TikTok… Not just for twerking teens anymore ?

I was in my junior year of college at the UA when I decided to take a class in Sports Marketing. Deeply embedded within my professor’s soapbox tirade about how marketing killed hockey and created a general de-evolution of man into toxic masculinity were some incredible nuggets of wisdom. 

The one that has always stood out to me was a study that produced what marketers referred to as the “aspirational age,” or the age most people wish they could be. I was 20 at the time and thought 30 was the most sophisticated age, so I was shocked to learn the aspirational age is 17.

TikTok has been somewhat of a sensation with teens, and, in following this theory of the aspirational age, most things that are adopted by teens, are then adopted by their parents and filter up from there. Once they become adopted by us “old people,” the teens will find something new – out of sight from their helicopter parents where they can express themselves. 

We’ve seen this trend play out time and time again….. Myspace, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat…. And now TikTok

When TikTok first came on the scene it was sort of dismissed by most marketers. It was problematic in so many ways because of a lack of regulation. X-rated videos filtered through people’s feeds, accusations of child trafficking, and, of course, the US government ban on downloads for employees due to security breaches (not helped by the fact that the company’s ownership is linked to China). There are still some major companies and government agencies for which the ban exists, even though a lot of the company’s more problematic past has been resolved.

So, given its murky history,


would I waste an entire email update on TikTok?  

I can sum it up in one sentence: TikTok is here to stay and if we don’t figure out how to use it, we’re going to lose an incredible opportunity to gain influence.

What is TikTok?

I had a vague understanding of what TikTok was and sort of hated it. Honestly, I got sick of seeing my daughter and her friends do these weird and sometimes inappropriate dances. We banned all use of it in our house and I largely forgot it existed. Then, as this platform has evolved, I had to research it. After all, if I’m to be successful at my job, I have to know the tools we’re using, right? 

So, I downloaded TikTok and spent my first session completely immersed. AN HOUR LATER I emerged from my TikTok coma and learned, in short, TikTok is addictive. They capitalize on every psychological tactic imaginable to suck you in. 

Most videos are super short – 0:05- 0:15 seconds. They are funny, engaging, with lots of movement and catchy songs. You can choose exactly what you want to see, save the videos you like, and learn something new – like a recipe, a tip, a trick, stock market tips (and cryptocurrency), etc. in less than 0:10. Some of these things are life-changing hacks (did you know that Windex can cure acne!!! Etc., etc., etc.) and others are just stupid junk food for your brain. But at least 90% of it is entertaining. 

TikTok is constantly learning what you like, and the intense AI algorithms are learning so much about you it’s creepy. It hones in on my brand of humor, the types of hobbies I enjoy, the style of food I like, and anything else that I’ll find entertaining or relevant; what I end up with is a perfectly curated feed, optimized to capture and engage me – keeping me on there longer.

Ok… that’s awesome. But how do we actually USE TikTok?

Part of what excites me most about TikTok is how organic the ads feel. Unlike Facebook, YouTube and Instagram, the ads are much less ad-like. Yes, there are a few corporate standouts that are very ad-like, but many have drifted away from that. 

A few tips: 

  1. Use music. Almost no TikTok ads have any talking at all. TikTok in general is very music-oriented and catchy music sells. Using music or common TikTok sound bites to creatively tell a story is huge and immediately grabs your attention. 
  2. Be funny, be silly and don’t take yourself too seriously. TikTok is not a serious platform. You’re not going to sell your story being serious and full of gravitas. Not going to happen. No one wants to see heavy, tear-jerker causes here. TikTok is an escapist platform in which you can watch celebrities voiceover videos of their pets (this is a real thing). So instead – take your team and do a dance on TikTok, or patch together a few songs to tell your story. Let people get to know you!

    Here’s an example of a really popular meme-style video that is used in a large variety of situations:
  3. Show, don’t tell. Don’t make people listen to you or read too much. TikTok hinges on video paired with music and, this is the best part, the video can all be shot on your cell phone. Almost nothing is overproduced (except for corporate ads), and in some ways it harms you to be overproduced because it doesn’t blend quite as well.
  4. Never. Stop. Learning. This is an evolving platform with new adopters every day. The age of TikTok is growing and with that comes more opportunity and a lot of change. Like all digital, this should not be static. XFinity launched a smart campaign designed to really engage their audience. Here’s the screenshot description (full article requires a subscription):

A few other interesting articles……..

Explosive product potential on TikTok:

If you’re a nonprofit and think TikTok is not for you, think again!

And here a how and why to join TikTok for your business (in case you’re not already convinced):

Finally, as always, if you need help figuring out how to use TikTok for your business or nonprofit specifically (because you are unique), we’re here to help!


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