OK, some of you likely already know this, but here’s your two-minute read on TikTok. This free social media app allows users to create and share short videos. It launched in 2018, replacing the Musical.ly app, which pretty much did the same thing. TikTok is a source of entertainment for younger audiences, but it can also be an effective marketing and branding tool.
Andrew Selepak directs the master’s program at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications and specializes in social media. He says TikTok has tremendous potential but you’re going to have to get creative to succeed there.
“If you can build any brand as being interesting, people will want to do business with you,” Selepak says. “If you’re a university, people will want to go there. If you’re a business, people will want to associate with you.”
But who are you going after with this platform? TikTok is designed for younger people, with a target audience of 13-17-year-olds. Yep, it’s not your daddy’s social media. There are TikTok “celebrities” with millions of followers who often create new video content that will be recreated by millions of worldwide users. The content often consists of new dance routines or viral video challenges in which participants riff on a particular idea or theme.
“Your parents or grandparents are unlikely to spend two hours on TikTok, but depending on the audiences you are trying to reach, it can be a wonderful platform.”
When successful, this tool can reach both customers and potential customers. Companies can show new products, venues can share snippets of concerts, and schools can build excitement for upcoming events.
“While this might not be great for sales, it is great for awareness. Social media is best at creating awareness,” Selepak said.
He also said that it may eventually be possible for TikTok to engage older audiences — Facebook started out for the kids, too, right? Content creation on the app is relatively inexpensive so news organizations and other industries have a low barrier to entry when it comes to experimentation. And Selepak says the TikTok user interface is more friendly than Snapchat’s where news organizations and other industries have already launched some successful initiatives.
But here’s a warning. According to Selepak, it’s important to remember that TikTok, like its predecessors Vine and Musical.ly, is a fleeting app. “It’s very likely that there will be government regulation on this app soon because it is a Chinese company,” Selepak said. “Also, a lot of people still don’t know how to use it well in terms of content creation.”
Still, those that do use it well have another tool for reaching that elusive younger demographic.