We take a look at how NGOs in the UK are using TikTok to raise awareness and engage audiences
Since its international launch in September 2017, TikTok has emerged as the leading destination for short-form mobile video. With hundreds of millions of users across 150 markets and 75 languages, the app represents an exciting opportunity to connect with a Gen Z, engaged, global audience.
This audience has shown an eagerness to unite behind charitable campaigns. TikTok positions itself as a social media platform with a focus on the ‘positive’. Their userbase reflects this message through the content they create and share.
The nascent platform exploded in 2020. People found themselves with a lot of time on their hands in the UK’s intermittent lockdowns, and TikTok found a foothold as he social media platform of choice for a younger generation.
As the app became more popular, the ‘TikTok For Good’ initiative gathered real momentum. Nonprofits, charities, and NGOs can engage the user base with ‘Hashtag Challenges’ whereby users create their own content to show support for campaigns.
The United Nation’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) launched the world’s largest dance challenge. Their #DanceForChange campaign to help people in rural areas of Africa and other developing countries saw 33,000 videos created, generating over 81 million views.
So how are NGOs in the UK using TikTok? How can they create content that engages and resonates with an audience? And how does TikTok differ from other social media platforms?
We at Charity Digital were invited to attend the ‘NGO x TikTok for Good Event’ on 13 November 2019. Around 100 representatives from approximately 50 charities attended the event, which was designed to inform and educate UK charities about TikTok. Top creators such as Steven McKell and MrASingh were on hand to share their stories and best practice on creating content.
"Keep with the feel of the platform. Be authentic. Make it silly, make it fun, make it joyful."
– Liz Kanter – Public Policy Director at TikTok
The word of the day was ‘authenticity’. TikTok may be set apart by its unique format, but just as important is that the app has cultivated its own style - its own vibe.
TikTok’s model of focusing content on a ‘For You’ page, rather than a more traditional feed, means that content is served based on the kind of videos with which you have previously interacted. Therefore, successful campaigns will be those that meet users on their own terms.
"I want to make content that inspires me, that makes me happy, that makes me laugh."
– Steven Mckell – Creator
Speaking on the ‘TikTok for Good’ panel, popular creator Steven McKell spoke of the importance that a positive message plays in his own work, and indeed on TikTok as a whole. He described successful videos as comprising "original content, fun content, relatable content". This outlook lends itself to empowering and engaging campaigns that allow people to feel a sense of involvement. Or in McKell’s words – ‘Beyond TikTok, it’s how you want to live your life.’
"We’ve had the luxury of being able to learn from other platforms."
– Liz Kanter – Public Policy Director at TikTok
Matt Griffiths, CEO of charity ‘Youth Music’, described their collaboration with the app as "mind-blowing, in terms of content and in terms of scale". No strangers to social media, the charity’s #stormzyvsmozart turned a Twitter hashtag into a national debate.
TikTok allowed Youth Music’s campaigns to garner a whole new level of visibility. Their ‘Music Shaped Me’ campaign saw 15 million engagements over three weeks on TikTok – as opposed to 16,000 on Twitter.
Griffiths sees the platform’s democracy of access as part of its appeal as a charity partner – all the more important for their work as they seek to address the way the music industry excludes people from working-class backgrounds.
"We thought we knew where we were with social media, but TikTok brought us to another place; another level."
– Matt Griffiths – Youth Music CEO
Ed Jones, Head of Digital Strategy at Team GB, described how their collaboration with TikTok (in support of the ‘I Am Team GB’ campaign) saw 6.8 million video views and gained 8.7k followers for the Team GB account. Team GB used the app’s ‘Hashtag Challenge’ feature for their event: ‘The Nation’s Biggest Sports Day’, which saw over 1,000 videos created in response.
The speaking programme concluded with a few words from our CEO, Jonathan Chevallier, who focused on our identity and mission as advocates for the embracing of tech and digital principles within the charity sector. Jonathan also expounded on the importance of content for charities, as well as how we’re evolving our content to be more user-focused and video-driven, before concluding that: "Content resonates. Content is king. TikTok is giving us another form of content."