TIPTOE AROUND TIKTOK
Brandon Grosvenor wrote this on Jul 22, 2020 | 0 comments
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Have you spent much time on TikTok? It’s silly; a thoroughly goofy antidote to the airbrushed, duck-lipped and acquisitive vanity that is Instagram. Imagine oceans of micro films, mostly clips of kids dancing. TikTok is an amped revamp of that erstwhile social medium, Vine, which Twitter ate in 2012. Advertising there, if that’s where your audience is, could be a good strategy. Just a few caveats below.
First, let’s mention the obvious elephant in the Zoom. You’ve probably heard of the unnerving possibility that anything you (and your kids) post there could abide forever on a Chinese Police server. The party line, so to speak, from TIkTok’s owners is that they have nothing to do with their government and their service is a fun, playground that has nothing to do with politics. The subtext here: don’t be political.
More important — and this is where so many brands have blinders on — think hard before setting up an account to hunt down ‘free’ publicity by disguising your sales messages as genuine content. People consider all social media as just that: social, where they mix with friends; not marketplaces where they’re bombed by salespeople. Even younger people.
As the K-pop TikTok users demonstrated at the sparsely attended Trump rally on June 20, they’re not just a bunch of stupid kids. This generation is media savvier than any before, lightning fast and quick to judge. You don’t want to end up on the receiving end of their judgments.
There’s a popular short segment from a 2015 episode of Last Week Tonight, where the host John Oliver begs corporations NOT to tweet. He repeats the above argument that social media like Twitter are the online equivalent of a cocktail party. Having Tony the Tiger burst into your conversation hollering ‘They’re gggrreat!” is inappropriate insensitive and weird. Oliver’s conclusion: “Twitter conversations and corporations don’t mix.” We don’t fully agree but take his point, and endorse the thinking to a qualified degree across all social media.
Brands can do two things on social media. 1) They can advertise there. That is, they can buy space and spread their message, or sponsor some event or game to engender goodwill. Then there’s number 2). They can participate as a voice in the conversation.
Both are legit but sparks fly when marketers conflate those two very different forms of communication. Some marketers cheap out and hoping to score viral attention by inveigling their message into genuine societal conversations instead of paying to play their corporate message on the sidelines.
The US Supreme Court considers corporations individuals or, more simply, persons. The decision which is surprisingly old, dating back to the 14th Amendment, and argues a powerfully reasoned case that makes logical sense but for that single, smallish point. You know: corporations actually aren’t persons. (Or as the TikTok kids say, WTF?!) With that sort of legal madness governing the West, it’s no surprise we marketers think everyone else buys into our desire to anthropomorphise our brands. Especially, considering how we toss around jargon like brand voice and populate our documents with irony-free sentences like “ our brand were a person, it would … [insert celebrity here].”
We aren’t saying don’t set up any social media accounts and post relevant information — nor are we saying don’t take any risks. Marketers can still speak in their brand voice and even pretend their annual sales goals and strategies are human. But DO stay in your lane.
Meaning? If you’re a glasses retailer, post news about the next popular colour trends in fashion. Don’t try to solve classism. If you’re a producer of cider, talk about terroir and what conditions make good apples. Don’t toss puns out regarding a few bad apples in the police force. Add value; don’t insert yourself where you don’t belong; and be more cautious, the younger your audience is.
If you’re not sure, follow Oliver’s advice: “Companies, your silence is never going to be controversial. No one will ever complain that ‘Skittles didn’t tweet about 911 yesterday! They must support terrorism; I’m never eating them again.’”
Just because the social media account is free, it doesn’t mean it can’t cost you dearly. You don’t want those silly kids on TikTok focus their lightning-fast goofiness at you.
Submitted by: Steven Bochenek, Special Contributor to Brand Grow Media Inc.