Someone asked me the other day which councils were doing a really amazing job at TikTok. I really had to think.
TikTok can be a really engaging place with users watching almost 30-minutes of video a day.
Users’ interests are the oil that powers the wheels of this platform so if you’re all about the dog videos, the recipes and the football then that’s what you’ll likely see. It’s all about keeping you entertained, you see.
This slant for interest and entertainment is a big stumbling block when it comes to local government’s 1,200 services few of which can be charitably called entertaining.
Yes, there are public sector organisations that do a good job with TikTok. But they tend to home in on one or two things. South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue are all about fire safety and recruitment, for example. Black Country Living Museum is about telling stories from the area’s past with new tools. Sandwell & West Birmingham NHS Trust are about recruitment and basic health messages.
But how about councils?
First, here’s a quick reel of eye catching local government TikToks. If you’re used to TikTik you’ll be used to faster edits, fast paced music and trends.
What councils do it all well? There’s a few I like the look of. West Sussex Council did an eye catching campaign around voting.
Birmingham City Council have an innovative approach where they have a couple of members of staff who act as creators where they star in a TikToks which cast an entertaining view of Birmingham. There’s nothing on the council going bankrupt but there are tips for students on where to study, for example. That’s fine. TikTok isn’t and never will be a channel for everything.
Almost 800,000 views would say this approach is working fine on TikTok. That may be a harder sell for some councils.
Manchester City Council make straightforward videos wit fast edits and music clips from TikTok’s editing tools. They cover the more entertaining end of council priorities. So do Liverpool City Council. Stoke on Trent City Council have shown how visual set pieces like Remembrance Day can be swiftly converted into TikTok content.
Elsewhere, it’s service areas who are performing well. This appeals to my sense that not everyone wants the 1,200 service wide spread of what the council does. Invercargill Libraries in New Zealand has built a following through making videos that celebrate reading, libraries and librarians. So does Whitby Library in the UK and the fabulous Hays Public Library in the US.
It’s not about posting about the date, time and link for a booking. It’s about making libraries fun and entertaining.
Place marketing can work really well on TikTok. It’s fun, engaging and can be entertaining. Visit London isn’t strictly speaking a council account but there is input from the Mayor of London so that works.
The Mayor of London’s TikTok also works well with a mix of the Mayor celebrating the capital and making set-piece statements. It’s the best example of using a politician and given the post’s high profile incumbents you can see how this works.
If that’s what to look at here’s also what to do and avoid.
What to do and don’t for good local government TikTok
- Be creative. People are watching TikTok for the entertainment. They’re not waiting to tick a box for a middle manager who doesn’t know how the internet works.
- Experiment with what areas you’ll cover. Museums, leisure and the fun stuff, yes.
- Plug in the real people. People warm to people on TikTok not things designed on Canva alone.
- Follow the BBC. BBC News are market leaders for quality journalism on TikTok. They have reporters who create content with the platform in mind. There are cutaways and pieces to camera.
- Experiment with trends. Trends are clips, music or approaches that can burn and fade quickly. They get the lion’s share of attention and by hopping on them you can boost your reach.
- Reshare. Resharing is the equivalent of the RT. If someone has already made a cracking TikTok of a footpath to explore next time you’re looking to explore the area thank them warmly and reshare it.
- Work with creators. Explore TikTok. See what works on it before launching onto it. Look for hashtags and creators that are making content. Maybe see if yo can work with them.
- Look beyond local government. There’s some good accounts outside of the sector.
- Look for a licence to operate rather than have to get permission for each clip. You know the platform and you know the code of conduct. Get going.
- Use a burner phone to get around the UK Government restrictions. Whitehall has asked civil servants not to use TikTok on the same device as work emails. So get a second device.
- Finish off using the TikTok editing tool. Add captions to make it accessible and add music from the TikTok library.
- Have a business account. Yes, this will limit the sounds that you can use but it means you’re limited to the tracks you have permission to use. You’ll also get insight.
- Go for Councillors. Yes, I know that elected members make the world go round but they often land as well as a bag of glass bottles that’s fallen off a recycling wagon.
- Try and shoehorn stuff that won’t work. Planning want you to make their consultation exciting but they haven’t got anything visual, a story to tell or anyone who will appear on screen. Don’t.
- Look to get all your content shot by shot signed off by people who don’t understand the platform. They are not the audience. Look for a licence to operate where you can experiment.
- Use landscape video. Shoot in portrait.
- Cross post what you’ve done for another channel and think it’ll work on TikTok. It probably won’t. Not only that you only have permission to use TikTok approved music on TikTok. Not on other platforms.
I help deliver the ESSENTIAL TIKTOK & REELS workshop to show people how best to use the portrait style of filmmaking.