TikTok for Business: Boost Employer Branding with Short-Form Video

It's no surprise that more and more people are turning to short video content platforms like TikTok to consume entertainment and information. With over a billion active users, employers should consider creating short-form educational video content for TikTok to reach employees where they already are. However, there are some do's and don'ts to keep in mind when producing TikTok content for employees - especially in times of crisis, such as a union organizing campaign. This blog post will outline the basics of what you need to know before getting started using TikTok for business.

We're all familiar with YouTube, but TikTok has shown us how addictive short-form video can be. By its very nature, it's an ideal platform for communicating company messages and updates. Similarly, don't count YouTube out - their "Shorts" format has made 60-second vertical videos shot right in the app easy, quick, and appealing for many. Short-form video content has become an ideal platform for employers to connect with employees and promote a positive workplace culture.

Daniel Schwartz, Partner at Shipman & Goodwin, recommended on the ProjectHR podcast that companies take online union messaging on TikTok and other platforms seriously - and adapt their messaging to match how employees consume media today.

TikTok & Employer Brand

Recruitment marketers suggest that TikTok can help boost your employer brand by sharing the employee experience, promoting job opportunities, and giving employee advocates a platform. The idea that entertaining content can reach younger job seekers isn't lost on many Human Resources professionals trying to fill entry-level positions. By turning to TikTok to recruit new employees, companies like Chipotle and Target are finding a new channel to reach workers who are less likely to frequent sites like LinkedIn.

TikTok as an employer branding play is an idea that is gaining momentum. Chipotle has also been praised as one of the first companies to excel at promoting their brand on TikTok, reaching Gen Z in a way that few employers have. There are great examples of companies doing TikTok right, but before we get ahead of ourselves, let's talk about what you need to know to get started reaching employees on this highly addictive platform.

How is TikTok Different? 

There are a few things to know before you get started as an employer. Regardless of the demographics of your workforce, keep in mind that the TikTok platform IS 18-year-olds. You've got to think about how to go through the kids to reach the people you want. Think of everyone under 25 as the gatekeepers. Get past them, and you can get where you want to go.

On platforms like Instagram and Facebook, posted content is restricted to the viewer and their personal audience. On TikTok, companies can comment and engage with all users in a way that promotes their message and brand. So keep in mind that how your company engages with employees isn't limited to your own posts and videos. Comments and conversations can be equally powerful and effective when done properly. Your brand has a voice and a personality, which can be used to your advantage when communicating with your employees on TikTok. For example, if someone were to post a video of themselves making a burrito at home, an employer like Chipotle might comment, "We do it better."

Regarding shooting video for TikTok, your delivery should feel more like an energetic video call than a lecture. If it feels like you're talking to a friend, that's the content that connects. Don't use a prompter or a prompter app on your phone - that can be obvious, and your audience will not just tune out that video but everything else you do after it. Instead, prep a bullet list and shoot from the hip. Don't try to sound smart; that's a goal that will backfire on TikTok. Instead, aim to sound human and personable, as though you were talking to someone at a party about something you're passionate about. The goal of TikTok is to keep your audience engaged through to the end of your video. 

TikTok for business

What can I create short-form video content about?

Employee engagement is key to maintaining a productive and happy workforce. So what kind of video content can you create that will engage employees? First, be sure that you strike the right balance no matter what you make. 80% entertainment and 20% content is appropriate; be sure you avoid getting caught doing the opposite. Even with good intentions, that's a ratio for failure.

Before you record anything, determine your "hook" for your video. What are good topics? What do your employees care about right now? What can you say that will make employees connect with each other in support of your culture? Boil it down to a memorable nugget or two they can walk away with - this is the key to effective short-form educational video content. This technique is particularly vital when discussing how unions organize employees on social media, including TikTok.

Interest-Based Content

One of the best ways to engage your employees is to create content that appeals to their interests. What are they talking about on Reddit? What videos are they watching on YouTube? Chances are, if your employees are interested in it, they'll also be interested in viewing a video from you about it. By creating content that appeals to their interests, you'll be able to keep them engaged and coming back for more.

Entertainment value 

It's no secret that people love to be entertained. And what better way to entertain your employees than with video content? Whether it's a funny sketch or a light-hearted parody, adding an element of entertainment to your videos will go a long way in keeping your employees engaged. Just be sure to strike the right balance between entertainment and information—you don't want your videos to be all fun and games with no substance. 

Informational value 

Of course, you must also pay attention to the informational value of your video content. After all, part of the reason you're creating video content in the first place is to educate and inform your employees about important company matters. But that doesn't mean your videos have to be dull and dry—add some interest and entertainment value so that your employees want to watch them. Recruitment videos fall into this category, educating potential new hires about what it's like to work for the company. Done right, TikTok recruiting videos can find qualified candidates and weed out those who wouldn't be a fit for your company.

With any of these three content buckets, remember that your audience wants you to tell them what to do! Think about how you can get them to engage with you - and each other. Give them a call to action, the next step, and the next thing to pay attention to. That might be another video from your channel, pop over to another information source, or talk to a co-worker about a particular topic. Finally, repeat the hook in your video, "here's why people miss x," or "here are the top 3 reasons you're not getting y," etc.

Digital engagement workbook CTA

How should I create my videos?

First, despite how easy they make it, do NOT create your video content in the app. Use the built-in music or sound effects the platform provides sparingly, and only use those that are already deemed viral, which can help your message gain traction. If you use something copyrighted, those assets can be stripped out of your video, making you look foolish and unprofessional. Make sure you use assets that your organization has licensed. That said, don't be afraid to use transitions and text.

High-quality video is now the norm, shot in HD, edited, and uploaded. Believe it or not, your mantra for short-form video content for employees needs to be "professionalism over phone." That said, that's subjective, and you may choose to go with lower production values in the interest of time or budget. But today's audiences want authenticity - and they want to be proud of their employer's genuine, honest side. Your organization should look and sound great, even on TikTok.

The worst sins of ineffective short-form video creation include:

  • Low energy delivery;
  • Poor lighting or sound;
  • Monotone voice;
  • No excitement about the content.

Enlisting professionals to produce your videos will help overcome these issues, helping to ensure that your employees are engaged throughout. Consider short animations, voice-over, green-screen, and more to keep your production quality as high as your engagement levels! Think about creative ways to craft your videos, including shooting duets with different speakers in different locations and editing them together.

If you're wondering how unions and union organizers use short-form educational video to organize employees, look at how organizing campaigns are taking place on TikTok on channels like @amazonlaborunion and @moreperfectunion. This insight can help you craft your videos in a way that connects.

Don't be a CUB - Three TikTok Don'ts for Employers

So now you've got some ideas in mind, and you think you're ready to get started - but how do you know if your content will hit the mark? An easy way to get this kind of short-form educational video content right is to avoid three simple things, a little guide we call "Don't be a CUB," that is, don't be COMPLEX, don't be UNBELIEVABLE and don't be BORING.

First, don't be COMPLEX. Returning to what we mentioned earlier about ensuring you're not trying too hard to sound smart. You want your content to be clear and concise to ensure employees understand the message. Don't use words that the kids wouldn't understand - remember that it's not that your employees aren't smart enough to understand those words; it's that they simply aren't paying attention. Their attention is being pulled in dozens of different directions, most notably, the video just under yours! Keep things simple - give details, and break things down, step by step.

Second, don't be UNBELIEVABLE. We are all in search of honesty and authenticity these days. Trust has been shattered in so many ways; it's essential that, as an employer, you have proof of your claims and provide the details and describe everything you're saying. Be as relatable as possible, as though you're telling a story across a bar or the dinner table. Authenticity is critical; engage your employees with facts and truth.

Finally, the worst TikTok sin of all, don't be BORING. Remember, only you care about the information and the goals; your employees are here to be entertained, to feel something, and to be part of something. Whatever you do, don't make your information feel like school, with no way for the average person to take action on what you're sharing.

Be a BEAR - Four TikTok Do's for Employers

Now that you've thought through your content, there are a few things to remember to optimize it for your employee audience. First, make sure what you're communicating is BELIEVABLE, see that your delivery is EXCITING, ensure that your message and delivery are AUTHENTIC, and finally (and perhaps most importantly!), be RELATABLE. You've learned all four of these throughout this article, but you'll want to remember them as you create your videos.

To make your short-form educational videos BELIEVABLE, they should be able to be understood in one sentence. Could someone who watched it tell a co-worker about it in just a few seconds? Have you included social proof to validate your message, that is, are there proven results or outcomes from your claims that you can share? If so, can you provide visuals that reinforce that social proof? This is where making sure your video isn't "over-produced" plays a role. While you want high production values, if the look of your content distracts the user from the message, you're trying too hard. Believability also comes from having enough details wrapped up in a compelling and memorable story. Imagine an employee telling someone what they saw - what makes the content genuine and authentic?

Second, be sure your video is EXCITING, and we suggest you're enthusiastic here as well! No one wants to watch a boring video. Ensure that your presenters have an energetic tone and hyped-up body language. Another DO here is good lighting and sound and excellent pacing that creates a certain vibrancy that's compelling to watch. When you do your final edit, remove all dead space from your video - leave your employees breathless! Make sure you've got a well-thought-out set and background. Remember that every piece of short-form content counts - this can be a volume game, and you need to remove any barriers to turning out regular content, including, "I don't have a good place to shoot."

Next, as an employer, you need to be AUTHORITATIVE. Validate and provide evidence to develop authentic connections with employees and give them something in which to believe. When you present an applicable tactic or concept, break it down in a way your employees can understand and apply. Speak in a simple but confident manner with a tone your audience immediately identifies as knowledgeable. Providing additional social proof here about the company and the outcomes you've achieved can create even greater authority.

Finally, be RELATABLE! Tell stories and solve common, everyday people problems, and let employees know their company "gets" them. Again, speak in a way that the kids would understand, and in a way where they see themselves reflected in your content. Would your audience understand your message if you had to deliver it across a noisy bar? If it is relatable and they already have a good understanding, then you've communicated well, and your short-form video will connect with your employee audience.

TikTok for employers

Best Practices and Getting Started with TikTok for Business

An easy way to get started on TikTok is to look at any existing content you may have and see if it's something that can be repurposed for short-form educational video. Think about what content you might have already produced for employee engagement or your employer brand, and see if you can rework it for a short-form video. The original content might be a flyer, a webpage, a newsletter, or a podcast; the key here is identifying content that fits the above tips.

In a general sense, if a video works - that is, gets engagement from your target audience - on TikTok, it will work everywhere else. That said, knowing what video message you want to create and what platform you intend to share it on makes sense. Each social media site has its own guidelines and limitations on what can be uploaded, so make sure you do your research before posting. For example, Stories on Instagram or Facebook allow for 15 seconds at most and disappear after 24 hours; YouTube Shorts autoplay when opened up in the app, with limitations such as the 60-second maximum length. TikTok increased the maximum video duration from 15 seconds to a minute, and are now allowing up to 3 minutes, but younger audiences seem reluctant to embrace longer-format content.

TikTok, the social media app that has taken the world by storm, is an excellent way for employers to reach employees. With its engaging videos and easy-to-use interface, employers can use TikTok to share important information with employees, promote company events and culture, and even recruit new talent. So if you're looking for a way to connect with your employees in a fun and engaging way, if you do it right, TikTok can be the solution you're seeking.

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