TikTok, a lesson in authenticity

Posted 21 June 2021 by Audrey Legris in News

Tiktok, formally known as Musically, is an undeniable cultural phenomenon. It reflects and defines Gen Z, it’s primary user – fashion, music, humour and critical thinking. TikTok is far more prone to virality than other social platforms because of its algorithm and humongous user base. It’s also a common place for discourse, being that Gen Z is known for being openly and loudly opinionated. Virality and criticism can be a scary mix, especially for a brand. That’s why transparency and authenticity must not be overlooked when advertising on TikTok.

Or else…

The Tramp Stamps case 

Tramp Stamps

Tramp Stamps is an American band composed of three members, Marisa Maino, singer, Caroline Baker, guitarist, and Paige Blue, drummer. Sporting colourful hair, piercings and edgy clothes, Tramp Stamps are self-proclaimed pop-punks. They quickly reached infamy after promoting their new single, I’d Rather Die – which went viral for all the wrong reasons. The trio was accused of exploiting the punk movement in order to appeal to Gen Z, being called “posers” and “industry plants”.

TikTok users rapidly dug up dirt on the three band members, exposing their inauthenticity, thus the term “industry plants”, which can be defined as an “artist who has Major/Indie Label backing their movement but presents themselves as a “home grown start up label” to create a pseudo-organic following. They act as if things are miraculously happening for them based on their talent.”

If you want to read more on the subject, here is a great article from Insider.

Needless to say, Tramp Stamps’ musical debut didn’t go as planned. Their target audience is hypercritical of authenticity. This is reflected in the like to dislike ratio of the I’d Rather Die video, which currently has 4.2K likes and 40K dislikes.

This is a pretty extreme case, of course. Not every advertisement occurrence will get someone shunned off the app. But brands can certainly learn a lot from this situation.

So, what now? 

TikTok is content oriented. Meaning that if you have something to sell, you better make it entertaining.

Now, from the perspective of an older Gen Zer, here are my two cents – the best way to advertise on TikTok is organically. Contrary to popular belief, money doesn’t make you go viral. Time and time again, I’ll see sponsored ads disguised as regular content, and they always have low engagement and only a handful of likes. You see, my generation can detect product placement from a mile away.

My advice is that you open your own brand account and post content relevant to your products and services. Have fun with it, be authentic and transparent. The algorithm will make it so that your content is presented mostly to people in your geographic area and that interact with similar content.

To naturally boost your videos, here are two things you should do:

  • Use the popular hashtags of the moment, which can be found in the Discover page, whether or not they are relevant to your content. This is a very common practice on TikTok. You can also use hashtags that are related to your content.
  • Be on the lookout for new trends, and try to see how you can organically incorporate your content to them.

TikTok is the perfect place for smaller businesses, as there’s more proximity between the brand and the viewer. Floh Market is a great example of this. The Montreal-based thrift store has gained a considerable following thanks to their fun, authentic and enticing content, which leads to an increase in in-store and online traffic.

Personally, the content I tend to watch is often related to fashion. The algorithm knows that, and so I see Floh Market pop up on my For You Page every once in a while. I’m their target audience, after all!

TikTok can definitely be an interesting platform to explore for your business, especially if Gen Z is your target audience. But remember, all viral content isn’t good content. Focus on the quality and relevance of what you post. And of course, stay authentic.