Consider TikTok as an effective nation branding tool

(OPINION & PUBLIC) – TikTok is a platform that needs no introduction. Post lockdown in 2020, TikTok has emerged as one of the most widely used social media platforms and its growth remains exponential around the world. TikTok is a short-form video sharing platform that allows users to create and share creative content with a larger community of individuals.

Content varies from mathematical equations to comedy, lip sync and dance challenges, movie reviews and computer tricks, but the basic premise is that the messages are whimsical and funny. At first glance, TikTok appears to be a fun and playful platform aimed at a younger audience. However, with its availability in 150 countries, 1.2 billion monthly active users and an estimated 2.6 billion downloads worldwide, according to a report by Sensor Tower (2020), the platform has become much more.

Unlike its competitors, TikTok is not a fleeting trend; It welcomes and shapes the communication of an entire generation in the way content is created, leading to the birth of a community of its own. TikTok has become an attractive communication channel for various companies and brands, and travel-related themes are the most popular. For PR professionals, there is a chance, so to speak, to use TikTok as a strategic tool to support country branding.

In 2019, this booming platform launched a #TikTokTravel campaign to inspire and encourage users to share content from their vacations around the world. This innovative idea caught the attention of users and several tourism associations around the world, who ended up joining the conversation with special hashtags. What is the place of Africa in these talks?

Africa is the second largest continent in the world with the rarest wildlife and a rich tapestry of historical and cultural interest. To put it more clearly, the Seychelles are home to 115 islands in the Indian Ocean. Sierra Leone is the land of diamonds. Côte d’Ivoire is rich in cocoa production. Kenya is home to Africa’s most important technology hubs. Nigeria is known for its supremacy in the music world. Africa is much more than that, and yet it is not the headline of international news platforms.

For decades, Africa has been and continues to be perceived with increasing pessimism as a continent of poverty and violence, leaving limited information to the ignorant. Overall, there is a significant gap between the perception of these foreign countries and the reality that countries in Africa offer. Some countries like South Africa, Egypt and Kenya have made great efforts to change this perception by launching a national campaign to promote their rich resources and culture through tourism.

How can PR professionals use this platform to educate the world about Africa and bridge the gap between perception and reality, when a platform like TikTok overtakes Google as the leading information search tool and maintains its edge by bringing entertaining, educational, and entertaining audiences to a wider audience and creative way? what it is currently suffering from.

  • Leverage local talent : Entertainment has always been a great way to attract attention and bring African culture to the world. Last year, Nigerian artist Ckay caught the attention of millions around the world with a remix of his song Love Nwantiti. More than 3 million videos of this title have been created on TikTok. This story is significant because Ckay used a mix of two local dialects – Igbo and Pidgin English – in his song and people had to learn the lyrics to create their covers. This illustration captures the immense power of a platform like TikTok.

As PR professionals, we should start to involve our local talent resources (music artists, actors, dancers and content creators) as a group when launching tourism projects. We need to build on their successes, which are a small but significant part of a larger movement to change negative perceptions of Africans.

  • Take a long-term perspective : Africa is rich in resources, creativity, culture and people. Countries need to start telling powerful and authentic stories to scale their economic growth with memorable hashtags. For long-term sustainability, a strategic goal must shape the kind of stories we share with the world.

In 2018, Ghana launched its Year of Return campaign, an initiative of the Akufo Addo government that aims to encourage African diasporas to come to Ghana to settle and invest on the continent. This approach would have made it possible to harvest $1.9 billion in the Ghanaian economy. Finally, in 2021, TikTok was part of the campaign, with #YearOfReturn garnering over 8.1 million views across diverse content. It’s only a matter of time before the numbers change, as in the case of Dubai’s #MyDubai with 3.6 billion views and #ThisisDubai with 109.6 million views.

As experts in reputation management, we need to start creating trends that promote our identity and transcend our continent. More importantly, these trends don’t have to be accidental; They must be the result of a carefully crafted strategic plan driven by a single goal.

  • Become a source of content : The amazing thing about TikTok is its ability to tell stories in many creative expressions. From trending transition videos, tooltips, and face and voice mods, the app offers plenty of resources to enhance storytelling. Any good content is an opportunity to showcase interesting and exciting features of your country. As an expert, you must learn to create flexible content that can be delivered in a variety of formats. You could take all the country highlights and turn them into fashion-themed content. For example, if you want to raise awareness about Mauritius’ famous “Seven Colored Earths,” you can ask an influencer to create a fashion-changing video showing how this tourist attraction can inspire your wardrobe as you prepare for your vacation.

Another idea is to create a duo trend that teaches tourists how to orient themselves in the country while speaking the local dialect. A quick tip is that users are already creating this type of content. They created a country hashtag to promote their identity as a citizen. As a pro, you need to set up a funnel system to select those that are getting the most engagement and convert them into larger trends. And above all: The content never runs out.

  • Rekindle the spirit of collaboration : Supporting TikTok to drive targeted engagement is not a job for one person. The platform is operated by a community; Therefore, a project as important as managing a nation’s brand requires a concerted effort of professionals, government agencies, citizens, and even TikTok to achieve this feat.

Following the success of its first collaboration with TikTok, which garnered over 70 million views, the Philippine Department of Tourism (DoT) has begun a second collaboration to launch a campaign celebrating the beauty of the country’s islands through the hashtag – #GandaMoPinas. Also, in 2021, the DoT has shortlisted nine creators from different parts of the country. Her main mission was to promote her province via TikTok Live. They were able to highlight natural scenery, key landmarks and activities, and increase engagement on the ministry’s official TikTok account. This example shows how working together only increases the power and reach of the campaign, creating not only a brand for the country but also a strong personality and followers.

The world is about to witness a new paradigm shift in communication, and the possibilities remain endless. In summary, branding a nation can only be successful if all citizens are involved in the process, regardless of their mode of communication.

PR professionals must learn to innovate, using new technologies and platforms to foster effective communication, regardless of who is having the conversation. One might wonder what a platform like TikTok, apparently notorious for distracting young people from serious discussions, has to do with historic milestones like boosting the image of countries. The answer lies in the people. Experts should never forget that the target audience always determines the preferred communication channels to convey their message. We must understand that the purpose of communication is incomplete if the message is not clearly understood. Our main task is to translate seemingly complex concepts and situations into simple narratives that even the target audience can relate to and engage with.

Around Davina NnawuiheMPRCA

Davina is Communication Strategy Manager at Opinion & Audience BCW and a member of the PRCA Africa NextGen group. It supports a number of multinational companies in French-speaking Africa by providing communications services integrated. Davina has over six years of cross-industry experience working with global and domestic brands across Sub-Saharan Africa.


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