Be Cool, the TikTok Way

By Tara Foulkrod, Industry Research Manager

So we’ve talked about what TikTok is, and what TikTok isn’t. We’ve talked about how influencers and brands use it (the rationale behind the videos, not the mechanics of posting one) and why those actions help their audiences grow. And we’ve reminded you that you have to create your own definition of success and be yourself on TikTok, just like you would in any other aspect of your life. Now, we’re gonna go further in discussing what the TikTok pros are doing, and break it down so you can play at their level. 


What are the cool kids doing?

Just because there’s a simple (to say) and repeatable (in theory) formula doesn’t mean it’s easy, but we’re making an attempt at it here anyway. Taking cues from the individuals and brands that flourish on TikTok, we recommend that you… 


1. Know your audience. Like, really know them. 

What’s funny, intriguing or soothing to the people you want to reach? Experiment and create content that harnesses those feelings. Provide videos that document your growth—people want to see others in the midst of their journeys.


2. Be genuine.

Honesty, transparency, real thoughts, and even raw emotions are treasured now more than ever, and creators on TikTok who are honest with their viewers see the best traction. In fact, users who are seen as fronting a certain persona as their “real” selves are very often canceled to oblivion. This includes brands that try to seem “cool” to Generation Z by misusing slang and meme culture.

Steve Buscemi with Skateboard

TikTokers can be a harsh user base, but when creators have been honest and open—even when what they have to say isn’t necessarily positive—viewers are very quick to support them.


Just like with the recent stock situations surrounding GameStop and Dogecoin, users of TikTok have shown that there is power in numbers and like-minded individuals. From fake RSVPs to political rallies to coming up with new ideas for products that assist disabled people, users know that they can rally behind a cause and make a difference. So when they find a creator that they want to support, they do so in a huge way.


Take for instance @CocktailCards, who had a great idea for a small business, worked on it for some time, and then finally presented it to TikTok using a clever one-minute video. He was honest about how he got the idea, what work went into the product, and what he wanted from viewers. Three days later, he announced that he had made $20K from purchases, which he attributed to TikTok.


3. Put time (and effort and resources) into content AND communication.

Making too many videos may not get you seen at all while making too few won’t provide followers with enough content. It’s an ongoing debate between the pros, but it’s safe to say if you enter the TikTok universe, you’ll be creating videos on a somewhat regular basis and should be prepared for a commensurate investment of time, energy and resources.


That said, it’s not enough to shoot a 15-second video in 15 seconds, post it, and wait for the masses to arrive. Just like other social media platforms, users will have questions and comments, and they expect engagement in return. Show that you care about your followers, and they will return the favor. Or, vice versa.


Wendy’s, for example, leaned heavy into engagement and now it has people begging to roast it. The smaller you are, the more people will expect to hear from you. Successful small businesses usually include an update on their availability and express gratitude to their followers, along with any other important news on growth, or upsets for their business.


The owner of Gamers Heaven in Phoenixville, PA, asked his audience where he should open franchises of his small business. The video garnered over 641K views, 149K likes, and 72K comments and spurred the creation of several more videos talking about franchising opportunities, what costs are involved, how to decide on locations, and being a business owner during the age of COVID-19. His franchise-related videos have achieved over 1.85 million views since that first video was released, opening up conversations between consumers and potential franchise owners on what to expect. 


And to think one video spawned all of that? Amazing.


4. Leverage trends and hashtags.

TikTok uses hashtags to sort videos into categories and make them easier to find. Usually, TikTok tags correlate with a specific trend or sound that all go together. Many times, tags are created by users themselves, but occasionally TikTok generates a hashtag for certain events.


Back in November, TikTok (in partnership with Shopify) used the hashtag #ShopBlack to showcase black business owners. Its use continues today. #SmallBusiness is also a trending hashtag. 


The videos that pick up steam and go viral usually leverage trends, and often it’s trending sound. Just take a look at Stephen Colbert gushing over sea shanties, or Nickelback trying their hand at the trend. But sometimes the videos that rise to the top are just skits that deliver information in creative ways, like this video from The Hoodie Man, where he has a conversation (with himself) on how to best get his name out there.


That was a lot. Especially if you’re new to TikTok, right? Feel free to go back and read our other TikTok posts (1 and 2), or drop us a line. We’d love to talk more. 


Vladimir Jones is Colorado’s original independent, integrated advertising agency, with offices in Denver and Colorado Springs. We believe in brilliant brands and love making the world love them as much as we do.

Vladimir Jones is Colorado’s original independent, integrated advertising agency, with offices in Denver and Colorado Springs. We believe in brilliant brands and love making the world love them as much as we do.