“You're never too old—and no, you don't have to dance,” promises Emily Rochotte, a New Jersey-based social media manager who specializes in helping event companies market their services on TikTok. The wedding journalist turned marketing consultant adds that “if you were just starting your company and you could only have one social media platform, I’d tell you that TikTok should be the one.”
It’s a bold claim about the video-sharing app, which launched in 2016 and has become synonymous with teenagers doing elaborate, choreographed dances. But in 2020, TikTok exploded in popularity, despite a feud with former President Trump over the app's Chinese ownership. (The case is currently being reviewed by President Biden.) The app is now predicted to reach 1 billion active users this year and has recently become a go-to tool for brands and celebrities looking to host out-of-the-box digital events.
Because of all that, argues Rochotte, TikTok has become a logical way for event professionals of all types to be building their personal brands and reaching new clients right now. "TikTok's not going anywhere, and COVID has proven that to us," she told BizBash in a recent conversation, where she also shared what type of content event professionals should be sharing now, how to use it to find more clients and more. Read on to learn why she thinks every event professional needs a TikTok account.
I’m already on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn. Do I really need to figure out TikTok, too?
Rochotte’s opinion? A resounding yes. Not only is TikTok becoming wildly popular, but its advanced algorithm means your content will live on longer than other platforms.
“If you post something on Instagram, you have to hope you’re hitting the right person in those one or two days it comes across people’s feeds. But on TikTok, their algorithm is going to serve that out for several months based on people’s interests or what they like,” says Rochotte, explaining that, for example, if TikTok picks up on a user’s recent engagement, it will start serving them wedding-related content even if it's several months old. "Go in with the mindset of, I’m here to serve my audience and my content will reach them when it’s time for it to reach them. Don’t focus on video views; TikTok is a long game."
Another plus? The app also makes it simple to share content—either your own or someone else’s—to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, you name it. “From a content-repurposing perspective, if you make one video on TikTok, you can repurpose that across other platforms,” Rochotte points out. “As opposed to starting with a Facebook post—where do you go from there?”
Rochotte also thinks that the platform is uniquely suited to the event industry. “So much of events is about the experience—and on TikTok, you’re getting so much more than a flat photo. You’re showing somebody what it’s like to be at the event; you’re bringing them into the experience.”
What type of content should I be posting?
While gorgeous event photos never hurt, Rochotte advises focusing even more on behind-the-scenes content—and turning the camera on yourself. “At the end of the day, [a potential client] has to spend a lot of time with you leading up to an event,” she points out. “I find that a lot of event planners and vendors are really succeeding on TikTok when they break the fourth wall, and just sit down and talk to the camera about their experience or give advice and tips.”
She adds, “It’s all about being authentic. Too many people are putting off making TikToks because they think they don’t have content to share, or they think they don’t have the right high-end equipment. But some of the best videos are people that literally sat down on their couch and talked to their phone. That's what TikTok is all about.”
And while lines between work and home are more blurred than ever, Rochotte still recommends having a clear purpose and goal for your TikTok account. Hoping to promote your business? Sure, sprinkle in some cute videos of your dog or kids, "but we want people to know that you’re an event planner who has a dog, not that you’re a dog person who sometimes plans events,” Rochotte notes. “As an event professional, your goal is to showcase your work and book clients—and if you start gaining followers based on different content, you’re losing your original audience.”
What’s the best way to find new clients through TikTok?
Like any platform, it’s important to follow your peers and vendors—and actually engage with their content. “You can't just show up to TikTok and 'post and ghost,' as the phrase goes; you have to be active and you have to like other photos,” says Rochotte. “It's also going to help you because the more you watch videos and interact and comment and share, TikTok's going to learn what you do and what you like, then you're going to be served to your audience and your audience is going to be served to you.” (Once the algorithm gets an idea of what you're looking for, it will start recommending other relevant accounts in the "For You" tab.)
Like Instagram, Rochotte recommends searching hashtags to find people to follow, and also using hashtags on your own posts. But be sure to use ones that are actually relevant to your content, rather than just whatever hashtags are popular on the platform that day. “If it's not relevant to your video, it's going to throw you in front of a bunch of eyeballs but it's not going to connect you to the right people,” she explains. “Be specific in finding your audience. The goal isn’t to go viral; it’s to find people who actually need your services.”
And don't forget to respond to comments, and always tag the people you worked with. “Do your research to see what vendors might also be on TikTok, and tag them the same way you would tag them on Instagram,” advises Rochotte. “It’s a good way to get your reach up.”
What if I don’t have any new content to share right now?
Post old content! Take your viewers behind the scenes of something you've previously worked on, or share some ideas that are inspiring you right now. But if you’re highlighting a large, in-person event, make it clear that it took place before the pandemic. “I wouldn't throw a disclaimer over the video, but your caption should explain when it took place—because people will come for you in the comments,” says Rochotte.
For event professionals who are just starting out, who don’t necessarily have their own content to share, Rochotte recommends using TikTok’s “duet” feature, which allows you to build on another user's video by recording your own take alongside the original. It can be a fun way to discuss something that’s inspiring you right now, or share your thoughts on a current event-related trend.
Okay, you’ve convinced me. Are there any TikTok users I should look to for inspiration?
Rochotte cites the account of Wisconsin-based event planner Meredith Rebecca, @plusoneplanning, as a great example. Rebecca has gained over 64,000 followers in just six months by creating simple videos where she talks directly to the camera and answers wedding-related questions. “So you know who she is, you know who you're working with,” explains Rochotte. “Sometimes she sits down and has a conversation with you. Other times she uses a trending sound or something that's popular, which will boost her video, and tailors it to the wedding and event space.”
Are you sure I’m not too old for this?
“Don't say that!” laughs Rochotte. “There are literally 90-year-old grandmothers making TikToks. One of my favorite TikTok accounts comes from a senior citizen housing complex.”
The important thing is to just be authentic to who you are and what your business stands for, she adds. “Show up with confidence, even if you are freaking out, and don’t expect immediate results. Just keep showing up, be consistent and don’t quit.”