2020 was a big year for TikTok. After the pandemic hit and many were forced to find other outlets of creativity, it simultaneously became the year that the turnkey social platform boomed with 1 billion monthly average users and content creators.
Among them were the brands and industries who joined the exciting surge of 15-60 second videos that peppered global users’ “For You” pages - and Guinness World Records was one of the early explorers of this new frontier.
After social media monitoring platform, Conviva, released its 2020 data, Guinness World Records was ranked the 7th most followed company account overall on the platform, and the 1st most followed brand on TikTok.
Earning this placement stemmed from a combination of social listening, selective content strategy, and close monitoring of key performance indicators – but they’re tactics any company can include to make their brand stand out on the app.
As we share the evolution of our journey, GWR Senior Social Media Manager Dan Thorne reveals some essential tips and tricks for helping any brand make an impact on TikTok.
Where We Started
Guinness World Records’ journey on TikTok started in January 2019. As a brand who takes pride in the ever-changing landscape of the digital world, we're always looking out for potential new platforms to experiment with. Though we had previously seen some of our record holders on Music.ly - which was purchased and merged into TikTok in 2018 - the music and lip-syncing wasn't quite the right fit. However, our team in Beijing began to see some very positive reactions to our video content shared on the emerging short-form video platforms Douyin and Kuaishou, which later influenced our decision to begin GWR’s TikTok account.
With the news that Douyin was going global as TikTok, we thought it was the perfect time to test our content as a brand on the social media app. The pursuit of our new TikTok account was further confirmed as the right one, after members of GWR's London digital team attended a speaking engagement where UK-based influencers shared how they were able to find success with their content on TikTok despite struggling on other digital platforms.
The key learnings from the speaking engagement were that being an early adopter and surfacing regularly on “For You” could allow others to grow a large following quite rapidly, and thus it could do the same for media-centric brands and businesses like Guinness World Records.
After several years of experimenting with a wide variety of video content from our record holders on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram - we carefully determined which topics really resonated, enabling us to strategically select content to share with a whole new platform audience.
How We Gained Momentum
As a media and entertainment company, Guinness World Records is fortunate to have evergreen content from TV shows, our annual book promotions, press release footage, as well as an abundance of UGC (user-generated content) submitted by record holders as part of the application process to confirm new records. While a variety of content performs well on our TikTok channel, it’s the fresh, relatable, yet exciting record attempt footage that offers a constant source of talent and surprise on our social channels.
We saw our first big hit on For You with a throwback to an iconic moment from a 2014 press event when tallest man Sultan Kösen from Turkey met shortest man Chandra Dangi from Nepal in London. The key is to offer users a never-before-seen visual while also having relatable elements. For many TikTok users this was the first time they'd seen this eye-catching and heart-warming event, and it quickly became the most watched TikTok video in the UK with over 70 million views.
On this day in 2012 shortest man Chandra Dangi was measured. He met tallest man Sultan Kösen in 2014♬ World Records - Guinness World Records
When curating content for a channel, subject and narrative are two of the most important elements. Our record holders have surprising and unusual skills and are often inspirational – so when it comes to increasing engagement, inciting a sense of wonder about the world and the people in it, coupled with an element of fun, is very important. Our channel is all about sharable surprise and delightful moments that can be a little quirky and fun, and that’s reflective of our brand tone. Knowing that TikTok tends to be a very fun and positive digital social environment, it’s essential to synchronize the platform’s tone with your brand’s content, which helps create seamless integration with any user’s profile. As TikTok promotes celebrating differences and inclusivity, we took these qualities and expanded on them in our videos as they fit well with our brand identity and what we stand for.
Finding the Right Theme
If you venture onto TikTok, almost immediately you’ll recognize that every influencer, creator and brand have their own niche and theme. It’s imperative to establish a personality, tone and level of consistency among your audience, so they are repeatedly drawn back to your content and know what to expect from the account. GWR covers such a wide base of subjects, but some of the most popular themes we've seen so far on TikTok include strength records involving smashing, tearing and breaking. In fact, US strongman Bill Clark's license plate tearing has accrued a hefty 121 million views on our account and India's Abheesh P. Dominic coconut-smashing has garnered 177.4 million views.
Most license plates torn in one minute 💪 23 by professional #strongman Bill Clark 🇺🇸♬ original sound - Guinness World Records
Like with any content schedule, it’s critical to test for new possibilities. That’s why we decided to see how our iconic human body records like the longest fingernails and tallest people performed. We took the findings from our other categories such as wow factor and intriguing activities and used that to introduce new subjects – and the results paid off, as record holders like the world’s shortest woman and star of American Horror Story Jyoti Amge's video earned 55 million views after it appeared on our TikTok channel.
Ayanna Williams has finally cut her amazing fingernails after 29 years! 💅🏾🇺🇸 With @ripleysbelieveitornot #nails♬ original sound - Guinness World Records
Our experiments on TikTok have often led to a change of content direction on our other channels, and as a result we've seen a good response to compilations of TikTok edits on our YouTube channel. By re-formatting our existing popular TikTok clips for other digital interfaces, we’ve also discovered that the TikTok video edit style works quite well for our Snapchat Discover shows, and the need for action in video intros required with TikTok media is the same immediate engagement needed for our Facebook videos to make an impression to gain audience retention.
Partner to Perform
In addition to the natural findings we’ve discovered since selecting our first TikTok videos, partnering with other organizations and collaborating with the app itself can also lead to a surge in followers.
In the past, we’ve collaborated with TikTok in the UK for live shows with our Editor-in-Chief Craig Glenday, and have also created a series of custom edits for the #LearnOnTikTok series, which helps to establish a fun new format for users to enjoy.
And to make the most of big brand moments and marketing initiatives, developing a branded hashtag can mark the occasion while also getting viewers engaged with the content you’re putting out for the event. For example, we created a #RecordsDay hashtag for our annual Guinness World Records Day celebrations, encouraging TikTokers to show their talents. As a result, the combined view count of videos that day using the hashtag across multiple territories amounted to almost 4 billion.
What works? And what doesn't? Here's what we've found.
From starting with 0 followers to now serving 11.8 million – we've found the tried-and-tested ways to elevate brand content on TikTok without compromising on voice and values. Below are our top tips for increasing your company’s performance on the popular digital video platform.
Welcome to the party
On Facebook and Snapchat Discover, you have around 3 seconds to make an impact. On TikTok it's more like half a second. Skip to the good bit or have an immediately intriguing moment that leads to a big, surprising reveal. This is not the place for establishing shots and intros.
Keep it brief
We've seen some success with videos that are up to a minute long, but most of the time the shorter the better. You'll be rewarded by the algorithm if you can get viewers to watch your TikTok video more than once. The perfect loops of the now defunct-Vine is something to strive for.
Get into the groove
Music is incredibly important on TikTok and it has now launched many new artists’ careers. Synching your soundtrack beats to the action on screen can make for a satisfying watch, and if possible, try to make a perfect loop from the end of the song back to the start. It’s worth noting that most brands can't access the copyright music from popular artists but can take advantage TikTok's royalty-free library or use their own soundtrack prior to upload.
Have a heart
TikTok is about humans watching humans doing something interesting, surprising or fun. We've found that records that combine this a sense of discovery with an emotional core or inspiring soundbite really resonates with our fans and helps us find new audiences and followers. The more you can share motivational messaging in a quick timeframe, the more it will engage viewers.
Stand down, product marketing team!
While most businesses and companies will want to take advantage of a new social app to promote themselves and their services - TikTok really isn't the place for awkward product placement and obvious sales pitches. We've personified our channel to be all about our record holders; they're the most important part of Guinness World Records and we try to emphasize that as much as we can. If you do decide you want to feature your product, earn the right to put it in front of your audience first, and do so in a way that is clever, upbeat and will be shareable by others.
On one hand, keeping captions brief is important - save the details and descriptions for engagement on the comments section. On the other hand, when making videos, it’s very important to subtitle captions onscreen when individuals are speaking to help increase the immediacy of a soundbite. The copy on the video will help those to watch if they are in a public place unable to use sound or attract more attention of the viewers.
Perhaps one of the most underrated tips is to showcase national pride and be inclusive by highlighting the content and achievements from a certain nation. We use national flags emojis so followers in those countries have an immediate connection to the record holder - it also helps to keep the captions brief. It's also significant to represent a wide variety of nationalities - we're a global brand with record holders from Thailand to Togo, and we want to convey that in our messaging.
If you’ve found our journey on TikTok to be helpful in increasing your brand’s performance on the app, be sure to join our Senior Social Media Manager Dan Thorne at Conviva’s TikTok Marketing: From Experiment to Strategyon May 12 at 8 AM PT / 11 AM ET / 3 PM GMT.
Dan will be taking a deep dive with other paneled speakers to see how top brands have made TikTok an important part of their social strategy.