Rana Barakat, Head of Growth, Global Business Solutions – TikTok METAP, highlights how TikTok for Business helps startups in the region gain global visibility of their brands in a cost-effective way.
How would you describe the startup landscape in the region and globally?
The last 2 years have shown the world how much it needs small, agile enterprises that can quickly adapt to an unpredictable economic, anthropological and technological environment. Startups proliferated like no other time before, because the recent global changes provided them with the main fuel of entrepreneurship. Change.
The increasing interconnectedness of the world has meant that good ideas, good solutions, can be imported from anywhere and deployed to serve any community in a matter of weeks – so the success of start-ups globally has seen a dramatic increase in the availability of localisable solutions – and therefore, the success of local startups. Just in the last 2 months, we have seen 3 regional startups list themselves on the NYSE – something that I believe, 3 or 4 years ago wouldn’t have even been within realms of possibility.
Data from Taylor Wessing show us that last year investor confidence in the MENA start-up space increased 13% increase year over year, which equates to just over USD $1 billion invested.
As countries continue to cautiously open up due to the increased availability of some preventive measures like vaccines, there’s fresh optimism sweeping the region – both from a consumer and business perspective, and with that come even bigger and bolder opportunities, particularly around mapping out some of the solutions built during the periods of decreased movement to the offline world. This coupled with the backing and support from government and private entities, who clearly saw the potential of and growth in small businesses, it’s clear to see that the startup community will continue going from strength to strength in the years to come.
What is the importance of startups to your business in the Middle East?
The Startup ecosystem, in the region, as a percentage of total advertising spend, outstrips large organisations probably 10 to 1 – and while the ad spend per SME is considerably smaller than the large players, the sheer number and variety of small enterprises in our region is incredible in both its breadth and it’s variety of needs. However, what these startups lack in size, they more than make up for in agility and bravery.
It was a startup that first used our TikTok Creator Marketplace, a (large) startup that first showed the region how to run a live commerce campaign on our platform and they will be the ones, probably, who will crack the next big branding trend on TikTok.
In a nutshell – SMEs are incredibly important for platforms like TikTok – commercially, of course, but also in terms of innovation and trendsetting – which then emboldens and enables more advertisers to adopt what we have to offer.
What kind of initiatives do you run for startups in the region?
With limited resources and advertising options, we understand that brand building and marketing at scale can be challenging and costly for startups during their first years in business . That’s why we continually look to expand our offering for startups in the region, whether that is rolling out new products, running workshops/insight days specifically curated for them or launching new initiatives in partnership with government stakeholders to address business needs and empower them to reach their potential.
Our recently launched Dubai Chamber TikTok Academy rolled out in partnership Dubai Chamber with the aim to help thousands of SMEs and startups to receive specialized training courses through an educational programme designed to develop and enhance digital growth strategies. Moreover, the TikTok SMB Academy – a first-of-its-kind virtual educational platform in the MENAT region which has been created specifically with startups in mind, is equipping them with the knowledge and tools needed to be creative storytellers and carve out impactful content on the platform.
How is the response from the startups to your programs in the region so far?
we have only been operating in this market for about 2 years, we ran some very focused programs for the startup community including the launch of TikTok SMB Academy and more recently the partnership with Dubai Chamber to roll out a 5-week educational programme called Dubai Chamber TikTok Academy.
The response from the startup community towards our initiatives has been overwhelming and humbling, as has the amount of trust they have placed in our platform as a way to find and engage with new prospects and existing customers. This is just the beginning of our efforts to support local businesses, watch this space.
Share a recent success story in brief that could be a source of inspiration for the startup community?
Uncle Fluffy is a UAE Based franchiser of Japanese cheesecake who understood, early on, the power of fun and engaging content on TikTok.
Uncle Fluffy wanted to expand their existing engagement and take it to the next level through promoted ads to reach 1 Million followers. What better way to leverage the engaging content created for TikTok to gain further followers!
Given that the Uncle Fluffy team was always keen on testing new products, they were one of the first few advertisers granted to test the engagement objective in order to acquire followers. The Uncle Fluffy team was up for the challenge and has worked with the TikTok team closely to select some of their most engaging TikToks – a quick win to cater to the campaign’s timelines. A wide variety of videos were selected; from leveraging TikTok trends, to storytelling teasers and product focused videos, Uncle Fluffy had 11 different TikToks that they used as Spark ads.
The fan acquisition campaign achieved outstanding results, within just 14 days Uncle Fluffy was able to hit 1M followers by driving 878,000 new followers. And the best part? This result was achieved at a cost per follower that is 70% lower than other platforms where the client ran similar campaigns.
What advice have you to offer to all the budding startups and entrepreneurs who wish to start a new venture?
I am constantly awed by the success stories that I read and hear about – I think that starting up a business is one of the bravest things anyone can do.
The only advice I can give is what I have learned from the last year at TikTok – be brave enough to be yourself and let your brand be authentic. Listen to your audience, engage them, laugh with them and laugh at yourself. This is a new era for brands. One where people have options and alternatives galore, the brands that will come out on top are the ones that people choose that they like because of what they represent and how they engage as opposed to what they produce.