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March 15, 2024

TikTok Social Listening: The Complete Guide

by
Kim

Kim is a social listening and strategy consultant. Kim works with clients to identify how social media can best help their business and create workable strategies to achieve those goals.

TikTok Social Listening: The Complete Guide
Table of contents

Listening to an audience on social media channels can provide insights that will superpower your brand. Learn why social listening on TikTok is something you can’t afford to ignore in 2024!

What is TikTok

Everyone has heard of TikTok. In 2023, it had 1.5 billion monthly active users and by the end of 2024 it’s expected to reach two billion. But do you know how it began or how to duet with another user? If not, then read on. 

TikTok started life as Bytedance in 2017, a short form video sharing platform focused on dancing and lip-syncing videos. Fast forward to 2024, and TikTok is a social media app where users share (primarily) short-form video content (although we’re starting to see a shift towards longer-form content happening this year). Videos are known as TikToks and the videos on the platform can be stitched together, or users can duet with each other's TikToks.

Like Twitter, TikTok runs on hashtags. Most of the popular TikTok trends you’ve heard of started out as a lowly hashtag before becoming a part of pop culture history. For example, the I’m the Main Character trend emerged on TikTok back in 2020 before becoming a part of accepted internet speak. 

It’s not all video, though; the audio is just as important. Users can add songs or other audio clips to their videos. The TikTok Creative Centre makes choosing sounds (and hashtags) super easy, as you can see what’s currently trending on the platform for free.

TikTok uses an algorithm that generates user-specific recommendations on the #FYP (for you page). Top tip for you; getting on a user's FYP is a surefire way to reach the widest and best audience.

In 2023, TikTok launched ‘TikTok Shop’ and became a bona fide social shopping site. Users can either sell their own products or become affiliates for brands. It’s estimated that TikTok shop generated $20B in revenue in 2023. 

And, as if that wasn’t enough, TikTok is edging towards search engine territory. You may already be aware that Gen Z are using social for search, but did you know that TikTok is already outperforming Google in key areas, including fashion? TikTok is putting search front and centre of the latest update. So on top of everything else, it’s now one of the most useful platforms for SEO keyword identification too.

What is Social Listening?

Social listening means listening to what users say on social media and then analysing the data to generate insights. You can do social listening manually by gathering data and copying and pasting it into a spreadsheet, using tools to scrape website data, or using a custom-built social listening tool to collect the data for you. 

A social listening tool is the easiest way to start social listening, as there are fewer barriers to entry, and you don’t have to know how to code to get started.

When using a social listening tool, you will typically set up a Boolean search string, which specifies the keywords you want to collect and the platforms, locations, and languages you wish to collect them from. Once you’ve collected your data, you’ll clean it by removing any extraneous or irrelevant mentions and then analyse it in the platform with various data visualisations (charts to you and me!). These findings can form insights and can be used to inform multiple workflows including, but not limited to, Social Media Strategy, Content Strategy, Audience Analysis, Research & Development, Brand Monitoring, Cultural Trends, Campaign Planning, Identifying Whitespaces, and more. Basically, all the good stuff.

Why should you care about social listening on TikTok?

TikTok has been the fastest-growing social network for the last few years. It is the original home of short-form vertical video, which Meta was ‘inspired by’ when it created Reels for Instagram, and now even X is looking to pivot towards.

TikTok runs on trends, and the average engagement rate here is much higher than the rest of the social networks. This means that TikTok is pretty much powering the social internet. Trends you see on TikTok will eventually filter through to other social media channels.

Understanding what’s happening on TikTok can not only help you and your business get involved in the latest relevant trending topics but also help you over time by identifying longer-term cultural shifts, allowing you to create future-facing content strategies.

How to get started with social listening on TikTok?

In this section, we’ll guide you through everything you need to know to start your TikTok social listening project, and highlight some things you need to look out for.

As with all social listening projects, we first need to get really clear about the audiences you care about, and what you want to understand about them.

Identify the audience you want to listen to on TikTok

Knowing who we want to listen to on TikTok is step one. Ideally, you want to think about these audiences based on their interests rather than demographic data. Communities on TikTok unite around hashtags that end in ‘tok’. There’s a Tok for everything, so the more specific you can be, the better the results.

Say that you’re launching a new software platform to connect smaller brands with bigger opportunities; you might be interested in understanding Gen Z entrepreneurs better. 

A publishing company might want to understand the super-sized reading community on #booktok.

Once you know who you want to listen to, you can do some desk research around the things that this audience might be interested in on TikTok. We’ll talk more about this in the ‘what should you be listening to on TikTok’ section.

Set your business goals

Before we get into the details of how you’ll use TikTok for social listening, we must figure out what you want from your TikTok listening.

Are you looking to identify trends that are relevant to your audience so you can create better opportunities, or are you just looking to understand more about who your audience is and the type of content that engages them. Do you want to set up a TikTok shop, or do you want to identify influencers who will resonate with your target audience?

Each goal will shape how you set up your social listening on TikTok, as you’ll use them to guide which keywords or hashtags you want to focus on.

How to choose a social listening tool for TikTok

Social listening on TikTok will be difficult without a social listening tool. A social listening tool is a platform that allows you to track and analyse TikTok data. Although all the big social listening tools offer a TikTok component, some newer tools have been built to listen only to TikTok. These tend to be a bit more advanced when it comes to the insights they provide.

When choosing a social listening tool, you should consider these three key things.

1. What are you going to use the tool for? You should have covered this earlier when you were thinking about business goals. Prioritising influencer identification over trending topics will guide your choice of social listening tool

2. Your budget. Social listening tools come in all shapes and sizes, some are aimed at small businesses, and some offer enterprise solutions. Understanding how much you want to spend will be a defining factor in the tools you choose

3. Will you be listening to TikTok in isolation or will this be a part of a wider social listening project? 

TikTok Social Listening Tools

In this section, we’ll share some of the social listening tools we’ve previously used for TikTok projects. To make things easier, they’re grouped by budget.

Budget:

Mention. Mention is a great all-round social listening tool at a good price that allows you to track all social platforms, including TikTok. It’s effortless to set up and you can start by just tracking hashtags. Be aware that the smaller plans don’t allow you to track very many mentions. So if you have a limited budget, you should look at the smaller hashtags you’ve identified.

Mid Range:

Exolyt. Exolyt is designed specifically for TikTok and is a great quality tool with accounts starting at a very reasonable price. With Exolyt, you can track hashtags, compare SOV, understand sentiment and much more. There are also options to understand trending hashtags and sounds and influencers on the platform. A great TikTok-specific solution.

YouScan. YouScan is also an enterprise platform but has an affordable small business option that is really impressive. YouScan is another social listening tool that allows you to monitor multiple platforms, including TikTok. 

The TikTok insights are fantastic and feature some world-class visual/logo analysis alongside influencer analysis, audience interests, and the ability to create dashboards and tag posts so you can analyse your data more thoroughly.

Enterprise.

ViralMoment. ViralMoment is a TikTok-specific enterprise solution. It allows you to do super deep-level analysis of almost anything that you want on TikTok. You can track audio and visuals in TikTok, alongside learning what’s trending in your industry, benchmarking yourself against competitors and more. 

What should you be listening to on TikTok?

Social listening on TikTok is a bit different from social listening on other platforms, and what you can do depends on the tool that you’re using. Here are some key areas you might want to consider.

  1. Hashtag tracking - this is entry-level TikTok listening. You’ll identify hashtags that are relevant to the audience you’ve decided on (way back in “identify your audience” section) via desk research and then begin tracking them in your tool of choice. It’s useful to look at the other hashtags your audience is using alongside what you're tracking. This gives you a better understanding of your audience interests.
  2. On-screen captions - certain TikTok listening tools will allow you to track the on-screen captions that are added to TikTok’s.
  3. Main caption - most listening tools will allow you to track what the author of the post has written; this is as useful as hashtag tracking for identifying key themes across time.
  4. Trending topics - While we don’t advocate for brands to jump on every trending topic that appears, there’s no denying that it can be a valuable way to get in front of a wider audience if it’s relevant to your brand.
  5. Trending sounds - Same as trending topics. Although you might not be using them yourself, understanding what your audience is seeing and hearing helps you understand their mindset and create better content to engage with them
  6. Comments - Not as many tools will pick up TikTok comments, but these can be a goldmine of useful information as people are responding to the hashtags. They really help contextualise your search.
  7. Audience Insights - Understanding the demographic make-up and interests of your audience is really useful for a myriad of reasons!
  8. Influencer Identification - Getting to know the influencers in your interest area is key when deciding who to work with. Most tools include this.

Is TikTok The Best Fit For Your Business

A couple of years ago, TikTok was primarily used by Gen Z and Alpha, but these days, that’s changing. TikTok is notoriously cagey about sharing too much user data, but according to App Ape, the current TikTok user demographic split in the US shows us that almost 40% of TikTok users are over the age of 30. This means it’s more than likely that you will find an audience for your business on TikTok.

However, it’s still best to do some desk research and learn how many views your hashtags/keywords of interest are getting. It might not currently be the best way to get your content in front of the C-Suite, but TikTok is always widening its user base.

Why you should use a passionfruit specialist to help with your TikTok social listening campaign

Like all social platforms, TikTok has its own visual, audio and written language. This creates a high barrier to entry, even within the social media listening community.

Social listening on TikTok is still relatively new, and it’s a bit different than the rest of the platforms, so it’s a better idea to work with a pro who knows the ins and outs!

Hiring someone well-versed in TikTok who can navigate the platform as a native will give you much better-quality insights. Plus, it’s a lot easier than trying to learn it all yourself. 

Conclusion

TikTok is huge and continues growing all the time, and it’s no longer ‘just’ a place to connect with Gen Z. If you’re not listening there you’re probably missing out on something good! 

TikTok is also a huge revenue generator, with TikTok Shop levelling the playing field between brands, influencers, and consumers. This has opened up loads of opportunities and made it even more critical to track what’s happening on the channel.

Social listening on TikTok is pretty complex as there are so many different areas to analyse. If you want to do it properly, you’ll need a TikTok listening tool. Hiring a pro is the easiest way to get the insights you require and strategic guidance on how best to apply them, taking your social content to the next level.

Basically, TikTok is where internet trends begin, listening can help you identify the best fit for your business and lead to more eyeballs on your content and all sorts of other benefits.

Professor Passionfruit Illustration
Table of Contents

Listening to an audience on social media channels can provide insights that will superpower your brand. Learn why social listening on TikTok is something you can’t afford to ignore in 2024!

What is TikTok

Everyone has heard of TikTok. In 2023, it had 1.5 billion monthly active users and by the end of 2024 it’s expected to reach two billion. But do you know how it began or how to duet with another user? If not, then read on. 

TikTok started life as Bytedance in 2017, a short form video sharing platform focused on dancing and lip-syncing videos. Fast forward to 2024, and TikTok is a social media app where users share (primarily) short-form video content (although we’re starting to see a shift towards longer-form content happening this year). Videos are known as TikToks and the videos on the platform can be stitched together, or users can duet with each other's TikToks.

Like Twitter, TikTok runs on hashtags. Most of the popular TikTok trends you’ve heard of started out as a lowly hashtag before becoming a part of pop culture history. For example, the I’m the Main Character trend emerged on TikTok back in 2020 before becoming a part of accepted internet speak. 

It’s not all video, though; the audio is just as important. Users can add songs or other audio clips to their videos. The TikTok Creative Centre makes choosing sounds (and hashtags) super easy, as you can see what’s currently trending on the platform for free.

TikTok uses an algorithm that generates user-specific recommendations on the #FYP (for you page). Top tip for you; getting on a user's FYP is a surefire way to reach the widest and best audience.

In 2023, TikTok launched ‘TikTok Shop’ and became a bona fide social shopping site. Users can either sell their own products or become affiliates for brands. It’s estimated that TikTok shop generated $20B in revenue in 2023. 

And, as if that wasn’t enough, TikTok is edging towards search engine territory. You may already be aware that Gen Z are using social for search, but did you know that TikTok is already outperforming Google in key areas, including fashion? TikTok is putting search front and centre of the latest update. So on top of everything else, it’s now one of the most useful platforms for SEO keyword identification too.

What is Social Listening?

Social listening means listening to what users say on social media and then analysing the data to generate insights. You can do social listening manually by gathering data and copying and pasting it into a spreadsheet, using tools to scrape website data, or using a custom-built social listening tool to collect the data for you. 

A social listening tool is the easiest way to start social listening, as there are fewer barriers to entry, and you don’t have to know how to code to get started.

When using a social listening tool, you will typically set up a Boolean search string, which specifies the keywords you want to collect and the platforms, locations, and languages you wish to collect them from. Once you’ve collected your data, you’ll clean it by removing any extraneous or irrelevant mentions and then analyse it in the platform with various data visualisations (charts to you and me!). These findings can form insights and can be used to inform multiple workflows including, but not limited to, Social Media Strategy, Content Strategy, Audience Analysis, Research & Development, Brand Monitoring, Cultural Trends, Campaign Planning, Identifying Whitespaces, and more. Basically, all the good stuff.

Why should you care about social listening on TikTok?

TikTok has been the fastest-growing social network for the last few years. It is the original home of short-form vertical video, which Meta was ‘inspired by’ when it created Reels for Instagram, and now even X is looking to pivot towards.

TikTok runs on trends, and the average engagement rate here is much higher than the rest of the social networks. This means that TikTok is pretty much powering the social internet. Trends you see on TikTok will eventually filter through to other social media channels.

Understanding what’s happening on TikTok can not only help you and your business get involved in the latest relevant trending topics but also help you over time by identifying longer-term cultural shifts, allowing you to create future-facing content strategies.

How to get started with social listening on TikTok?

In this section, we’ll guide you through everything you need to know to start your TikTok social listening project, and highlight some things you need to look out for.

As with all social listening projects, we first need to get really clear about the audiences you care about, and what you want to understand about them.

Identify the audience you want to listen to on TikTok

Knowing who we want to listen to on TikTok is step one. Ideally, you want to think about these audiences based on their interests rather than demographic data. Communities on TikTok unite around hashtags that end in ‘tok’. There’s a Tok for everything, so the more specific you can be, the better the results.

Say that you’re launching a new software platform to connect smaller brands with bigger opportunities; you might be interested in understanding Gen Z entrepreneurs better. 

A publishing company might want to understand the super-sized reading community on #booktok.

Once you know who you want to listen to, you can do some desk research around the things that this audience might be interested in on TikTok. We’ll talk more about this in the ‘what should you be listening to on TikTok’ section.

Set your business goals

Before we get into the details of how you’ll use TikTok for social listening, we must figure out what you want from your TikTok listening.

Are you looking to identify trends that are relevant to your audience so you can create better opportunities, or are you just looking to understand more about who your audience is and the type of content that engages them. Do you want to set up a TikTok shop, or do you want to identify influencers who will resonate with your target audience?

Each goal will shape how you set up your social listening on TikTok, as you’ll use them to guide which keywords or hashtags you want to focus on.

How to choose a social listening tool for TikTok

Social listening on TikTok will be difficult without a social listening tool. A social listening tool is a platform that allows you to track and analyse TikTok data. Although all the big social listening tools offer a TikTok component, some newer tools have been built to listen only to TikTok. These tend to be a bit more advanced when it comes to the insights they provide.

When choosing a social listening tool, you should consider these three key things.

1. What are you going to use the tool for? You should have covered this earlier when you were thinking about business goals. Prioritising influencer identification over trending topics will guide your choice of social listening tool

2. Your budget. Social listening tools come in all shapes and sizes, some are aimed at small businesses, and some offer enterprise solutions. Understanding how much you want to spend will be a defining factor in the tools you choose

3. Will you be listening to TikTok in isolation or will this be a part of a wider social listening project? 

TikTok Social Listening Tools

In this section, we’ll share some of the social listening tools we’ve previously used for TikTok projects. To make things easier, they’re grouped by budget.

Budget:

Mention. Mention is a great all-round social listening tool at a good price that allows you to track all social platforms, including TikTok. It’s effortless to set up and you can start by just tracking hashtags. Be aware that the smaller plans don’t allow you to track very many mentions. So if you have a limited budget, you should look at the smaller hashtags you’ve identified.

Mid Range:

Exolyt. Exolyt is designed specifically for TikTok and is a great quality tool with accounts starting at a very reasonable price. With Exolyt, you can track hashtags, compare SOV, understand sentiment and much more. There are also options to understand trending hashtags and sounds and influencers on the platform. A great TikTok-specific solution.

YouScan. YouScan is also an enterprise platform but has an affordable small business option that is really impressive. YouScan is another social listening tool that allows you to monitor multiple platforms, including TikTok. 

The TikTok insights are fantastic and feature some world-class visual/logo analysis alongside influencer analysis, audience interests, and the ability to create dashboards and tag posts so you can analyse your data more thoroughly.

Enterprise.

ViralMoment. ViralMoment is a TikTok-specific enterprise solution. It allows you to do super deep-level analysis of almost anything that you want on TikTok. You can track audio and visuals in TikTok, alongside learning what’s trending in your industry, benchmarking yourself against competitors and more. 

What should you be listening to on TikTok?

Social listening on TikTok is a bit different from social listening on other platforms, and what you can do depends on the tool that you’re using. Here are some key areas you might want to consider.

  1. Hashtag tracking - this is entry-level TikTok listening. You’ll identify hashtags that are relevant to the audience you’ve decided on (way back in “identify your audience” section) via desk research and then begin tracking them in your tool of choice. It’s useful to look at the other hashtags your audience is using alongside what you're tracking. This gives you a better understanding of your audience interests.
  2. On-screen captions - certain TikTok listening tools will allow you to track the on-screen captions that are added to TikTok’s.
  3. Main caption - most listening tools will allow you to track what the author of the post has written; this is as useful as hashtag tracking for identifying key themes across time.
  4. Trending topics - While we don’t advocate for brands to jump on every trending topic that appears, there’s no denying that it can be a valuable way to get in front of a wider audience if it’s relevant to your brand.
  5. Trending sounds - Same as trending topics. Although you might not be using them yourself, understanding what your audience is seeing and hearing helps you understand their mindset and create better content to engage with them
  6. Comments - Not as many tools will pick up TikTok comments, but these can be a goldmine of useful information as people are responding to the hashtags. They really help contextualise your search.
  7. Audience Insights - Understanding the demographic make-up and interests of your audience is really useful for a myriad of reasons!
  8. Influencer Identification - Getting to know the influencers in your interest area is key when deciding who to work with. Most tools include this.

Is TikTok The Best Fit For Your Business

A couple of years ago, TikTok was primarily used by Gen Z and Alpha, but these days, that’s changing. TikTok is notoriously cagey about sharing too much user data, but according to App Ape, the current TikTok user demographic split in the US shows us that almost 40% of TikTok users are over the age of 30. This means it’s more than likely that you will find an audience for your business on TikTok.

However, it’s still best to do some desk research and learn how many views your hashtags/keywords of interest are getting. It might not currently be the best way to get your content in front of the C-Suite, but TikTok is always widening its user base.

Why you should use a passionfruit specialist to help with your TikTok social listening campaign

Like all social platforms, TikTok has its own visual, audio and written language. This creates a high barrier to entry, even within the social media listening community.

Social listening on TikTok is still relatively new, and it’s a bit different than the rest of the platforms, so it’s a better idea to work with a pro who knows the ins and outs!

Hiring someone well-versed in TikTok who can navigate the platform as a native will give you much better-quality insights. Plus, it’s a lot easier than trying to learn it all yourself. 

Conclusion

TikTok is huge and continues growing all the time, and it’s no longer ‘just’ a place to connect with Gen Z. If you’re not listening there you’re probably missing out on something good! 

TikTok is also a huge revenue generator, with TikTok Shop levelling the playing field between brands, influencers, and consumers. This has opened up loads of opportunities and made it even more critical to track what’s happening on the channel.

Social listening on TikTok is pretty complex as there are so many different areas to analyse. If you want to do it properly, you’ll need a TikTok listening tool. Hiring a pro is the easiest way to get the insights you require and strategic guidance on how best to apply them, taking your social content to the next level.

Basically, TikTok is where internet trends begin, listening can help you identify the best fit for your business and lead to more eyeballs on your content and all sorts of other benefits.

Written by
Kim Townend
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Professor Passionfruit Illustration

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