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Opinion | The top five learnings for TikTok publishers

Madison Kirchofer, Team Whistle's social media manager and resident TikTok expert, outlines how publishers and creators can succeed on the video platform.

22 September 2022 Madison Kirchofer

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Team Whistle, the global sports media and entertainment company, currently has more than ten million followers and publishes across Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube, generating 4.7 billion views per month, positioning it as a top ten ranked US media sports property on ComScore.

Whistle’s role as a publisher with deep ties to social and streaming platforms led to the creation of internal agency ‘Magnet’, which provides social-first content strategies to brands, leagues and platforms to reach untapped audiences and create revenue opportunities.

In this article, Whistle’s in-house TikTok personality and resident expert Madison Kirchofer breaks down the top five learnings publishers and creators need to know to excel and grow on the platform.

1. Storytelling, storytelling, storytelling!

Storytelling will always be at the root of engaging content creation regardless of the platform. The app is full of incredible storytellers, and formatting your TikTok true to that resonates well with the TikTok audience. Whether it’s reporting on current events, telling a personal story or giving exclusive insider information, people will get hooked if you tell a story in a compelling way. You have a second to capture the audience’s attention so the story should grab them right off the bat, be fast-paced, and cover a wide range of information in a compact video.

Whistle has seen success with this format because our brand is a natural storyteller, sharing feel-good and insider information on professional athletes, musicians, actors etc. TikTok thrives off a personality and relatability, so having someone share a story makes the information digestible in a fun way.

We had a video where Adam Sandler revealed what it was like working with Anthony Edwards which resonated well with audiences. We also did a video about the Golden State Warriors vs Boston Celtics which broke down the differences between the two teams during the NBA Finals.

@whistle Do you think the @warriors experience will be the difference maker in the 2022 NBA Finals? 🤔 (@maddyh00ps) #nbafinals #warriors #celtics #nba ♬ Violin – Grooving Gecko

2. Format is everything

When making a TikTok Original, the format is key to getting people to stick with – and not scroll past – your video.

You should share your hook within the first few seconds of your video. Whether it’s the hook to the story, a list of top five players in the National Basketball Association (NBA) to look out for or breaking news, that initial hook should be the first thing people see when watching your video. You don’t want to give the story away, but by having a strong hook right off the bat it creates intrigue for people to stay on and watch. It maximises people’s watch time. Ensure there is a reveal at the end. Don’t reveal all information immediately after the hook – tease it and give more context to the story.

Don’t make your video too long! The sweet spot for storytelling is probably between 20 to 35 seconds. Cram a lot of information in this short amount of time and keep the pace fast. This will cause people to go back and watch it again or rewind the video giving it more and more views.

Whistle has had success leaning into the trending formats that are seeing momentum on the platform. An example of one would be doing a list of the top five rookies to look out for this Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) season.

@whistle Top 5 Rookies to look out for this WNBA Season 👀🔥 (@maddyh00ps) #WNBA #basketball #womeninsports #foryou #foryoupage ♬ Sunroof – Nicky Youre & dazy

3. Take advantage of in-app features

Use the in-app features that TikTok provides. For example, make sure that you use the green screen features to provide visuals and help bring the story to life. This can be done utilising both images and video.

It’s important to provide in-app text throughout the video. This brings another layer of visuals, giving the audience another bit of your personality. It helps explain the story or video in shorter and readable form, and acts as an informal form of captioning the video. You can also have the text create a narration for you or can do your own voiceover.

Finally, use popular sounds or sounds that match the mood of the video. If you are telling a suspenseful story, lean in to that when selecting a sound to play in the background. The sound helps move the video along, so I would highly recommend taking advantage of this element.

Whistle has seen success from really utilising TikTok’s in-app features, such as sound. The app creates opportunities for moments that trend. When everyone was using the very popular ‘I want to go’ sound, we leaned into that with our ‘Chet being humbled’ video to properly represent how athletes can be humbled on the basketball court.

@whistle What do you think… is Chet overhyped? 🤔 (@maddyh00ps) #chet #nba #summerleague #funny ♬ original sound – ESOSA||CONTENT CREATOR

4. Stay up to date with trends, popular sounds and more

Staying up to date with popular trends, sounds and news is key on TikTok. TikTok is an app that rotates through trends usually revolving around a certain sound. Acting on trends shows your knowledge of the platform and can help you go viral. Just participating in a trend is not going to make you blow up, but the originality of leaning into the trend and making it your own will resonate with people. You never want to copycat or steal an idea from another creator, so put your own creativity and own spin on the trend.

TikTok has morphed into giving quick and compact information on topics like celebrity drama, sports news, insider information, life hacks, DIYs, realistic clothing hauls etc. While other social platforms have thrived on showing the perfections of life, TikTok highlights imperfections, the realistic and authentic version of ourselves. Staying up to date with news and reporting on current events, or teaching people something new, will resonate well with the TikTok audience.

Whistle has seen success leaning into the trends that are circulating on TikTok and finding a way to put an original spin on it that feels organic to our brand. We are constantly monitoring to be aware of what is hitting on the platform so we can assess how to replicate and adapt it in our unique way. We took the popular trends that were circulating of the worst NBA Draft outfits and the Celtics tattoo guy, and took a swing at making both our own. For a while, videos of workers in the office were trending, so we created our own In Office trend video.

@whistle Did we miss any? 🤔 Let us know in the comments 💬 (@maddyh00ps) #nba #nbadraft #worstdressedchallenge #funny ♬ original sound – Milos._.Guzelll

5. Show your personality

Personality is HUGE on this app! People want to see faces behind a brand, to connect with it and have that reliability and authenticity to shine through in their content.

TikTok audiences love seeing familiar faces on their favourite accounts, and feel a level of comfort when doing so. People trust other people when it comes to this platform, because of the authentic foundation the platform was created off of. Don’t be afraid to show the faces of the brand and have them drive the content. This can be in formats like storytelling, popular trends, day in the life, news reporting, behind the scenes etc. Having on-screen personalities opens the door to the different levels of content a publisher/brand can create.

Whistle has seen success by creating native TikTok personalities that serve as a face of the brand. All our videos show unique takes of current events and lean into our individual personalities. An example is this video we created that was our own interpretation of the adorable interaction between Serena Williams and her daughter at the US Open.

@whistle Did you pick up on this special tribute 🥲🥰 (@Whistle Maddy) #serenawilliams #usopen #tennis #serena #storytime ♬ Inspirational Background Music ( warm, motivation, determined, cinematic ) – four_track

Team Whistle is an Eleven Group sports and entertainment media company built to engage and activate today’s generation, wherever they consume content globally. To find out more, click here.

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