There’s no doubt that UK Government’s decision to ban TikTok from its devices has had an impact but it needn’t stop you using the platform.
Some comms people who don’t fancy the platform have used it as a ready-made excuse not to use it. That’s lazy. Others have been frustrated in adopting it while others are carrying on as normal. It’s a weird mix.
So, that’s it, is it? Actually, no. It’s important to stress that there isn’t a blanket ban on people in the UK using TikTok and there are ways to still use it. Many public sector organisations do.
In this blog I’ll look at constructing a business case for communications to use the platform that works within the security guidelines.
I’ve blogged before on the strong and growing audience reach of TikTok. It’s a channel that demands your attention. Your evaluation should be around if your audience use it in their spare time not if you do. You are not the audience.
Firstly, there is no point using TikTok if it won’t reach the people who you are after. This is nonsensical. It is bad communications. What I do suggest is firstly looking to see if your audience ARE there.
Yes, there is an audience on TikTok
According to Ofcom data, TikTok’s audiences are strongest amongst young people but the app is breaking out into older demographics, too. Stats show 85 per cent of 13 to 24-year-olds use it monthly. This moves to 63 per cent of 25 to 34-year-olds and 44 per cent of 35 to 44-year-olds.
These are really strong numbers.
No, it’s not all about dancing nurses
Trends come and go. It’s not all about dancing. It’s perfectly possible to use TikTok and not dance. To be successful at using TikTok in 2023 is to first spend some time to understand the platform and then shape content with the content in mind. It’s no longer good enough or an effective use of resources just to crosspost a video. Does that mean it’s a huge time suck? Not really. As with anything, if the time it takes to reach an audience is worth the rewards then do it.
Many organisations play a pretty straight bat with TikTok. Sky News on TikTok has 4.3 million subscribers BBC News have 1.5 million followers and tell news stories with upright video that work with the platform’s audience. The Telegraph has 300,000.
There is no ban on TikTok but there is guidance and its allowed for work purposes
UK Government advised that TikTok should not be on phones where there is email. It has not banned it for people. This is a really important distinction. This is what the original statement says:
“Today’s ban does not extend to personal devices for government employees, ministers or the general public. Individuals should be aware of each social media platform’s data policies when considering downloading and using them. The ban on government devices applies to government corporate devices within all government departments. Specific exemptions for the use of TikTok on government devices are being put in place where required for work purposes.”
I’d argue that using TikTok for work purposes applies to communicators looking to use TikTok for work purposes.
Yes, there are existing workarounds
Government Minister Grant Shapps announced that he is continuing to use TikTok on his personal device. This device doesn’t have government email on it. Anecdotally, the second phone route is being used as a way to separate and build a firewall between TikTok and any official business. This represents a workable alternative that allows communicators to carry on using TikTok.
Your own organisation’s policy encourages the use of innovation
Google it. Run a web search. See what your own organisation’s policies are on technology and innovation. I live in Dudley in the West Midlands. The first words of the Dudley Council digital policy are:
“Users of public services expect to access what they want 24/7, by a variety of digital means, such as smartphones, tablets, TVs, and computers. We will listen to our residents, businesses, and communities; and use this knowledge to deliver better services.”
In other words, it would be council policy to use TikTok if there is an audience for it on TikTok.
UK Government policy has long been to go to where the eyeballs are
In 2010, Martha Lane-Fox, UK Government’s Digital advisor said:
“We should put government transactional services and content where people spend their time on the web, rather than always expecting them to go to Directgov.”
We shouldn’t expect people to come to your website. That’s long been the case. By creating content on TikTok it means that we’re going to where people are. This is in line with government policy.
Government policy has long been to encourage people to use internet in all its forms
UK Government policy has long been to encourage people to use the internet
In 2014, UK Government policy has been to encourage people to use the internet as a driver of growth and prosperity. Using TikTok supports that. It reads:
“To make sure the web is truly for everyone, we need to provide more than just access. We need to equip the whole country with the skills, motivation and trust to go online, be digitally capable and to make the most of the internet.”
NHS digital policy has encouraged the use of the internet to reach health results
In 2023, using the internet to adopt tools that reach the poorest in society. TikTok does that. NHS Digital policy in 2023 reads:
“In 2023, The need now is for the health and care sector to adopt digital tools, urgently and consistently, to address both our long term health improvement goals and the immediate tasks of recovering from the pandemic. We must design inclusive services to benefit those whose health outcomes and outlook are poorest.”
If you’re in Scotland, Scottish Government policy supports it
Scottish Government’s Digital strategy plan ‘A changing nation: How Scotland Will Thrive In A Digital World’ argues for a change in approach. Boldness is needed to embrace ways to reach people. TikTok does that. It states:
“The digital agenda goes beyond the adoption of the latest digital technology. It’s about the adoption of digital thinking, the way we lead organisations and how we embrace the culture and processes of the digital age. An approach to doing business which is user centred and process (rather than silo) focussed. A way of working which maximises the value of networks. A recognition that the pace of change is accelerating and action to equip all of us to embrace this change and take advantage of the opportunities it presents.”
If you’re in Wales, Welsh Government policy supports it
The Welsh Government Digital Strategy argues that Government should be flexible to support the needs of the user and not the other way round. Using TikTok to reach an audience supports that.
“Digital change isn’t just about technology, it’s about a change of culture. It’s about being open. It’s about using data to solve problems. Instead of designing services from the viewpoint of what organisations think a citizen needs, a digital approach involves designing services that meet the needs of the end user.”
If you’re in Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Assembly policy supports it
Use of social media in particular is picked out as being evidence of using digital channels in the Raise Digital Strategy. Using TikTok supports it.
“Our use of social media, the development of the Research Matters blog, the creation of a Brexit hub, and the KESS podcast series are four examples of innovations which have become an embedded feature of our services.”
Yes, others in the public sector are still using it
@WestSuffolkCouncil West Suffolk Council
@SouthYorkshireFire South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue
@SWBNHS Sandwell & West Birmingham NHS Trust
@DrJulieSmith Teenage Mental Health consultant
@OxfordCityCouncil Oxford City Council
@BlackCountryMuseum Black Country Living Museum
@DerbyshireFRS Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service
@SurreyFRS Surrey Fire and Rescue Service
@WHO World Health Organisation
Hope that’s useful.
The business case you can draw-up needs to be bespoke to your organisation. It’ll be strengthened by drawing from your own policies.
I deliver the ESSENTIAL TIKTOK & REELS workshop where I can teach you how to plan, shoot, edit and post effective portrait video. More of that here.