TikTok was the fastest growing social media platform in 2019, with more than 110 million downloads in the US, contributing to the whopping 1.8B global downloads it now sees around the world. The teen and tween platform that started in China is tipping into the mainstream with big brands like ESPN, NIKE, and Chipotle just starting to jump on the platform. This is no longer just a place for Gen Z — you can find us there via @thewholewhale (follow for follow?)
There are three reasons why Whole Whale likes betting on TikTok for a 2020 digital marketing strategy:
- Organic views can be quickly earned by content. Similar to the early days of Facebook and Instagram, which have now shifted to a pay-to-play ecosystem.
- Attention is measured. The 15-60 second posts capture attention in measurable amounts, which can help build brand familiarity.
- It was the fastest growing social app of 2019 and Facebook can’t buy it, they can only copy it. Though political discourse censorship may become a larger issue as the platform grows (see below).
How to Use TikTok (Tutorial)
There are tons of online tutorials on how to use the growing amounts of features that TikTok has to offer. The native mobile app has all of the editing features built in and allows for incredible amounts of editing ability.
TikTok Strategies for Nonprofits
1. Ride the trend
Explore the hashtags that surround your cause on TikTok and follow them. Spend time exploring and watching how existing audiences are using the filters, music and style of trending hashtags. This will be the fastest way your organization earns free views on the platform. Note that although the majority of trending hashtags are silly and meant to make people laugh, there is still room for a version of your message and brand. Most trending hashtags will not be a fit, and doing a quick scan of trending topics will give you a quick sense of the platform.
2. Leave room for your followers
The platform allows for users to quickly copy layouts, filters, features, styles, and music based on videos. Consider what elements of your brand message or music might be used to spark the creativity of your new TikTok audience.
3. Recycle your content
Consider how video, audio, and graphic assets of your organization can be reused for the 15-60 second post medium. Use interview quotes from your leaders in graphic or audio form, clip parts of promotional videos, harvest your top Instagram videos…use it all! Use a Box.org, Dropbox, or Google Drive folder to upload assets to be used by the TikTok social media manager. Since the platform is mobile-first, making a shared multimedia asset folder will make their lives a lot easier and on-brand!
4. Be clever and instruct
The TikTok community loves ‘how to’ videos, and instructional content is done in a clever and creative way. What does your nonprofit try to teach stakeholders? Is there a surprising fact that could be illustrated by dumping pennies or knocking over dominos?
5. Connect the platforms
When setting up a TikTok account, make sure to connect your Instagram and YouTube channels to help leverage audience attention from other platforms.
TikTok For Good
TikTok for Good has a homepage that calls out how promoted hashtags and analytics can help you leverage TikTok for good, and offers a way to contact their regional teams with partnership ideas. There are annual traditions like Earth Hour (#MyEarthHour) that TikTok worked to promote with World Wildlife Fund, garnering over 100m views from 50k videos. TikTok Traditions include raising millions for UNICEF by having users play with filters and songs related to the holidays, which ran at the end of 2019.
Celebrate #TikTokTraditions together with your loved ones! TogetherForUNICEF♬
Nonprofits on TikTok
Many nonprofits are still finding their TikTok voice and their way onto the platform. As of publication of this article, groups like World Wildlife Fund don’t list an official TikTok account for the US, despite being a part of a sponsored trend on the platform around Earth Hour.
Dosomething.org leveraged TikTok over the holidays help provide essentials to communities in need.
We’re partnering with @tiktok this holiday season to provide everyday essentials to those in need.♬ original sound – dosomething
UNICEF uses the platform to highlight the impact of the work they do to reunite families.
The Canadian Red Cross instructs TikTok users about earthquake safety.
TikTok has analytics for accounts that turn it on. They are improving the features of their native analytics data and as of January 2020, they began featuring analytics on the views of posts by day and video. They also give a breakdown of amount and known gender of followers. Whole Whale predicts that as the platform gains traction in the marketing world, the analytics will continue to become more robust and eventually see integration options for social monitoring tools like SproutSocial and HootSuite.
And if all of that doesn’t convince you, consider the fact that Reese Witherspoon is now on the platform (which is awesome) a good enough reason to try it out…
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A Serious Note About China and Censorship
TikTok has stated community guidelines that prohibit hate speech and shocking content.
Some caution should be noted for organizations that deal with international rights and controversial topics. There are current investigations by the U.S. into how much data is being shared with the Chinese government. While TikTok does have offices in California and a separate U.S. team, copies of servers are also located in Singapore, which has close ties to China.
It is also clear that content critical of local national governments will be censored by regionally delegated TikTok teams. This was explicitly stated by TikTok’s representative in India, Raj Mishra, who has said the platform would not feature criticism of the country’s leaders (Bloomberg 2019). And also can also be seen by the treatment of Hong Kong protest content, though the hashtag #hongkongprotest does have over 740k views, but when compared to the content of Twitter’s #hongkongprotest it is a different tone and volume of activity.