More publishers are experimenting with TikTok even though its monetization potential is not clear yet. The platform is building its ad capabilities but these are early days, and it will take some time to understand how well they work out.
We know it’s a hot platform, so we should be experimenting and dabbling there versus waiting for them to have mature measurement systems because we know people are there, and this is the time to get on. To reject it because they don’t have a full team of reps yet or any of the things that the mature platforms do is kind of crazy at this point. You’re going to be somewhat left behind.Matthew Rednor, Founder and CEO of Decoded Advertising
“We want to make sure that we’re there”
Currently, TikTok’s main draw is its highly engaged young audience. 69% of its users are from the 16-24 age group, while a quarter are 25 and older, reports Digiday. The platform has 800M monthly active users worldwide—over 30M of them in the US—spending an average of 46 minutes per day on the app. This makes it an excellent place for publishers to better understand the group of people who can become their future paying consumers.
We still believe, more so than ever, there’s a huge audience on the platform. It’s a great opportunity for us to engage and interact with that new generation of consumers. We want to make sure that we’re there. We can get feedback on what this audience likes and doesn’t like, which informs our broader content strategy.Sheel Shah, VP of Strategic Partnerships and Consumer Products at Hearst Magazines
Hearst Magazines repackages content from other platforms onto TikTok. Shah told Digiday that videos featuring celebrities and those which contain what he calls “mesmerizing” content usually show highest engagement. For example, Seventeen’s most popular TikTok post was one that showcased the art of bullet journaling.
Vice, on the other hand, has found that its TikTok followers prefer exclusive content. The publisher is planning to launch a Munchies by Vice account on TikTok next month. According to Cory Haik, Vice’s Chief Digital Officer, it will feature exclusive content made for the platform.
“We need to go in with a specific offering that feels native to what users of TikTok are producing themselves. We can’t do a derivative,” explains Haik. The content could include celebrating food bloopers to viral skits based on trending food items or themes.
“Never seen this kind of rise on a platform”
Complex is among the more successful publishers on TikTok. It has notched up over 1.4M followers on the platform after starting in June this year. Its social media director, Arman Singh Walia told Folio, “I have never seen this kind of rise on a platform or any social channel.”
He added, “You have to read the comments and engage with the audience.” According to Walia that’s how they learned that people wanted sneaker clips which have become a big hit for them on TikTok.
Complex is exploring the e-commerce potential of its feed via discount links and promo videos for the upcoming ComplexCon event. While figures were not shared, the publisher says they have shown positive performance.
“It’s more about long-term audience development”
Senior journalist Steve Smith, who covers digital media and technology, writes in Folio, “Clearly there is something going on in TikTok that is of cultural importance. The reuse of popular culture, the proximity of people to that culture, the role of the platform in lightly shaping the content are all things which are suggestive of things to come in media.”
Whether TikTok will be central to that future is anyone’s guess. But there may be important new disciplines for media companies to learn here when it comes to taking on the roles of curator, instigator and content provider. TikTok demonstrates that a next generation of media re-users are seeking a different relationship to their celebrities, their music, their media sources and to themselves as participants and spectators.Steve Smith, Journalist on Folio
Jamie Gavin, Managing Director of media agency, inPress Online recommends publishers to take a process driven approach. “Platforms like TikTok may come and go, but by taking a process driven approach to content creation and monetization, publishers can ensure that they are ready to hit new digital touchpoints, without necessarily betting the farm on individual platforms,” he writes in FIPP.
This also ties in with how Hearst’s Sheel Shah looks at the platform. According to Shah, “For TikTok, right now it’s more about long-term audience development and one day, maybe, monetization. We want to figure out what this audience is interested in and how we can extend this understanding onto other platforms where we do have ROI.”
“Embracing the culture is really important”
Several news publishers have started publishing content on TikTok. They include NBC News, the BBC, The Dallas Morning News, and The Washington Post. The Post is among the most successful newspaper brands on the platform with over 190K fans and 6M likes.
Its TikTok strategy is led by Producer/Writer, Dave Jorgenson. Below, Jorgenson shares tips that can serve as a quick reckoner for publishers who are planning to get onto TikTok or want to use it more effectively.
In conclusion, Jorgenson emphasizes, “Embracing the culture is really important.” A brand or newspaper can try to profit off the growing platform without figuring out its culture. However, audiences “know when they don’t understand the app, and they don’t know what’s going on.”