A TikTok exec who holds 'growth strategy sessions' with brands explains her key takeaways for using the platform effectively

  • TikTok's fashion and beauty partnerships lead, CeCe Vu, holds "growth strategy sessions" with brands to advise them how be successful on the platform.
  • Her big message: trust creators.
  • Business Insider spoke with Vu about her 6 key takeaways for brands, from co-creating with influencers through features like duets to leaning into the comments.
  • "My role is to help [brands] realize what they can actually do," she said.
  • Subscribe to Business Insider's influencer newsletter: Insider Influencers.

TikTok's fashion and beauty partnerships lead, CeCe Vu, has one major message for brands: trust creators. 

For TikTok and its creators, 2020 has been a roller coaster of growth and political uncertainty. And for brands, dipping their toes into marketing on TikTok has not been an easy transition.

While the app has spurred a rise of short-form video content across platforms (such as Instagram launching its TikTok copycat, Reels), brands still face challenges when it comes to understanding how to use TikTok. 

What trend should a brand take part in? Will that video be seen by the audience a brand intends to reach? 

That's where Vu comes in.

"My role is to help them realize what they can actually do," she told Business Insider. She works with fashion and beauty brands across the industry – big and small — on strategizing how they can make engaging content on TikTok. 

Vu said that compared to some other platforms, where a more "glossy, picture-perfect image" performs best, TikTok success stories often involve videos that are more personal and re-creatable. 

"There's a whole culture of co-creation," she continued, where influencers create with each other, followers can create with their favorite stars, and brands, too, can create with both influencers and consumers.

In an interview with Business Insider, Vu broke down what she thinks brands should focus on, including how to use the app's creator marketplace and new features.

Here are some of Vu's takeaways for brands using TikTok: 

  • Trust creators and allow them "the freedom to make the content that would work for them." Vu pointed to influencer Bryan Yambao (better known as Bryanboy) as an example of this. While his Instagram content is fashion-focused, his TikTok has a comedic twist. "So if a brand is working with Bryan, they should understand the kind of content direction he would be going with, instead of forcing him to make a fashion [post]," Vu said. 
  • Co-create with creators on TikTok using features like duets or using the stitch tools. These allow users to merge two videos into one and "interact with their consumers" with content about how to use a product, maybe as a DIY or life hack (which do well on TikTok, Vu added).
  • Respond to comments in a video using TikTok's in-app feature. Vu described this as a way to "really connect and reward the community," and so far, it has worked for media brands like NPR's "Planet Money" podcast.
  • Participate in viral challenges, hashtags, or trends. One example Vu highlighted was luxury fashion brand JW Anderson, which was part of a viral DIY challenge this summer where people re-created their own version of a sweater worn by pop star Harry Styles. Then, JW Anderson followed up with a tutorial on TikTok, as well as a crocheting pattern for others to use.
  • Step outside of the comfort zone when choosing creators to partner with. Fashion brands don't always need to work with fashion influencers, Vu said. And the same goes for beauty brands. "They can work with artists, they can work with comedy, they can work with science education creators even," she said.
  • Be playful and experiment with the brand's voice on TikTok. Gucci, which was part of another viral TikTok challenge, has taken a playful approach to the app after the "Gucci model challenge" took off. "There's a lot of [playfulness] and cheekiness in their content," Vu said of Gucci. The brand now has over 800,000 followers on TikTok as of November.

Here's what Vu tells brands during 'growth strategy sessions' with TikTok

A majority of Vu's role at TikTok is sitting down with brands and walking them through TikTok — from the basics to how to succeed — during "growth strategy sessions."

"We essentially always go into a deep dive of what their content has been or what they want their content to look like on TikTok," she said. And then she'll go over the best technical or creative practices.

"[We] tell them how to craft the right narrative for their brands and also show different sides of their brand to a whole new audience that they don't have anywhere else," Vu said. 

Outside of a brand's own voice, Vu also helps find the right creators to work with. For this, she teaches brands how to use the TikTok Creator Marketplace, a "matchmaking tool" that acts as a network to connect brands with creators for collaborative projects or sponsorships.

She said a recent campaign that came out of the marketplace was between the luxury brand Fendi and Wisdom Kaye, a fashion influencer with over 4.8 million TikTok followers.

She usually advises brands to put as few restrictions as possible on the influencers they hire.

"I would say there are certain creative challenges and restrictions that brands still really give to influencers, in the past," Vu said. "But brands who truly want to lean in and shine, are the ones giving the creators the freedom to make the content that work on their own channels."

For more stories about how TikTok is shaping the influencer industry, check out these Business Insider articles:

  • Luxury fashion is surging on TikTok, but turning Gen-Z viewers into customers is a complicated task for brands

  • ViacomCBS is betting that pitting aspiring TikTok stars against each other can lead to its next reality TV hit

  • An Amazon warehouse worker explains how he became a TikTok star by secretly filming his job and what happened when HR found out

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