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Why startups and small businesses shouldn’t include TikTok in their social media strategy

In the last couple of years, I have gravitated away from Instagram and blogging and have become obsessed with TikTok. Personal passions aside, I have helped a couple of startups and small businesses experiment with TikTok in their social media strategies. My hot take: it’s not worth it.

To decide if TikTok is right for your business, I recommend first deciding which goal is more important to you: growing your audience or engaging with your existing audience.

If your goal is to create compelling video content to engage with your existing followers, I recommend using Instagram Reels, which is completely copied from TikTok. If you already have an audience, it can fit well into your grid or stories. 

However, if your goal is to grow your platform and go *viral*, read on to see why it may not be as easy as you think.

  1. Is it luck, or is it the algorithm?

In my opinion, the algorithm is the best part of TikTok. Yes, its AI is problematic at best, but it has given people with virtually zero followers the opportunity to reach millions of viewers. Still, in case no one’s told you, you can’t choose to create viral content. Oftentimes, it’ll happen to the video you least expect. “You’re telling me that’s the one that blew up?!” 

There’s a lot of luck involved with creating a viral TikTok, so I recommend not making that your goal. If you want to grow your reach, focus on quality content, NOT viral content. And, the trends change rapidly, so there are small windows of opportunity before becoming outdated. Act quickly, if you do at all.

  1. Videographer =/= Social media manager

Please, do not hand off all of your social media tasks to your latest young intern. There is a lot you can do with an iPhone, but doing it well is not as universally youthful as you may think. More often than not, you’ll need different people with different skill sets to plan/script the video, record/produce the video, star in the video (with great natural lighting or a ring light), edit the video (bonus points for graphic design skills and spatial awareness), write the captions and strategic hashtags, and post at optimal times. 

You may find a superstar to handle all of the above, but don’t bank on it. Be thoughtful and intentional with all content you create. And even then, it may still come down to luck!

  1. Ads aren’t as cheap as you may think

Aside from organic posting, paid social media ads are always an option. Since it’s a newer platform, you might think that ads are cheaper and a better way to target younger Gen Z especially. Alas, ads are still expensive, and if they’re not perfectly targeted, they may not be that effective. 

This blog post has a good breakdown comparison of Facebook (Instagram) vs. TikTok ad results. For small businesses and startups, I don’t recommend spending your small advertising budgets on a mediocre ad. If you have resources for a great videographer and influencers, go for it. Otherwise, stick to organic. 

  1. You might be shadowbanned on other platforms

Videos created on TikTok include a watermark with the TikTok logo and the creators’ username. They’ve recently changed these too to make them more prominent. While great for crediting creators, it can lead to shadowbanning if reposted on Instagram. 

Instagram is encouraging Reels so much that they’re disincentivizing content made on other platforms. Instagram will delay the sound on TikTok-made videos, and, if you post a lot of videos made on other platforms, Instagram will stop showing your content in others’ feeds and stories queue. If you see trends you love on TikTok but want to focus on Instagram, then I recommend you recreate the video directly using Reels.

While TikTok is ever-changing (remember when Trump was going to ban it? lol), I hope these tips help you as you consider your social media strategy for 2021. Shoot me an email if you’d like to discuss further what this means for your startup or small business.

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