My top five TikTok tips

Katie Tiffin 24th January 2023
Alex Johnston and Nick Chowdrey filming TikTok at WaterAid's London office.

Alex Johnston and Nick Chowdrey filming TikTok at WaterAid's London office.

TikTok is the fastest growing social media platform. For those new to the platform, starting a TikTok account might seem daunting. However, charities should not ignore this opportunity to reach new audiences.

Katie Tiffin, author of IBT’s new report, A Guide to TikTok for Charities, shares her top five TikTok tips. 


The algorithm sets TikTok apart from other platforms 

One of the key differences between TikTok and other social media is how users find new content and creators. 

On other social media platforms, users mostly only see content from people they follow when it appears in their news feed. They are less likely to see content from people they don’t follow, unless an organisation has paid for advertising. 

On TikTok, users find and watch videos which appear in their For You page on the app.The content in a person’s For You page consists of videos that the algorithm thinks they will like, based on previous behaviour patterns and regardless of whether they follow the creator or not. 

This means that TikTok videos can end up being viewed by millions of people, even if the account that posted them doesn’t have many followers. 

As Athar Abidi, Strategic Social Media Manager at Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), says: ‘it’s the only channel where anyone can go viral. Your content has got as good a chance as anyone else’s, it goes out in the same way.’

TikTok’s algorithm and focus on reaching new audiences from the For You page, rather than follower numbers, means you have the chance to make mistakes and try new things without worrying about losing followers.


TikTok is a great place to connect with young people

The majority of TikTok users are under the age of 35 – 92.39% of all TikTok users are aged 13 to 34. Charities can reach this audience on other platforms, particularly Instagram where 59% of users in the UK are aged between 13 and 34. 

But those who are already on TikTok have found that on that platform they can reach bigger audiences. These audiences are also more engaged with the content, thanks to TikTok’s algorithm serving users content they’re really interested in. 

For TikTok, a good engagement rate is anywhere between 4% and 18%, whereas on Instagram this is generally between 1% and 2%. 

Nana Crawford, Social Media Manager at British Red Cross, started the charity’s TikTok account with the aim of finding out if young people knew about the British Red Cross and if they cared about the organisation. 

Three years after creating the account, it became not only an important part of their youth engagement strategy but their biggest social media channel.


Charities belong on TikTok

Some charities might be wondering what they can offer on a platform already full of creators catering to every interest. But charities should remember they’re well-positioned to create the content TikTok’s audience is looking for. 

Sophia Smith Galer, Senior News Reporter at VICE, is a creator who has had more than 130 million views on her personal TikTok account. She believes that ‘charities are in a really excellent place because the kind of content they have s often a call to action. This is the kind of content that TikTok users enjoy consuming.’

Learning is also a huge part of TikTok’s culture that charities can tap into. RNLI’s video demonstrating a lifesaving floating technique for people in trouble at sea has been watched more than two million times. 


Do your research by immersing yourself in the TikTok world

Charity social media teams need to spend time on the platform to understand what content should look like. 

This content should be made specifically for TikTok, rather than recycling content designed for other platforms. 

Alex Johnston, WaterAid’s Social Media Manager, says that when they first started their account they repurposed videos made for Facebook – but this strategy wasn’t successful. Alex explains that TikTok users are ‘expecting things that look like TikToks and if they don’t, they will just scroll past.’

To fit into the TikTok style, content should not look too corporate or professional. Unpolished content that has been created within the app itself performs best. 

Spending time on the platform also makes it clear that creating shorter videos, under two minutes long, that grab someone’s attention quickly is crucial. 

Eleanor Sutherland, at Citizens Advice, explains that this is particularly important for videos tackling serious topics: ‘We might find we need to make the first two seconds really engaging by asking a question because if someone thinks this is just going to be a really depressing video, that’s not going to be very interesting and they will just keep scrolling.’ 


Be reactive 

The last of my top 5 TikTok tips is to be reactive.

TikTok is also about responding to trends and popular topics on the platform. The reactive nature of the platform means charities need to shift their mindset and think about how to make trends work for their message, rather than using their message as the starting point for a content idea. 

Trends can originate from different features on the app, including sounds, dances, transitions or hashtags. One trend uses a colour-changing filter accompanied by the song Happiness by Alexis Jordan. Creators share offensive comments they’ve received using the caption ‘things people have said to me about…’

British Red Cross successfully jumped on this trend by using the caption ‘Things people have said about refugees on our social channels which are NOT true.’

Creating content linked to news stories that are receiving a lot of attention on TikTok – or responding to comments on your TikTok with a video response – are also effective approaches to being reactive on the platform. 

These are my top five TikTok tips – but don’t forget that TikTok is a great place to experiment. There are no hard and fast rules for what works and what doesn’t. 

Good luck!

Katie Tiffin is IBT’s former comms and membership officer

If you’re reading this and you’re not a member of IBT, please consider joining. We hold regular media briefings and publish reports to help our members to be more effective in all their media and social media messaging.


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