At the start, many charities wrote off TikTok as a place for hilarity and dance challenges, not serious social media marketing.
But with initiatives like TikTok for Good, and national charities like the British Red Cross, The Brain Tumour Charity and Shelter (we’d expect nothing less) absolutely bossing the platform – it’s time to reconsider and use up to 3 minutes of short-form video to showcase your cause.
First things first.
What is TikTok?
TikTok is a video-sharing social media platform that focuses on short, bite-sized videos. Originally a Chinese app, Douyin, it went global in 2018 after merging with Musical.ly and exploded in popularity.
Because of its focus on short-form videos and Gen Z audience, it’s often compared to Vine (may it rest in peace). That said, there are significant differences between TikTok and other social media platforms:
1. Length of content
TikTok content is typically 15-60 seconds long, allowing for more in-depth videos. Uploading even longer content is possible if you combine multiple videos.
You can add music, filters, and effects to your videos with easy-to-use editing functions. And there are some snazzy content co-creation options (like stitch and duets). And you can live stream.
2. Feeds and content viewing
The way users access and see content is very different, too. There are two primary feeds when watching content on TikTok:
- ‘Following’ – accounts you’ve chosen to follow
- ‘For You’ (known as FYP) – a mix of accounts you follow and relevant content from accounts you don’t
What you see on your FYP depends on its algorithm – nothing new there. However, TikTok’s algorithm is different from other social media platforms. Its algorithm uses user behaviour and the content they enjoy to learn what people like. Once it understands what they engage with, it shows them more of it.
It’s a complex area – so check out TikTok’s detailed guidance on its algorithm.
3. The many sides of TikTok
Like a hectagon (a 100-sided shape), there are many sides to TikTok. ‘Sides’ are communities of like-minded users who assign names to their region of the app.
If you’re interested in something, there’s a side for it somewhere.
For the right charities, there are lots to choose from. ‘Clean up TikTok’, ‘Gay TikTok’, ‘Leftist TikTok’ are all sides that the right charities can tap into.
Here’s a helpful blog post all about sides.
Now that you know more about the platform, let’s look at its typical user demographic.
Who’s using TikTok?
TikTok’s rise to fame has been nothing short of explosive. In 2020, it was the most downloaded app. Same story in 2021, when it passed the 3 billion global download mark (the first non-Meta app to do that).
Globally it’s the 7th most used social platform. That places it ahead of Instagram and miles ahead of Twitter, Snapchat, and Linkedin.
As for the UK market, the app grew by 75.2% to 9.8 million UK users in 2020, largely driven by the pandemic.
I hear your scepticism. Exclamations of ‘isn’t it all just kids and teens?’ are widespread.
Certainly, Gen Z (born 1997-2012) makes up the largest proportion of TikTok’s users. But even Gen Z aren’t all kids anymore.
- In 2020, roughly 40% of monthly active users in the UK were between 18-24. A further 18% of users said they were under 18. That leaves a significant proportion of users over 24.
- In 2022, 40.3% of UK users were male and 59.7 percent were female (presumably they didn’t offer other gender choices in that survey). There were 21.81 million users in the UK who were aged 18 plus.
- TikTok users are also very engaged. The average Brit uses the app for 66 minutes a day and opens TikTok 13 times in 24 hours.
How can charities be successful on TikTok?
Since the pandemic, marketers everywhere have been reevaluating how they use the old-school platforms.
TikTok is an opportunity to branch out, make new connections with your existing audience, and attract a younger demographic to your donor base.
But understanding the culture of the app is really important.
TikTok has its own specific language and a tribalism that needs to be understood.
Success depends on your:
- Understanding of the unique ways TikTok functions,
- Familiarity with ‘sides’,
- Ability to relate to its audience – their humour, interests, and current trends, and
- Willingness to invest in creating custom TikTok content.
It’s an investment. You can’t just dive in and expect instant results.
Some charities are an obvious fit for TikTok audiences, particularly those working with animals, nature, mental health, and social or political causes.
However, most charities can find their groove with organic content with some imagination.
Tell your story
Telling the stories of the people you help is one route you can take.
TikTok’s wealth of relatable, human content, no matter who you are, is one of its main draws for fans. They actively shun the aspirational (AKA fake) nature of Instagram, favouring real, raw, and relatable every time.
You can connect with both new and existing audiences by sharing what your charity does, introducing your team members, and showing what goes on behind the scenes.
It’s a strong show of transparency and builds trust between your nonprofit and your supporters.
Use your informational videos to showcase the impact of someone’s donation or support, and you’ll build stronger connections.
One charity doing this very successfully is The Caenhill Countryside Centre (a UK charity that teaches young children about farming and caring for animals).
Even if you don’t have access to an internet goldmine of cute animals, there’s sure to be something special about your cause that TikTok users will engage with.
Think about your campaigns, programs, beneficiaries, volunteer experiences, and stories. Then, imagine how you can translate them into informational TikTok videos.
Caenhill also shows that you don’t need to create fancy, blockbuster budget videos to be successful. You just have to post what people are interested in.
TikTok’s in-app editing tools are easy to use for beginners and bypass the need for computer editing software.
Also, make sure you repurpose what you already have.
Is your charity on YouTube too? Reuse your videos there. Just make sure they’re still up-to-date and interesting.
Use TikTok’s share button to share what you create across all your social channels.
TikTok for Good
TikTok for Good is TikTok’s official hub for charities.
The TikTok for Good account shares examples of great charity TikTok content from all over the world. It’s a great place to get inspiration on how you can use the organic side of the platform to increase your impact.
TikTok Hashtag Challenges
Everyone loves a fun challenge for a good cause, so challenge users to perform a custom hashtag activity.
It’s a great way to encourage user participation and help your cause go viral.
TikTok has collaborated with several nonprofits to create hashtag challenges through the TikTok For Good initiative. Your nonprofit can create these challenges independently as well.
When creating a new hashtag challenge, make sure that there’s a clear and straightforward purpose or goal. The hashtag you create should be clever, easy to type, and memorable. Include clear instructions on how you expect supporters to take action.
One example of a successful charity hashtag challenge was Oreo’s #CookieWithACause campaign in 2020. Oreo promised to donate to Save the Children when people uploaded at least 1 million TikTok videos with the hashtag.
Once you decide what your challenge will be and the hashtag, your next step is to drive audience participation. Results skyrocket when you team up with a TikTok influencer or popular for-profit brand.
Use donation stickers
In April 2020, TikTok announced a tappable Donation Stickers feature. Content creators can choose a charity to support and add a donation sticker to their videos and live streams. When viewers click on the sticker, they can make an in-app donation to the chosen cause.
The feature is predominantly available to US-based charities. The British Red Cross has used its functionality with significant success in the UK. Their month-long TikTok campaign raised £90,000.
How can you do more with TikTok?
Check out how we can help your charity increase its impact through TikTok campaigns.