Want to reach more of your ideal audience on TikTok? Wondering how to tell an authentic story through short-form video?
In this article, you'll find out how to leverage storytelling principles in your content.
Why Marketers Should Consider TikTok
Everyone who's spent time on any social media platform, whether they've started using TikTok or not, is already experiencing TikTok to some extent. It didn't take long for other social channels to adopt their own versions of short-form video—Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts, Pinterest Idea pins, Facebook Reels. The moment these platforms released their own versions of short-form videos, some of the fastest-growing videos on those platforms were re-posts from TikTok.
No matter which platform you're on, you've probably at least seen a TikTok video. If you're using that platform's native short-form video feature, then you've already created your own TikTok-like experience.
One of the statistics that helps TikTok stand is the longevity of user sessions on the platform. Statistically, when someone opens up TikTok, they spend roughly 112 minutes consuming content. That's 112 minutes scrolling their For You page, checking out the videos on profiles they've discovered, watching videos sorted into playlists, and sharing videos with their friends.
YouTube is the only other platform on which people spend a comparable amount of time consuming content, but even then, the content they consume on YouTube is divided into two or three videos rather than the multitude of 15-second to 3-minute videos they experience on TikTok.
Additionally, TikTok is known for the enormous reach creators can experience. There are countless times when a marketer or business will post a video, and that video will happen to hit and start going viral. Before they know it, that seemingly random video will completely change their lives, simply because it hit the right audience at the right time and drove tens of thousands of new leads over to that creator's profile.
This isn't a rare occurrence. This isn't something that happened to one or two people who had come over from a different platform and knew how to hit the algorithm. This is something that has happened hundreds of times a month since TikTok really started to take off.
When it comes to deciding whether to use TikTok to market your business, it seems pretty straightforward that if you're already using the features and experiencing the platform, then it's just one more short step to go before you actually hop onto TikTok yourself. When you couple that with the potential for explosive growth and reach on TikTok the other platforms can't duplicate, the choice to get on TikTok seems pretty clear.
#1: Make Your Brand Memorable by Telling Stories on TikTok
Storytelling has always been an important part of success on TikTok. But as the platform gets more popular and more content is created, resulting in more competition to get onto the For You page, your storytelling becomes that much more important. In fact, storytelling takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to TikTok today.
In TikTok, storytelling includes everything from the copy you use in your caption, to the background for your videos, to the movements and words expressed in the video. Storytelling is an experience for the viewers. When done well, those viewers will stick around.
On most social media platforms, storytelling is important because it builds trust with your audience and sets up your authority. This still holds true on TikTok, with the exception that storytelling on TikTok makes the video more memorable.
Think back to that statistic of how many minutes people spend in a single session on TikTok: 112 minutes. That means they consume anywhere from 100-400 videos in less than 2 hours. Out of all of those videos, which one is going to stand out to them? Which one are they going to remember the next day?
The video with the best storytelling is the one that sticks in our minds the most.
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Not only that, but because storytelling includes the entire video-watching experience, that's also what helps you stick out from other creators in your niche. The news reporter who shares their news stories from under the desk, a yoga instructor who does yoga outside in a tree instead of in a studio—these are just two examples of TikTok accounts where the storytelling has become a piece of the brand that helps them stand out.
In some ways, tips and products can be found anywhere. If someone wants to look up fitness tips, they can hit Google and look them up. If someone wants to find the news, they can go to Google and look up the news. But in either case, the delivery won't be as memorable nor creative. When you see the news or tips served to you by an algorithm on your For You page through a creative story, they stick.
Pro Tip: One way to find out how to stand out in your niche is to do a search on TikTok for your industry. Check out the top videos and creators who come up in that search and dissect their content. Really dig into why that content is successful and how that creator retains their audience. Then look a little deeper about how you can do something similar from a different angle. This goes back to the news under the desk idea or the yoga studio outside.
#2: Tell a Complete Story in 15 Seconds
There are a few different models of storytelling on TikTok that marketers can borrow to tell an amazing story and hook the readers right from the beginning. One formula entails:
- Problem: Hook the audience in with a problem statement that relates to something they struggle with.
- Agitation: Dig a little deeper into the problem by hinting at what can or will happen if a solution isn't found and implemented quickly.
- Solution: Present the solution you have.
- Outcome: The desired outcome that the audience is after and can ultimately achieve once they implement your solution.
Another very popular formula for storytelling includes the hero's journey, which can be used to help dissect almost every blockbuster movie ever made.
Once you've settled on your formula, then you break down your story into those parts. But instead of a paragraph, you're going to shorten it to one concise sentence.
We mentioned earlier that video quality includes the entire experience someone has while consuming content on TikTok. That's true for storytelling as well. Viewers can see if your body language or facial expressions match your caption or the words you're saying.
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A lot of business owners get caught up trying to memorize a script, and that script usually says something along the lines of “I am so excited to share with you…” or “I am so excited to tell you about…” Yet when you read the body language, their face looks almost dull and emotionless. There's no excitement coming from their body language. They're stiff, and sometimes they aren't even smiling, much less acting excited.
As viewers, we catch on to that and the mismatch between the message you're trying to deliver and the one we see. It stops us from trusting you and sometimes from moving forward with your video.
Quality over Quantity
One thing that's changed on TikTok over the past several years is the idea of quality over quantity.
A lot of marketers will see that phrase and think that it means video quality over video quantity, and that's part of it. However, quality includes the value of the content being published, lighting, the story being told, how the features or text is used, the caption, and every element that goes into that video. Each piece needs to serve up quality.
But that's not to say that quantity doesn't matter. Twenty mediocre videos won't hold a candle to five amazing videos. But five amazing videos is much better than two amazing videos. So if you're looking to leverage TikTok and grow, start by reviewing the quality of your videos and then scale the quantity.
#3: Write an Effective Caption for Your TikTok Video
Another aspect of the platform that has changed a lot is the use of hashtags on TikTok. Up until now, most TikTok philosophies have talked about the importance of hashtags: They make videos searchable, they help the TikTok algorithm classify and organize videos to serve them to the right population, and they'll help extend the reach of your video. More recently, however, the importance of hashtags has gone way down.
TikTok's algorithm is much more sophisticated. It's able to determine exactly what's in the video without needing hashtags; therefore, it's able to serve the video to the right people. If you spend any time on your TikTok analytics, you can see where people find the video. The vast majority of video views aren't coming from hashtags, they come from the For You page that's delivered to them through that algorithm. So the need for hashtags is all but gone.
This means the 300 characters available to use as your caption can now be more strategic to include your keywords and story.
Many marketers and brands like to use very short captions, sometimes only a couple of words, and then follow them up with a bunch of hashtags that they hope will help TikTok categorize their videos. A much more effective method would be to use all 300 characters to tell a story about the video.
Instead of using the keyword “happy” with an emoji and then a bunch of hashtags of dogs hoping that TikTok will put it together, trust the TikTok algorithm and write a caption that reads something more along the lines of “my dog brought me this gift today. It's hard to explain just how happy that made me.”
Again, hashtags aren't as necessary today as they once were. But the keywords on your captions can tell a much more interesting story than those hashtags ever could.
Finally, pay attention to your facial expressions, voice tone, energy, and state of mind. Each plays into how your viewers will receive your content. Thankfully, there are some ways you can help prompt the right state of mind for your content delivery. You can use music, for example, to invoke a certain emotion.
- Look for the Talk The Tok Podcast on your favorite listening platform.
- Explore the TOKaudit tool.
- Check out the TikTok accounts @kaylareporting, @underthedesknews, @thisisvirginiakerr, and @zishacraftsman.
- Connect with Michael Stelzner at @Stelzner on Instagram.
- Watch exclusive content and original videos from Social Media Examiner on YouTube.
- Tune into our weekly Social Media Marketing Talk Show. Watch live on Fridays at noon Pacific on YouTube. Listen to the replay on Apple Podcasts or Google Podcasts.
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