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  • Writer's pictureChristina Soto

TikTok: PR Trend or The New Titan?

How the popularity of TikTok has changed the PR industry

By: Christina Soto

TikTok Logo
TikTok Logo

Before 2019, the big three of social media were Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Public relations professionals knew how to utilize these to interact with their audience through written content, photos, and comments. Most brands had social media marketing down and knew what to post to reach their audience and get a reaction. However, another social media platform began to emerge in early 2019, becoming rapidly popular with members of the younger generations. This platform was based on its users creating 30 to 60 second videos featuring various areas of content, such as comedy or tutorials, and it was named TikTok. By June 2020, TikTok had 91 million users in the U.S. and public relations professionals knew they had to tackle this new social media giant to stay in touch with their audiences. TikTok has become a huge PR trend, and it could be here to stay. PR professionals have taken advantage of the trend of TikTok by using it to reach younger audiences, increase word of mouth awareness, and give their organization relatability.

For You, the Younger Generation

The three products highlighted in Clinique’s face washing process.
The three products highlighted in Clinique’s face washing process.

Before TikTok was a trend in the PR world, it had become one in the social lives of Gen Z. During the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020, Gen Z turned to TikTok as a place of community and entertainment and it spread quickly. Soon a whole generation was united by viral jokes and fashion staples. This virality is what intrigued organizations and got them to join Tiktok. However, promoting to a predominantly younger audience was uncharted territory. It was up to these companies to rethink strategy and find a way to grow into this audience. Clinique is a great example of a company who rose to the challenge. Their practitioners started by simply scrolling through the app and taking in what was relevant to Gen Z. In an article with PR Week, Clinique's media professionals explained how they found the sweet spot, “after noticing organic conversations about skin positivity on TikTok, as well as conversations about “maskne,” or acne that develops from wearing a face mask. ”From this was born the #ZitHappens campaign. Clinique used this campaign to promote its products and the importance of a three-step face washing process. After releasing the campaign with a TikTok, accompanied by the hashtag and a song, Clinique received two billion views and a rise in awareness and sales.

Word of Mouth and Share of Posts

When a user opens TikTok, they are directed to their “For You” page. This page shows an endless scroll of videos to the users of not only people they follow, but also topics they are interested in. This automatically creates an opportunity for companies to be viewed by more than just the audience it already has. If it creates content that gains traction within its fan base, it could move on to reach an untapped part of its target audience through the “For You” page.

It could be argued that companies and organizations are having to do less work than before to promote their business. All they need to do is come up with is an eye-catching video or catchy hashtag. But, it is up to the company to continue to post quality content that users find share-worthy. As Forbes points out, “an engaged fan base provides third-party credibility while expanding the number of viewers of your content.” From followers and target audience members sharing posts directly with friends, they have then expanded the number of impressions on the page and increased the likeliness of adding a new consumer.

Another way that you can share videos on TikTok is through ‘Stiching’ videos. This means that a user can see a video with a funny first half and then make their own video to finish it. An good example of this comes from when NBA posted a video of NBA player Zach Lavine, prompting its audience with “Tell me you’re an NBA fan, without telling me you’re an NBA fan.” From this first video, its audience could then stitch the video, share it, and finish it by showing what makes them an NBA fan. This way of sharing is even more beneficial because it still gives credit to the NBA for their original video and expands their reach. Through this, a new public can be reached that might not have been accessible before. It’s as easy as the click of a button.

A connection like never before

Interacting with consumers through social media has never been as easy or as real as it is with TikTok. Because the platform is composed solely of videos, it forces companies to add a human aspect to its image. Companies create content that is based on current TikTok trends and jokes in the same ways users do. This adds an opportunity to connect with consumers on a relationship level rather than corporate. Since TikTok varies how videos are displayed to the user on the “For You” page, videos made by companies are seen as organic content so any reaction is genuine and authentic.

TikTok also allows organizations to not only reply to user’s comments, but to do it as a video if they wish to. Levi’s is a company that utilizes this feature well, replying to user’s comments on how to take care of their Levi’s. They've even made a video showing how to get coffee out of white jeans prompted by a user’s comment. This response feature allows companies to reach yet another level of connection and an extended crowd while engaging with a single fan. An article from PR Week describes it best as “consumers want truthful content and [companies] want meaningful connections. That’s why earned media is under the spotlight.”

The trend of TikTok has given the public relations industry the chance to innovate the way it reaches audiences, expands its audience, and interacts with them. It also allows PR to be authentic and create campaigns and see how consumers react in real time. These are reasons to believe that although TikTok started as a trend, it might be around for the long run.

About the Author

Christina Soto is a senior at the University of North Texas and is set to graduate in May 2022. She has worked on a bachelor’s degree majoring in journalism with a focus in public relations. Soto is excited to begin her professional career in PR after graduation.


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