How businesses can effectively tap into cultural forces, says TikTok official

Three key signals that brands can tap into this year to bring actionable entertainment to life

Shadi Kandil is General Manager, Global Business Solutions, Middle East, Africa, Turkey and Pakistan - TikTok
Shadi Kandil is General Manager, Global Business Solutions, Middle East, Africa, Turkey and Pakistan - TikTok

By Shadi Kandil

Published: Fri 20 Jan 2023, 6:18 PM

Last updated: Fri 20 Jan 2023, 6:40 PM

There has been no shortage of upheaval over the past few years, as we all work to navigate a world riddled with rising inflation, quiet quitting and climate issues. Naturally, this has led to a shift in how people seek their own paths to success, happiness, and well-being. Hustle culture is giving way to #SlowLiving; people are foregoing the traditional roadmap of life milestones in favour of seeking their unique #MyJourney; and workers are rejecting the 9-5 office routine to instead become #DigitalNomads operating from anywhere around the world.

Digital platforms have been key in enabling these cultural shifts, giving communities the room and tools to converse and inspire each other to make changes in their lives with newfound confidence. And in 2023, these online communities will become more powerful than ever, collectively shaping culture and trends.

In order to communicate effectively and impactfully with audiences, it’s crucial for brands to truly understand the key cultural forces that are driving these communities’ behaviours, and ultimately driving sales.

Actionable entertainment: Tailor-made content inspires people to take action.

Content captures the audience’s attention and trust when it is curated based on what viewers find entertaining – not based on broad identity categories or simple browsing histories.

Attention comes from the quality of content. Think of a perfectly-timed audio clip, a hilarious punchline, or a useful piece of advice. On the other hand, trust is based on who’s making the content; when a viewer sees a video from a creator they find relatable, or from a subject matter expert, they’re more likely to take the information to heart.

But how can brands put this into practice? Tikok has identified three key signals – meaning new content patterns – in its What’s Next Report 2023, that brands can tap into this year to bring actionable entertainment to life.

First of all, show, don’t sell. This is the principle behind the massive popularity of hashtags like #Storytime and #POV on TikTok, which have garnered 277 billion and 686 billion lifetime views respectively. Brands can opt to partner with creators who make tutorials featuring personal stories and fun storytelling styles, fueling the impact of their message.

Investigative content has also been gaining popularity, as users seek to uncover truths and debunk myths, which builds credibility and trust between creators and their viewers. For example, a nutritionist who challenges dubious dietary advice is going to build a stronger bond with their audience.

Sixty-five per cent of TikTok users say they always rely on online reviews and creator recommendations to decide what to buy online, according to research by Material. This shows the potential for brands to leverage the customer-to-creator pipeline, boosting organic content from existing fans into influential ads, helping to build genuine sponsorships.

Making space for joy: People are seeking more ways to take care of themselves.

People are looking for meaningful self-care amidst an endless cycle of work-life balance struggles, and personal hardships. In 2023, brand messaging should speak to this desire for levity and encourage people to make more room for themselves. This strategy can reflect directly in your bottom line; four in ten TikTok users say ‘lifting their spirits’ is key in motivating them to make a purchase, according to a study by Material.

Memes are one of the signals bringing joy to users. Humour is a universal language for people to bond over while putting their own creative spin on popular formats and in-jokes – explaining the popularity of TikTok trends like #CornKid (507 million lifetime video views) and #TeenageDirtbag (2.2 billion lifetime video views).

Another key signal is wellbeing, your way, as users share everyday strategies and “lifehacks” that empower them to make space for themselves whenever they need. These personalised solutions cover anything from skincare tips to advice on living as a digital nomad, instead of working a standard 9-5.

Finally, a little luxe can go a long way in sparking joy. By highlighting how they reward themselves at any budget level, creators can make indulgence feel accessible and attainable – whether it’s with a fancy candle or a mud mask.

Community-built ideals: Communities are relatable and supportive, which inspires people to make changes in their lives.

More and more, people are rejecting cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all ideals of how they should live their lives, and instead embracing diverse values and interests. And as people seek out ways to break the status quo, they’ll look to peers and role models who are already living the way they want to.

For example, people turn to online communities to ask questions and find unique answers to satisfy their every curiosity. Videos that teach audiences something interesting cut through the noise and help inspire new behaviours and mindsets. In fact, TikTok users are 1.3x more likely to say that entertaining ads on the platform teach them something new, compared to other video platforms, according to research by Marketcast.

More and more, users are learning that there are infinite possibilities to achieve success on their own terms. Brands can tap into this desire to pursue personal growth, which is evident in the popularity of TikTok hashtags like #GrowthMindset (1.3bn lifetime views) and #Advice (27.3bn lifetime views).

The third signal within this force is what we like to call bestie behaviour, which describes relatable and accessible content – such as videos showing a creator in the midst of everyday activities like shopping, eating and testing new products. Viewers are often motivated to follow the creator’s lead by doing the same activity or buying a new product.

Before anything, listen

Online communities are in the driver’s seat of culture, sharing personal stories of real moments and passions, and helping each other discover new ways of thinking along the way. In 2023, winning brands will be those that listen to their customers to understand how their wants and needs are changing, and place this understanding at the core of their marketing strategy.

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