TikTok: A Guide for PR Professionals

Curating content, targeted advertising, and interacting with audiences through social media have become fundamental parts of the public relations field. Social media can be conversational, entertaining, humorous, or even educational. It’s a place for businesses and brands to share thought leadership, show their human side, and connect directly with their audiences.

Since they’ve been around for a while, we tend to be familiar with platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and maybe even Snapchat. TikTok, however, is the latest and greatest in social media. Formerly known as Musical.ly, TikTok took off in 2020 and hasn’t lost momentum with more than 1 billion active users across the globe today. The platform provides its users an endlessly scrollable, uniquely curated “For You” page of short videos from creators both large and small.

Unlike on many other platforms, TikTok users primarily view content from creators that they do not follow. The “For You” page is an algorithm based on user interactions, video information, and the user’s device and account settings. TikTok tracks the videos you like, the creators you follow, trending “sounds” and hashtags, and your own content to show you more of what you like and less of what you don’t, all while interrupting repetitive patterns to keep the content fresh.

So, what does this all mean for PR professionals?

Since the algorithm is curated for users based on their interests, your business or organization has the potential to reach its target audience just by posting, so long as hashtags and video content are representative of the brand and its ideas, services, or products. This is true even for newer accounts—according to TikTok, “neither follower count nor whether the account has had previous high-performing videos are direct factors in the recommendation system” for the “For You” page algorithm.

For an even greater chance of organic success, stay on top of the trends and produce relevant content that’ll resonate with the audience. When creating a TikTok video, you can use your own original audio or use pre-existing music or narration from another creator, called a “sound.” Typically, these “sounds” paired with certain hashtags and types of videos come together to create a trend on TikTok. When something is trending, it is more likely to appear on the more than 1 billion “For You” pages. Tying these trends back to the business’ brand is a recipe for success. Sure, it can be time consuming to track these trends, especially if you’re not personally a TikTok user. Fortunately, there are TikTok creators, like @ChooseYourSocial, that track the trends, so you don’t have to.

TikTok also provides a variety of options for paid advertising. You can create video ads that pop up in the “For You” page or boost your existing content, much like on other social platforms. Managed brands that work with TikTok sales representatives can create “TopView” ads, which take over the screen as soon as a user opens up the TikTok app. Managed brands also have the unique opportunity to sponsor branded hashtags or effects, (video filters and special effects). In addition, TikTok is chock full of influencers for every niche imaginable, allowing for influencer gifting and paid promotions. You can also boost posts from other creators, enabling you to sponsor an earned promotional post from an influencer with his/her permission.

Though TikTok is wildly popular, it is not a useful tool for every business. In the United States, 80 percent of TikTok users are between the ages of 16 and 34, and the platform is for the primary purpose of entertainment. So, TikTok would be most suitable for B2C marketing and brands trying to connect with young adult audiences and even teens.

Although there is a lot of fun to be had on TikTok, the platform does go beyond entertainment. There are dermatologists sharing skincare advice, creators hosting virtual coworking spaces, personal trainers providing their expertise, small businesses promoting their products, social justice advocates fighting for change, and many, many more unique creators saying something worth talking about. If TikTok is a fit for your audiences, this platform has endless opportunities to build brand awareness through paid, shared, and earned media. Warning though, if you personally join – keep an eye on how much time you’re willing to give the content, it’s easy to lose yourself (and the clock).