‘Perfection is passé’: Creativity and joy are fuelling the TikTok #beauty surge

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

TikTok offers users a space to be creative and have fun, which holds plenty of opportunity for beauty brands to get involved [Getty Images]
TikTok offers users a space to be creative and have fun, which holds plenty of opportunity for beauty brands to get involved [Getty Images]

Related tags TikTok Social media Instagram social commerce digital marketing online beauty 4.0

The unfathomable rise of TikTok can no longer be ignored by beauty brands, as swathes of users engage with the social media platform daily; appreciated for its openness and sense of community, say experts.

In 2020, TikTok became the most non-gaming downloaded app in the world, with around 800m active monthly users today; around 100m of which were based in Europe. And in 2021, it was now primed to become the highest revenue-generating app in the world – a spot currently held by dating app Tinder, according to specialist ad firm The Pull Agency said.

TikTok recently unveiled its social commerce pilot programme in the UK​, featuring L’Oréal mega brands Garnier and NYX Professional Make-Up, that generated plenty of buzz in the beauty space. But according to TikTok executives, it had only recently been taken seriously by industry.

So, as downloads and daily interactions continued to soar on TikTok, just how important was it for beauty brands to be present? Was there truly a competitive advantage?

TikTok versus Instagram, Facebook and Twitter – it’s all about engagement

“Users are spending more time on TikTok than any other social app,”​ said Virginia Girtz, head of digital marketing at The Pull Agency.

Speaking during a dedicated online B2B workshop this week entitled TikTok & The Beauty Industry – The New Power Couple​, Girtz said it was this level of user engagement that really stood TikTok up above the rest.

“Engagement rates here are like no other social media platform,”​ she said. Average engagement across the entire platform sat at 17.5%; this compared to Instagram’s 4.4%, according to Girtz. And profiles with larger followings – upwards of 500,000 – also retained strong engagement rates unlike other platforms, she said, which was especially good for creating and maintaining brand awareness.

“…The reason for TikTok audiences being super engaged is because of the algorithm; it’s unlike any other social app.”​ When users watched or liked videos, she said TikTok automatically fed them similar and highly tailored content, irrespective of how new that content was.

But, Girtz said the appeal of TikTok ran deeper than just a smart algorithm.

‘TikTok is about community’ – there’s no sense of perfection

Compared to other platforms, notably Instagram that had a very polished look and feel, she said TikTok offered a very different online space for users.

“Instagram is great for those beautiful images; beautifully-staged product photos; beautiful people. It’s a bit like a fashion magazine – it’s glossy and inspirational. Users will want to see this type of content and they still need a space to post that inspirational self (…) But TikTok is about community.”

Ben Waterhouse, content and social media manager at The Pull Agency, agreed: “Perfection is passé. Beauty used to be about looking perfect. Not anymore. Gen Z have rejected that Insta aesthetic – that’s kind of behind the rise of TikTok. Beauty on TikTok is all about creativity and joy, not perfection.”

And this, Waterhouse said, was where TikTok aligned with today’s beauty consumer.

“Seeing a pretty face is nice, but discovering how someone transformed themselves is fascinating. For users, it brings them into the story (…) and makes it more tangible and real. Beauty is storytelling, and it’s important to remember this. On TikTok, it’s not just the makeup that matters most, it’s the story behind it – tutorials, advice and how-tos make it more attainable,” ​he said.

Create content that is ‘entertaining, relatable or meaningful’

Being successful on the platform, therefore, required creativity from brands, Girtz said.

“To be successful on TikTok, you need to be creative. It has to be entertaining, relatable or meaningful,”​ she said.

“Be proactive. Don’t be afraid of starting the trend instead of following it. If it flops, don’t worry about it. Be fun because it gives people an excuse to be silly and smile. Think about how your products can be used in a fun or silly way to get people engaged with your brand in a personal way (…) Playful is better than polished.”

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