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Millennial business owners turn to TikTok for sales

10 May 2022

Small business usage of social media channels for marketing and sales - including Facebook, Instagram and TikTok - has risen significantly since the beginning of the pandemic.

Small business lender iwoca has published the findings of its research into the top online channels for small businesses. The results show that use of social media for marketing and sales is growing and TikTok is emerging as an important channel for young business owners in particular.

One in ten business owners under the age of 44 now use TikTok to market their business, up from 5% pre-pandemic. However, only 1% of small business owners over the age of 44 currently use TikTok for their business. The growing popularity of TikTok as a marketing channel for small businesses reflects the growing number of people on the platform, with over 13 million active TikTok users in the UK.

Overall, small business usage of social media channels, including Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, has risen by 14 percentage points since the beginning of the pandemic. The use of company websites remains the most popular online channel, with 40% of small business owners using them for their business. Facebook is the second most popular, with one in three (37%) small business owners now using the platform.

In addition, one in five small business owners use Instagram (19%) compared to 15% pre-pandemic. However, while 37% of younger small business owners use Instagram, just 11% of those aged 44 and over use it.

Mark Di-Toro of iwoca said: "The pandemic presented huge challenges for small businesses to get in front of their usual customers. Small business owners responded with entrepreneurialism, turning to new social media and online platforms to market their products or services. There's no doubt that social media is now a fundamental marketing tool for many SMEs to increase revenue, whatever industry they operate in."

The top online channels that SMEs use for their business are:

  • Company website (40%, up from 38% pre-pandemic);
  • Facebook (37%, up from 34%);
  • Instagram (19%, up from 15%);
  • eBay (15%, down from 16%);
  • Amazon (8%, down from 9%);
  • Etsy and Gumtree (both steady at 5%).

TikTok has a dedicated section on its website for small businesses, including a guide to getting started on the platform. The platform advises business owners to use testimonials and create engaging videos such as a "day in the life" or a look behind the scenes.

Millennial entrepreneur Anna Jenkins runs Silky Bouquets, creating bespoke flower tributes for weddings, baby showers and funerals and selling them on TikTok. She said: "Social media is hugely important for us at the moment, but there's still so much further we can take it. And I see TikTok being the channel that is really going to take us to the next level.

"The beauty behind using channels like Tiktok and Instagram is that it's not about just listing your products on an online shop. With the options to create galleries, videos and reels, we can really show off the business' personality. We can tell the story of our business, focus on the people behind it, and show the creativity that goes into what we're building: it's brand-focused rather than just pushing products for sale."

Written by Rachel Miller.

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