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The TikTok Effect

Attributed to Grace Lauder

Once reserved for showing off dance moves, TikTok has quickly become the front-runner in communicating pop culture, politics, entertainment, news and social justice for its’ 1 billion monthly users. In 2021, TikTok was the most downloaded app with 656 million downloads, and reportedly almost tripled users in the 16-64 age group, increasing from 9% in 2019 to 23.6 % in 2020.

Being in the ‘know’ of TikTok can help businesses communicate directly to their audience in a way that traditional media can’t. Sharing bite-size videos has opened a new world for pop culture to blossom, and as of more recently, important news moments have been the talk of TikTok.

TikTok use in Australia is booming. Aussies now spend more time scrolling Tik Tok than any other platform, up 40% to an average of 23.4 hours per person each month. Businesses should be looking to capitalise on this opportunity.

It may come as a surprise, but TikTok isn't just for young people, and is shrugging off its image as the ‘Gen Z platform’. TikTok now has 7.38 million Australian users over the age of 18 (reaching 37% of the 18+ population).

To break down the effectiveness of using TikTok as a communication tool, we have collated these examples to highlight how people are consuming news and information – and the facts don’t lie.

The Australian Federal Election

Through TikTok, Australian politicians and political parties now can reach over 7 million eligible voters. This communication channel goes both ways, giving young people the opportunity to get involved in the political environment like we haven’t seen before. Young voters who typically find politics boring or don’t understand the paradigms of the federal election can access a plethora of information about party lines, policies and voting information.

With all of this knowledge accessible, there is greater scope for misinformation spreading, however, major parties, independents, news publications and lobbyists are kept in check by public opinion with the option for users to flag misleading content. Additionally, TikTok will not hesitate to intervene and remove content if parties don’t comply with guidelines.

A great example of a thriving non-official, political TikTok account is “Gen Z for Albo” which has 2.7 million likes collectively. The account rebroadcasts important moments in parliament which appeals to the short attention span of TikTok users. The creation of the account was inspired by the viral “Gen Z for Biden” TikTok. It utilises humour which is celebrated on TikTok to discuss and present serious issues where followers spark conversation about topical issues such as climate change, cost of living etc. This account has no affiliation to the Labor Party, however, is a great example of participatory journalism.

Using TikTok as a Communications Strategy

TikTok presents a unique line of communication to potential customers, clients and partners on a mass scale, unrivalled by other major platforms. Visual information gets to the brain 60,000 times faster than text and humans respond and process visual data better than any other type of data, it is no wonder TikTok has become so successful.

Similarly, to other social media networks, TikTok has the option to utilise influencer marketing and paid advertising. Whilst this is nothing new, the original content side of the app is where businesses can put their best foot forward at going viral.

The beauty of TikTok is its microcontent style of short videos that boast a sense of authenticity and humour. It isn’t as structured as other platforms like Facebook, TikTok is meant to be fun and poke fun at social media that is becoming too commercial.

While it may be seen as rebelling against the app's original purpose to promote business activity on the platform, brands are becoming savvy in how they approach advertising in a nonchalant way.

Businesses like Athlete’s Foot do a fantastic job at marketing their products without coming across as advertisements. They make use of their authentic voice that is encouraged on TikTok to tell a story to their audience. Athlete’s Foot transformed TikTok’s For You Page (FYP) into a running track with different advertisements placed as signposts. The campaign was an Australian first to use sequential storytelling within a platform. Gamifying their advertising where users would scroll their FYP to catch the creator and win a pair of ASICS was a game-changer and has left room for other businesses to unleash their creative side to engage with TikTok users.


· Avoid traditional advertising strategies

· Jump on the trends – they change frequently

· Play to the strengths of user-generated content

· Using popular sounds

· Include relevant geographical and topical hashtags

· Content should be fun and spontaneous

· Avoid overproducing videos

· Take inspiration from Aussie brands leading the way

Big businesses like Telstra, McDonalds, and Amazon are paving the way in having a company presence on TikTok and small businesses are getting involved too. Brainstorming content ideas that align with your business is the best way to get started!

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