Five Ways to Use TikTok for Advocacy

The National Down Syndrome Society leveraged the platform’s popularity, built-in tools, and creative spirit to further its cause. Here’s how your association can do the same.

Thanks to its tremendous growth, there’s a solid argument for associations to lean on TikTok as the next avenue for advocacy. But with such a large user base, how do you stand out on the platform? And what can you do to spread your message beyond your network? The National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) has found a way to harness TikTok’s popularity, generating 4.8 million likes on the platform.

“It has become a big professional tool, and it’s been huge for some nonprofits,” said Michelle Sagan, digital media manager at NDSS.

Consider these strategies from Sagan to better broadcast your advocacy and awareness efforts on TikTok.

1. Lean Into TikTok Trends

Capture the spirit of the moment by incorporating popular trends in your content. Putting a unique spin on the latest craze will probably grab your audience’s attention, and could put your post on the Discover page for all to see. In one post, NDSS took advantage of the “Fingers Down” trend to shed light on inequities that the Down syndrome community faces, including the fact that people with Down syndrome can legally be paid below minimum wage. The video went viral, amassing 2.5 million views and more than 620,000 likes.

The organization also capitalized on the trend of creators pointing out everyday things that just don’t make sense to them, focusing specifically on laws that negatively affect those with Down syndrome. This video did even better, garnering over 4 million views and more than 1 million likes.

2. Showcase Your Character

TikTok is not the place for canned, dry content featuring senior leadership. Your organization’s TikTok videos should feature members of your community speaking authentically to give your message the most impact.

“You see someone with Down syndrome talking about terrible things like, ‘I can’t get married or I’ll lose my benefits just because I have Down syndrome,’ and it’s these heart-wrenching tidbits that get to people,” Sagan said.

Even NDSS, which has a serious mission, have taken advantage of the platform’s lighthearted tone to deliver information in a colorful way. Popular TikTok content often features song snippets, lip-syncing, text bubbles, images, or animated backgrounds, so don’t forget to incorporate some of these elements.

3. Raise Awareness With Built-In Tools

There are several ways that you can drive your audience to take action on TikTok:

  • Use donation stickers that send users to your donation page.
  • Add a link to petitions or legislation in your bio or video description.
  • Use popular hashtags to bring your content to a wider audience.

“Having specific calls to action was more important than getting a lot of likes,” Sagan said. Nicole Patton, content creator for NDSS, said one of the organization’s videos going viral on TikTok resulted in more than 2,000 new users interacting with its advocacy page on VoterVoice, which the organization linked to on its profile.

4. Engage With Your Community

Interacting directly with your audience is another way to mobilize users.

“Nicole, who manages our videos, did a great job at responding to people,” Sagan said. “Someone would comment, ‘What can I do?’, and she would say, ‘Click this action alert to send a note to your member of Congress to pass this bill that we’re working on.’”

TikTok’s Q&A feature offers another way to keep the conversation going by giving creators an easier way to answer questions in real time during a live video or with a subsequent post.

5. Work With TikTok to Create Content

Sagan said she has worked directly with TikTok’s growth strategy specialists to schedule live NDSS talks, develop effective content, and use promoted hashtags and analytics to drive awareness.

“We had biweekly meetings with people on their team,” Sagan said. “I think TikTok realized that nonprofits were jumping on board, and they were monumental in helping us get going.”

Michael Hickey

By Michael Hickey

Michael Hickey is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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