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TikTokify your comms: learnings from a new way to do things

16 April 2021

I’m not a social media expert – I barely even use my own social accounts. But, in spring last year, I ended up at the helm of WaterAid’s presence on a platform which was exploding in popularity, TikTok.

What I lack(ed) in social media prowess, I make up for in youth engagement expertise. In my roles, I seek the best spaces to champion young voices, design educational youth engagement activities and supercharge digital comms to inspire action.

So as the pandemic took hold I had to ask where were younger demographics heading as the physical spaces they occupied closed down? TikTok. You know the score: pivot, innovate, adapt. Confident in my audience knowledge, backed up by evidence through audience focus groups, bolstered by some free ad spend for the platform, and trusted by senior staff to seize a brand-new opportunity (and to lead a period of testing content on the platform) – our TikTok channel was born.

What makes TikTok different?

The channel offers a human (digital) experience, with entertainment and connection at its core – just what was needed in 2020 – and beyond.

You don’t need a fancy camera or tonnes of experience editing videos in expensive programmes to enjoy TikTok – as a creator or a viewer. Think of your story, film the content on your phone, edit in the app – even a novice like me could produce something that people want to watch. Perfect if as a charity you’re short on financial or film editor resources.

From an audience perspective, TikTok’s slogan “Real People, Real Videos” is a refreshing one – and is an integral factor to its success. When platforms such as Instagram – the leading platform for younger people prior to TikTok’s take-off, have become spaces dominated by filtering, TikTok offers a space to genuinely connect with others through learning, entertainment and interaction – away from the filters.

Our initial objectives were to test content formats and see if we could flex trends and styles to fit our work and messaging, and to set benchmarks for future content. This really allowed more freedom to test and learn. Success was then measured by follower growth and engagement with the videos.

Why is TikTok important for charity communicators?

Upon opening the app, you are presented with the “For You” page. As the name suggests, this feed will present you with algorithm content personalised especially for you, based on posts you’ve interacted with before – not exclusively from the people you follow.

Whereas other social media channels require you to build up a following in order to get decent reach, on TikTok that doesn’t matter so much. Thanks to the algorithm and set up of the “For You” page, someone with next to no followers can have their content propelled to the tops of feeds and earn thousands of views. It presents the perfect opportunity to reach people that wouldn’t necessarily see your content or messages – provided you create excellent content of course – or jump on trends.

Top tips for charities

Some of the main learnings from my time TikTokifying our content:

  • Trends: use them. Our best-performing pieces of content are those that we created in response to emerging trends (#my2020 – a montage series of round-up content as 2020 came to an end,  #IntroduceYourselfChallenge – showcasing staff personalities by highlighting basic facts and interests outlined by the trend). By using the hashtags associated with the corresponding trends, we leveraged views beyond our usual reach. Keep an eye on them to keep relevant and expand content potential.
  • With that in mind, reactivity is key. If something’s trending, jump on it quick. You can’t afford to have 10 rounds of sign-off before something goes up, or it’ll be too late.
  • TikTok content is created audio-first but verified accounts have limited musical libraries. Don’t set your heart on creating a piece of content that is driven by a particular song. Get creative or get talking to your lawyers about copyright laws now.
  • It’s a niche place. Communities exist across all areas of life, which is the beauty of it – did you know #BookTok was a thing? Find the TikTok communities your stories will resonate with.

Five top tips for setting up your own TikTok account:

  • Don’t be scared – you basically can’t go wrong. Videos go viral all the time for no discernible reason. That piece of content you were too intimidated to try could be it.
  • To senior members of staff: trust your individuals. Get staff to lead the content, who are genuinely “native” to the platform, regardless of seniority.
  • To my fellow enthusiastic novices keen to get started on the platform: don’t hang around. Start making a case, start making content and set up your account!
  • Tell your stories but have fun while you do it. There’s definitely space to tell serious stories but try to find fun ways to communicate them too.
  • Don’t be surprised when you’re a TikTok convert. It’s a pretty inclusive place, with TikTok claiming their audience is more a mindset than a generation. New data now shows 67% of users are over 25.

Now you’re ready to be the next member of Gen TikTok – enjoy!

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Image: Aditya Ali on Unsplash

Jade Worner

Senior engagement & fundraising officer, WaterAid

Jade is Senior Engagement & Fundraising Officer at WaterAid. She has over 7 years' experience leading young people to success in international development and formal education contexts globally. At WaterAid, Jade leads a programme of youth education and engagement activities - championing young voices and encouraging social action. Jade is proud to share powerful stories from across the world in student spaces and on WaterAid's digital channels.