Should the public sector use TikTok? Of course if that’s where their audience is. Trailblazer Niall Walsh explains the broad strategy Liverpool City Council has adopted.
by Niall Walsh
Back in January 2020, I wrote a blog for the Local Government Association asking whether or not 2020 was the right time for councils to start using TikTok for marketing and resident engagement?
I closed that blog by saying that while it was a platform for young people, the demographics will shift, older people will start using it, and those building their audiences will more likely succeed in the future.
I have been correct on that front, the world going into a global lockdown and people lip-syncing and dancing their way out of boredom did speed that process up massively, but I’ll take it.
Being an early adopter of Tik Tok has meant that Liverpool City Council has experienced some ‘success’ on the platform. Over the last 18 months or so, I have been asked many times by various public sector organisations what our short video strategy is, can they have a copy of it etc. Now I love a strategy as much as the next public sector comms professional, and I’m always happy to share, but I have never written it down until now, I’d love to say it is really clever but it is actually very simple.
Don’t just make videos with ‘asks’
Back in 2013/14 I read a book called ‘Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World’ by Gary Vaynerchuk (well worth a follow), and while lots of the content is dated, the main principle still rings true. To summarise the book, Jabs are the value you provide your customers and the right hook is the ask.
To illustrate that, consider your favourite Saturday morning cartoon when you were younger; the cartoon was free, but the action figure they then tried to sell you cost money. Cartoons were the jabs that pulled you in, and the action figures were the right hook.
How does that relate to Liverpool City Councils short video strategy? Well, we throw lots of soft, easy to engage with content out there. That content is essentially a jab, helps build engagement and an audience, so when we decide to throw a hook — a key message we want to get out there, it seems to land better. This is partly because we have already established a relationship with the individual and have built some brand equity. I always think it is strange to refer to councils as ‘brands’, but that is what they are to an extent.
My observation of many councils on TikTok is they are just throwing hook after hook — occasionally, you might get lucky, but as any boxing fan knows, you need to throw some jabs to set up that right hook.
Always create good content
That said, just because you jab and jab and jab, doesn’t mean you automatically get to land the hook. You still need to deliver good content and in terms of TikTok we have found that is the content that people most want to share with others.
TikTok is no different to any other social media platform. It is essential to understand subtle differences that make it unique and adapt your content to match. The best way of doing that is by trying stuff out and having some fun.
Niall Walsh is head of content at Liverpool City Council and he blogs here.