TikTok application

Six TikToK tips from a public sector comms team

TikTok is no longer a fringe platform. It’s becoming mainstream and amongst the vanguard of public sector comms teams now using it are South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue in the UK who have 100,000 followers on the platform. In this post, Campaigns Manager Jack Grasby shares some of the secrets of their success.
By Jack Grasby via Dan Slee. 

Eight months ago, my colleague Zander and I decided to take a leap of faith, and set up a TikTok account for South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue.

We made the jump after weeks of planning, discussing and lurking on the channel in a desperate attempt to understand how it worked.

Having done a ‘quick and dirty’ social media audit at the start of the year, we knew that setting up an account on the platform was not just desirable, but essential, as it had become clear that we weren’t hitting enough 16-24-year-olds through our existing channels.

What quickly become apparent to us is that TikTok is like nothing we’ve ever used before, and it would take more than some South Yorkshire overconfidence to make it a success.

Videos we didn’t find funny at all were blowing up, whereas what looked to like good content to us was flopping. And then there were the trends. And sub-cultures. How did all that work? Oh, and what’s autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) when it’s at home?

Eventually we decided that, having had some brilliant training to get us warmed up, the only way we would fully understand the channel is by diving in head first.

So, armed with our one-page strategy and social media audit results, that’s what we did. Here’s six top tips for anyone else considering doing the same.

Have a purpose

Whilst we eventually decided to take a gamble and dive in head first, we did set a clear purpose and strategy for our work on TikTok.

By clearly outlining why we needed to use it, and how the channel would help meet certain organisational objectives, we put ourselves in a strong position to deal with the inevitable questions we would get from curious members of staff.

Given TikTok has built up a (largely false) reputation for being a place that teenagers go to mess around and do ‘silly’ dances, this proved extremely useful.

Understand the audience

It’s no secret that being human, rather than corporate, on social media is generally the way to go when it comes to getting good engagement.

However, when it comes to TikTok, this rule applies more than ever. People use the channel to be entertained and educated, not hit over the head with dull public messaging.

There really is absolutely no place for anything that isn’t, in one way or another, entertaining. So yes, feed in your core messages, but find a way to make it fun.

Assemble your squad

One question we keep getting asked is around how we’ve got our staff on board. It’s a good question, given what’s already been covered above regarding TikTok’s reputation.

The answer, in a word, is persistence. Since launching the channel we have asked everyone we know across the organisation if they’ll be involved.

We knew from the off that not everyone would be game, and a key lesson we learned early on is that if people are only ‘lukewarm’ then there’s probably no point using them. Their lack of energy will only kill your Tok vibe.

So, our mission has been to assemble a squad of people who are up for it, and who will give us extra when we come calling.

Keep it snappy

When I close my eyes at night, I can still hear Zander’s voice telling me to mercilessly cut, cut and cut my edits down until there is hardly anything left.

And he’s right. Our figures suggest that the shorter the video, the better. After all, TikTok is a platform designed for short form video, and who are we to argue?

Embrace the chaos

With over 100,000 followers in the can, and the numbers continuing to grow, TikTok has now become our biggest social media channel.

But that won’t stop me holding my hands up and saying, in the name of complete honesty, that this platform is completely bonkers.

Unfortunately for the more organised amongst us, it’s not a place where you can have and stick to a clear content plan. Trends will appear, and disappear, right before your eyes.

For us to be successful on the channel, we had to throw ourselves into it and accept the fact that it’s all a bit crazy.

Roll with the punches

Whilst we wouldn’t change anything about our TikTok journey, it’s certainly not been easy. In fact, it’s been a complete rollercoaster.

We’ve had days where we couldn’t sleep for excitement. Our videos have been ‘blowing up’ and, simultaneously, our follower numbers have been increasing at rates we’ve never seen before in our careers.

But then we’ve had days, weeks and even months where nothing has stuck. Videos we thought would do well have flopped, and we’ve felt like giving up.

The algorithm is a cruel beast that will chew you up and spit you out. But, as long as you have a purpose and a strategy, stick with it.

Your time will come.


Jack Grasby is campaigns manager at South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue.

Image by Wachiwit on iStock

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