After a year of developing my TikTok skills, PM Forum asked me to both run a webinar on it and write this piece. Is there a place for TikTok in the future of legal marketing? As the platform continues to evolve for B2B brands, it could be very much a case of watch this space…..

T is for TikTok

About two or three years ago, I became aware of another social media platform which was gathering fame for its rapidly growing user base. It was called TikTok, and it was the evolution of the video-making  lip-synching app Musical.ly.

At that time, opinion amongst marketing peers was divided. It still is. Many said “Why would you bother – it’s for kids!” Others (some might call them digital soothsayers) said “It’s amazing – you HAVE to try it.” 

I made it my business to understand this new phenomenon better so I could confidently talk about it with clients. And after a debut during lockdown 1 of recreating some of my favourite 80s music videos, Crafty Counsel asked me to take part in their A-Z of Legal Innovation. The brief was to explain TikTok in a way a grandparent could understand it. 

So if you still don’t know what TikTok really is but are too afraid to ask, here is a 60 second TikTok on TikTok itself (so meta).

@helenloves80s

Jargon-busting challenge! Describe what TikTok is to a load of lawyers. #legalinnovation #legal #legalmarketing

♬ original sound – hburness75

18 months on

Eighteen months later, there is so much more I would say about TikTok when it comes to creating content. Whilst this video gives you a good overview of functionality, what I don’t talk about is what can really drive TikTok in terms of content creation, and that’s meme culture.

Meme culture

What’s meme culture? 

Actually, what’s a meme?!

My husband has no clue when I talk about memes. Recently he admitted to me “I don’t even know how to pronounce it.” So for those in a similar meme boat:

A meme is a particular format which can be repurposed for any number of contexts or situations. The format is publicly shareable and instantly understandable, which allows others to create their own variations on the original meme.

That means that when you dip into TikTok, if you are not regularly on the platform, a lot of the content might seem pretty absurd and difficult to understand. It’s like being in an “in” joke. But watching people and increasingly brands put their own individual, often comedic spins on a particular format or “meme” is where you find a lot of the humour and originality. 

More than memes

Comedy is not the only format. There is some hard-hitting content on TikTok also. Creators use it as a platform to share their stories, to talk about issues, to educate and inform. In the law firm world, a B2C law firm in the US are using it as their main platform to demystify technical legal terms and make them understandable to the person on the street – a strategy which is serving them well.

Will it work for my legal services business?

The question I get asked by SME legal services business clients all the time is “Do I need to be on there?” As with ALL marketing, it really comes down to who your customers are. 

Let’s look at some stats.

Research published in April by the Pew Research Center shows that 48% of U.S. adults between 18-29-years-old use TikTok. The figure drops to 20% in the 30-49-year-old age group, 14% among 50-64-year-olds, and 4% for those 65 and up. So whilst it undeniably connects with the younger generation there is still a question mark over other demographics.  But as brands start to focus on more psychographic segments, we are seeing more peer sets on there that transcend age. There is a growing tribe of over 30s, 40s and 50s on there as growth continues.

Remember it is also not available in some countries and narrowly avoided a ban in the US at one point. A lot of countries believe it to be a threat to privacy and national security. 

So – as always, consider before making it part of your marketing toolkit. Is it appropriate for your content? Will it reach your audience? Can you create content regularly enough and engage the platform actively enough, for it to be able to generate awareness / leads for your business?

Using TikTok for content creation 

What TikTok does well is lend itself to “cross pollination” on social media platforms. You can create a short, up to 60 minute TikToks and post on platforms like LinkedIn or Twitter (Instagram is trickier as it prefers you to use Reels) and whilst the viral meme nature is maybe lost on those platforms, the content can perform well nonetheless. It is a way of standing out, getting a point across quickly using video creatively…it plays well to your personal brand. 

Which leads us to…..

 TikTok – for the individual, or for the company?

As with all social media, the real magic is in it being used on the individual level. It is a brilliant app for people to get their personal brand across, to tell their stories and we are seeing more leaders in legal do this. TikTok is still social media and it is about engaging with other users, building up influencers and a loyal following. And when it comes to buying services, content works well when it features people, because at the end of the day, people buy people.

But it can of course also work well for brands, especially when you consider partnering with influencers for collaborative and engaging content. And judging by the amount of “TikTok for Business” webinars landing in my inbox these days, this is a side of TikTok that is only going to grow, with consumer brands already dominating and B2B brands such as EBay and Sage running successful campaigns. 

Video – where it’s at

The trend for video marketing isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, research has shown that 86% of people would like to see more video from brands. And while 85% of businesses are already using video as a marketing tool, TikTok is a good way to expand the reach of your video content.

So don’t be put off by tales of TikTok being just for kids and all about learning the latest dance moves. Take a moment to dip in, understand how it works and to be able to talk knowledgeably about it with your business and stakeholders. 
I recommend you start off by watching some TikTok legal legends, like Alex Su and Sarah Ouis.

On a final note, if this has been a challenge to read, I am not surprised. Writing about TikTok is hard. It’s like reading the screenplay for a film! So for those of you who prefer the medium of video, here are all these points in a concise, 60 second TikTok.

For social media coaching on TikTok and all other platforms, drop me a line. You’ll usually find me hanging out on one of them!

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/saltmarshmarketing/
Twitter: @hburness
Instagram: helenburnessmarketing
TikTok: Helenloves80s