If you’re anything like me, you may be wondering… what the heck is TikTok, anyway? You’ve probably seen their branded content syndicated to a number of social platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter and maybe not even given it a second thought, but this quickly growing app is not one to ignore. It may seem like only teens are using this new, popular social channel, but it’s important to understand how TikTok can work for digital publishers too! We want to jump right into how TikTok can help publishers increase engagement and reach, but if you’re interested in learning more about the background and history of the platform, check out some great information here. To start, let’s dive into the offering of this trendy new platform. 

TikTok allows users to create videos up to 15 seconds in length. Multiple clips can be strung together to create a 60 second compilation video, and longer videos that have been recorded outside of the app can also be uploaded. The app also provides Snapchat-like filters, Instagram-style discovery (explore page), messaging, hashtags, and users can edit their content within the app too. However, TikTok’s biggest emphasis is on engagement. Users are encouraged to interact with each other by recording reaction, duet, or challenge video, which keeps the content and conversation flowing! 


How can TikTok work for me?

So now that we know what TikTok is and how it works… let’s understand how it can work for you! The first opportunity starts with the unique audience amassed by TikTok. This up and coming platform has engaged an audience of mostly Millennials and Gen-Z’s that many digital publishers have struggled to acquire. Engagement among the 500 million active users is so high that they’ve launched features to help reduce time spent on the app-- crazy right? Brands haven’t wasted a second jumping in on this new opportunity. Companies such as Burbury, Chipotle, the NBA, and the Washington Post are using it for brand awareness and to engage younger audiences. Publishers that are looking for a platform to express their more informal and playful side will definitely be able to achieve this on TikTok.

Of course, we want to set our publishers up for success on the platform, which means tailoring content to match the platform, without damaging any brand reputation, editorial integrity, or just simply annoying their audience. Rather than stating what you should or shouldn’t post, let’s look at an example of a digital publisher that is totally winning the TikTok game: The Washington Post. They were one of TikTok’s early brand adopters, and although they tend to post investigative or serious content on their other social channels, they’ve taken a totally different approach to TikTok. Similar to the Disqus Instagram page, the Washington Post has chosen to share more behind-the-scenes videos, comedic skits about the newsroom, and play around with the most eccentric special effects and music that the platform has to offer. Here’s a great example of when they brought in Beto O'Rourke to give a very “serious” speech on his run for president.


As of now, the Washington Post has over 189,000 followers and growing! 

Another opportunity that the app presents to publishers is advertising. While it’s still in the early stages of ad development, TikTok is making some big moves. AdAge recently reported that a ‘leaked’ TikTok pitch deck had been making its way around different agencies, and presenting five ad-solutions to deliver in-app: Hashtag Challenge, Brand Takeover, In-Feed Video, Branded Lenses, and Top View Video. Currently, these packages seem to be simply ‘pay-to-play’ options, but will be potentially integrating more sophisticated content/revenue sharing partnerships in the future. 

Rather than traditional and straight forward analytics, TikTok is more of a listening channel in the same way that Facebook and Twitter are used for social monitoring. For traditional publishers, TikTok can be a great resource for observing the behavior of the particularly young audience on the platform, and understand how they like to consume content. Simply having a presence on this channel can provide new insights into how digital technology is growing and evolving, and even inspire new ideas that can be applied to your strategy. For publishers looking to not only grow their audience, but tap into the younger and often more challenging Millennials and Gen Z’s, TikTok may be just the answer you’ve been searching for. After all, Cisco predicts that, by 2020, 82% of consumer internet traffic will be video, so beginning to understand how younger audiences are consuming video content will be crucial to staying relevant. 

So, are you on TikTok or have you been waiting to learn more before signing up?