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Jumping on the bandwagon: Insights from a TikTok media launch

Lessons learned from hromadske’s first two weeks on TikTok

Media can no longer ignore TikTok. The short-form video platform, with more than 850 million monthly active users and over 2 billion downloads, has become increasingly interesting for media companies seeking to reach out to and build relationships with a younger audience. 

A growing number of global heavyweight media are jumping onto the new platform. In September this year, the BBC joined the ranks of Le MondeNBCThe Washington Post and The Daily Mail in trying to use the platform to engage with audiences in unconventional ways. 

Most media, however, don’t know what to do once they’re there. In the hyperactive world of 15-second videos it’s not easy to both convey a meaningful message and stay trendy. The move to TikTok can be a daunting challenge for news media used to fact-filled texts and lengthy films.

In markets like Ukraine, almost no big national media are present on the platform. Some smaller niche players tried – mostly to test the platform capabilities rather than to establish a noticeable presence – and didn’t amount to much. 

Yet didn’t dissuade hromadske, a large national media in Ukraine, from seizing the opportunity to get ahead of the competition. The team launched its TikTok in the middle of October – just ahead of local elections – and in less than two weeks they managed to get 36,5 thousand likes and over 350 thousand views.

The Fix had a chance to observe the process of the launch and the first steps on the platform in real time and note a few lessons that might be useful for other media planning to jump on the high-speed social media bandwagon. 

Context behind the launch

The idea of being present at new emerging platforms is part of hromadske’s DNA. Initially launched in 2013 as an attempt to create an independent communal (“hromadske” means communal in English) public broadcaster, hromadske quickly became one of the loudest voices of the Euromaidan revolution in Ukraine – streaming street protests on YouTube (a novel solution at the time) around the clock.

But TV is steadily losing its positions globally, and Ukraine is no exception. In Ukraine the share of people who use TV as a source of news went down from 85% in 2015 to 52% in 2020 according to a study by Internews. 

Young Ukrainian citizens with age from 16 to 24 are one of the two core audiences of hromadske, which made TikTok an obvious choice for expansion. 

Media can no longer ignore TikTok. The short-form video platform, with more than 850 million monthly active users and over 2 billion downloads, has become increasingly interesting for media companies seeking to reach out to and build relationships with a younger audience. 

A growing number of global heavyweight media are jumping onto the new platform. In September this year, the BBC joined the ranks of Le MondeNBCThe Washington Post and The Daily Mail in trying to use the platform to engage with audiences in unconventional ways. 

Most media, however, don’t know what to do once they’re there. In the hyperactive world of 15-second videos it’s not easy to both convey a meaningful message and stay trendy. The move to TikTok can be a daunting challenge for news media used to fact-filled texts and lengthy films.

In markets like Ukraine, almost no big national media are present on the platform. Some smaller niche players tried – mostly to test the platform capabilities rather than to establish a noticeable presence – and didn’t amount to much. 

Yet didn’t dissuade hromadske, a large national media in Ukraine, from seizing the opportunity to get ahead of the competition. The team launched its TikTok in the middle of October – just ahead of local elections – and in less than two weeks they managed to get 36,5 thousand likes and over 350 thousand views.

The Fix had a chance to observe the process of the launch and the first steps on the platform in real time and note a few lessons that might be useful for other media planning to jump on the high-speed social media bandwagon. 

Context behind the launch

The idea of being present at new emerging platforms is part of hromadske’s DNA. Initially launched in 2013 as an attempt to create an independent communal (“hromadske” means communal in English) public broadcaster, hromadske quickly became one of the loudest voices of the Euromaidan revolution in Ukraine – streaming street protests on YouTube (a novel solution at the time) around the clock.

But TV is steadily losing its positions globally, and Ukraine is no exception. In Ukraine the share of people who use TV as a source of news went down from 85% in 2015 to 52% in 2020 according to a study by Internews. 

Young Ukrainian citizens with age from 16 to 24 are one of the two core audiences of hromadske, which made TikTok an obvious choice for expansion. 

@hromadske

Одноразову маску рекомендують змінювати 2-4 години. Зізнавайтеся, скільки її носите ви? #коронавірус #covid19 #україна #маски #hromadske #новини

♬ оригінальний звук – hromadske
hromadske’s most watched video about mask-wearing habits

The team has played around with a few formats for the initial launch, including vox populi (asking people questions on the street), humorous sketches, and short educational videos on different topics. Vox populi were one of the most successful and distinguishable formats so far, receiving the most views and likes. 

This relates to hromadske’s strategy on the platform. 

“What we managed to learn is that you have to work for recognition. Create your ‘trick’ in the content, stand out in terms of color, format, appearance, music – not to get lost in the thousands of recommendations that your subscribers see,” Leonova explains. 

Screenshot of hromadske’s TikTok account

Another interesting finding from the first two weeks is the fact that TikTok seems to work in waves, at least if you look at a smaller language constricted market like Ukrainian TikTok. The team noticed that the traffic is increasing and decreasing in certain periods of time (notably early evenings and some mornings, but not always consistently) and would load up on videos ahead of time and release them when they noticed traffic picking up.

Looking forward, the team aims to constantly revise and rethink their strategy, to keep learning and innovate, Leonova noted.


By Zakhar Protsiuk

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 kind permission. The Fix is a solutions-oriented publication focusing on the European media scene. Subscribe to its bi-monthly newsletter here.

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