A version of this article was first published on Digital Content Next
For the past few years, TikTok has been the platform at the cutting edge of social media, with a rapidly growing, young cohort of users.
Media companies like ABC News and the Washington Post have developed a strong following on the platform, while BBC News has seen a 2000% increase in followers in the last 9 months. A recent report from the Reuters Institute found that 49% of leading news publishers worldwide now regularly post to TikTok while nearly 1 in 7 people in the 18 to 24 age group use the platform for news.
The number of publishers commiting to the platform is growing year on year. Our Publishing Trends Report 2023 found that 59% of publishers believed TikTok would be more important to them this year compared to 2022 — a jump of 39% percentage points in the last year.
These developments, however, are taking place against the backdrop of growing regulatory pressure on TikTok’s parent company ByteDance. It is conceivable that the world’s fastest growing social media app could soon be banned in the US. Why, then, are so many news organizations choosing to invest in a platform whose future is shrouded in uncertainty?
Why invest in a platform with an uncertain future?
1. The short term gain justifies the investment
The simplest answer is that whatever happens to TikTok in the future is less important than the benefit to be gained from the platform now. When we asked publishers which activities would be more important to them this year, 47% of respondents to our survey answered growing social followers and engagement. Publishers are going where the audiences are, figuring that readers exposed to their content will either follow them on other social platforms or sign up to newsletters in the event that TikTok becomes unviable.
2. All social media is becoming like TikTok
In the long term, the continued investment in TikTok is an indication of the new realities of social media as a whole — quite simply, TikTok has changed the game.
In the last couple of years, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube have all sharpened their focus on TikTok, looking to ape its once distinctive allure to users. The calculation here, therefore, is that even if the platform was to be banned, the innovations that it pioneered, such as short-form vertical format video, will remain, alive and well, on other platforms.
Meta’s cross-platform Reels as well as YouTube Shorts have seen impressive performance stats. Meta announced during its Q1 2023 earnings call that Reels had been responsible for a 24% increase in time spent on Instagram.
Meanwhile, steadily declining referral traffic from Facebook for news publishers is, in part, the result of a reprioritization of video content over text-based content.
Investments made into acquiring the skills and technology to produce content on TikTok can therefore be put to productive use on other platforms where short-form vertical videos have been incorporated.
The results of our publisher survey reinforce this. For 47% of publishers, creating video will be more important this year than last.
How to succeed on TikTok? Timing is everything
In the here and now, how can publishers take advantage of TikTok’s popularity and increase the potential virality of their content?
The most fundamental difference between TikTok and Facebook is the nature of its “recommender algorithms” which determine what content is served up to a given user. These algorithms can theoretically pick from any piece of content on the platform, without being tied to only what is produced by followed accounts.
This removes a barrier to publishers who want to increase their exposure on the platform. Not having the potential visibility of content circumscribed by follower numbers means that, theoretically, it’s easier for any publisher to produce viral content.
Achieving high performance on TikTok is all a matter of timing.
The process by which TikTok promotes content is simple: it shows content to a small sample of users in its For You feed, and if engagement and watch time is high the video gets promoted to a larger group and so on. Posting video at a time in which a high number of engaged users are active means that the potential for virality is immediately increased.
Utilizing AI-powered social media management tools to optimize post timings is therefore a simple and cost-effective way to increase visibility. The fact that a publisher’s TikTok follower count has virtually no bearing on which content is promoted allows greater opportunities for AI systems to maximize the potential visibility of a video and help its performance snowball.
Echobox’s new TikTok integration does just this. Echobox uses AI technology to analyze prevailing audience trends on the platform and calculate the best time to post, ensuring as many active users as possible are exposed to your content. And it does this not just for your followers, but also for non-followers interested in similar content, ensuring the broadest possible audience.
Using Echobox’s simple UI, you can create and share videos to TikTok, and keep track of your post’s performance with detailed analytics.
The future of TikTok remains uncertain, but the platform is rich in immediate benefits. With over a billion predominantly young users, publishers have the opportunity to meet new readers where they now congregate. With a combination of Echobox’s AI smarts and a forward-looking strategy, publishers can become trusted and indispensable news sources with or without TikTok.
Get in touch and find out what Echobox can do for you!