With a reported 800 million active monthly users, TikTok has become a viral sensation. Local news publishers should all be looking at how to jump onboard. We’ve put together a guide to the most effective TikTok strategies for local news publishers.
From education to entertainment, local news publishers are finding many different ways to grow their audiences with the TikTok app. The short-form, video-sharing service gives its users a simple way to create and share 15-second videos about every topic under the sun. While it’s best known for its viral dance videos, TikTok has actually amassed a huge cache of educational and newsworthy content, as well. The potential to educate an entirely new generation of news consumers is part of the reason why so many news publications have gotten on board and created their own TikTok accounts.
The best TikTok strategies for local news publishers involve some combination of education and entertainment. Certainly, most people open the TikTok app on their phones looking to be entertained. They want to see something catchy, or funny, that they can share with their friends. But educational, newsworthy content is an important element of the TikTok platform, as well.
The Washington Post is one of a number of legacy media companies to experiment with TikTok. The company has amassed hundreds of thousands of followers on TikTok since launching an account in May of 2019. Most of those followers are on the younger end of the spectrum, which is helping The Washington Post build out its brand among younger audiences.
TikTok has also become a valuable tool for publishers that want to show a more “human” side. With so many young people lacking in trust for the media right now, TikTok is one way to turn that mistrust around. The best TikTok strategies for local news publishers actively work to promote understanding and trust between the publication and its audience. Publishers have come out with video clips designed to debunk misinformation and explain some of the most common myths about local journalism. Broadly speaking, TikTok hosts much less misinformation than Facebook or Twitter, which is something for publishers to keep in mind as they develop their strategies and decide which types of videos to create for the platform.
Below, we’ve put together a list of the best TikTok strategies for local news publishers.
1. Take note of what’s already been posted.
Journalist Francesco Zaffarano keeps a running list of TikTok accounts run by news publishers in this Google Doc. Scrolling through this list you may see some names you know and some news publications you will want to check out. It’s worth following some of these publishers’ accounts to get a sense of what types of content other local news publishers are posting on TikTok.
Idea: Once you have a sense of the types of short-form videos other publishers are putting out, you will be in a better position to come up with your own TikTok strategy.
2. Let your people do the talking.
Your publication’s Twitter feed and Facebook page might be written in an authoritative tone, but you can afford to get more creative and informal on TikTok. TikTok users prefer to interact with actual people rather than institutions, so this is the time to put your star reporters front and center. The best TikTok strategies for local news publishers almost all center around the publisher’s team.
Idea: Encourage your editorial department to get creative as they introduce themselves or put together a video of relatable moments.
3. Tell old stories in new ways.
Although there are some publishers that post breaking news content on TikTok, that’s usually better reserved for other social media channels, like Twitter. The best TikTok strategies for local news publishers strike a balance between professional reporting and entertainment. Find a more creative way to tell a story that’s already been published on your website.
Idea: You could interject local news content into a viral meme or post a brief clip about one of the subjects of a recent news article on your website.
4. Try an explainer video.
What’s something people should know about that falls within your publication’s niche? Is there a popular myth or a hidden gem worth exploring? Is there a particular city park that people don’t know much about, or an obscure law that you could explain? Professionally-produced explainer videos do well on TikTok. If you’re looking for a way to break through the clutter without getting too silly, explainer videos are one way to do it.
5. If all else fails, go weird.
We don’t want to damage your professional reputation here, but weird does tend to sell on TikTok. Strange facts and funny videos are instantly sharable and relatable. This is the content that people want on TikTok. You can save your longform articles and serious breaking news updates for other social media platforms.
Idea: If you are just beginning to explore the TikTok app, the best way to stand out is by posting completely original content that’s unlike anything people have seen before.
Is your publication investing more in social media in 2021? Check out this guide to the best Twitter strategies for local news publications and learn how to use Instagram to connect with younger readers.