For the past few months I have been lucky enough to be working as part of Bright Red Publishing Ltd.’s marketing team, on a temporary, internship basis. The main portion of my role included contributing to and growing Bright Red Publishing’s social media platforms, namely their TikTok account. Bright Red Publishing is a company specialising in academic textbooks tailored to the SQA’s secondary education curriculum.

When I started my work experience placement, Bright Red Publishing only had two videos on their TikTok account and roughly five followers. My task was to share information on Bright Red Publishing’s newest editions and encourage customers to purchase Bright Red’s academic textbooks and study guides by directing them to their website.

TikTok is one of the newest and most popular social media platforms available today. It is also expressly popular amongst teenagers and young adults. As this is also the targeted demographic for Bright Red Publishing’s textbooks and study guides it makes sense for the company to try to reach their young consumers on this platform. After three months of focusing on predominantly one mode of social media advertising, this is what I have learnt.

Content

As most will now, TikTok operates on an algorithm that learns individual user’s preference in videos and tailors their explore page, or ‘For You’ page, accordingly. The more a video is watched and ‘liked’ the more it is shared to other users. Thus, for a video to become popular it needs to attract the widest variety of tastes possible or be able to reach the specific targeted demographic succinctly. Hashtags can be helpful for this, however, TikTok promotes what it thinks the largest amount of users will enjoy so even if your video is good, engagement with it is the clearest way to show TikTok your video is worth sharing.

This is a difficult task for small accounts with very few followers, especially since Bright Red Publishing’s account was promoting academic textbooks, a subject I’m sure more teenagers would not want to bother with on an entertainment app. Thus, my goal was to make the videos as enjoyable and fun as the topic of academic textbooks possibly could be. In order to do this while still sharing important information for the company I would pepper educational videos, such as my video explaining how to sign up to Bright Red’s Digital Zone, with more engaging content, such as the series on videos challenging users to answer questions from Bright Red’s revision cards. The increased engagement I witnessed from the revision card videos demonstrated that users were interested in learning something new. Thus, I began to use some of the interesting knowledge contained in the study guides in order to promote them. For example, the camera angles video I filmed to promote Bright Red’s Higher Media study guide received the most ‘likes’ upon posting than any previous video I had posted at that point. This increased engagement demonstrated that TikTok had begun to share the account with more users that the algorithm assumed would enjoy them and the benefits were clear to see.

Views

Thought over time it was evident that the number of views and engagement that the videos were getting was growing, they were still no where near what would generally be deemed “successful” in the realm of TikTok. Though I may be biased regarding the quality of the TikTok videos I was producing, I still believe that on such a large platform in which content is being produced on such a rapid scale that going ‘viral’ on such a platform without paid promotion is as much luck as it is the value of your content.

Paying for promotion was, in fact, an option I discussed with the rest of the Bright Red Publishing team, and though it was generally agreed to be a useful option we did not have time while I was working there to batten down the particulars. However, even though the videos I produced had no paid promotional help, I still believe the views and likes they did receive were still as much a matter of chance as other videos without paid promotion that have garnered over a million views.

An aspect that attracts marketing teams to promote their products through the realm of social media is the fact one can create an account without any cost to the company. On the surface it appears as a simple enough strategy to attract more customers and spread awareness of said company. Although some may say that inviting the interest of even one new customer would deem the venture successful, I am competitive and I say otherwise.

In essence, what I have learnt through the process of trying to grow a marketing TikTok account is that nothing is free, and without luck on your side the only way to ensure that users will get the chance to see your content at all is through purchasing paid promotion. The only company that can say they successfully utilised TikTok for their company, is TikTok themselves. And for the rest of us to be able to get a portion of that success, we must pay the piper.