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Should My Communications Team Be Using TikTok?

Kassandra Swenson

Marketing Operations Specialist, Forum One

Sara Tetreault

Brand Strategy Director, Forum One

The video-sharing social tool TikTok’s mission is simple: “to inspire creativity and bring joy.” Previously known as Musical.ly, TikTok became available for use in the U.S. in August 2018, allowing users to create short dance, lip-sync, comedy, and talent videos. Videos can be created and shared lasting 15 seconds or can be strung together for a total of 60 seconds. You’ve probably been asking yourself if your communications team should be using TikTok. We’re here to help you figure that out.

What is TikTok anyway?

While it may have started as a lip-syncing app, TikTok now morphed into much more. In addition to being the newest social media app it is also the fastest growing social media platform. Despite launching less than four years ago, TikTok now has 800 million active users worldwide (Datareportal, 2020).

TikTok’s features make it easy for users to consume and create content. The app’s algorithm curates videos “for you” and users can switch to see videos from people they follow. Users can also search keywords and hashtags, as well as explore what is trending. Similar to other social media platforms, users include captions with their videos and can “heart” videos and post comments to engage others’ content. 

Like other social media platforms, through the use of hashtags, TikTok is a powerful tool for individuals and movements in raising awareness and engaging users globally. While TikTok’s user base is young (over 50% are under the age of 24), it is growing in popularity among adults, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic while we’re all home with more time to spend looking at our phones. According to Comscore, which only tracks users 18 and over, the percentage of U.S.-based TikTok users ages 25 to 34 rose from 22.4% in January to 27.4% in April, and the 35 to 44 age demographic grew from 13.9% to 17.1%.

Should you be using TikTok?

The answer to this truly depends on what you’re trying to achieve with your social media strategy and who you’re trying to reach. Some respected brands have found success on TikTok, most notably the Washington Post. Buzzfeed is recruiting millennials to the cover election on TikTok. Before deciding if TikTok is right for your organization, task your team with answering the following questions:

Is your audience using it? 
It will be a lost cause to use the platform if this is not where you can reach your primary audiences. Public-facing agencies with large and diverse stakeholder groups should certainly consider using the app as they are reaching a wider set of audiences. Advocacy groups who are looking to reach younger demographics or want to run a short campaign should also consider it. Remember that the app has the strongest following and engagement with Gen Z users.

What do you want people to do with the content you post and how will we measure it?
Perhaps you are hoping to effect behavior change or maybe you want people to visit your site and sign something. Whatever that is, make sure that the content you are creating is relevant to a specific call-to-action or other engagement behavior that you can measure. Ensure that whatever you are aiming to do fits into your overall social media strategy. Organizations can fall into the trap of using a platform because it is what everyone else is doing without considering how it helps them achieve their messaging or mission.

Does the tone work for your brand? 
TikTok is not going to strike the right tone for every nonprofit, NGO, or government agency. Memes, parody, content with a sense of humor do particularly well, so if this type of content fits in with the tone style of your brand, this may be a good fit, If not and you are hoping to start using the platform, consider how you can maintain your brand voice and promise while doing so.

Do you have the resources to manage it? 
This is not a platform that you’re going to get many senior executives on—it’s best if you have one person, or a small team, who is enthusiastic about the platform and has time to manage it. This could take anywhere from a few hours a week to a full-time social media manager position. It depends on how engaged you want to be on the platform and how many others you will need to create content. Consider the fact that your staff is likely not all in the same place at the moment, so it will likely be a bigger lift to source and create content. If your external affairs operations is lean, you can consider contracting out social media management and digital marketing.

How will this affect our security protocols? 
It’ll be important to consider how adding a new application or platform like TikTok might affect or require additions to your current IT security. Before laying out a detailed plan for content and management, talk to your IT team or a digital transformation consultant about how this will affect your current security or require updates.

Agencies and organizations using TikTok

After answering these questions, you might be curious to see how your peers or others in your space are using TikTok. Here are a few examples of mission-driven organizations using TikTok.

Dancing for Change with IFAD
The United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is an international financial institution that invests in people in rural areas that rely on agriculture for their livelihoods, empowering them to increase their food security, improve the nutrition of their families, and increase their incomes.

IFAD used TikTok to launch a virtual dance petition with the hashtag #danceforchange encouraging young people in Africa and other developing countries to record a 15-second dance video using a selected song and choreography and post it with the hashtag. IFAD uses each video as a virtual petition to call on leaders across the globe to increase funding for agriculture and create opportunities for young people in rural areas.

Fighting COVID-19 Misconceptions
41% of TikTok users are from Generation Z. Some cities across the U.S. are using this information to fight misconceptions that the younger Generation Z have about COVID-19, particularly around the thought that they do not have to worry about contracting the virus.

Cities like Minneapolis, MN, Columbus, OH, and Tampa, FL, are using the platform to share information about Covid-19 in an easy-to-consume and entertaining way that reaches this target audience. The Red Cross, UNICEF, and other organizations are also utilizing TikTok to deliver information and tips and answer questions related to COVID-19. TikTok partners with health officials to provide access to information regarding COVID-19 and supports relief efforts to help those who have been deeply impacted by the crisis.

Other Examples of TikTok for Good
The Caenhill Countryside Centre is a charity that brings farming, agriculture, horticulture and rural crafts to children and young people. They have used TikTok to raise awareness about the farm’s activities by posting heartwarming videos of their animals, including Cuthbert the Goose who is described as “the master of the farm,” garnering thousands of views, over 100 thousand followers, and nearly 3 million likes.

Girls Who Code has teamed up with TikTok to empower girls and to support one another in celebration of the International Day of the Girl. The nonprofit asked users to create videos of themselves writing an issue that they’re passionate about on their hand, and TikTok donated $1 per video made to the organization. The videos organized under the hashtag #raiseyourhand in 2018 garnered over 38 million views and #marchforsisterhood in 2019 has over 900 million views.

TikTok is committed to inspiring and encouraging a new generation to have a positive impact on the planet and those around them. You can learn more about the TikTok for good initiative and how they help their users help the world. 

Written By

Kassandra Swenson

Marketing Operations Specialist, Forum One

Sara Tetreault

Brand Strategy Director, Forum One

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