TikTok, the video sharing social network service, has experienced tremendous growth during the Covid-19 pandemic. Although initially aimed at teens and tweens, TikTok has started attracting older users. It provides an online venue for lip dubbing and dance contests where participants can engage with other users around the world. Recently, TikTok users have gained media attention by harnessing the power of the network for political and social movements with support from other users.
Recently, TikTok launched TikTok for Business, a new platform aimed at marketers with a slogan urging people to make TikToks rather than ads. TikTok’s platform provides brands the ability to manage their own accounts, partner with TikTok influencers and create differentiated hashtag challenges. It offers augmented and virtual reality features that can be used to create immersive content.
Although still in its nascency in terms of campaign targeting and measurement features, TikTok offers an environment to capture authentic experiences that may be difficult to visualize in a static frame or with textual description. This is critically important for organizations that, prior to Covid-19, relied on in-person experiences as part of their marketing and recruitment strategy. There are, arguably, other platforms that can be used to share video content (e.g., Instagram Stories, Snapchat). But the unique aspects of TikTok are the playfulness of videos and novel hashtag challenges that garner participation. This content provides authentic perspectives about a place, its people and their personalities. Thus, three areas where TikTok may offer value are employee, student and donor recruitment.
A few months ago, many hiring processes started with a phone screening of a candidate and ended with a round of interviews at an office. This allowed a candidate to get a better perspective of the day-to-day environment of an organization, and a hiring team could observe the candidate interact in that space.
However, to adhere to health and safety guidelines, many final interviews are now taking place on Zoom or Skype. Photos of an office space or a short statement in a recruitment video do not fully capture banter between colleagues across cubes. TikTok provides a way to humanize and capture such elements of organizational culture.
For example, Klinikum Dortmund, a hospital in Germany, has effectively used TikTok to recruit new nursing talent. Through unorthodox and whimsical content, the hospital has been able to capture the day-to-day activities of its staff in entertaining ways. Other sectors could similarly leverage TikTok in their own recruitment efforts. Imagine the dance challenge after a successful debugging effort by a software development team.
While universities provide digital content to capture their campus experiences, campus visits retain their own significance. It is where a prospective student may witness current students huddled at a table studying for an exam or a freshman building an ice cream sundae for breakfast. For many high school students, the college campus visit is a rite of passage with campus tours and swag collected across different institutions.
However, such visits may not be possible in the current environment, and tours have been modified to accommodate social distancing requirements. TikTok offers universities a way to demonstrate the feel of a campus—whether it is through videos capturing students at an event or in class.
The University of Florida was one of the first institutions to use TikTok, but now other universities are adopting the platform. Since use of TikTok is relatively new in higher education, having designated student TikTok ambassadors may be a useful way for colleges and universities to get started.
Many nonprofits are struggling to manage their day-to-day operations with a lack of visitors and patrons. Zoos and museums across the United States have endured major layoffs. Coupled with this problem are the challenges faced by nonprofit development teams, which struggle to maintain their current donor base while attracting new donors.
Unexpectedly, TikTok may provide a viable way to gain supporters and potential donors, as it did for a small organization in the United Kingdom. The Caen Hill Countryside Centre in Devizes, U.K., teaches children about land management and farming. Its TikTok features cuddly and adorable farm animals that are likely to prompt a smile from children, parents and future donors.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art was one of the first museums to enter the TikTok space and has utilized the platform for events like the recent Virtual Teens Take the Met! event. As individuals struggle with months of quarantine and isolation, content that promotes joy is in high demand. Videos of penguins exploring an empty aquarium have gone viral, and people are recreating famous works of art at home. Nonprofits can develop TikTok content and challenges that convey their mission while providing entertainment.
Remember, as TikTok’s user base continues to grow, it’s possible your next employee, student or donor is watching your organization’s “Toosie Slide” dance challenge.