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Badass TikTok has a change of heart

By T E Narasimhan
August 03, 2019 09:00 IST
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Runaway social media fave TikTok -- that has nearly one-fifth of India's eyeballs captive with its daft videos of robot dancing and bridegrooms playing PUBG post their weddings -- is now adding special value to its offering, discovers T E Narasimhan.

The TikTok US launch in Los Angeles, California. Photograph: Joe Scarnici/Getty Images.

TikTok is considered to be easy to use and mobile friendly which explains its huge popularity. Photograph: Joe Scarnici/Getty Images.

For the 200 million-plus Indian users of the controversial social media platform TikTok, it is an unusual hashtag to find on their screens.

It is not the usual dares and challenges that have hauled the Chinese social media app into court and police stations across the country.

Indeed #Skills4All is an initiative aimed at familiarising TikTok’s young users with the National Skill Development Corporation’s initiatives to get the youth ready for employment.

Eager to get the word across to the young, especially in Tier-2 and Tier-3 towns where the programmes are expected to create the biggest impact, the government-run agency has tied up with TikTok.

And it is through such partnerships that the social media platform is looking to mould itself in a new image.

ByteDance, the company that owns TikTok, has said that it will set up a data centre in the country to ensure the safety of its users.

TikTok's tie-up with the National Skill Development Corporation for #Skills4All is an initiative aimed at familiarising the Chinese social media platform's young Indian users with initiatives to get the youth ready for employment.

The company, which has also worked with Kerala Tourism for a travel campaign #YehMeraIndia, played a part in the government’s International Yoga Day 2019 campaign and has recently collaborated with social enterprises to train NGOs to mobilise the TikTok community of creators for larger social impact.

Nitin Saluja, director public policy, TikTok India, said that the #Skills4All campaign has so far garnered over 456.8 million views.

“TikTok has become the preferred platform for expression of India’s digital-savvy youth, given its easy-to-use tools and features to create and discover great content, all made easy on the mobile,” said Saluja.

Photograph: Courtesy Kerala Tourism

Kerala Tourism worked with TikTok for a travel campaign #YehMeraIndia. Photograph: Courtesy Kerala Tourism.

TikTok has been in the process of monetising the platform by collaborating with brands to conduct campaigns through hashtag challenges. Now it wants to ensure that its business is not derailed by poor image management, said experts. Hence the proactive attempt to define its public persona around social causes.

The platform is also keen to diversify the content library, go beyond the brand-led song and dance shows or the user-led challenges that have led to serious trouble in the past. For the State-run agencies that have stepped in as partners, it opens up the possibility of finding and engaging young audiences in a more interesting fashion.

Photograph: Courtesy

TikTok has over 200 million users in India. Hence the collaboration with NSDC for #Skills4All collected over 456.8 million views. Photograph: Courtesy TikTok/Facebook.

TikTok is easy-to-use and mobile-friendly, which explains its huge popularity in the country, said experts. Plus it is available in 10 major Indian languages, giving it a reach that goes well beyond urban audiences. Many on the platform are also first-time Internet users.

For NSDC, the platform’s debutant users are a big draw.

“Through diverse content on TikTok, we aim to excite and educate the youth about the various opportunities in vocational training. We believe that by harnessing the potential of short videos, we will be able to motivate youth to join Skill India mission,” said Gaurav Kapoor, senior head, communication and advocacy and industry partnership and CSR, NSDC.

Photograph: Courtesy

The Chinese social media company has an aggressive marketing/promotional strategy in place, not only in India, but in other parts of the world. Electronic billboards promoting TikTok have sprung up in Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Street, London, above, Dubai, Times Square, New York City, and several other places. Photograph: Courtesy TikTok/Facebook.

Out of TikTok’s active users, 80 per cent are in the age group of 15 to 35 years, the same target group that Skill India caters to, the NSDC spokesperson said. To drive a more effective campaign around such issues, TikTok has an exclusive segment called #EduTalk for which it hopes to get enough content and brand partners in the coming months.

“It is imperative that we explore unconventional routes to reach the youth, along with traditional ones and there is no cost or financial implication involved in this partnership,” the NSDC spokesperson said.

For TikTok such initiatives help take the attention away from the controversies that have dogged its heels ever since it entered the country.

Photograph: Courtesy

The company played a part in the government’s International Yoga Day 2019 campaign. Photograph: Courtesy

For its partners, however, there are areas that need careful monitoring. Given the nature of the app that allows users to improvise and expand the scope of the content uploaded by a brand or the government, all partners must guard against abuse.

A good video may not be the only thing to watch out for. Especially in the shifting sands of social media.

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T E Narasimhan in Chennai
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