A council has caused a bit of a stir by introducing their new chief executive on TikTok.
Claire Symonds was introduced on the platform with a 15-second clip of her walking through a door in the civic building.
So far so normal, but the kicker was the comms team used TikTok’s remix culture to use an alternative sound that someone else had posted.
“This week, a hot new bombshell enters the villa,” the voiceover originally from TV’s Love Island confides as the new civil leader walks in slow motion gently tossing her hair. “I’m Mabel, I’m 25, I’m a singer from London,” the TV soundtrack continues. It’s not, of course. But that’s the joke.
The clip has been seen 63,000 times which is far greater than the hundreds of views other clips have attracted.
It also led to a constructive debate in the Public Sector Comms Headspace Facebook group. One person criticised the film saying it added nothing to an understanding of what the chief exec was going to do. There was no message, no substance and no call to action. It was narcissistic, they alleged.
I don’t subscribe to that point of view but I absolutely do think this is a debate worth having.
It’s important to note thatsuch debate is often played out far away from TikTok itself. See the clip on Facebook and it jars slightly because that’s not what Facebook is about. Facebook has long been about original content rather than re-using existing sounds or video. That’s a challenge its tryingand failing to square with Reels their TikTok clone.
On TikTok itself, there’s nothing really that leftfield about seeing the Redbridge Council chief exec clip as it scrolls through your timeline.
Toronto FC have also used the sound to make a video announcing a new signing. So have Nottingham Forest, the True Ford chain and 56,000 other TikTok users. Using a sound that’s getting a lot of attention is certainly one way to reach more people.
TikTok is about tapping into remix culture, taking a clip or a meme and repurposing it.
Remix culture, sometimes read-write culture, is a term describing a society that allows and encourages derivative works by combining or editing existing materials to produce a new creative work or product.Remix Culture Wikipedia
Overall, using the clip to announce the new chief exec was a bold move but what does it say? On a basic level, that the incomer was a woman and was prepared to try new ideas at the very least.
But no call to action?
For me, one of my regular criticisms of public sector social media is that there is far too much call to action. Social is about conversation, discussion, listening and sometimes providing content that wasn’t all about a call to action. Some channels are nothing but parade of hectoring asking people to stop doing this and sign-up for that. It is the mix that makes it work.
The cute police dog attracts a bigger audience to the police channel so that when the 14-year-old goes missing there’s a larger audience prepared to act on the missing person alert.
The farmer who talks about her job shatters the idea that farming is all old men, for example.
The debate is not about a chief executive but how social media should be used. For me, it should reflect the tone of the channel.
Is all Redbridge Council’s content this bold? Not at all.
Will they have attracted more people to their channel making this clip? Absolutely.
Is this approach fine for everything? Of course not.
When social media first emerged more than a decade and a half ago it upended conventional thinking. It’s a breath of fresh air that a new platform is making us challenge what we believe in.
That’s not changed.