Employer Branding on TikTok vs Other Social Media Sites

If you are reading this article, you probably fall into one of the following categories:

  1. You want to learn about different strategies to TikTok it to your business advantage.
  2. You enjoy TikTok, but have never thought about how to use it professionally.
  3. You think TikTok is where teenagers dance, so you roll your eyes.

Whichever your perspective, the reality is that TikTok can transform workplace culture for the good.

I personally came across TikTok very passively. During the pandemic, I received so many funny videos from my friends that I decided to enter the platform’s black hole of entertainment. I became a consumer and viewer and made occasional videos about my kids. Then one day, I couldn’t figure out how to make a reel on Instagram, so I made a video on TikTok to transfer the content.

The next morning it started going micro-viral. At the end of a few days, it had half a million views, and the comments reflected dynamic conversations about the world of work. 

It caught me off-guard because I thought TikTok was a place to enjoy creative humans being funny or watch dance trends. Who were all these people watching stuff about HR and work? 

Then I realized, just like Facebook and Instagram, the older populations had taken over the platform (the youth will soon abandon us for ruining yet another place with our boring rhetoric and bickering.) Not only was TikTok gaining attention from older populations, but people were going there to learn and share ideas. This trend has only gained momentum in the past years. Now, people visit TikTok more than Google.

I’m not here to sell you on TikTok, and I also understand there is controversy surrounding the platform. However, it’s nonetheless important to recognize the impact TikTok has made on the ways people consume content and what it could mean when it comes to transforming workplace culture.

TikTok’s Impact on Content & Culture

TikTok garners attention differently from Instagram or Facebook. Poised, edited, careful content doesn’t survive on TikTok. Rather, authenticity wins because the algorithm follows the path of demand. And people demand realness. There have been countless stories of influencers using their successful Instagram strategies on TikTok and falling flat because of lack of authenticity. The same goes for businesses. 

Companies can find wonderful success from the platform, but they must look beyond typical advertisement methods and instead ask what would make someone interested in them. This is often via videos showcasing company culture.

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For instance, take Duolingo. The organization brilliantly posted about its modern fun culture through the personality of their mascot, Duo. Viewers on TikTok loved it and the company now has 4.8 million followers, while business has likewise flourished.

Chili Piper is another example. The company continuously surpasses its goals in part because of their social media efforts (and having an irresistible culture to inspire the content — they showcase remote work, rich diversity, empowering their people, and an enjoyable environment). According to Forbes, the organization has tracked 7,500 applicants to TikTok leads.

Additionally, the fact that videos about company culture work on TikTok means that there’s increased pressure for companies to practice what they preach. It forces the question of how do we make our culture a place that truly engages our workforce to the point that they would create content about their jobs.

In today’s age, companies might hide behind a PR culture on LinkedIn and Instagram through carefully designed copywriting and images (that can sometimes obscure a multitude of negative qualities). That’s harder to do on TikTok, which, again, is not the place for slickly produced content.

With all this in mind, I recently spoke to Meryoli Arias, Chili Piper’s senior social media manager, about how her organization is leveraging TikTok. Here’s what she said about the impact and importance of social media on her business:

As people and companies, we have more pressure to be real. Culture has to be authentic, or you will be found out. We’re so interconnected with social media right now. People can now create a video that will go viral and make an impact. We didn’t have such a wide dissemination of such information years ago, which can damage brands, or wildly benefit them.

The best thing companies—and society in general—can take from this is that we will have to change behaviors. We need to shift our focus from doing things the wrong way to doing things the right way by being more concerned with the wellbeing of employees and learning how to support the world around us. 

Transparency means you need to be honest. I have been working in social media for a while now, and I never envisioned social media as the voice of the company. However, if you look at Chili Piper’s Instagram and TikTok, you will see that it comes through the voice of employees. The company PR department is not the only one with the narrative anymore. 

We took the step on LinkedIn to be more vocal, too, even though we were nervous because people regard it as more formal. We leaned into it by creating something we call The Piper Takeover, which is a way for our people to express themselves freely and highlight all aspects of working together. 

Social media is truly becoming an outlet for self-expression and a way for everyone to discuss societal norms and expectations. Companies must adopt this philosophy. Otherwise, they won’t retain talent. You cannot survive with a facade anymore.

Our company culture has always been very transparent and very open. And as we have increased our transparency, we have been able to give a voice to many people online so they can express themselves more freely. I’ve been told by fellow Pipers that they used to be afraid of saying something too immature or wrong because they thought it would damage the company’s image. But increasingly, they see that their efforts to express themselves are supported by the social media department. Overcoming the fear of expression is a very human thing because it’s wrapped up in the fear of ridicule and imperfection.

When someone approaches me and says, “Hey, I want to be more active on social media. What is your best advice?”, the first thing that I always tell them is, “You must have your own voice, your own background, and your own story because you’re valuable. And whatever you say is valuable too. So don’t ever think that you’ll say something silly — because someone else is going to connect with it. And that’s just a beautiful thing.” It’s about networking and community. I love to remind everyone that when they feel like they are going to be exposed, they should instead imagine the people they could potentially help.

As Meryoli said, even 10 years ago, leaders could do whatever they wanted, mistreat their employees, and still run a strong business. But that’s not the case anymore. And so all companies should be asking the question, “How do we make the benefits of working here so intrinsically rewarding that our people will want to talk about it themselves, with their own voices?”

Kara Kirby is the founder and CEO of Insights Leadership Group. She is passionate about helping organizations build stronger cultures and more beautiful places to work. For the past 15 years she has led talent and leadership development teams and initiatives for top-rated organizations, including Great Place to Work’s #6. She likes to push the envelope, make people think, and live life in search of laughs. In her spare time, she enjoys an active lifestyle with her two little boys and husband, authentic “Tex-Mex,” and promoting kindness. Contact Kara at KaraKirby@insightslg.com, visit www.insightslg.com, and follow her on Linkedin or Instagram @insightsleadership.

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