’re interested in learning more about how your brand can create connections on TikTok, please reach out to speak with a Mintel Consultant today.

Sydney Olson
Sydney Olson

Sydney Olson is a Senior Marketing Intelligence Strategist for Mintel Consulting.

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