Why PRs should TikTok in 2021

Why PRs should TikTok in 2021

Jordan Michaelides is the Managing Director and Head of Strategy at Neuralle Agency, which specialises in Challenger brands and talent. He hosts a Top 30 Business and Marketing podcast called Uncommon, having featured notable guests including Wil Anderson and Russel Howcroft (Gruen), Jase & PJ (KIIS 101.1), Tim Burrowes of Mumbrella, Dan Monheit of Hardhat and more.

In this Telum Talks To… Jordan takes us through why PRs should use TikTok in 2021, and how they can get the most out of this new-age social media platform.

Public Relations specialists are increasingly tasked with creating hype in a world increasingly saturated with content, whether it be across Traditional or Digital media. But that task is also the same reason why you love doing what you do, which includes finding the newest and coolest platform to use to your advantage - in this case, TikTok.

It’s pretty obvious that COVID-19 and the impacts of 2020 accelerated tailwind trends over a five-year period into just one year. For us in the digital space, all the rage was TikTok and the potential it held.

So why should you consider TikTok?

There are a few overarching reasons why TikTok should become a staple of your media based campaigns.

The structural changes on Facebook and their properties in the last 18 - 24 months gave TikTok the perfect opportunity to blast past Instagram in a COVID world.

Organic throttling is well known amongst all agencies and brands that are lucky to get an organic engagement greater than five to nine per cent. Get anything above that, and you’ve got to pay to play. Creators started to identify this in 2019, and by later that year we were seeing large movements and testing on TikTok. 2020 merely accelerated that already soaring growth rate.

The Algorithm. Yes, that fabled black box that no one but the Lizard people at Facebook and TikTok fully understand, are very, very different at both platforms. Facebook could honestly be considered a moderator / editor of sorts with the amount of curation that has been finessed on their algorithm in the last 18 - 24 months.

TikTok, on the other hand, is completely open. There is no throttling (unless their algorithm catches you saying naughty words), and creators have the freedom to create. They can get a sense fairly quickly on what does and doesn’t work

Video first cross-pollination. There are multiple elements of the platform that give creators greater freedom to create unique content. The video element and editing tools are far greater than most other platforms, bar Snapchat. Your ability to “remix” other creative quickly and intelligently is far easier on TikTok than all other platforms.

Authenticity. The platform is dominated by Zoomers (Gen Z) and Millennials (Gen Y) who value authenticity above all else. Being “pretty” on this platform just doesn’t cut it, you need to have genuine talent, a unique perspective, be informative or funny. High production material isn’t given any further favour by the algorithm or users, and niche focus is often more valuable than just being “an influencer”.

Niche development. When I look at our tight-knit TikTok roster today they all hit the points listed above, particularly the focus on some form of niche. But it’s not being niche-for-niche-sake that has the potential for PR specialists to utilise the potential of this platform, but the opportunity that comes when niche and cross-pollination are married together.

The greatest example I’ve seen so far in this quarter was probably the trend of “Sea Shanty”. For those playing at home, a sea shanty is a traditional folk song that was once commonly sung as a work song to accompany rhythmical labour aboard large merchant sailing vessels. That was found mostly on British and other European ships.

The story goes that young Nathan Evans, a Scottish postman, put out this style of song and the community of singing talent jumped on board. Before I knew it, we had unlimited variations of harmonised mashups, brands like Arbies were jumping on board, Epic Games had blended a special Sea Shanty emote into FortniteTik Tok was historically documenting the moment and young Nathan was earning media attention appearing on numerous traditional media including Good Morning America.

When you pair these elements together, with the underpriced talent we currently see in comparison to other platforms, TikTok has immense potential for a well-constructed campaign to earn solid media in the process, and creating hype for your accounts.

So how do you approach this new shiny toy?

Strategy first. Always. Our team knows that a well-positioned and strategised campaign is a brilliant way to cap any potential downside in falling on deaf ears. In this permission based platform, you need to get a few things right to ensure that you have the greatest probability of succeeding:
  1. Set the objective of the campaign clearly.
    1. TikTok is still in the very early days of finding call-to-action (CTA) optimisation. It’s not really clearly whether links (going off platform), follows (to your brands) or challenges (i.e. #doritochallenge) are more effective than the other. So be willing to test with your agency and talent.
    2. Do you have a link in bio? Do you put it in the comments, do you put it in the description of the podcast? Do you get the influencer to call out an action in the comments? The list can go on.
    3. Ensure that what you do is native, easy and engaging enough to encourage the influencer's followers to proceed.
  2. Select the best-positioned talent to represent the brand.
    1. Got a campaign for Lincraft? Consider “Cottage Core” talent. Got a campaign for Ferrero Australia? Consider “#Cooktok”.
    2. Picking a creator for the sake of being popular on the platform, doesn’t necessarily result in conversions.
  3. Give permission to the talent and their audience.
    1. Some of the worst campaigns I have worked on have given absolutely no freedom to the creator.
    2. Heavily scripted wording, carefully screened creative and a lack of trust of the talent’s audience is a guaranteed way to get poor campaign performance. Not one campaign I’ve worked on that follows the elements above is ever successful. Don’t waste your time if your brand contacts don’t trust creators, or are scared about “brand truths”. It’ll save you a lot of stress down the track.
    3. Audiences are very receptive and intuitive to what their creator is passionate about, they know when something has been reposted for the third time, or the creator is not themselves when posting.
  4. Seek participation.
    1. Some of the best campaigns we’ve been involved with or seen of late have had a challenge element to them that encourage the creator's audience to cross-pollinate. Examples include #PepsiHalftimeChallenge and #DoritosFlatLife for the Superbowl.
  5. Back it with Paid Media.
    1. This is a constant mistake I see made by brands and PRs when running any influencer campaign. You’ve effectively paid for all this creative work to be done, by an authoritative, trusted source, why not use that at scale?
  6. Track ROI.
    1. Get screenshots of performance from creators (yes it’s still that rudimentary), understand the performance and iterate with your brand.

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