Recently, Intouch’s EVP of Media and Innovation Justin Chase, and SVP, Executive Creative Director Brent Scholz, sat down with a 4A’s-convened group of executives and representatives from the most popular social media app in the world, TikTok, to discuss the platform’s utility for advertisers. Chase and Scholz discussed the merits of TikTok for health and life sciences.
Where the fundamental appeal of TikTok may lie is in its “realness” – at least at the present time. First, at least at this stage of its development, its creators are mostly just that – creative – rather than posed and picture-perfect. “Influencers” are for Instagram; TikTok calls its most popular users “creatives.”
“I find this refreshing,” said Scholz. “You’re not trying to ‘buy influence’, but rather to participate with creation. It’s not about giving a blueprint, but collaborating on a topic.”
This intrinsic realism, coupled with the performative nature of the platform, helps to make what would otherwise be considered dry content exciting and fun. Consider Kat Norton, AKA Miss Excel, who offers tips on spreadsheets (as well as other software) – and makes up to six figures a day. Or Dr. Alicia Jeffrey-Thomas, a pelvic floor therapist in Boston whose videos offer friendly, plainspoken advice on the often stigmatized topic. TikTok welcomes creators talking about anything and everything with a down-to-earth approach that is often set to music, or propelled by nuanced hand gestures and subtitles, or voiceover. (TikTok’s representatives specifically noted a case in which a person attempted to replicate their Instagram success on TikTok but failed to attract a following because both the strategy and content of the two platforms align about as closely as a square peg in a round hole. )
A person attempted to replicate their Instagram success on TikTok but failed to attract a following because both the strategy and content of the two platforms align about as closely as a square peg in a round hole.
It’s Not Who You Know, It’s What You Know … and How You Depict It
TikTok’s appeal may also lie in the way that it prioritizes one’s interests rather than one’s connections. Facebook built the “social graph” – an algorithm structured to deliver content that’s populated based on the size and scope of one’s personal network, then emanating out only several degrees from there. The problem, which has been much discussed by Facebook’s detractors and now Congress, is that this social graph creates echo chambers reflecting one’s existing viewpoints, without offering new or competing perspectives. The platform dynamics of both Twitter and Instagram heavily mimic Facebook’s social graph – for instance, Twitter will tell you you’re seeing a tweet because a friend of yours liked it. The brilliance of TikTok and the reason it is the number one app in the world right now isn’t the platform itself, but rather the novel design of the algorithm, which prioritizes content over connections. This means that the presentation of the content and the creativity involved, trump who you know, or who you are connected to.
The brilliance of TikTok and the reason it is the number one app in the world right now isn’t the platform itself, but rather the novel design of the algorithm, which prioritizes content over connections.
“This content-focused approach is a boon for pharma, as brands don’t need to waste time building up the network and influence of a creator before seeing any dividends in engagement,” said Chase. “Instead, brands should invest in social listening and analysis to tap into the zeitgeist before architecting creatively driven experiences designed to be platform-relevant.”
TikTok offers three tips for advertisers learning to use the platform:
– “Sound On.” Unlike other platforms, sound is essential on TikTok, not secondary. (Though closed captioning is possible and encouraged for increased accessibility, engagement, and SEO.)
– “Tap the Talent.” TikTok encourages partnership, and can act as a liaison, for finding and working with creators.
– “Keep It Real.” According to TikTok, about half of their most-viewed videos qualify as emotionally appealing.
According to TikTok, about half of their most-viewed videos qualify as emotionally appealing.
But, of course, always put the brand before the tech. “No matter what’s emerging, it’s not the tech looking for the idea,” said Scholz. “The brand has to understand what the tech offers, what culture is welcoming, and come up with a compelling reason to participate. If you’re just trying to mimic what’s going on for the sake of being part of things, you’ll fail. You have to listen first, and then enter the fray armed with the right insights. I want brands to give themselves permission to play – to understand that it can be worthwhile – but to know how to play correctly.”
Chase agrees, and explains: “For a pharma brand, it’s exciting to consider that we can partner with the right healthcare professional – regardless of the size of their network, or how many followers they have – then ideate on the creative that is going to be most compelling, related to the audience we are trying to reach. Putting our efforts into these activities would seem to be a better investment than trying to spend months building a following, before deploying any type of meaningful content with reach.”
Connect with your Intouch team to discuss whether TikTok could be an avenue to explore for your brand!