By: Faith Ford
TikTok, is a massively popular app that lets users create and share videos up to 60 seconds long. At least that’s the Dictionary.com definition of the content creation app that started to gain social media users’ attention around 2018. So how did TikTok get to where it is today? And what does it mean for the future of social media, especially in the public relations, marketing and advertising industries?
TikTok, described as one of the fastest-growing social media platforms of 2020 – and all time, began as an app that most people had recognized as Musical.y after an acquisition in 2017 by a Chinese company called ByteDance. Due to this merger of brands, the app specialized in dancing clips which led to viral trends of dance-offs, lip syncs, and extensive use of hashtag challenges. The app today has grown into a hotspot for influencer marketing and as a medium for brands to use when sharing their messaging. In just four years, the social media site has reached 150 countries, has 2 billion downloads, and 1 billion active monthly users. All this activity puts TikTok ahead of business favorites like Facebook and Instagram.
While TikTok has shown its tremendous growth and strengths within its use as a marketing and communications hub for businesses, the app has faced crises that have jeopardized usage rates in the business world. The biggest issue facing the platform is privacy.
Concerns about privacy have been under the lens of the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission and were even highlighted in a late summer move toward a possible nationwide ban on the social networking site, and other actions by individual businesses.
In a July NBC news article, reporter Kevin Collier states that, “The bank Wells Fargo told its workers to delete the app. Amazon ramped up the scrutiny of TikTok on Friday after a leaked internal email said company employees needed to remove the app from their phones. Amazon later clarified that no such edict had actually been issued.”
It seems hard to imagine that employee internal conflict with this app would reflect positively on the company, when the company starts to use it for its own purposes, as employees are a primary public to keep in mind.
However, the hesitations to use the app for public external messaging also becomes easier to understand. Why would a business invest in positions to research, analyze and create when there’s a possibility of the app being removed from your consumers?
With regard to these concerns, it seems that TikTok has outgrown its “he who cannot be trusted” description, as more and more businesses join the viral experience.
Considerations for Businesses
Of course, businesses shouldn’t just join in on the site just for the numbers and its popularity. There has to be some reason for their use or else the messaging seems forced, is lost, and won’t reach their intended audience. This is where PR comes in. Remember: “What or how you do something is not as important as the WHY.”
So what does this mean for companies wanting to use TikTok as a social media platform?
Do your research. Know who your audience is and what they are looking for. If you are a Senior Living facility, for example, trying to reach 65-year-olds, TikTok is probably not the place to reach your primary audience.
Be engaging. The whole point of social networking sites is to connect you with people. The ability to engage with your audience will give you a better idea of who they are, what they are looking for, and their personality. The extra effort of responding to comments, “dueting” challenges that have helped your brand, and being conversational with influencers is valuable for your brand on the platform.
Be aware. Look for opportunities that seem organic and authentic for your company. Is there a trend that fits your new launch? Act on it! TikTok trends move quickly, so being aware of the app’s climate is important to being up-to-date and creating new and unique ideas.
Other Emerging Social Sites
TikTok grew – fast. It was important for businesses to be aware of its presence, even if they were choosing not to be as active on the platform as their employees. While there still may be reservations about the site, here are some social media sites that public relations, advertising, and marketing professionals should keep their eyes on:
Social media, including TikTok, can be a powerful tool for businesses wanting to reach their audience. However, if you are considering including it in your communication strategy, don’t forget to do your research, and most importantly, don’t forget to answer the “Why?” if you want to maximize its effectiveness.