The fast-growing platform presents a unique opportunity for media to reach new audiences – if they figure out how.
It has been a while since TikTok went from being just a lip-sync platform for teenagers to a social media giant.
That success has not gone unnoticed by businesses, which have joined the fast-growing platform in increasing numbers. Now, a growing number of media companies are catching up with the trend as they search for new methods to attract audiences.
We spent a few fascinating days watching TikTok videos and prepared a list of 7 cases (plus one bonus!) of European and American news organizations – useful accounts that have already achieved impressive results.
#1 – The Washington Post (USA)
- Followers: >910.7K
- Likes: >36.6M
As one of the first large news organizations on TikTok, The Washington Post started posting on the platform regularly in May 2019 and took aim at TikTok’s core audience – teenagers.
The account is run by Dave Jorgenson, aka “The Washington Post TikTok Guy”. He operates it like a personal blog about journalism from the inside, with a mix of amusing sketches, and of course news presented in a creative manner.
The account has participated in various challenges and trending formats. For example, #SummerInternOlympics videos were recorded in collaboration with dozens of Washington Post interns. The idea was to show in a humorous way what kind of “sports” people can still play while staying at home during the quarantine.
Jorgenson’s ability to interact with a young audience sparked great interest among followers not only at The Washington Post but also in journalism overall. The most popular videos have been viewed millions of times.
#2 – The Daily Mail (UK)
- Followers: >1.6M
- Likes: >58.2M
Unlike The Washington Post, the Daily Mail doesn’t run its TikTok account in the form of a journalist’s blog. An overwhelming majority of its videos are recorded by ordinary people, supposedly readers of the Daily Mail.
The TikTok account does not have much in terms of informative news – mostly just amusing videos with cute animals, funny children, popular celebrities and whatever might grab the audience’s attention.
This is an easier path than that taken by The Washington Post and if they’re looking for numbers, it appears to be working. The main goal may be direct monetization via TikTok once full functionality becomes available at a later date rather than, for example, capturing new (younger) audiences. Some of their most popular videos have been viewed more than 5 million times.
#3 – Radio Svaboda\ Radio Liberty (Belarus)
- Followers: >77k
- Likes: >1.2M
Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty broadcasts in more than 20 countries (primarily in the post-Soviet space) and has a separate editorial staff for each, but only a few have given TikTok a try. Radio Svaboda (Radio Liberty in Belarusian) is arguably the biggest success, although that success was born out of unfortunate circumstances.
The account has been dedicated solely to TikToks about current news from the very beginning and all captions are written in Belarusian. At first the Radio Svaboda TikTok account wasn’t really popular as accounts on the platform go – their videos would get a few dozen thousand views at most.
After protests against a rigged presidential election started on August 9 last year, news consumption went up on all the platforms. Trustworthy media witnessed especially rapid audience growth – meaning Radio Svaboda’s TikTok numbers went up as well.
The most popular videos are those featuring ruling strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka (one reached over 1.4M in views). The path of Radio Svaboda’s TikTok is unique and while such a “strategy” is not likely to work for most news organizations, it nonetheless showcases the breadth of opportunities provided by the platform. Radio Svaboda doesn’t run challenges or funny sketches – it mainly posts news, explainers and updates on the political situation.
#4 – BBC (UK)
- Followers: >526.8K
- Likes: >7.9M
The BBC created a TikTok account not so long ago, which in itself is solid evidence that media companies are still in the process of discovering how to use the platform. It presents an interesting case-study and a very different growth strategy – the BBC‘s TikTok content is mostly composed of fragments of their own TV shows, at least for the time being.
The BBC makes some videos in collaboration with Little Mix, the girl band. Members of the band, who have their own popular TikTok account (almost 2M followers), are involved in one of the BBC’s TV shows.
Besides short clips from this reality music show, there are also excerpts from “This Country”, a mockumentary sitcom, and the news show “BBC Breakfast”. However, effective such a “TV shows strategy” may be, it seems like BBC plans to expand the concept in the future. In one of its recent videos, the account introduced a popular voice actor and started emanating TikTok trends.
#5 – La Nación (Argentina)
- Followers: >181.3k
- Likes: >2.4M
Run in Spanish, La Nación is a shining example from Western Europe of a non-English TikTok media account.
At first, the account was managed by several journalists. It was updated sporadically and primarily covered the journalists’ routine. But it wasn’t just any routine. The editorial staff added some humor to their work by shooting videos on things like office life hacks, ways to cheer yourself up at work, yoga classes, or the correct way to wash your hands during the pandemic.
The rapid growth of the La Nación TikTok began in July 2020, when Sofía Altuna joined the team. Altuna has her own TikTok account with around 350k followers which, of course, helps in the development of the La Nación TikTok.
As a blogger who knows how to interact with young people, Altuna chose a corresponding strategy. She picks interesting news articles and explains them to viewers in her unique and energetic manner – these videos have grown to dominate the outlet’s TikTok content. The most popular reach around 500k views.
#6 – The Telegraph (UK)
- Followers: >107.9K
- Likes: >1.4M
Joining TikTok only in 2020, The Telegraph can be considered fairly new in the game, however it already has a pool of supporters.
Despite the platform’s easy-going vibe filled with memes and dances, The Telegraph does not shy away from covering serious issues, making videos about COVID-19, women’s rights, Ebola, mental health, and much more. They create easy to digest videos, where they explain trending news.
Currently, their most-watched video is the one about the Finnish secret weapon in the war against fake news. Are you intrigued?
#7 – Some Good News (USA)
- Followers: > 1.3M
- Likes: >35.3M
If you were looking for a happy place on the internet — you’ve finally found it. Started as a weekly feel-good news digest from the star of the Office, John Krasinski, Some Good News quickly became an internet phenomenon.
Here you can find, yes, all the good news — mostly curated UGC made to go viral from other TikTok accounts — that will help you find your trust in humanity again: from the warm family videos, to funny ones with pets.
Bonus piece: Sheet Geek
- Followers: > 2M
- Likes: >9.3M
Working in Google Spreadsheets has never been this easy. The 2 million subscribers are a testimony to the fact that lifehacks in Sheets do make our lives better.
If you want to go even deeper into the rabbit hole of media on TikTok — NiemanLab has created an exhaustive spreadsheet of media outlets trying their best to lip-sync and dance their way to news success on TikTok.
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.