The TikTok Success in 2019 panel took place on the Lifestyle Stage on Friday at Summer in the City 2019. It featured Tom Hooker, Laura Bubble, Nico Cary and Anna (Anna_b_official), and was moderated by Liam O’Dell.
Liam began with introductions, asking why the panellists joined TikTok. For Laura, Tom and Anna, it all started before TikTok’s rebrand, when the app was still called music.ly. Laura used it as a place to just have fun and put the “stuff she wouldn’t put on YouTube”.
Nico, Chief Operating Officer of Influentially, explained that the agency focuses just on TikTok because of how quickly the platform is growing.
Many TikTok creators started their careers on other platforms, such as Vine. Liam asked the panel what they think TikTok has done well in comparison. “When I started on music.ly, it was basically everybody lip-syncing,” Tom answered, however he was “ripped apart” with comments like ‘Someone needs to come get their dad!’
So instead, he moved towards creating travel content and music.ly quickly adapted to include a wider variety of content. “With Vine, it was so short, you can’t do a make-up tutorial in eight seconds. It’s not possible,” added Tom.
Laura commented that TikTok makes it really easy to be discovered on the app, and so that attracts creators. Nico cited the community as a reason for TikTok’s success. It differs from Instagram, “which can feel quite distant and unreal”. Instead, TikTok is just “normal people having fun” and a platform where you’re “respected for your differences”.
Liam then asked the panel about brand deals. How do they convey messages in such a short time frame, while meeting criteria for brands? “Brands want to see two things: lots of impressions and the message to get across”, said Tom.
As with any brand deal, communication is key. According to Laura, scripts are never going to work, it’s important that the brand is willing to allow you to have creative control. Anna noted that “15 seconds is enough to communicate what you want to communicate”, you just need to be selective and plan it well.
Tom added that it’s possible to create videos longer than 15 seconds on TikTok, but they generally don’t do well: “the shorter the video, the more times it’s going to get views.”
Nico often works with brands and creators and emphasised that so far “the talent has undersold their own worth”, but it needs to be seen from “a 360-degree angle”. Brands need to consider the audience on TikTok. There’s more engagement from the Gen Z audience than on other platforms, such as Instagram, but some brands and products just won’t work on TikTok.
Liam then moved the discussion onto how the panellists tackle self-doubt and perfectionism when creating.
For Anna, she sees Instagram as perfect and polished. Whereas “with TikTok everything is so real, and it’s very easy to relate to”, so perfectionism isn’t needed to get viewers. “It’s more about how funny, impacting, or interesting [the video] is, than the quality of video itself.”
Tom agreed, describing how when he started he tried to make each video really polished. But he found that those videos would not do so well, whereas filming his friend eating noodles would. “You have to ask yourself, ‘what emotion does my video evoke in someone?’”. It’s content that is raw filmed on a ‘potato phone’ that can do well.
Laura said that “the beauty of it being 15 seconds is there is trial and error to it and not every video you put up is going to be a success. With it being short-form content, it’s not like YouTube, or another long-form content, where you’ve wasted days and days. If it bombs you’ve only wasted a few hours.”
Many creators post across multiple platforms. Liam asked the panel how they decide which content to post where.
Anna said that many people repost TikToks onto other platforms, but she doesn’t think that’s a good idea, as each piece of content should be tailored to each platform.
Tom made the point that people will follow you on multiple platforms and don’t want to see repeated content. They come over because they want to see a different angle to your life. You can repurpose the same footage, but make it different. Laura added that you can block film for different platforms as a way to save time.
Looking ahead to the future, Liam asked where the panellists see TikTok going next and what features they would like to see added.
“From a brand manager viewpoint, we would like to see URLs and clickable links,” said Nico. Even on Instagram, there’s limited use of links, as users need 10,000 followers to access the ‘swipe up’ feature on stories. Nico would also like to see a better way of monetising TikTok content: “Monetisation on TikTok is woeful”.
Tom agreed that while some creators do it purely for fun, he would like to see TikTok grow into something more, but without those features, it makes that difficult.
Laura believes that the production value on TikTok will soon increase. Just like on YouTube, “with the increase of users and increase of viewers, the quality is going to increase, and we’re going to have to keep up with that.”
Anna said “the app is growing really quickly. It only started a year ago, and it’s already so big and it’s only getting bigger. So, I think there’s lots more fun things to come from it.”
Photos by George Yonge.
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