TikTok Is Your Connection to Gen Z

TikTok Is Your Connection to Gen Z

January 6, 2021
Sally Smithwick

By Sally Smithwick, RDBA E-Weekly Managing Editor

Social media platforms are continually evolving, and it can easily become daunting if you don’t take time to understand how they work and who they reach. In fact, if you really want to learn how these app features succeed, your best research is to sit with a teenager, watch and learn, as they fast and furiously scroll through videos and images. Today, we are specifically talking about TikTok, a platform consisting of short videos that is widely popular with Generation Z.

Since its inception in 2016, TikToknow hosts around 800 million users. Created largely to capture a teenage audience, the mission of the platform states “inspire creativity and bring joy.” This platform is made up of short videos (60 second maximum), popular music, filters, lots of dance moves, comedy, hacks, and challenges. But the most important thing you need to know about this platform, besides the fact that 70% of its users are 16-24 year-olds, is that any video, no matter how many followers, has the opportunity to go viral without fighting an algorithm, like in the case of Instagram or Facebook. 

While food has always been a popular topic on social media, this year with more people staying at home, the adventures of semi-professional chefs helped bring the hashtag “food” up to 47 billion views, and that’s not including words like “foodie,” “recipes,” and hit dishes like pancake cereal, cloud bread, banana bread, Dalgona coffee and other top food videos. 

And even videos that aren’t specifically created to promote food have highlighted the potential massive exposure for a food or beverage brand. Who knew Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice would be TikTok’s second biggest hit of the year when a man (not affiliated with the company) posted a video of himself riding his skateboard to work and drinking cranberry juice to “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac. Mick Fleetwood himself got involved and recreated the video. 

As a retail dietitian, at first scroll, you might think, okay unless I can dance like Charli D’Amelio (she started at 16 years old and has over 100 million followers), what business is there for me on this platform? The fact is that if you want to capture the highly diverse, opinionated audience that is also on track to the be the most educated generation ever, you’re going to have to get creative and have a little fun! 

As an RD, before you start, make sure you have defined your messaging that meets the food interests of this age group. Data has shown that they like flexitarian diets, snacks, fresh foods, and experimental foods. They are socially conscious and not afraid to talk about their strong feelings. Videos such as celebrating a variety of cultures, advocating for the marginalized, and positive social advancement are hot topics on TikTok. This platform is truly lifestyle focused, and food can often be found as the centerpiece. 

So how can retail RDs make the most of a TikTok profile? Here are some things to consider: 

  • The music you choose for your videos is key! This platform is all about hit pop songs, so when making videos, it’s a great idea to choose songs that are trending. 
  • Challenges are a great way to go viral. The idea behind this is that you create a video that other users will want to recreate. So if you’re giving a demo on how to make “carrot bacon” (a big hit this year!), or showing a shopper dancing through the produce aisle, or a reaction to trying a highly adventurous food for the first time, you’ll want to make something that others want to recreate. 
  • Consider engaging other supermarket employees, particularly those that are Gen Z and digitally motivated. Ask them what makes them stop scrolling and watch, and if it’s an option, find responsible young, creative adults in your store to help with video making. 
  • Don’t limit yourself to cooking demonstrations and recipes. Remember lifestyle and joy are what Tik Tok is all about. For example, beauty trends are big, so why not find a creative way to promote foods that are great for the skin? 
  • Vibe is everything! Viral videos on TikTok often promote good “vibes.” The skateboarding/Ocean Spray/Fleetwood Mac video is a great example, and so easy to create. It can be as simple as two people exchanging smiles over a coffee, as long as you have a great song as your soundtrack! 
  • Be socially and ethically conscious. Featuring a variety of food cultures could really spark interest on this platform. You get bonus points for highlighting your store’s connections to any and all social efforts from feeding the homeless to raising awareness for BIPOC-owned food brands. Does your store have a uniquely positive work culture? Happy employees promote overall joy for your store! 

TikTok is too big to ignore and engaging your Gen Z shoppers means building loyalty and lasting shopper relationships. 

If you are a retail RD using TikTok, we would love to hear from you and see what results this platform has produced for you.