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Selling… on TikTok? The surprising success of these Aussie brands

Smarter Writer
Smarter Team

A team of business and technology journalists and editors who write to help Australia’s community of small and medium businesses access the technology and know-how that helps solve problems and create opportunities.

Smarter Writer
Smarter Team

A team of business and technology journalists and editors who write to help Australia’s community of small and medium businesses access the technology and know-how that helps solve problems and create opportunities.

Since launching in 2016, TikTok has become a social media giant. The platform is a destination for unparalleled viral reach potential, where unknown users with one popular video can gain hundreds of thousands of followers overnight. Here’s how four Aussie small businesses hit the big time on TikTok.

Priya Sharma sprinkling her spice mix, two Sticky Australia employees cutting lollies and Alchemy Studio hairdresser cutting hair.

We Are Social’s Digital 2022 Australia report found that TikTok was the third most-downloaded app in Australia in 2021, behind the Victorian and NSW QR code check-in apps. The report also discovered that Australians’ TikTok usage rose by 40% in the same year. While the platform first became popular with a Gen Z audience, it’s since gained traction with diverse users and creators.

TikTok’s significant reach and its interest-based algorithm give small businesses the opportunity to engage with more people who would be interested in their content, out of a pool of 1 billion active users every day. In 2020, the platform launched TikTok For Business, a tool to help businesses manage their advertising campaigns, and its recent partnership with Shopify allows Australian online stores to integrate their eCommerce websites with their TikTok account.

Swim by Elly

@swimbyelly
Follower count: 185.8K
Like count: 2M
Clothing eCommerce website

Swim by Elly is a sustainable handmade swimwear brand based in Geelong, Victoria. Founder Ellie Wynhoven started the label to combat fashion waste and champion body positivity. (Ellie clarifies the difference in the way she spells her name: “I decided to go with ‘y’ for the brand because it looks prettier.”) She uses TikTok to showcase her fun, eco-friendly swimwear on a regular body that’s not normally seen in advertising.

Why they are successful:

Ellie uses a handful of clever, inexpensive tools to boost her social following.

  • She knows her customers and their purchase patterns, and she speaks directly to them, rather than a broad audience. Ellie often creates new designs based on requests from her TikTok followers.
  • She posts regularly – sometimes multiple times a day – and actively engages with customers who comment on her clips. The responses feel off-the-cuff and authentic.
  •  She curates content based on her brand and customers’ needs. Ellie and her friends do most of the modelling, she posts body-positive clips, and her products size up to 3XL – a size range not commonly seen in swimwear.

Click here to watch a notable video by Swim by Elly.

Swim by Elly’s two most popular videos are both replies to customer questions. This video generated 1.9 million views and shows how to get in and out of one of the brand’s popular styles of bathers. It came a day after the brand’s viral video ‘Normal body parts we are learning to love this summer’, which has received over 670,000 views.

How TikTok leads to sales:

TikTok lets Swim by Elly’s customers interact directly with the business and ask questions before they buy. As the brand is all about body positivity, the platform gives Ellie the space to share sizing and styling tips. Swim by Elly’s TikTok profile also includes a link to the brand’s eCommerce store.

Sticky

@stickyaustralia 
Follower count: 5.6M 
Like count: 178.2M 
Retail food store

Sticky are serious about lollies. Owned by partners David King and Rachel Turner and based in The Rocks in Sydney, the family-run business makes lollies for every occasion. David and Rachel’s 19-year-old daughter Annabelle started Sticky’s TikTok to help them stay afloat during the pandemic.

Why they are successful: 

Sticky’s passionate, consistent approach helps their account grow. They’re also the only TikTok account that musician Billie Eilish follows.

  • David and Rachel constantly interact with their followers and customers. They answer questions and, from time to time, take requests for lolly designs.
  • They have a clear, defined brand voice that speaks directly to their customers, proudly announcing they are the “world’s most bogan candy-makers”. They lean heavily into comedy and fun to mimic their product.
  • They make their lollies live in store and their customers are welcome to come and watch. But for those who can’t make it to The Rocks, the team posts videos of their hypnotic process so customers can feel invested in the production from afar.

Click here to watch a notable video by Sticky.

Sticky’s most successful videos show their staff members competing to “cut the candy the fastest”. The sound of chopping the lollies is similar to ASMR – a viral trend where certain sounds cause a tingling sensation for some people. This video is a competition between the owners’ daughter Annabelle and one of Sticky’s staff members. It has over 58 million views.

How TikTok leads to sales:

The Sticky team use TikTok to showcase their pop-coloured products to a wider audience. Their TikTok bio includes links to their shop, a Facebook group for fans, relevant social pages and more. By helping them bring fun to their lolly-making process and interact with their customers to design their products, TikTok helps Sticky build trust and engagement.

Dad’s Special Spice Mix

@himynameispriya 
Follower count: 1.3M 
Like count: 54.3M 
Retail food eCommerce website

Priya Sharma, with the help of her dad Amrish, sells a versatile spice mix that’s perfect for adding to curries, roast vegetables and avocado toast. And it’s selling like wildfire. When Priya moved out of her childhood home, she struggled to re-create her parents’ Indian curries. That’s when her dad stepped in and created Dad’s Special Spice Mix.

Why they are successful:

Priya’s considered, curated approach to TikTok and high-quality production helps her to connect with new customers.

  • Priya uses TikTok to build a community and share her love for food and culture in a way that resonates with her customers.
  • While Priya’s content is simple, she invests in high-quality production. She’s conscious of her lighting and uses a ring light where she can. Her clips and voiceovers are clear and her editing is seamless.
  • Consistency is key – Priya doesn’t go more than two days without posting to TikTok.
  • She’s considerate about the number and quality of hashtags she uses and includes no more than two or three per video.

Click here to watch a notable video by Dad’s Special Spice Mix.

Priya’s most successful content is her step-by-step recipe videos. This video is her guide to making seitan, a simple chilli dough that went viral on TikTok. It has over 7 million views and features a simple product placement: while she waits for the dough to rise, Priya films herself packing an order for Dad’s Special Spice Mix.

How TikTok leads to sales:

Priya uses TikTok and social media marketing to share her love for food. It helps to position her as an expert – someone who has a passion for food that translates to her product. She uses it to build her community and interact with her audience, giving them recipe ideas for how they can best use her spice mixes.

Alchemy Salon

@alchemy_salon 
Follower count: 41.4K 
Like count: 1.5M 
Hair salon

Alchemy Salon is a sustainable hair salon that provides cutting-edge cuts and out-there, all-vegan colouring. Between two studios in Victoria’s Traralgon and Collingwood, this small team of hairdressers bring style and playfulness to their clients.

Why they are successful: 

Alchemy Salon know exactly who their audience is and adjust their TikTok presence to reflect it.

  • Alchemy Salon has clear branding, tone and voice. They know the majority of their customers are Gen Z women and curate content with them in mind, including their ‘hair inspiration’ videos featuring ’90s and 2000s icons like Phoebe Buffay from Friends.
  • The hairdressers embrace TikTok hair trends like bold colours, shaggy styling and Y2K looks. They also participate in TikTok challenges like ‘Things that just make sense’, where the team ran through their list of salon pet peeves.
  • They post at least once a week, giving their customers enough time between posts to look forward to the next.
  • They consistently use the same number and type of hashtags – like #hairinspo, #hairsuggestions, and #hairrecommendations – to help their content reach a wider audience.

Click here to watch a notable video by Alchemy Salon.

Alchemy Salon’s best-performing videos show significant hair transformations. This video has over 1.3 million views and shows the bright blue to platinum blonde hair transformation of popular TikToker @ebonymaii. Despite the relatively low production values (the voiceover uses the automated TikTok voice and most of the clips are photos), the video speaks directly to the business’s customer interests.

How TikTok leads to sales: 

Alchemy Salon have a young audience and use TikTok to show their up-to-the-minute haircuts and colours. They’re a local hairdresser with only two salons, so most people who view their TikToks won’t be able to book in. However, creating a large online following is a great brand-building tool that could help them grow their business. In the meantime, potential customers can click through from Alchemy’s TikTok to buy haircare products from their online store and book in for a haircut or online hair consult.

 

What to consider when deciding whether TikTok is right for your business

TikTok has the potential to fast-track growth for some small businesses. While it can be tempting to sign up and start posting, take a moment to think about whether it will add value to your business.

Audience

Consider your business’s audience – are they active on TikTok? Do you have a few content ideas that might pique their interest? Do you know exactly the type of customer you are speaking to?

Buying behaviours

Buying behaviour is the science behind a good marketing strategy. It unpicks why and how people buy one product over another. How loyal are customers purchasing the thing you sell? Are they likely to be swayed to buy after looking at a TikTok – and is it simple to click through and buy instantly? Consider whether building a large following on TikTok is going to influence your customers’ behaviour at the key moments it matters. TikTok can lend itself well to products where people are likely to impulse buy, like clothing, but if you’re selling one-off items, like home loan brokering services, it may not be worth the time.

Time

Posting on TikTok takes time and effort – especially if you’re committed to quality and consistency. Do you, or someone in your business, have the capacity to work on the platform? Factor in time to plan, shoot and edit each video and engage with any customer questions. Enlisting an enthusiastic young person can be a good strategy, too. Sticky’s TikTok was started by the owners’ 19-year-old daughter Annabelle.

Passion

Do you feel enthusiastic or motivated to manage your business’s TikTok account? The businesses that experience fast growth and high engagement on the platform often enjoy creating content for it. If you love using TikTok, it’s likely you’ll be invested in your account’s success.

Tips for reviewing your social media strategy
  • If your business is already using social media, take a moment to reflect on your efforts so far. Ask yourself: What networks do your target audience use? Which platforms do your customers engage with you most on? What’s working best? What isn’t working? You can use this information to better understand which social media platforms are worth investing in.
  • Translating your social media marketing to successful sales can be tricky. Take the time to learn about your customers and carefully curate a plan for selling on social media.
  • If you’re not sure where to start with video marketing, take a look at our article on growing with video. It shows how to humanise your brand, amplify your product demonstration and take your first steps.
  • Developing a great social media or content marketing strategy is all about understanding your customers’ needs and adapting your content to suit. Our article ‘Responding to COVID-19: How the Digital Picnic embraced new content marketing trends’ shows how one business balances their content plan with ever-changing audience expectations.

Launching a successful Tiktok account doesn't need to be expensive or overwhelming. If it feels like the best next step for your business, dedicate some time to your social media marketing strategy, customer research and content production. With any luck, your business could be Tiktok's next big thing.

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