Starting a newsroom TikTok? Read our tips.

by Naomi Ludlow
Jan 5, 2021 in Social Media
Shadow of a hand holding a phone with the TikTok logo

TikTok is more than trendy challenges and dances, it is a video-sharing app rooted in creativity. And while it can be intimidating at first, TikTok can have huge payoffs for your newsroom.

The app was created in 2017 in China, then made its way to the U.S. Since the coronavirus pandemic, the numbers have skyrocketed, tripling the amount of users on TikTok. 

Formerly, TikTok was initially considered an app for Gen Z, but it is now home to individuals of all demographics. As of February 2020, about 50% of the TikTok audience is under the age of 34, but the adult audience (18+) has grown 5.5 times over the last 18 months making it a great place to reach new audiences. 

While the app offers great potential, there are challenges for users in the U.S. In August, the Trump administration issued an executive order to ban the app in the U.S., citing security concerns. ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, has filed a lawsuit against the administration, requesting the federal court to intervene in the matters. The outcome of this executive order still looms as a decision has not been finalized. In the meantime, many users and creators are carrying on as usual.

I know what you’re thinking: “How can we integrate another app into our workflow?” New social media applications surface regularly, making it difficult to stay up to date, be present and be authentic to your brand. 

Although it may seem overwhelming or intimidating to build a presence on a new app, you’ll be happy to know that TikTok isn’t too hard to use.

Below we’ve compiled some tips on incorporating TikTok into your newsroom’s workflow with the help of social media strategist Shauna Rempel

[Read more: The kids are on TikTok, should you be too?]

Understand the app

TikTok has an algorithm that’s not chronological — like a Twitter or Facebook newsfeed — so things are posted on users’ “For You” pages based on the content they like to watch. 

“If you get on the ‘For You’ page, it can put you in front of audience members who are already predisposed to liking your content,” said Rempel. The more time a user spends on the app, the more accurate the algorithm. So, what does that mean for you? Make sure you stay relevant. 

It doesn’t take a large following to go viral. As one tip, utilize the features built into the app, such as the stickers and effects. TikTok displays the effect and sound, which ultimately draws in users that are searching for the same content. Stick with TikTok’s own effects, avoiding tools that cater to other platforms.

Create a team

To ensure your newsroom is posting regularly, establish a team focused directly on the app. These team members should already be video consumers who are familiar with the app. Depending on the size of the newsroom, the amount of people who need to spend time on TikTok will vary. 

Once you’ve established a team, establish your goals including how much time each team member will spend on the app. Allow 20% of that allotted time to develop ideas and experiment with TikTok. To share inspiration and ideas, Rempel recommends setting up a Slack channel, which could be open to other newsroom members. 

When you enter the app, it’s easy to fall into a rabbit hole, so be focused on what you are looking for. Spend no more than a few minutes on the app to gather inspiration for your video. The main goal is to fit TikTok into your daily routine, rather than making it the only task that you focus on. 

[Read more: Talk to your audience, and other tips to build loyalty]

Find a niche

TikTok videos can fall into content categories such as performance, sports, entertainment, learning and more. Based on the angle your company wants, and the content that you’re able to produce, determine how you want the content to be presented. 

The Washington Post’s Dave Jorgensen creates sketches with comedic relief, while other outlets such as the World Health Organization (WHO), lean toward an educational approach. Find what works best for your brand and focus on that.


If the vaccines are approved, this would be an unprecedented scientific accomplishment. #coronavirus #vaccinations

♬ original sound - Logan Isbell

Don’t be afraid to recycle 

It’s ok to use evergreen content to start, including recycled pieces that your news outlet originally posted on other platforms. This will help you discover what your niche will be, and help you discover where you can fit into the trending content. 

Rempel suggests adding user-generated content to increase audience engagement and mix up the type of content you share.

Review the analytics

Create a business account to view weekly and monthly analytics. The app allows you to track your number of followers and views, helping you to establish the content that tends to do well on your account. 

“If you are growing and retaining new followers, and if your video views and engagement rate is higher, that shows you're doing something right,” Rempel said. “You're doing the type of content that is consistently finding an audience.” 

Most people that stumble across your content are already interested in what you produce, so they are likely to watch and engage with your videos due to the algorithm curated by TikTok. The more you watch a specific type of video, the more that that type of content will appear on a user’s “For You” page.

Market yourself, but not too much

Implement the eighty-twenty rule to your TikTok content. This means that 80% of your content is fun and creative, and doesn’t ask anything of your audience. The other 20% can be used for marketing. “There are enough ads,” Rempel said. “People tend to bristle at [marketing] because it feels like they might be getting sold to. They don’t want to be advertised to.”

Typically, users notice traditional marketing and tend to disregard those messages on social media platforms. Instead, try to direct readers to your content without outwardly asking them. The goal is to be conversational and to present a message that fits TIkTok specifically. 

In one example, the Dallas Morning News used the “pass along” TikTok trend to connect with their readers, sharing the message that they are local and want to support their community. Users generally stay in the app meaning they rarely click links, so find a way to market to them by reusing concept ideas that work on TikTok.


We aren’t able to gather in the newsroom, but we’re still working to keep #northtexas informed. #dallas #texas #quarantine #fyp #dfw

♬ Buttercup - Jack Stauber

As TikTok continues to grow, consider implementing the platform into your workflow, and use these tips to avoid feeling too intimidated. 

For inspiration and new ideas on how to use the app, check out this list of publishers and journalists on TikTok. And who knows? You might even make it on the list.

Naomi Ludlow is an intern with IJNet.

Main image CC-licensed by Unsplash via Solen Feyissa.