Recent months have been marked by media companies launching their TikTok accounts and trying to get a piece of TikTok’s insanely fast-growing pie.
In September this year, the BBC joined the ranks of Le Monde, NBC, The Washington Post, the Daily Mail and many others in trying to use the platform to engage with audiences in unconventional ways.
But how should media establish their presence on the platform without being a cringy tryhard?
There are several dimensions that determine a media’s approach to creating TikTok content, including the number of hosts (one vs. many), the information vs. entertainment balance, and the choice of topics (current events, important social/ political issues, trending themes etc.).
Success on TikTok is all about finding a unique and creative way to tell your story (and making sure it aligns with your goals). That said, here are a few types of content strategy:
Given that users’ personalized feeds are not chronological, TikTok is not the best platform for breaking news or current events.
That doesn’t mean publishers can’t cover news content, especially if it has a longer shelf-life. Argentina’s La Nación successfully covered the Global Climate Strike with posts on making a positive eco-impact. The recipe for success includes a balance between info and entertainment, and host charisma (usually one or a very limited number so viewers can build a relationship).
You can also take popular memes and inject news-related content, or insert fun facts into reports (e.g., USA Today explained that during the impeachment trial senators could only drink water and milk).
Several publishers have cracked the code for injecting educational content into their TikTok feeds with well-produced explainer videos on big stories. Interestingly, these usually come from a team of hosts rather than a single anchor (focus on content vs. personality)
In Australia, The Guardian had a very successful explainer on the bushfires earlier this year (it got 10k likes vs. their typical couple hundred), while Germany’s Tagesschau broke the 100k mark with a recent explainer on the COVID-19 outbreak.
In turn, France’s Le Monde produces a lot on science, tech, sociology and history, ranging from lunar property rights to dinosaur rankings.
People connect with people, which is why some media have gone for the v-log approach – typically focusing on a single, charismatic host who is running the account (or at most a small team).
TikTok appears to be a place for people, not for brands, argues Adriana Lacy, audience engagement editor at The Los Angeles Times, adding that Gen Z is more invested in people and relationships than companies and institutions.
When The Dallas Morning News launched their TikTok account, they posted a Full House-style intro of their whole audience team. In Switzerland, 20 Minuten achieved this “personal feeling” by posting relatable moments from around the office, such as a recent video about the excitement of leaving work on a Friday.
While many media have struggled to turn fact-filled newsfeeds into TikTok videos, others have gone the opposite direction.
Arguably the best example of this approach is the UK’s Daily Mail, which has embraced funny sketches and cute pets – often filmed by the viewers themselves (thus reducing costs) – to build a following of 1.2 million and over 33 million likes. In turn, the BBC opted to focus on posting short clips from its shows, rather than news content.
This approach is most likely aimed at the future monetization of the account, or brand recognition. Just remember to bring viewers back to your main products/ have a call to action, to not waste the effort.
Check out a report outlining the first steps for media on TikTok, as well as useful resources, case studies and tips and tricks, produced by hromadske, International Media Support and The Fix. You can find it by following the link.
This piece was originally published in The Fix and is re-published with permission. The Fix is a solutions-oriented publication focusing on the European media scene. Subscribe to its weekly newsletter here.