By Anna Nelson (Washington State University)
TikTok is the up-and-coming social media platform, taking the digital world by storm. If you are involved with the app, you know that it centers around dancing, humor and how-to videos. I was hesitant to download TikTok myself, for fears of it becoming distracting. Nonetheless, I downloaded and dove into the world of TikTok to determine: is this a platform your client should be utilizing? First, let’s discuss its pros and cons followed by a how-to to navigate the app.
Using any social media platform can come with a lot of positives for your clients, but a few are highlighted by using TikTok specifically.
Having your client utilize TikTok is a great way to get more exposure. As a fairly new and popular platform, many TikTok stars claim it is relatively easy to become famous on TikTok, making it a good potential opportunity for a client. @Jera.bean posted a TikTok explaining how she gained over 10K followers in a month — she currently has 403.1K followers and 4.2 million likes. She explained the most important steps to achieving TikTok fame were: finding a niche — posting content that is consistent and similar, staying trendy — using popular music and following challenges and hashtags, trying new content — pushing your own boundaries outside of your regular content, posting everyday — at least once a day, but up to three times a day and being interactive – replying to comments by your followers and interacting with them.
Fast and Easy
It is moderately easy to create content for TikTok. All you need is a smartphone and a basic understanding of social media, such as hashtags. With multiple options for video creation, such as using a photo compilation, uploading a video or recording a short video with the app’s camera, you can have content uploaded in as little as a few minutes, as long as you have an idea ready.
TikTok’s general audience is the younger generations, so if your client is trying to reach the millennial, Gen Z and Gen Alpha audiences, this is a great platform to utilize. According to Statista, 37.2% of U.S. users are ages 10-19; 26.3% of U.S. users are between the ages of 20 and 29; and 16.7% of U.S. users are ages 30 to 39. Quora cites that the most popular categories on TikTok are food, humor, travel and celebrity and entertainment, so if your client has any overlap in any of these categories, it could be a good option for them.
The cons of TikTok are similar to the cons of all other social media platforms, so being overly critical of TikTok might not be completely fair, because it shares concerns of other popular social media sites. However, it is important to recognize the potential downsides of the app.
The app is incredibly fast-moving and viewers can swipe up in a second if they are not immediately entertained by your video, making it potentially difficult to generate a following.
Users of TikTok can be as young as 13, but even though the app requires users to disclose their age, this does not mean that there are not still users younger than 13 on the app. Although there are young users on virtually any application or platform, advertising to a young and impressionable audience brings up some questions of ethics. Additionally, there is plenty of bullying generated through the app, which I witnessed myself with videos that made fun of individuals with developmental disabilities. It is a platform that enables intolerable behavior. Lastly, like other platforms, it is relatively simple for other users to copy your content without citation, presenting potential issues for your client.
Logging into the digital world will always compromise some aspects of your privacy in one way or another. However, TikTok is owned by ByteDance, located in Beijing, China, which results in different data protection and privacy laws. In fact, according to the Washington Post, in early 2019, TikTok was fined for illegally collecting email addresses, locations, names and pictures of children under 13 years of age. It is possible that TikTok continues to data mine information from its users.
Navigating the app
When you download the app, you will be taken to a screen that gives you categories you want to follow, like Pinterest or Reddit. I chose typical categories, including Humor, Food, Travel, Beauty, Health and Wellness and Animals.
The home screen takes you through video after video, similar to how Facebook Watch works. From each video that pops up, you can view the creator’s profile, “heart” (like) the video, view and/or post comments and view the music/audio used in the video — this button will also show you other videos that use the same audio. To change videos, you simply swipe upward.
The “discover” tab allows you to look at what is trending today through hashtags and view the videos from those categories. Many trending categories include the TikTok challenges that you have likely seen leak into other social media platforms, such as “#tiktokprom,” “#bedroomcheck,” “#poseathome” or “#yearbook2020.”
The inbox works like any other platform’s direct messaging option, which displays any messages you have.
The “Me” section contains your own profile, similar to Instagram, where the videos you upload yourself appear and allows you to view the videos you have liked (only you can view the videos you have liked). Your username is displayed with your profile picture, along with your number of followers, the number of people you are following and the amount of likes you have. You can add a short profile bio, like Instagram’s.
Making a profile and uploading content
Making a profile is similar to any other platform, you simply need a username and login information. Once that is established, it is up to you if you want to embellish your profile with a bio and a profile picture – if you want to be successful on TikTok, you should develop these pieces. Next, to upload content, you will need to press the plus sign in the center of the menu console on the app (it looks just like how you would upload a picture to Instagram).
There are different templates you can choose from, comparable to filters, but for video. Some of these template options include: “Morph,” “Photo Flow,” “Double Exposure,” “Countdown,” and “Beatdrop.” For these templates, you select photos that you would like to use to fill the template. You can also choose to make a video that is either 60 seconds or 15 seconds. The TikTok camera has different camera options, comparable to Snapchat, such as: camera flip, speed (slow motion or sped up), beauty mode, filters, a timer and flash. You can also choose to upload a video instead of making one through the TikTok camera.
TikTok also has a donations option, through a partnership with Tiltify. This allows content creators to request donations from their videos and viewers to donate to a selected charity. During my time on TikTok, I saw fundraising for No Kid Hungry, Centers for Disease Control and the National Parent Teacher Association. TikTok was matching donations made to certain organizations, such as the ones listed above, up to $10 million through May 27.
So, should your client be utilizing TikTok? As with most strategic planning, it is completely dependent on what your client does. If they are a company that dabbles in food, fitness, travel, music, entertainment or any other relevant categories, I would say give it a go. Or if your client’s target demographic is the millennial or younger, TikTok is a great app for widespread reach.
If your client’s work resides in more technical areas, it is probably not worth putting time into the app. If your client is already using Instagram and seeing general success on that platform, it is likely that they will have success on TikTok because the platforms share many similarities. Serving as your client’s PR professional, guide them through the pros and cons of using TikTok to determine if it is the right fit for them.
If your client already has a social media team, whether through your agency or in-house, it can never hurt to get a little bit of additional exposure, so it is probably worth the download; if it is not seeing success, then it is best to delegate that time in other platforms.