At the time of writing this article, I have just surpassed 50,000 followers on TikTok.
Five-zero….zero, zero, zero.
When I started my educational TikTok account back in July 2020 out of unbearable lockdown boredom, I had no idea it would amass to what it is today. Who knew so many people were interested in 15-second career advice! But even though I was the one sharing tips to help others ask better questions or feel more confident speaking in front of a group, I didn’t realize the person getting a masterclass in communication was actually me.
If you’ve ever tried to communicate a message with a large group of people, you’ll know it can be challenging at best and downright impossible at worst. Well, unlike the corporate world, the great thing about TikTok is you can get real-time feedback on your communication skills. If you can’t communicate well, people will scroll right past you on the FYP* and your videos will flop** right before your eyes.
However, do it well and your videos will blow up***.
You see, the TikTok algorithm is built to distribute the app’s most enticing, interesting, and engaging content. Unfortunately for us, work isn’t curated by a sophisticated algorithm. Our inbox doesn’t filter the most impressive emails, and our calendars don’t accept the captivating presentations while declining the pointless ones. Instead, we get everything.
The bullet points.
All of it.
In growing my audience on TikTok, I’ve learned some valuable lessons about communication that have translated extremely well into the working world. The good news for you is you don’t have to dance around on the internet to find out what they are. Here are the 6 ways TikTok has helped me develop my communication skills at work so you can too:
Get to the point, and get there quickly. Seriously, you have about two seconds to hook people before they scroll to the next video. The same goes for that email you’re writing. You’re not crafting a 2021 Pulitzer Prize Winner with an epic story arc. Lead with the spoilers if you want people to pay attention. (If you’re wondering where the spoiler is in this article, look no further than the title that prompted you to read more.)
Contribute when you have something valuable to add. We all know those people at work who just talk to talk, or worse, contribute to meetings by regurgitating what someone else said. Well, unlike the working world, educational TikTok videos perform well only when there is value for the audience. People want to know why they should listen to you. Why does this message matter? Why should they care? So what? If you aren’t adding value to the conversation, people won’t engage with your content.
Have a point of view. One of the secrets to virality on TikTok is to have a clear perspective and make it known. Here’s an example: I posted a video telling people to stop pretending like having a meeting is the only way to make a decision at work. This video received 1.1 million views and over 100K likes. It also received thousands of comments - some of which were echoing my cry for efficiency and others that emphatically disagreed with me. The point is my perspective engaged my audience. If you want to be engaging at work, have a point of view.
Listen more than you talk. On TikTok, “listening” means reading comments. I’ve found the best way to figure out what content to create is to look at the conversations happening in the comments section. I’ll sometimes spend hours reading comments (both on my videos and those of others on #careertok) in order to create one 15-second video. If you listen more than you talk, you’ll deliver a message people are interested in listening to.
Encourage conversation. A popular technique for TikTok creators is to be the first one to post a comment on your own video as a way to encourage conversation with your audience. The idea here is that if others see a comment already posted, they will be more inclined to respond as well. Good news - you too can encourage conversation at work using this technique. Ask a question at the end of the email. Get feedback from someone you trust. Throw in a thought-starter. Do whatever it takes to get the conversation going so you aren’t speaking into an echo chamber. And then go back to #4.
Call to action. Here’s the deal - people like to be told what to do. They might prefer different delivery styles, but in the end, we all just want clarity of expectations. If you want people to follow you on TikTok, tell them to follow you on TikTok. If you want people to click the link in your bio, tell them to click the link. If you want them to share the video with a friend, tell them to share it and point them to the button that makes it easy to do so. Stop making suggestions or assuming they know what you want them to do. They don’t. You need to tell them. Give people a call to action and they are more likely to act.
There you have it. Give this a go at work and see what happens. Or if you’re brave enough, set your message to music, let loose, and post it on TikTok.
Glossary of TikTok terms:
* FYP - For You Page; this is TikTok’s main feed
** Flop - when a video doesn’t perform well and receives little traction by way of views, likes, and comments
*** Blow up - go viral