TikTok makes big bucks for local Las Vegas businesses
When Rebecca Robledo started her job last year as social media manager for the Charleston Antique Mall, she had to convince her bosses to get the mall to use one of the most popular social media apps.
“They were very against having a TikTok page,” she said. “I said, ‘Hey, there are so many businesses on TikTok that are getting huge audiences from TikTok and people that you wouldn’t get just from other social media platforms.’
She was eventually able to create a TikTok account for the store, near Alta Drive and South Decatur Boulevard, and by the end of 2021, the retailer had amassed over 22,000 followers. Robledo said her TikTok page has increased business for the mall, especially attracting customers who don’t live in Las Vegas, with her videos featuring a variety of vintage and antique merchandise.
“I think I respond to at least 10 (direct messages) a day from someone asking to send them a product they saw in a video,” she said.
But Charleston Antique Mall and other local Las Vegas companies make up a small percentage of businesses using TikTok to market themselves, even as the platform attracts a younger demographic who tend to buy what they see trending on TikTok.
According to an American Express 2022 Shop Small Impact study, 63 percent of small business owners said they wanted to increase Gen Z and their millennial customer base during the holiday season. But of the 80 percent of businesses using social media, only a third used TikTok. The most popular social media platforms for small businesses were Facebook, with 94 percent of businesses using it, and Instagram, with 65 percent of small businesses using it.
The study also found that 67 percent of Gen Z — those aged 10 to 25 — on TikTok shopped at small businesses featured on the TikTok “About You” page, which is a user’s home screen and offers personalized videos . And 44 percent of all TikTok users said that after seeing a product on TikTok, they immediately went to buy it.
In 2022, the platform had an estimated 94.1 million monthly users in the US, according to Insider Intelligence — despite a recent wave of state and federal agencies banning the app’s use on government devices because of potential security risks.
Entering the tourist market
Jennifer Gay managed the social media and TikTok page for Lip Smacking Foodie Tours, which has more than 75,000 followers.
Gay, who also runs her own TikTok account, @VegasStarfish, detailing the best places to shop, said the platform’s impact on Las Vegas businesses is growing because of how people want to get information.
“People listened to the radio in their car, they watched TV commercials and consumed print media, and that has completely changed,” Gay said. “People are busy and want short, concise doses of graphic information that engage and inspire them.”
Donald Contusi, president of Lip Smacking Foodie Tours, said his TikTok following has grown since Gay started operating the site about eight months ago. The company organizes food tours throughout Las Vegas, taking customers to different restaurants within a few hours.
“My restaurant partners are telling me that when Jen goes and indulges (them) … they will sell the (promoted) item,” Contusi said.
Lin Jerome and Alexandra Lourdes started Cafe Lola in 2018—which was named Nevada’s most Instagrammable restaurant by the Food Network in 2019—and they decided to expand the cafe’s social media presence to TikTok in late 2020.
The two said they try to use TikTok’s trending dances and audio to highlight its products, especially its specialty drinks.
“Since posting on TikTok, we’ve seen a 40 to 45 percent increase in sales across all of our brands,” Jerome said.
Lourdes said TikTok also allowed the business to better tap into the tourism market and now has over 34,000 followers on its page.
“If you’re in Las Vegas, (TikTok) will start showing you things in Las Vegas,” Lourdes said. “We always hashtag Las Vegas, because if tourists are here on the Strip, and then suddenly Cafe Lola shows up, they’ll Uber us.”
Better access to the tourist market is something Robledo has seen at the Charleston Antique Mall since the TikTok site launched, according to Robledo.
“I’ve noticed that the people we send often always say, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to come out and visit you. I planned a trip in April just to see you guys,’ she said. “Which is crazy when you’re in Las Vegas, since you might want to go to Caesar’s Palace or something.”
‘Long and slow process’
Tyler Stephens, co-founder and chief content officer at VisCap Media, a Las Vegas-based ad agency that advertises on social media platforms like TikTok, said businesses can organically build followers on TikTok, but it can be a bigger gamble. safe to buy ads.
“When it comes to social media, like TikTok or Facebook or YouTube or any of these social channels, you’re able to attribute real-time results from advertising,” he said. “But (an account page) has to be consistent. You should make a lot of videos. It’s a very long and slow process.”
Cafe Lola’s Jerome estimates that it took about four months of creating content on Cafe Lola’s TikTok page to translate into more business. He doesn’t see the need to place ads yet because the account is generating enough consumer interest.
Gay thinks any business in Las Vegas has the potential to run a successful TikTok account, with or without ad purchases.
“The biggest strength is that Vegas is a fantasy,” she said. “When we scroll through social media, this is how we decompress and check. And so Vegas has the advantage that when our content is at the forefront, it creates the idea of ’I have to take that trip. I need to book my vacation.’”
Contact Sean Hemmersmeier at [email protected]. Follow @seanhemmers34 on Twitter.