TikTok is scary. There, I said it. It’s the wild west of creative content – creators do what they like, the platform offers relatively minimal data, and the rules of what brands can and can’t do feel…hazy.
But therein lies the opportunity. More than one of our clients has decided to use TikTok as a testing ground for their slightly more ‘out there’ ideas, and that is because it offers vast creative freedom (on a channel C-suite probably won’t be paying close attention to).
Ultimately the lawlessness of TikTok can feel overwhelming, it’s like an open bar wedding – an exciting, overwhelming, universe of choice – but it’s opportunities are endless. If you’re not sure where to start, here are five ways to start getting creative on TikTok.
If you’ve already got the app, good for you, I can see why this point feels redundant. But let me tell you a secret, I am the Creative Director of a social agency, but it took me a minute to get my head around downloading TikTok. For anyone over the age of 23, the TikTok community can feel like a hostile place – my feelings have been very hurt by some of the millennial dragging content – and many users do not want you there.
With this in mind, it can feel a little weird to download an app that most people know exclusively for it’s dancing pre-teens. But trust me, if you want to understand TikTok and create decent branded content, you need to become a proper user. Like, check-the-app-every-day kind of user. You don’t have to start creating TikToks personally (although I’d recommend it), but at least familiarise yourself with the app functionality and the cultural dos and donts of the platform.
This content essentially performs because it effortlessly abides by the #1 rule for TikTok – do not, under any circumstances, be a brand. The platform blew up because, for a long time, it was brand free, and grown-up free. It is a place to be weird and have fun and create – users do not want to be sold to.
If your brand doesn’t have room to be silly, and you want to succeed on TikTok, relook at your brand. As I said before, I have no idea how the genius behind dystopian Percy got it over the line, but if Queen Mother of the high street M&S (and a literal nunnery) can get weird, so can you.
I’m sure nobody needs telling that jumping on social trends is important, but it’s about how quickly you leap and which trend you choose.
If you’re not a super brave brand, but you want to get involved, there are lifehack, ‘I was today years old when…’, and ASMR trends among others that are quick and easy to get involved in. Just remember, you don’t want to be a brand, your video should be short, and it should feel relevant to the platform. I’ve said it before and I will repeat it until I perish, if you personally wouldn’t watch the content you’re creating, why would anyone else?
If you’re feeling braver, it’s worth considering who will front your trend attempts given that, due to the nature of TikTok, most of them are fronted by a person or character. This leads us to…
TikTok is all about personality and expression, so establishing a fun and relatable character is a quick and easy way to kick off your brand channel.
If you have a mascot – a la Percy – that makes life easier, if not, consider who should be the face of your channel. Choose based on personality and energy, there will be millions of takes on any given trend, and yours needs to stand out and feel entertaining.
A good, humanoid, character to take a look at is Washington Post Dave (or our very own Max Tobin for Ministry Of!) especially if you’re looking to be funny in a family-friendly way. Try starting with applying your character to trends, and then develop up to mini sketches.
TikTok is all about sounds, and unfortunately for brands, the sounds available are limited for businesses and organisations. You will, however, have access to a royalty-free commercial music library.
Have a play with the sounds available, and let your imagination roam. Literally sit down, close your eyes, and see what the sounds mean to you.
Alternatively, make your own sound. If your sound happens to go viral, you’ve made it. And it doesn’t have to be labour intensive, it could be a sentence, it could be the sounds of pots and pans falling down the stairs, or if you’re musical, it could be a full on song.
The most important thing is to experiment. I want to say that the most important thing is to have fun, but that would give me flashbacks to my camp counsellor days. Think outside of the box, and colour outside of the brand guidelines, TikTok is uncharted territory, which means there’s plenty of room for discovery and success.