It’s Time to TikTok for PR

Twitter, Facebook and Instagram might be the ‘Big Three’ when it comes to social media platforms, but there’s a new kid on the block: TikTok. Heard of it? If you’re a Generation Z’er you probably have. If you’re any older, it may have passed you by, along with Billie Eilish. Launched in September 2016, today the app has over 500M active worldwide users, 1.5BN downloads, and it was even the most downloaded app on Apple’s iOS App Store during the first quarter of 2019. Not bad at all. But why should you care? Well, marketing opportunities, obvs.

So what is TikTok?

In short, TikTok fills the gap left behind by the now defunct Vine and performs a very similar role: it allows users to share short, snappy videos, up to 15-seconds long, with one another. It’s popular among amateur lip-syncers, comedians, pranksters, beauty gurus, miscellaneous influencers, and consequently, a good chunk of the 16-24 age demographic too.

Users can edit their video by trimming, speeding them up, or slowing them down, as well as adding various filters and music clips. Their followers can then react to those clips with their own videos. Like Instagram, the content can be hashtagged, meaning people can find exactly the sort of thing they’re looking for.

So now you’re up to speed, how can you harness TikTok for PR purposes, and ultimately your brand?

Channelling your brand

The most obvious way to get in on the action is with your own TikTok channel. Let’s say you’re a brand that sells hipster-y cooking gear. You could unveil new releases, promote competitions and events, or show your products in action, either with a purpose-produced video clip, or with an existing customer’s video clip. You could also put together a full step-by-step recipe guide using your products, with a series of 15-second videos, each depicting a different step.

If you’re an individual, say a singer, comedian, or fashion influencer, then it’s simply a case of showcasing your stuff, uploading engaging content consistently, and ensuring your hashtags are optimised for maximum exposure. The obvious benefit of the format is that it’s short-form. Just bear in mind TikTok’s demographic and vibe: it’s youthful and light-hearted. If what you’re presenting is too stuffy or serious, it probably won’t be well received.

Get down with the hashtag challenges

While us over-thirties might not understand the appeal, hashtag challenges are an integral part of TikTok’s youthful community. As with YouTube, they usually involve performing a weird pastime (as dictated by whatever’s viral at the time) and then hashtagging it for others to see it, until it basically takes over the world. Over the years on social media we’ve seen planking in inappropriate places, eating a spoon of cayenne pepper, and in 2018, Jimmy Fallon’s tumbleweed challenge which compelled over 8000 TikTok users to film themselves rolling on the floor like tumbleweed, set to Western music. Suffice to say, they gained a lot of attention.

While most of these hashtag challenges wouldn’t make sense for a brand to get involved with, there may be the odd one or two that are more relevant to what you do. Of course, you can always enlist the help of an influencer and start your own. Coca-Cola’s #ShareACoke campaign is an excellent example of hashtag marketing done right.

Getting influencers in on your act

YouTube and Instagram influencers are a goldmine for brands. Millions of views paired with an impressionable, dedicated audience, equals a lot of potential customers if an influencer likes your product. And it’s not to be underestimated. Because these platforms are saturated with influencers spanning every possible market (everything from make-up and fashion, to hotels and angling gear) the main advantage is the ability to reach a hefty portion of your targeted audience in one fell swoop via a channel that already has their trust.

TikTok is packed with influencers too. As with Instagram and YouTube, many of them will promote your products for a fee (and that can run into very large numbers when it comes to the bigger names). But those with smaller followings may be willing to promote your products or services in exchange for freebies. Discount codes can also be a win-win strategy when working alongside an influencer.

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