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What’s the real value of TikTok and should your design agency be on it?

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We’ve seen a number of different social channels arrive to much fanfare in recent years. Some we forget fairly quickly (remember Vero?) and others we just can’t escape. TikTok is definitely one that looks here to stay, but what’s it worth to your agency and should you be adding it to your social strategy in 2021? 

Think video to reach Gen Z

Video rules the roost when it comes to content. According to TV marketing body Thinkbox’s annual report on viewing habits, TikTok grabbed an impressive 3.5% share of UK video viewing time in 2020 - significant when up against the likes of Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Disney+ and traditional broadcasters like the BBC.

And if you look at TikTok’s audience, its greatest share is Gen Z. Over 60% of users were born after 1996. That’s 25 years ago. The year Oasis played Knebworth, just to give you some perspective.

So, if you want to reach the next generation of designers coming through, then TikTok gives you a fairly powerful platform, not to mention the benefits of showcasing your understanding of this medium for the brands you work with.

Herein lies the challenge for TikTok. Launched in 2017, it’s still a young platform and has some way to go in supporting the efforts of advertisers and brands who struggle to grasp how best to engage a TikToking audience in an authentic way.

Even TikTok’s global agency lead Lionel Sim says “there’s a lot of education to be done” when it comes to growing TikTok’s business offering, with understanding of the platform low among agencies and clients.

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Image credit: AFP

What makes TikTok’s content unique?

TikTok is a space for creativity. TikTok creators are becoming some of the greatest influencers on the planet in their ability to generate content that users can’t get enough of. But it’s worth noting that there’s also a lot of weird stuff, which you can rightly assume is part of the charm.

The biggest challenge to time-pressed creative agencies is crafting content. With LinkedIn and Instagram - if done right - there can be a lot of cross-platform sharing. Not so with TikTok. You need to create fresh video content specifically for this platform and it usually involves a person willing to be in front of the camera.

So, what makes TikTok’s content different from other video sharing platforms? There’s dogs jumping rivers to Boney M’s Rasputin (7” version), there’s ‘Egg on Toast Hack’ to OMC’s How Bizarre. Oh, and there’s @GordonRamsayOfficial telling a woman off for taking her Pringles into the shower (with 7 million likes and over 61,000 comments ‘he yelled in lower case’). You see where this is heading?

The opportunities for creatives

Taking TikTok for a test drive shows that there is already an audience for content with the hashtags #designagency (with over 107k views), #brandingagency (with 4.3m), and #design (5.5 billion views). If you scroll through these tags, you’ll notice a smattering of small agencies, but overall a dominance of freelancers and students.

So, is there an opportunity for your brand and design studio? Yes, if you are willing to get to grips with the style of content that flies on here.

For creatives using TikTok there seem to be two main opportunities.

Firstly, showing off your office space. Granted a tricky thing to do in lockdown, but as well as your studio, there’s the opportunity to think about showing off your home office – and I know from all the Zoom time there’s some aesthetically pleasing home offices that would be well-received.

Secondly, an opportunity to show off work and the process of creating that work (currently shown via Mac screens and desk spaces).

There is a third category amongst designers. Having a gentle dig at the clichés of the design world (and clients). One sentence ‘make the logo bigger’.

What’s the value to my agency?

Is it worth it? If you’re an agency or designer who wants to embrace the latest trend or reach a generation of young up-and-coming designers, and importantly, you have the time and capability to create video content, then yes. Now is a great time to do it, test the platform out and have some fun.

If your agency is working with brands that are already in this space (Converse, Pretty Little Thing and Mercedes-Benz are already finding their way on here) then showing that your agency not only understands but actively uses TikTok can only be a good thing.

In truth, measuring it for real value at the moment is hard and there are already concerns about whether the platform’s metrics hold up to industry standard. But, as the platform grows, the demand for more robust measurement must follow.

It takes a certain type of person to actually enjoy spending time on TikTok (I know many people who hate it, but also find it completely addictive). It also needs to come with a warning.

TikTok is noisy and a world full of performers with time apparently on their hands. It’s a lot of pranks; a lot of ‘gross out’ videos; many experiments with food; and all done to a music soundtrack. If that’s your thing and you want to carve out a niche for your agency, I’d love to see this done well.

And in the meantime, I did “learn brand strategy and design” in 60 seconds, thanks to one helpful TikToker. I’m sure that wouldn’t frustrate any agency in the slightest.

Thanks TikTok.


Vicky Stoakes is the Communications Director at Red Setter.
 

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