Social Media

Talking TikTok

The biggest social media craze to hit the web in recent years, TikTok is a powerful marketing tool that anyone can use. Jane Louise reports

It’s a no-brainer that social media can be a fantastic tool to help promote business. Many have used the trifecta of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with great success.

Now, the latest social media platform that marketers are beginning to take notice of is TikTok.

If you are not aware of TikTok, it is a free short-form video hosting service – think YouTube in small bites. Launched in 2018 in its current form (after evolutions and mergers), almost half its 1 billion-plus active users worldwide are under the age of 30. Its popularity grew extensively during the COVID-19 pandemic to bring it to almost equal footing to Instagram in 2023.

TikTok’s popularity has been secured by a few factors. It is extremely easy to access and use. Its structure can make any idea go viral, and creators don’t need an existing audience to build their following. The short format also makes it easily digestible.

Videos go viral due to the algorithm, which recommends videos to a user based on similar content they have already consumed. This deliberately connects like-minded people together, effectively spreading information.

A little history: prior to 2018, TikTok was, a social media service based on lip-syncing music videos and dancing. While that is not the case now, this history ensured the heavy use by younger demographics.

These days, while the demographics are similar to earlier years, there has been an ongoing trend towards activism in the political and social spheres. Depending upon what the algorithm brings to a person’s feed, this has often resulted in a culture of inclusivity, with content turning to genuine conversations, quirky comedy and DIY culture amongst other things.

Another long-term trend on TikTok is for personal branding, that is, it encourages users to create their personal signature style of video that they hopefully become known by.

While this is interesting, what does this mean for pubs, and how can it be used to engage younger crowds?

TikTok for Business boldly states that “92% of users globally take action after watching a TikTok video”. It encourages businesses to “make ads that are tuned into culture”.

Whether that statistic is genuine or not, people are certainly starting to take notice.

Businesses are only now starting to realise the potential of TikTok. The top business brand on TikTok is Chipotle, with over 1.4 million followers and videos regularly hitting millions of views. They understand their customer base is mostly Millennial and Gen Z and their move to TikTok has paid off.

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Last month, there was controversy over TikTok influencer Dylan Mulvaney partnering with Bud Light. Ms Mulvaney has 10.8 million followers on TikTok and was selected in an attempt to capitalise on TikTok trends and expressed sentiments, so the brand could diversify into other markets.

Closer to home, there are around three million TikTok users in Australia.

While there are Australian media and hospitality brands who are practically veterans of TikTok, showcasing well-curated versions of what Australia has to offer since 2020, these aren’t quite hitting the mark with the younger audiences.

However, grassroots-level marketing is rising in popularity, and it might be easier to achieve than it first appears.

TikTok users are increasingly looking for those who are genuine in what they do. Gen Z especially is known for their values. Retail-

wise, they care about ethics and sustainability. They do their research online and will look for connection to a relatable brand.

To reach this market, a business needs to understand their own values and mission. This can be simple. For example, The Prince Alfred in Carlton, Melbourne posted the above seven-second video.

In the past year this one video has had one million views, 55.2 thousand likes, hundreds of comments and thousands of shares.

The Grand Hotel Warrandyte, Victoria recently shared their Aussie pub culture in which a punter was the unlikely winner of 37 slabs. In just a few weeks this video reached 255 thousand views – and naturally, at the same time they educated the world on what is a “slab”.

Their video shows that polish is not a deciding factor on what becomes popular. It’s about the genuine content.

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Earl’s Juke Joint, a small bar in Sydney’s Inner West, does a good job of introducing the viewer to the bar’s vibe in just 15 seconds (and 134.2 thousand views):

All three of these videos are distinctly different yet show the personalities of the venues well.

TikTok also kept rural NSW pub Collie Hotel afloat during the pandemic. The Collie Hotel have built up an incredible following, including 77,000 TikTok followers. Their breakthrough began when they shared their series ‘publican life in lockdown’, garnering over 22 million views from around the world.

TikTok is a platform unlike the others on the market as it’s not necessary to build a following first. The algorithm will naturally send your videos to people in your area looking for similar things. And while it’s popular, there’s still less competition for engagement than other platforms.

Having said that, there are still some guidelines that are helpful to follow:

  • Use a business account. They are also free and have extra features, which show data about the account’s users. Understand the metrics and they will help guide future videos
  • Allow posts to show the real personalities behind staff and customers. TikTok embraces authenticity and this will be reflected in the likes, comments and shares
  • Share behind-the-scenes footage, daily activities, and regular interactions with customers. Be playful, show humour and boldly embrace mistakes
  • Follow the trends, whether it be the latest sounds or duets. The sound clip used in The Prince Alfred’s video above was on trend when it was made

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  • Follow the trends, whether it be the latest sounds or duets. The sound clip used in The Prince Alfred’s video above was on trend when it was made
  • Encourage customers to post their TikToks having fun on premises, or at home recreating your signature dish
  • Get interactive with followers by creating challenges or competitions
  • Respond to comments. While it might not be possible to respond to all comments, responding to a few boosts engagement
  • Follow competitors and related influencers

As for the other platforms, followers still appreciate regular content, and appreciate a series they can come back for.

TikTok also uses hashtags, which are helpful to reach an intended audience. Choose relevant hashtags for the intended targetaudience and which are on brand.

With just a little creativity, posts like the above (which received almost 50,000 likes in one month) could be a possibility.

Overall, TikTok is something to have fun with. It can be a fantastic way to interact with potential and current customers who are already online in this space. Gen Z and Millennial staff will likely be more than happy to embrace it, giving TikTok the potential to be a low-cost yet powerful advertising tool to that market.

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