Will TikTok become number one for news?

Will TikTok become number one for news?

Amid a leadership election, war in Ukraine, and rising inflation, there was another headline this week that caught my attention: “Ofcom says TikTok is the fastest growing news source for UK adults”.

TikTok. An app made famous for dance-crazes and beauty tutorials is where people are turning to get news. No more watching ITV News at Ten or picking up a copy of The Times.

In fact, according to Ofcom data, TikTok is now the sixth most used source of news among young adults in the UK. Above it in the rankings are other social media apps including Twitter, Facebook, and then Instagram at the top of the pile. Only the BBC has broken the stranglehold social media has on the top spots. For younger teens (aged 12-15), the figure is even higher with TikTok the second most popular source of news behind “the gram”.

Should that be an issue? Probably not.

The changing tide

It is not a surprise that young adults – who spend a lot of time scrolling online – use social media to access news. “While youngsters find news on social media to be less reliable, they rate these services more highly for serving up a range of opinions on the day’s topical stories,” said Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom’s group director for strategy and research.

With more than a billion users worldwide, TikTok can have a tremendous impact on what news content people engage with online (and how they feel about these stories). More widely, social media has long been responsible for a positive rise in citizen journalism – in fact, Twitter came to the fore during the Iranian revolution in 2009 as a platform for getting news out quickly across the world, despite government censorship.

However, social media has also led to an increase in ‘fake news’ and misinformation being given a platform. Something mainstream news outlets have countered with fact-checking reports. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that the success of the BBC’s Realty Check series is one of the reasons people continue to trust the outlet so highly.

The way we all consume news is changing. But it has been for the last twenty years. “TikTok is not the enemy of journalism” was how one Guardian columnist put it – it is just a new way of reaching people. As platforms like these grow in both daily users and influence, mainstream media outlets are finally using them to successfully grow audiences of their own. The BBC has more than 22 million followers on Instagram and more than 186,400 on TikTok.

What does this mean for PR campaigns?

New platforms and digital spaces give brands new opportunities to engage target audiences with key messages. The challenge is that these campaigns need to be planned and executed in a way that lands with a digital-savvy audience; PR teams must think more creatively about the stories they use in their campaigns and the form they take (to attract attention but also give media outlets the tools to promote the story on their own social channels).

There also needs to be an investment of time and energy to engage with people on these platforms and continue the conversation. News consumption is no longer a one-way thing and if you are going to maximise the potential of social media, then guess what? It’s time to get socialising!

Because whether its TikTok, Instagram, or another platform yet to be launched, social moves quicker than traditional media. And if you do not move with it, you may find yourself (and your PR plans) left behind.

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