Tik Tok is the latest social media platform attracting serious hype and keeping teenagers amused for hours. I’ve been spending some time getting to grips with it for our new Social Media Investigations service.
If you want to know more about how Tik Tok works, this video explains what it’s capable of and how to get started and this one from the BBC discusses the privacy concerns which every parent should know about.
With such huge user numbers (it’s fast closing in on a billion) businesses, brands and organisations are lining up to join because they want to reach the teenagers who use it. Liverpool FC were among the first, then Burberry, the United Nations are there with one of their programmes and already I’m hearing small businesses asking if it’s a platform they should join. This is usually followed by a bewildered ‘what am I supposed to do?!’ and quite often a disbelieving sneer that this is how so many teenagers choose to spend their time.
Here’s what I think: Don’t use TikTok unless you want to. If you don’t understand it, don’t like it, and don’t feel comfortable taking part in the memes and challenges that spring up every day – for example if the thought of doing a lip sync video makes you want to hide under a rock – then don’t go there. Don’t join. Don’t use it. Nobody wants you there anyway. TikTok will be just fine without you and your organisation.
But from a business point of view there’s nothing wrong with recognising TikTok users as a lucrative audience. Maybe you have a product to sell to them, or a message you want to get across. And you’re absolutely right to want to engage them.
So do it the right way. It’s time we stopped seeing ‘influencer’ as a dirty word. There are thousands of teenage TikTok users near you creating engaging content, getting large audiences and using a variety of digital skills along the way. So respect the work they do and pay them for it. Form relationships and alliances – call them ‘influencers’, ‘ambassadors’, ‘partners’ – whatever you want. Come to a deal where they get your message to the audience you seek in an innovative way, you reward them for their time and skill and as long as you are upfront and transparent about the nature of the relationship then there should be no problem.
It’s one thing being social. It’s quite right that most businesses and organisations have a presence on mainstream social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook. But as new niche platforms emerge, as skills become more specialist, there comes a point where you have to recognise you’d be out of your depth trying to build a presence on them all. There’s little point (you’ll never build an audience) and little need (there are 17 and 18 year olds down the road who’ve already done it and could work with you).
If you want their help and value the audience they’ve built , then respect them and pay them for access to it. If ‘Social Media Manager’ is a credible job title at a large organisation, then why can’t ‘social media influencer’ be a credible part-time job for a teenager? Surely it beats a paper round?