By Tobi Laukaitis, Senior Associate

Paint brand Sherwin Williams recently created a TikTok account. Normally, that wouldn’t be newsworthy. I mean, TikTok was the most downloaded app of 2021 and has more than 1 billion active users. But back in 2020, Sherwin-Williams made waves after they fired 25-year-old college student Tony Piloseno, an associate who went viral on TikTok for his paint mixing videos using Sherwin-Williams paint. The company cited it as “gross misconduct” stating that Piloseno couldn’t make videos while on the clock despite him buying his own supplies. The action backfired. Piloseno skyrocketed to stardom as the internet rallied around him and accepted a job at Florida Paints where he gets to make all the videos he wants.

Now almost two years later, it seems like Sherwin-Williams is walking back on its decision as more and more brands flock to TikTok. It’s no secret that the app is a powerhouse. According to statistics, nearly 50% of users say TikTok helps them make purchasing decisions. It seems like a no-brainer for brands. The Washington Post, PBS, Chipotle, and pretty much every NFL team have all found success on the platform and you may be eager to jump on board too. But as the Sherwin-William case has shown us, not every brand can dive in. Before you hit that “create account” button, here’s some things to think about.

Who Is Your Audience?

According to recent data, TikTok is the No. 1 platform for Gen Z. About 60% of users are between the ages of 16-24 and only 26% are between the ages of 25-44. Research other companies like yours and see how they use TikTok – if at all. TikTok has all types of niches for different demographics. Whether you’re into knitting or chess or comic book movies, there’s probably a TikTok account for you. Knowing your audience is half the battle. Once you know who you want to reach, you can zero in on specific groups.

Does It Fit Your Voice?

Brands like Wendy’s have thrived taking a sarcastic approach to social media. Everyone in the social media world strives to be the Wendy’s of their industry. On TikTok, Duolingo has also taken that approach. Managed by 23-year-old Zaria Parvez, their account has 3.4 million followers. Parvez has taken a so-called “unhinged” approach to TikTok, but she’s quickly become a legend. Oh yeah, and it’s her first job out of college.

Parvez has been very vocal about the support she gets from leadership for her content and clearly her approach is working. But that doesn’t work for everyone. Would you want to see the doctors from your local hospital doing the latest TikTok dance while in surgery? Probably not.

Barnes and Noble has taken a softer approach. Not only do they have a main corporate account, but they allow their individual stores to have their own account. Booksellers all over the country have embraced the chance to talk about their favorite books or poke fun at their jobs. It’s also how I’ve found out about several book sales, so they’re reaching their intended audience.

What Is Your Crisis Plan?

About 75% of customers believe that social media has equipped them to interact with brands more. About 47% will take their complaints straight to social rather than trying to fix an issue by contacting the company.

When Canadian artist Andrew Martin noticed Disney was selling a music box that looked exactly like a sculpture he created in a 2018 livestream he took to TikTok to get some answers. His videos gained more than 10 million views and, in the comments, users began to tag Disney demanding they investigate what happened. The music box has since been pulled from Disney’s website, but the company never reached out to Martin directly.

It used to be hard to go viral on social media, but TikTok has changed the game. Its complex system is designed to match viewers with content that they believe users are interested in. Videos that land on the For You page are based on factors like engagement, subject, location, language, audio, and trending sounds. But according to the platform, “neither follower count nor whether the account has had previous high-performing videos are direct factors in the recommendation system.” Long story short? Anyone could go viral at any time.

Having a strategic plan in place before you go viral is extremely important. Knowing your response ahead of time will save you a headache further down the line. Because in TikTok world, you never know.

Do You Understand The Platform?

If you’re in the Midwest like many of my colleagues, then you’re familiar with Kum & Go. When the chain wanted to start a TikTok account, they went to an expert: 20-year-old Evelyn Meyer.

Meyer already had more than 200,000 followers on their own account, so the company was confident in Meyer’s ability to create engaging content. It worked. Kum & Go has more than four million likes.

Spokesperson Ariel Rubin said it best about the decision to hire Meyer: “We’re looking at an audience that’s profoundly savvy, that’s been advertised to their entire lives” and they needed someone who understood who they were trying to reach.

Every brand wants to find success on the internet so let the experts step in to build their platform. But let the people who are social media’s main users step in to help build out your content. They’re going to know what works best.

If you answered yes to these questions, then I’ll see you on the For You page. But if you’re still on the fence, contact our team and see if we can help you get started with a strategy to help you find success.