- Samantha Ratiner, 23, filmed TikToks in Blk Beverages’ office when one went viral and sales shot up.
- Realizing the app’s potential, she used hashtags and worked with influencers to target customers.
- Ratiner says videos that are organic and not too polished are the most popular on the platform.
The beverage brand Blk has surged thanks to its TikTok strategy, where it has gained millions of views and been featured by the likes of Kylie Jenner. The strategy is the brainchild of its vice president of business development, the 23-year-old Samantha Ratiner.
In the spring of 2020, Ratiner spotted that TikTok could be a “huge opportunity” for the business, but she didn’t know how she was going to use it.
“I saw my friends dancing as a funny joke, but no brands were really on it,” Ratiner said.
At the time, the 21-year-old focused on the “classic” forms of social marketing — with Facebook, Instagram, and Google ads. That strategy did work, she said, but “TikTok changed everything for us.”
She created Blk water’s TikTok in March 2020. To begin, Ratiner recorded “fun things around the office” to get familiar with recording video in the app. Ratiner also recorded a snippet of “Keeping up with the Kardashians,” in which Blk appeared on Kris Jenner’s kitchen counter, and posted it to TikTok.
“I didn’t really put any effort into it,” she told Insider. “It was a funny, random video, and it went viral.” The video got more than 30,000 views.
Ratiner’s creative strategy has helped increase Blk’s sales by 800% since she began posting. Blk sold 92,804 units in August 2020. In November 2021 it sold 826,330. Ratiner shared documents with Insider that showed monthly sales figures directly correlated with the number of views Blk water got on its TikTok. On months with higher views, overall product sales rose. When views dipped, so did sales.
Ratiner, a newbie to the platform, shared her tips for how she first approached TikTok marketing.
Flood the market using TikTok hashtags and native influencers
Ratiner started approaching “different hashtags as if they are different markets on TikTok,” she explained, “like gut health is a market, yoga, hair, skin, and nail growth.” These were all groups the company wanted to tap into.
“What I would do is for one month I would saturate one market. I would go into the yoga hashtag, and we would reach out to every single person who was making a yoga video and send them a Blk,” Ratiner said.
They reached out to influencers in these niches to create organic content.
The goal was for users scrolling their “for you” pages to see at least two videos in 15 minutes that featured Blk in those niche markets.
Ratiner attributed the brand attracting its 438,000 TikTok followers to these collaborations. They were much more successful at drawing an audience than paid ads, which “didn’t work” for the brand, Ratiner said.
Be open to thinking about the different ways people are using TikTok
Ratiner recently realized that people, especially Gen Zers, were turning to TikTok as a form of informal research on things they were interested in, similar to how people use Google search.
She realized the best kind of content was influencers or TikTok experts in a niche talking about the benefits behind Blk water in an accessible, simple way.
She explained: “If you type in gut-health remedies on Google, it’s a list of brands, vitamins, random ads, Wikihow articles, and you don’t actually know the answer. But you go into TikTok and all of these videos tell you exactly what to do.”
“If you need to know how to figure anything out, you can understand how to do it in 15 seconds on TikTok as opposed to watching a 20-minute YouTube video.”
She told Insider that businesses should encourage influencers to create content that focuses on the benefits of their product within their niche. A coffee influencer, for example, raved about how much smoother their coffee tasted with Blk water, while a food influencer recommended the benefits of adding Blk drops to a toastie.
Ratiner recalled Kylie Jenner including the Blk drops in a “What I Eat In A Day” video on TikTok: “There were all these comments like, ‘What is fulvic acid?’ ‘What are these black drops?’ and our fans were answering those questions in the comments. It was crazy!”
Let the influencers decide what content works best
In order for customers to feel compelled to buy Blk, Ratiner gave influencers the creative freedom to do whatever “felt right” for their channel when creating content for the company.
“It’s about being authentic as no one wants to feel as though they’re being convinced to buy something” Ratiner said, “Just let the influencer do what they want. They’re smarter than you on TikTok. They know their audience better than you do.
“You can’t think I’m going to get on TikTok and try to gain sales,” Ratiner said. “You have to think, who do we want to target? Who is our customer and where are they on TikTok? And let’s speak to them in a way that’s fun and create a space where people want to come and see your content.”
Now leading a business-development team of five, Ratiner is still posting three videos to the company’s channel a day and is adamant that short-form videos that are not high quality or condescending are “the future” for brands.