How WaterAid found success on TikTok

Jade Worner Engagement Coordinator, WaterAid 29th November 2022
Examples of Water Aid's content on TikTok

WaterAid's TikTok content was a surprise success. Image: WaterAid

Two years ago Jade Worner was given the task of launching WaterAid’s TikTok channel. Although she was a novice on the platform, the channel has been a surprising hit. Here, she shares the lessons that she has learnt.

My goal when I was working on TikTok was to seek the best spaces to champion young voices, design educational youth engagement activities and supercharge digital comms to inspire action.

When the pandemic began, I had to ask where were younger age groups heading as the physical spaces they occupied closed down? The answer was TikTok. 

Confident in my audience knowledge, backed up by evidence through audience focus groups, bolstered by some free ad spend for the platform, and trusted by senior staff to seize a brand-new opportunity (and to lead a period of testing content on the platform) – our TikTok channel was born.

What content styles work well?

It’s now no secret that TikTok’s audience isn’t looking for professionally edited or high production videos, which means creators don’t need a fancy camera or tonnes of experience editing videos in expensive programmes to do well on TikTok. 

Think of your story, film the content on your phone, edit in the app – even a novice like me could produce something that people want to watch. 


we’re tired of waiting, time for #ClimateAction#bringtheaction #cop26 #fyp #wateraid #climatejusticenow

♬ original sound – Shannon

From an audience perspective, TikTok’s 2020 slogan “Real People, Real Videos” was a refreshing one – and was an integral factor in its initial success. 

When platforms such as Instagram – the leading platform for younger people prior to TikTok’s take-off – have become spaces dominated by filtering, TikTok offers a space to genuinely connect with others through learning, entertainment and interaction – away from the filters.

We began by testing content formats to see if we could flex trends and styles to fit our work and messaging, and to set benchmarks for future content. 

Performance was measured by follower growth and engagement with the videos.

What makes TikTok different from other social media?

Upon opening the app, you are presented with the “For You” page. Rather than showing you content exclusively from the people you follow, this page will present you with algorithm content personalised especially for you, based on posts you’ve interacted with before.

Whereas other social media channels at the time required you to build up a following in order to get decent reach, on TikTok that doesn’t matter so much. 

Thanks to the algorithm and set up of the “For You” page, someone with few followers can reach thousands or even millions of views. It presents the perfect opportunity to reach people that wouldn’t necessarily see your content or messages.


THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT IN 2020 👊 #fyp #my2020 #2020wrapped #ohno #2020rewind

♬ original sound – WaterAid UK | charity 💧

Top tips for charities

Some of the main learnings from my time TikTokifying our content:

  • Be reactive and be quick to jump on trends before they lose relevance. Our best-performing pieces of content continue to be those that we created in response to emerging trends 
  • Utilise hashtags linked to trending sounds to leverage your video’s reach
  • TikTok content is created audio-first but verified accounts have limited musical libraries. Get creative or get talking to your lawyers about copyright laws now
  • TikTok is all about subcultures and communities – find the TikTok communities your stories will resonate with.

Top tips for setting up your own TikTok account:

  • Don’t be scared to be silly and try new things – your experiment could end a viral sensation!
  • To senior members of staff: trust your team. Staff who use and understand TikTok are best placed to create your content, regardless of seniority
  • TikTok isn’t going anywhere – start making a case, setting up your account and making content!
  • You can definitely share serious stories on TikTok but try to find fun ways to communicate them.

Jade Worner is Engagement Coordinator at WaterAidYou can follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn. A version of this blog was originally published on the Charity Comms website.

If you’re interested in learning more about how your charity can reach younger audiences through Tiktok, sign up to IBT’s online TikTok masterclass on 6 December 2022.

It’s just for IBT members, whose membership benefits include events like this one – plus access to journalists and editors, audience insights, bespoke skills training and networking opportunities.

If you’re not a member yet, you can find out more and apply here

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