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3 Aussie brands, including the AFL, share how they're using TikTok to engage with their audiences

Sharon Masige
  • TikTok, the popular short-form video app, has more than 500 million users around the world.
  • While it is a favourite among Gen Z, businesses are beginning to use it to engage with their customers.
  • We caught up with the Australian Reptile Park, the AFL and HiSmile Teeth to find out how they're using TikTok.

It's a short-form video app that many teens are incredibly obsessed with, and now businesses are starting to use it as a way to engage.

TikTok, which is owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance, has quickly become one of the most popular smartphone apps, reaching 500 million active users by mid-2018.

Its history starts back in 2016 when ByteDance launched a short video app in China called Douyin, which, after expanding internationally, changed its name to TikTok.

At the same time, lip syncing music video app Musical.ly was gaining popularity in the West – I personally enjoyed using it – as a haven for influencers who were devastated when Vine shut down.

In 2017 ByteDance acquired Musical.ly and later merged it with TikTok. Now TikTok is available in 150 countries and in 75 languages. In the first quarter of 2018 it became the most downloaded app in the Apple App store, according to Influencer Marketing Hub.

On TikTok, you can film videos and edit them with a plethora of visual effects and popular music tracks.

And it has some parents scratching their heads, with Reese Witherspoon even asking her son to explain what it is to her.

"As the world embraces the smartphone era, with shorter attention spans and a change in behaviour of creating and consuming content, TikTok has become a preferred platform for expression, especially among Gen Z and millennials, given its immersive experience for sharing, creating, and discovering short-form video content — all made easy on mobile," a TikTok spokesperson told Business Insider Australia in an email.

"Since launching in Australia, TikTok has received an overwhelming response from users looking to express their creativity in a supportive and welcoming community of creatives."

Social media use in business

While TikTok may be one of the newer social platforms, businesses are no strangers to using using social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The TikTok spokesperson said its format allows brands to "express their content and voice creatively", using it to "reach new audiences, build brand affinity, and drive traffic off-platform".

Dr Stan Karanasios, Vice Chancellor's Senior Research Fellow at RMIT's School of Business Information Technology and Logistics told Business Insider Australia that social media is one of the main customer engagement strategies for business.

"What's interesting with the new generation is I think now we're at a point where Facebook has almost reached its limit for many organisations, because we know that young people don't engage with Facebook so much anymore."

He added that it's why companies "are using Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and so on."

Karanasios said social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram allow companies to "control the conversation". Essentially, they choose what they want to put on the page.

"They're protecting the brand, they're controlling the brand and their image which makes complete sense from their point of view."

Karanasios added that social media usage for businesses is about getting to know their customers better and develop a closer relationship with them. He explained that works two fold: it can help customers get in contact with businesses faster and on the other hand, businesses can get more information on users as well.

"We as consumers are giving away our data for free essentially and these firms use this information to know our preferences...and to develop profiles of customers."

We reached out to three Aussie businesses that use TikTok to find out how they're using it

Australian Reptile Park

The Australian Reptile Park is home to several furry, scaly and feathered animals. And they certainly help with the company's popularity on TikTok.

Rebecca Plumridge, Content Marketing Coordinator at Australian Reptile Park told Business Insider Australia that the park has a strong presence online and is constantly on the lookout for what is trending, whether it be memes or new platforms.

"We feel the key to success on social media is staying relevant and relatable to online audiences," Plumridge said in an email. "TikTok was our latest idea as we saw it was becoming increasingly popular and thought we could introduce the app to the presence of a wildlife sanctuary."

At 25 years old and "very heavily involved in social media" Plumridge added: "I knew once I couldn’t stop watching TikTok videos myself, we needed to jump on board".

"We initially started using the app with some cute and cuddly Australian wildlife videos, which did well and started to build our audience," Plumridge said.

"However, it wasn’t until we posted a video of our venom supervisor Zac Bower milking a snake that it really took off. Overnight it gained about 3 million views, and our followers have been rapidly increasing since."

The video now has more than 13.1 million views.

Some other popular videos the park created include Tim Faulkner, Australian Reptile Park's General Manager, doing a talk on Galapagos tortoises (7.4 million views) and Elvis the crocodile getting fed (8.4 million views).

Plumridge said the park's most successful videos always include the presence of a keeper. The park also works to keep the videos "educational, fun and engaging" for audiences.

"I think the key is definitely getting someone talking to the camera, the audiences are predominately younger and eager to learn and/or laugh," she said.

Plumridge added that TikTok has taken the company's social media exposure "to the next level". She said that since implementing TikTok the company has experienced growth on our other linked social channels including Instagram, Youtube and Facebook. And that growth in turn translates into future visitors to the park.

"We are also hearing from guests that they found out about us from TikTok, and they make a point to tell one of the keepers they have seen them in one of our TikTok videos," she said.

HiSmile Teeth

Headquartered in the Gold Coast, HiSmile Teeth provides teeth whitening products including toothpaste, mouthwash and a teeth whitening kit.

On TikTok, the company jumps onto influencer trends, sometimes having the people in its videos do a quick makeup tutorial while they feature the company's teeth whitening products.

"Our approach is presenting our products in a way that is relatable to the users of the platform, such as joining in popular hashtags, trending topics, eye catching or ‘thumb-stopping’ videos as well as traditional influencer content," Bronte Jones, HiSmile Teeth Head of Social Media told Business Insider Australia in an email.

The AFL

The AFL is Australia's most watched sport and is also getting viewers through TikTok as well.

AFL Creative Strategy & Innovation Manager, Kylie Robertson told Business Insider Australia in an email that it uses the platform to engage particularly with the youth and kids.

"Tik Tok is a wildly creative, fun platform that provides a strong connection point to today’s youth. Not only does it enable us to continue to build relevance with the next generation of fans and players, it also provides a wonderful opportunity to listen to what our fans want," Robertson said.

"Our Aussie Rules program of content for Tik Tok predominantly focuses on talent led challenges, humour, outtakes and content that responds to themes that are trending specifically on the platform."

"It’s important for us to respond to the vernacular of the platform in a way that is authentic to the audience and the AFL brand."

Robertson added that the AFL's audience respond particularly to videos that are funny, feature the players and are trending. They also like videos with music.

"Some of most popular videos have been music related – a behind the scenes mobile video catching Will Powell from the Gold Coast Suns singing TLC’s Waterfall quickly reached over 400K views and over 54K likes."

It looks like some businesses are enjoying the use TikTok just as much as millennials.