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How newsrooms can make the most out of TikTok

How newsrooms can make the most out of TikTok

Journalists and media organisations are constantly trying to adapt and keep up with where people are consuming their news. The move from print to online to social media has meant that the way news is written and presented has had to change. The latest Ofcom survey has shown that TikTok is now the fastest growing news source in the UK, growing 6% between 2020 and 2022, and it joins Instagram and YouTube in the top three news sources for teens.

So how do newsrooms keep up with the latest trend and establish themselves on TikTok? With Journo Resources, social media editor Jennifer Sterne shared how she helped grow the i’s TikTok account to 50,000 followers in just four months. Read on for her advice on crafting and editing TikToks, deciding on a strategy as well as what the future holds for journalism on the social media platform.

Crafting and editing stories on TikTok

‘One of the key things that we have found is making them look native to TikTok. If they are too polished and look like they have been designed for Instagram or YouTube then they just don’t look like TikToks and people are going to swipe past them,’ said Jennifer.

‘It’s also really vital to use the in-app editing tools as the algorithm promotes more TikToks that use these tools. This will help push those videos further and again will make them look more native to TikTok.’

Being chatty and informal is important but you also need to ‘take time to develop scripts’ and think about ‘how you are to going visualize it’. One of those ways is to use the green screen tool and then explain the story with either screenshots of the article behind or images and videos that help tell that story in an interesting and creative way.

‘We’ve also found that opening with questions is a really good way to hook the audience and increase engagement. You need to grab that person in the first three seconds otherwise they are swiping past. Opening with a question also encourages comments and the more comments and likes and shares you get then the more views you’re ultimately going to get.’

At the i paper, Jennifer has worked towards getting three videos out a week with one of those being an explainer. They normally take around half a working day to put together (write a script, film it and edit it) and seem to work best at around a minute in length.

How to build an audience

‘We’ve found that when you get a viral video and you see a boost in followers, then you need to give those followers more of what they followed you for. We had an original video of US and British fighters in the Ukraine which got around 9.5 million views, so we asked our video team to look out for similar clips. This is how we have managed to grow so quickly as this video did really well for us and then we built on that following.’

As a news organisation, you need to figure out what content to push – whether that be features or travel or news – because ‘if you’re building an audience expecting news clips and explainers then travel and lifestyle content probably won’t perform as well.’ The key is to try and not do too much.

‘Keeping an eye on trends is key, but if you set up a business account as a news organization or a magazine then you will only have access to the commercially licensed music, so you won’t have access to the trending sounds.’

‘You can do explainers on things that are trending instead. When we saw that Eurovision was trending we were able to mesh Ukraine and Eurovision together and those videos did really well.’

Building your strategy

‘The only way you can learn what works is to see what doesn’t. Experimentation is absolutely the key to success. The first few videos we did at the i didn’t do incredibly well but we just kept going and we kept adapting and eventually we got some videos that started to do really well and we started to build on the followers that we got from those videos.’

‘Quite a lot of organisations are doing it quite differently because it’s been around for such a short time that you can’t say for certain that this the one way you can tell journalism stories on TikTok. However, you need to keep an eye on what is working for the competition but don’t assume that an exact copy will work for you.’

Audiences will keep coming back if you can offer something that is new and different to your competitors but this will of course take time, and newsrooms will need the resources to make sure that they are producing quality and not just quantity.

The future of journalism on TikTok

‘Currently a lot of the benefit of being on TikTok is brand recognition, especially with younger audiences. You’re creating an audience that know about you, know about your journalism that perhaps wouldn’t have found you elsewhere as they’re not going to pick up your paper or visit your website.’

News organisations are now growing their presence on the platform and so it will become more commonplace for people to find and access their news on TikTok. The more serious news subjects, such as the war in Ukraine, are starting to get more attention on the site and cut through and this trend is likely to continue.

‘Hopefully the future of journalism and TikTok is that newsrooms get dedicated teams to keep up with the changing landscape of the platform. In the four months since I started it there’s always news stories about different updates and different things that TikTok are doing and unless there are dedicated teams, that are managing every aspect of social media, to think about how to tell those stories then those newsrooms will fall behind.’

If you want to find out more about future JournoResources events you can find them here and keep up with what Jennifer Sterne is doing by following her on Twitter @JennySterne.

Want more advice and insight on being a TikTok journalist? Then check out our chat with VICE’s Sophia Smith Galer here and have a look at this JournoResources piece as well.

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