May 12, 2021
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7 Lessons That TikTokers Can Learn From Digital Publishers

What we learnt about the walled gardens from working with 1100+ digital publishers, newsrooms.

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7 Lessons That TikTokers Can Learn From Digital Publishers
7 Lessons That TikTokers Can Learn From Digital Publishers

It’s been a little over 60 days since the Indian Govt banned TikTok along with 59 other Chinese apps. The announcement was a bane for some and boon for others. A lot has happened since then - Apps like Chingari, Roposo, MitronTV are doing their best to provide an alternative. Instagram rolled out Reels - its Tiktok clone. But on the other hand, influencers on Tiktok - individuals who now have celeb-like-following and had amassed 100s and 1000’s of followers, were suddenly left high and dry. Tiktok brought to them an audience, a platform to express themselves and most importantly an opportunity to monetize their creativity. Influencers had built a business, thanks to Tiktok. Tiktok’s reach and usage - both were mind boggling. Teams were set up. Offices were rented. Brand placements were sold and then suddenly something happened that put a halt to this. 

Hmm...if you are in the media, this story already sounds familiar. While it’s usually Google and Facebook - this time it was UC Browser. UC Browser contributed anywhere between 5-20% to traffic for a long tail of publishers in India. This is now 0. 

This script has been played multiple times over. The digital media folks have seen this play multiple times. 

Replace Tiktok with Google and Facebook. It’s the same song and dance. So to all the TikTok influencers who have packed their bags and moved to Instagram - lock stock and barrel, before you get too comfortable, here are some lessons from someone who has seen this impact 100s of publishers and more importantly, helped them find a better long term strategy. These learnings are followed by directives because some readers find learnings too abstract. 

Lesson # 1 - Platforms are not aligned with your business model. 

Tiktok, Instagram, Snapchat are aligned with their customers. Who are their customers? Brands. The same brands you are placing in your videos. You are both chasing the same brands. Platforms will eventually do what gets them more advertising revenue. Accept it, internalize it and repeat this to yourself every day.

Lesson # 2 - Either die as an influencer or live long enough to compete with TikTok and hate it 

Because you are chasing the same brands (or agencies) that Tiktok, Snapchat, Facebook are chasing, at some point, brands will need to make a choice. Of spending on you vs spending on Tiktok. If Samsung wants to advertise, they will spend the money on both TikTok promoting their brand videos and on TikTok influencers. The advertising universe is large enough for you to co-exist and run your show. But always remember - they are going after the same dollars as you are. If they had to squeeze you, and they can, and they will. There are 100s of horror stories on Google Adsense and Facebook to prove this. Just STFI. 


Lesson # 3 -  Everything on the Internet is rented - except your site domain & your marketing list. 

What’s a marketing list? People who give you their email Id’s and subscribe to your newsletter, people who opt-in for your push notifications, if you have an app, people who install it, sign in and accept your notifications, people who get your updates on WhatsApp, people who give you their mobile number to get updates on SMS. You get the drift. When your fans, your audiences, members - call them anything, give you permission to communicate with them. Your domain and your marketing list - these are your only assets. Rest everything - your Facebook page, myspace page (that-existed-and-then-evaporated), your Twitter feed, your Google+ page (that-too-existed-and-then-evaporated), your medium blog - NONE OF THEM is yours. 

Lesson # 4 - Algorithm updates are coming for you (under the hood of UX)

The average internet age of a reader reading this article will be over 15 years. Long enough for you to have seen things change. As an end-user and as a business. Some of these algorithm updates will give you a boost and some of these will hurt you a lot. Fact - you can’t decide which one impacts you how and how much. That’s really the algorithm’s decision. Brace yourself for the impact. You have moved to Instagram, Snapchat - great. An enemy’s enemy does not make it your friend. Keep this in MIND. So what can you dodo you?

Lesson # 5 - Build Your Audience on Social and Get Them Subscribe To Your Website -

Your videos end with a routine CTA. Like share, comment. Add one more ask - Like, Share, Comment, Subscribe and CLICK. Most platforms don’t like external links that take people away. Be creative. On Facebook groups - people add links like this- izooto dot com. Whatever it takes but get the audience that you have attracted to your content, to go to your site and subscribe. It’s not efficient. But again - you are not trying to beat Amazon at their conversion rate. You are taking baby steps. 

Lesson # 6 - Truly Engage With Your FANS first. 

Treat your fans like REAL Fans. Give them an exclusive peek at your videos, get them to give you feedback, engage with them, have conversations with them - basically stuff that you have been doing on these platforms all this while. Do all of that for the fans who are on your site. And to do that - invest time and resources in setting up a marketing stack - a website, web push notification platform, email platform and get going. 


Lesson # 7 - Don’t BET Against the House

Because the house will always win. Marketers can misinterpret this as their audience The idea here is simple - how can you save yourself from getting massively impacted from the next such change. Govts can do anything and so can platforms like Google and Facebook. You don’t need to protest against them and hold a rally. You need to safeguard your audience. When you are in their garden, you need to play as per their rules and not FIGHT the guards.

That won’t help.  Hope this helps.


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