TikTok Marketing

“A game changer”, “TV on steroids”, “the future of content” and “ridiculously addictive”. That’s just a few ways to describe TikTok, according to my guest today, but, chances are, if you have teenagers in the house, you already knew that.

So what is so special about this app that has exploded in popularity over the last couple of years? Is TikTok really just a place for 12 year olds? And, very crucially, is it worth your time trying to market your race on the platform, and how do you go about it?

Well, we are going to be going through all that and much much more with my guest today, Oli Hills. As the CEO of a dedicated TikTok marketing agency, Nonsensical, Oli is here to tell you why short-form video is the future of content, and why TikTok is the place where it’s all going to be happening.

We’re going to be talking about how to produce content on TikTok, what kind of content works best, and how to scrap your preconceptions about TikTok demographics and video editing, and just take the plunge into a brave new world of marketing.

In this episode:

  • TV on steroids: how TikTok changed the social media game
  • TikTok's fastest growing demographics (hint: it's not teenagers!)
  • Nailing your niche and training TikTok to recognize your target audience
  • How to produce and publish videos using the TikTok app
  • Grabbing your audience's attention with snappy video hooks
  • Why short form video is the future (and why TikTok is the place to do it)
  • Boosting your video reach with Spark Ads
  • Cross-posting TikTok content to YouTube, Facebook, Instagram
  • What types of content to post on TikTok
  • Paid marketing on TikTok: creating ads, audience targeting, retargeting
  • The importance of getting in on TikTok early

Many thanks to our podcast sponsors, RunSignup and Racecheck, for supporting our efforts to provide great, free content to the race director community:

RunSignup are the leading all-in-one technology solution for endurance and fundraising events. More than 26,000 in-person, virtual, and hybrid events use RunSignup's free and integrated solution to save time, grow their events, and raise more. Find out more at https://runsignup.com/.

Racecheck can help you collect and showcase your participant reviews on your race website, helping you more easily convert website visitors into paying participants, with the help of their Racecheck Review Box. Download yours for free today at https://organisers.racecheck.com/.

Episode transcript

Panos  2:17  
Oli, welcome to the podcast!

Oli  2:19  
Hello. How are you, sir?

Panos  2:20  
I'm very well. Thank you very much. And thank you very much for coming on. I really appreciate it. You are my first guest, I think, based in lovely Birmingham, UK. How are things in Birmingham these days?

Oli  2:32  
Things are good. Things are good. I mean, we are very fortunate that we've just hosted the Commonwealth Games here. So, for about 12 days, the city was just an absolute buzz. It was incredible. I managed to get to a couple of the events. I went to the men's hockey finals, which was a bit of a whitewash in the end. Australia beat India about eight-nil or something - it was a bit of a joke. Then, I managed to get to the badminton which was cool, and also the closing ceremony, which was just mind-blowing. So yeah, there's a good buzz in the city and hopefully a good legacy as well.

Panos  3:04  
Yeah, I mean, lots of people - particularly us, listeners - will know much about the Commonwealth Games. It's a pretty big deal, right? I mean, outside of the Olympic Games-- how many nations? 20 something or other? 

Oli  3:14  
76, I think. 

Panos  3:16  
Wow, okay. Yeah, it's a massive thing. Nations with pretty good, sort of, like, sporting legacy. So, it's a pretty decent competition to win.

Oli  3:24  
Well, for us, in particular, because without the US athletes, we actually win some stuff, which is amazing.

Panos  3:30  
Indeed, indeed, yeah. So it's the Commonwealth Games, outside of the US, which helps a lot, I guess.

Oli  3:36  
Yeah. So I mean, we just need to get rid of Australia next, then we'll probably win everything. I think we came second in the middle table to Australia. It was close. It was about eight golds in it or something. So yeah, if we can get rid of Australia, then happy days. We'll win everything.

Panos  3:47  
I know. I know. It's awesome. And Birmingham itself-- I actually spent a full year of my life there in the late 90s. I expect things would have changed quite a bit. Things were changing back then, but I expect things would have changed quite a bit since then.

Oli  4:00  
Yeah, absolutely. It was a bit of a shame. I don't think it got the investment that it necessarily deserved or needed through, probably, the 90s and early noughties. But if you look now, the amount of cranes in the sky, the development that's taking place, transport, in particular, housing, it's just buzzing. There's a really good, kind of, independent restaurant and bar scene. I think Birmingham - talking about Birmingham, UK here not Alabama, can be confusing - is the youngest city in terms of demographics in the whole of Europe - the highest percentage of young people live in Birmingham, basically. So it's got a lot of energy, a lot of cool things happening. Yeah, I think the next 5, 10 years is only going to get better.

Panos  4:44  
It doesn't. The restaurants are always a very reliable barometer for what's happening in a town, right? 

Oli  4:49  
Yeah, absolutely. 

Panos  4:50  
You get more fancier restaurants - it's on the app. 

Oli  4:54  
Well, I think we have again - it might be outside of London - the highest number of Michelin star restaurants in the UK, in Birmingham - it's five or six. It's unreal. 

Panos  5:02  
Oh, there you go. You run all your businesses in Birmingham and some of them are sort of Birmingham-focused as well. Tell us a little bit about that. 

Oli  5:10  
We have an office in Birmingham and Bristol. Our company actually started out as an online publisher or social media publisher called Birmingham updates. It was launched in August 2011 back in the days when Facebook was really easy. They grew to 65,000 followers in three days, which was nice, and then continued to grow. It's about 850,000 followers now across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Tiktok. We used to work predominantly with leisure, retail, hospitality, and travel type companies through advertising. Then, obviously, the pandemic hit and every race organiser kind of lost every bit of revenue that we had. So, we ended up merging with a company down in Bristol called Best of Bristol, very similar in terms of setup. There are about 250,000 followers across social platforms. Then, that was really when we saw TikTok just exploding. Like, every video you saw on Instagram just had the TikTok watermark on it, and we thought, "That's interesting. Let's see what we can do in that space." So we launched some of our own channels on TikTok just internally just to see what we could do. Then, next thing, they just absolutely blew up and, here we are, in our TikTok agency.

Panos  6:22  
Well, it's amazing. We'll get into more of that in a sec. It's worthwhile noting that we actually met through an earlier venture of yours a few years back when you were doing more race-related stuff. Back then, it was Race Perks - the first thing I think we worked on - which was like a digital goodie bag type thing. Then, you also moved on to do Zento Pics, I think with the same co-founder, which is more like a photo-sharing platform. 

Oli  6:51  
Correct.

Panos  6:52  
Are they still around?

Oli  6:53  
The photo-sharing one isn't - that unfortunately didn't work. It was basically a platform for spectators to share imagery that athletes could get hold of. So, if think about, especially, like, ultra running or marathons generally - I mean, it's changed now, but this we're talking back in 2014 here - what we noticed was that there generally would be one photographer at the finish line that charge, kind of, £70-£80 for a picture whereas, actually, there were so many spectators around the course capturing really natural, authentic photos. The quality of cameras on mobile phones, even back then, was good. Now, it's mind-blowing. So, we basically built an app where you could upload your photos from being a spectator, and then athletes could go on and find their picture - a bit of a marketplace where we take a cut out of any sales that were made. So, we got it live for a number of different events and, then, really, we needed a big load of investment to make the app better, a bit more intuitive, a bit more AI to recognise race numbers and that kind of thing. Unfortunately, we just ran out of cash, so we put that one to bed. Then Race Perk was obviously a big shift into the sustainability angle where event organisers wanted to be more sustainable - hand out less T shirts, less medals, less plastic, essentially. Again, got that live for a number of events. Then, the pandemic hit and, all of a sudden, it was kind of halted. So yeah, I moved over full-time to Nonsensical. My business partner, Simon still works on Zento, which is more of a virtual event for active travel, which is really cool. It's getting some really good traction, and they've got some really, really neat ideas. I'm still involved in that from a, kind of, director and board level and I speak to Simon regularly, but he's the one to kind of ploughing forward with that. 

Panos  8:36  
Yeah, I mean, to be honest, photography - I see it all the time - is a super competitive arena and, as you say, you need lots of investment to shine because, nowadays, AI tagging, all of that stuff, is like table stakes. So it's tough. Race perks-- I mean, doing digital goodie bags in a pandemic-- unfortunately, not a great environment. But then, I think it's really amazing that you chose, with your current business partner, to not only go into a marketing agency - you have the background, it made sense - but, sort of, like, go all-in on TikTok. You mentioned that part of the decision came from seeing TikTok everywhere - I guess it was around the time where it was, sort of, like, on the rise. From a business point of view - because this is your livelihood now - what makes you so bullish on TikTok as a platform to basically go all in and base all your marketing services on that one platform?

Oli  9:34  
It's a good question. Ultimately, I think TikTok has naturally changed the game. If you think about the likes of Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, generally, you would opt-in or follow accounts and the algorithm would show you those accounts in various different orders when you log into the app. So, you kind of knew the type of content you were going to be seeing. So if I want to see something from Great Run, Cristiano Ronaldo, or whatever, I'd opt-in to see that type of content. What Tiktok have done is they've basically said, "I'm going to learn more about you than you know yourself and I'm going to recommend content I think you're like." So TikTok is basically like TV on steroids. If you think about when you're flicking through TV and flicking through channels, you've got no idea what's going to come next, right? Absolutely, no idea. But there might be one thing that just grabs your attention. It could be the History Channel, or the arts channel, or Sky Sports World or whatever it might be, and you'll start watching it for a little bit, and that is TikTok. So you got no idea what's coming next, but the algorithm knows you better than you know yourself and will surface content that thinks you'll like. So fundamentally, they've changed the game. And what have we seen in the last year, a year and a half? Well, Instagram, essentially copies with their platform reels, and even YouTube, who is an absolute leader in its space copied with YouTube shorts. So all of the other social platforms now were scrambling because they realised that their platforms are a little bit boring. All of a sudden, everyone is obsessed with short-form, ridiculously authentic, real content that is recommended to you. If I open Instagram now, I could probably tell you the first six posts that I'm going to see. I know who they're going to be from. All of a sudden, it just gets a bit boring. So, I think we went all in on TikTok because they've changed the future of almost entertainment and content.

Panos  11:40  
And I think there are a few keywords there. I was about to ask you how you would basically describe TikTok to someone who's not familiar with it, but I think what you said there captured it best - it's sort of, like, TV on steroids in terms of the ridiculously authentic content. I think it's good for people to keep those two in mind because we're going to be pushing those points later in the podcast in terms of someone who wants to go on TikTok. That's really important to understand what it is about. It's not really a social platform. Let's start with this. You open up TikTok. There are two tabs there, kind of, right? There's the "For you" thing, which I think is what you're describing - basically, TikTok curates stuff for you. Then, there's the "Following" stuff - more like what people would be more familiar with like a Facebook feed type of thing. I follow these accounts, and I see stuff, right?

Oli  12:33  
Correct. But that only came in recently - the following tab. It has only kind of come in in the last three months or so.

Panos  12:39  
Do you think this is, sort of, telling the direction TikTok might follow? Or is still the big thing happening within the "For you" - like, the curated content side of things?

Oli  12:50  
That's a good question. I think what they've given you is a way that you can use it in the way that you want to use it, which I think is quite interesting. So ultimately, you could go on TikTok for advice and guidance on mortgage or finance. I follow an account of someone that teaches me how to do Excel codes, which is nuts, right? So if I know for a fact that I follow one of those accounts, then it gives me access through the "Following" feed for me to just go and find that easily, whereas if I just want some entertainment, a bit of mind-numbing scrolling in, the "For you" page offers that to me. So I think having both makes sense. I think it's interesting that they opened the app onto the "For you" page, which is the curated content rather than the "Following". So they know for a fact that this AI-driven recommendation and curation of content that TikTok makes you like is more important, let's say, to the followers. It's quite interesting because when you think of the likes, again, of Instagram and Facebook, you could probably reel off a good number of people that you follow. I do a lot of TikTok training and strategy work for brands and one of my first questions is always, "What accounts do you follow on TikTok?" And no one can tell me. They don't know because they're just so used to just seeing stuff that it's not really that massively follow-a-lead platform. You can do that, absolutely, but it's not the way that most people use it, unless you are a Francis Bourgeois who does the Trainspotting or Khaby Lame, who's the most followed person on TikTok. But generally, because you're just surfaced or served content, it's more about, "Has that particular piece grabbed my attention?" If you see that in your feed about three or four, maybe five, six times, you might decide to follow them because you'd like their content, but it's not the way people use it necessarily. 

Panos  14:40  
Yeah, that's another great point that we'll get to in a sec. This basically focuses on curating content and less on creating a following - it's another thing that people need to keep in mind in terms of differentiating their strategy on TikTok and other places. In many ways, it goes in favour of smaller accounts because, basically, it's a much more level playground. In terms of TikTok, what really matters is producing content that is really engaging. It doesn't matter who follows you because most of the action happens within the "For you" tab. 

Oli  15:14  
Correct. Correct. There are a couple of points there. The first one is, essentially, TikTok has built the world's best video editing platform on a mobile phone, and they've given it to the world for free. What they have done is they've essentially made content creation a lot more accessible. That's the first point. So your competition on TikTok is ridiculously high because, all of a sudden, all of the 1-billion plus users now have access to create content, whereas if you think about Instagram, Facebook, it was always the highest production value won, right? It was always the most beautiful photos. It was always the most beautifully curated videos. They would win. Whereas, TikTok has gone on to, "Nobody cares about that anymore. I just want to see what you're like and I want to see you create something that's really relatable and relevant to me." So that's the first point. The second point is there is no correlation between the number of views you can get on your video and the number of followers you have. As an example, we launched one of our own communities called Endless Pride. We just wanted to prove that we can do TikTok, basically, so we could sell it. I don't want to sell anything because I'm not good at it, so we launched Endless Pride - it's everything around LGBTQIA+ community. We had 25,000 followers, I think, at that time. We did one video and it got 4.2 million views, whereas if you think about what Instagram and Facebook do, they say, "You've got 10,000 followers. Every time you post, I'm going to show about 1,000 to 1,500 of those because I want you to press that juicy little 'boost' button and actually get your content to people who have already opted in to see it," which is nuts. So Facebook and Instagram-- those with the biggest budgets will always win. TikTok-- those with the best creativity will always win. What I love about that is that it actually makes you think more about the content than it does about how much media spend I can put behind this. That's why I think it's more of an exciting opportunity for brands. Now, the big caveat there is that everyone will leave this podcast and think, "Oh, I need to go and get millions and millions of views because I can get it. It's exciting." The biggest thing when it comes to TikTok as a brand, and as an individual on that, is nailing your niche - so, event organisers, cycling, running, triathlons, etc can be any of those things. You need to create content that resonates with that target community because all you are trying to do is teach TikTok who they should put that content in front of. So if you are constantly creating a load of different content like, "What you've had for breakfast? What did you do for dinner? The odd thing about running," TikTok is going to be like, "I don't know what this account is. I don't know who to put this content in front of." Whereas if everything you're doing is relatable and relevant to your niche, whether that'd be runners, cyclists, etc, then you can teach Tiktok quite quickly to put this content in the feeds of people who have shown through their engagement on the platform that they like this particular topic. So, don't go chasing views because, otherwise, you'll jump onto loads of trends and analysis stuff just to get views. Focus on training the algorithm and training TikTok, so it knows that every time it pushes your video out, it's going to someone relevant. 

Panos  18:46  
Yeah, absolutely. We'll touch on that point again. It sounds, to me, like this is one of those things I say are simple to understand as a principle, but difficult to stick to. It's simple to understand what you need to do because, basically, again, it's going back to this curation algorithm that's so amazing. I remember when TikTok first came out or, at least, when I first became aware of it, everyone in the tech community mostly was, like, blown away by how quickly TikTok figures out what you're interested in with a very high degree of accuracy. I mean, you just scroll through a few videos and, very soon, that algorithm learns. We've known before with Facebook, Twitter and other and other platforms that in order to be successful - particularly, organically successful - you need to understand how its platform algorithm works. It's essential for TikTok because that's where the views come from to understand that you need to work to train that algorithm to understand what you do, which of course for a race. I can see that being quite a difficult thing because you want to put out varying content but you want to still, I guess, make sure that your content lands with the relevant audience. Right? 

Oli  20:02  
Correct. I mean, that is fundamental to any marketing, essentially. The problem that we have as marketers is that we're always obsessed with what everyone else is doing. I always see all the time. It's just, "Oh, we should do more stuff like Ryanair, or we should do more stuff like Innocence drinks, or we should do some more stuff like Aldi or Lidl - more UK audience there - because they're the ones that get all the headlines. So all of a sudden, you change your marketing and content strategy to be more like them. I said, "But that's not what you're trying to do. Your content is very specific for your niche. So don't worry about what other people are doing. Focus on what your audience is actually after. That's the biggest thing." Most people go on social media because they want an immediate return. The mindset when they go on social media is like, "I'm going to build a massive community and they're going to buy all the stuff I post." Nobody cares about brands online - fact. Nobody ever goes and searches out what Nike is doing. It just happens to appear in your feed - right? So what you have to think about is, "What is it that my audience is asking? What are they interested in? What's relatable to them?" and focus ridiculously hard on your content strategy just for that particular demographic, and don't sway from it.

Panos  21:26  
Yeah. And I think that "ridiculously hard" is something that I suspect that - with TikTok, particularly - if you get it, it's going to be very easy to produce content, but you need to be in that mindset of understanding what content to put out. We're going to talk also about the design of the content because, in this very "on steroids" kind of environment, you can't waste a second at all. So before we get into that, let's talk a little bit about demographics - the kinds of audience and the kinds of people you'd find on TikTok. I put out a question in our race directors hub, a group on Facebook, about this. I asked, "Has any of you guys tried out TikTok?" A couple of people - actually, some that we're going to be talking about - ho have a very decent account on TikTok. They said, "Yeah, we run ads. It ended up with 13-year-olds." There's this broader, I guess, impression people have that TikTok is exclusively, kind of, like, under 20s or around 20s. Is that really true?

Oli  22:24  
The fastest-growing age demographic on TikTok is 25-year-olds. Fundamentally, 44% of users on TikTok are over the age of 25. We're running a very specific app download campaign for a client at the moment about car insurance and managing your car on your phone, and the highest number of people seeing the advert cold on TikTok go into the app store and download the app are all over 55 years old. So while the app absolutely started for people aged 18 and below-- because the app used to be "Musical.ly" if anyone remembers Musical.ly. It was, kind of, like, a lip-synching karaoke app. ByteDance came along and bought it and rebranded it to Tik Tok. So it had that legacy user base. But now, you can go on TikTok and you can learn about anything. There is a niche on TikTok for absolutely everyone. Most people go on the app, right? If they give it a week, like you said, and train the algorithm, go and search things you're interested in, it is ridiculously addictive. So my thought process is that most parents started to go on TikTok to see what their kids were up to and, all of a sudden, got hooked. Next thing, they're sending videos. Like, my mother-in-law sends me more TikTok videos than I've ever received in my life, and I work at a TikTok agency, and she's 60. So the fact that this is just, like, swelling from absolutely-- it used to be for young people because Musical.ly was for young people - that is just a fact - but how the app has evolved over time-- most of my friends now - and I'm 30 - don't have Instagram because it's boring. They're all on TikTok because it's more exciting and fun, and that is really quite telling.

Panos  24:12  
I was reading somewhere that, basically, part of the reason why the average age on TikTok is increasing is because of the drift, like just the natural drift over a few years of younger users just ageing, but you're saying there is an active growth in certain demographics of 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s. 

Oli  24:37  
Yeah. 

Panos  24:38  
I mean, that's amazing because one of the biggest objections people had in thinking of TikTok as a viable marketing channel for races is that I speak to other people who are in race marketing as professionals and they say, "Yeah, we toyed with it. We experiment." But fundamentally, the audience you want to speak to is still on Facebook, right? I mean, that's where other runners are. I guess it's a little bit of a chicken and egg thing because races do suffer from the problem of attracting younger audiences and, maybe, by sticking advertising on Facebook and other channels, that 18-to-25 demographic may never grow. So maybe people want to think about it the other way around - not where my demographic is currently, but thinking that TikTok is a great way, perhaps, to diversify away from Facebook for the older demographics to start hitting those younger audiences that, unfortunately, the industry suffers from attracting,

Oli  25:36  
Correct. I mean, if you just go on TikTok and just search #running, it's got 11.2 billion views. If you're telling me that that is only 13-year-olds looking at the hashtag running, I'd be highly surprised. So it's scary and it's daunting, and everyone thinks that content is hard to make because, with all due respect, race organisers have got so many things to think about. The fact that you can be relatively lazy and just stick up a picture of the finish line, a picture of the medal, a picture of some people running, and a graphic to say you've launched your event-- nobody cares. Like, when you scroll through Facebook and you see that, you're just bored out. Like, it's just boring because it's easy to do. I think Facebook and Instagram made it too easy for brands to be boring and lazy, whereas TikTok, if you're not native to the platform and creating content-- like their whole mantra is "Don't create ads, create TikToks", right? That's their whole mantra. All of a sudden, you fall into this lazy thing. If I'm just going to schedule some boring posts, you'd get zero engagement and nobody cares. TikTok is scary because you have to create videos, which everyone is normally been told by video agencies that it costs you 20-30 grand to produce a video - right? That's what everyone thinks. Rubbish. But this scary thought of "I need to create video content" suggests that it's going to be expensive and take a long time. TikTok has made it so easy to do that so that isn't the case.

Panos  27:05  
Okay. Let's talk actually about that process. You produce the videos, edit them, do everything, and publish them on the app - right? So you open up the app and everything's there for you. Can you just walk people through, like, how a typical video production you want to produce - let's say, a 20-second clip of yourself saying something or doing something? How would that work?

Oli  27:30  
Internally, we do two different things. Some of our editors just prefer editing on Premiere Pro, Adobe rush, InShot, or something like that. So, you can edit or film-- sorry, we always recommend filming on phone. Don't film on camera - it's pointless. Film in your phone in portrait, capture whatever you need, and upload the footage into InShot or Premiere Pro if you're adept at doing that. You can absolutely edit outside of Tik Tok and then just upload. Most of our team will open up the app and open up the camera within Tiktok. You can capture up to three minutes' worth of footage if you want. You then go through into the next phase which is to cut all the clips. Then, that has, like, the most ridiculous editing software. You can trim bits. You can move bits around. You can add effects. You can add filters. You can add text. You can automatically add subtitles. You can do voiceovers and narration. All of those features are built into the app, and that's what really surprises people. As an example, we do quite a few videos where we use things like screen stream feature. Let's think you've got the most, ideally, stunning run. We're based in Birmingham. There is a great run called the Birmingham Half. There are some amazing sights that you see. You run past the Cadbury factory. You run through the Jewellery Quarter which is, like, where the FA Cup is made and all this stuff. So, you can use pictures that you went and took on the green screen and have someone present and basically, say, "Oh, at mile two, don't forget to see this. Here's the history of the Cadbury. Then, at mile 10, you have a different photo come up. Don't forget to see this. Oh, there's going to be a band playing here, so it's going to really, like-- and here's the big hill but it's fine because--" you can do all of that within Tik Tok and you could create that within 20 minutes. Think about how you'd have to do that before. You'd have to go and hire out a massive studio with a green screen, which is going to cost you about 2-3 grand to do it, and it'll take you all day. TikTok can make that available in 20 minutes. That's nuts! So the features within TikTok are mind-blowing, and it means that content creation is really accessible.

Panos  29:57  
Ok, so it’s all about TikTok marketing today, and knowing what you know about RunSignup’s relentless focus on bringing you all the features your race needs, it really shouldn’t come as any kind of surprise to hear that RunSignup also offers a TikTok pixel integration.

That’s right. 

When you launch your free RunSignup website and start taking registrations, you’ll also be able to track events triggered on your RunSignup website through your TikTok ad account. So when someone initiates a registration checkout on RunSignup or makes a payment, that revenue can be correctly attributed to the specific TikTok campaign behind it. 

And that’s really important, because one of the biggest barriers to adopting a new marketing channel like TikTok is being able to know whether it works or not, and how much value you’re getting for your money. With RunSignup’s TikTok integration that’s all taken care of for you, and you’ll be able to tell exactly what return you’re getting for your ad spend on TikTok. 

So to learn more about TikTok pixel tracking or any of the other awesome marketing tools available on RunSignup, go to runsignup.com. There you’ll find information about all the many great free tools and features RunSignup had to offer, including, incidentally, an awesome free custom website for your event and free comprehensive email marketing suite without usage limitations. That’s runsignup.com.

Ok, now, let’s get back to the episode… You can also add music - not just your own music but, like, published record-type music on your videos - right?

Oli  31:30  
Correct. Tiktok-- again, Musical.ly is where it started from, so it's always been a music-based app. TikTok has two things. One is songs. These are either non-commercial or commercial songs. So you can have Beyonce, Ed Sheeran and that kind of thing. Just a caveat-- if you go on TikTok and set up a business account, you can't have access to commercial songs. If you go on and create a creator account, then you can. So just be mindful when you are setting up your account - which one you choose - because the business account - while it's better to have, like, links in your bio and stuff - does have some limitations in terms of music. So, just to caveat on that. You can also have sounds. So people on TikTok may, for example, clip a particular scene from a film or a TV show, and they will lip sync over it. So they'll basically take that sound and do something to make it relatable to their community. There's one trend at the moment that is, "I'm not scared of lions, tigers, and lions, tigers, and bears, but I'm scared of--" Then, what people are doing is they're starting off with that intro. We did one for a client, which is like an under-18 driving school or driving experience thing. We just thought, "We're not scared of lions, tigers, and bears. We're scared of turning up late for a driving lesson." We got 250,000 views. So we'd use the sound that loads and loads and loads of people were using on TikTok, turned it into something that was relatable to our community, which was people who want to have this drunk driving experience and, all of a sudden, 250,000 people saw it. That took 10 minutes.

Panos  33:09  
You're not describing this stitch function or you were basically you take a clip from someone else.

Oli  33:14  
Now. So this is where you can just-- basically, TikTok is built around two things. One is proactively creating original content that you think your key target community will like. So again, "Things to look out for on the event. Here are five running shoes that we've just reviewed. Here are three ways to make sure you're really hydrated when you get to the start line." These are proactive pieces of content that you can create that are going to be helpful for your target community. That's one side of it. The other side of it is TikTok is built around trends. Trends is when somebody on TikTok starts or does a piece of content and everyone's like, "Well, I could do that and I could tweak it slightly," or "I could do that and I could just make it a bit funny." All of a sudden, they get, like, billions of views and millions of videos created. So you have this reactive site where you see what is trending on the app and you're like, "Could I make that relevant and relatable to my community using the inspiration from the trend I'm seeing?" So as you scroll through TikTok, you'll start to see variations of the same video and they will be, kind of, trend reactive basis. So, your strategy on TikTok can be both proactive where you're creating this original content, but also reactive where you're essentially copying and tweaking what other people are doing on the app. And that's totally fine. That's what the app is built around.

Panos  34:39  
And in your estimation, what is the typical length for a video on TikTok? And what is a good length, I guess, in terms of people's attention?

Oli  34:48  
Yeah, good question. I mean, TikTok did open up 10-minute videos because they did a thing where the British Film Institute never posted 10-minute TikTok. We always try and get any content we do - whether it's presenter-based, like talking through a story or a voiceover of different clips - always under a minute. We very, very rarely go over a minute. The big thing about TikTok is how do you keep people's attention. If we're, like, presenting a piece, we will probably not have the same setting or background for more than two seconds. It's rapid. We speak quickly. We make sure that everyone's attention is, like, trapped in for the whole thing, basically. So anything over a minute is not good. If it is going to go up for a minute, then make sure it's really snappy and you're telling stories in really interesting ways. Again, let's take that, "Here are five things you may see on the routes," type of content. You could send out a videographer and a presenter, someone who's good on camera, and they stand outside the Cadbury factory, and they say, "Oh, amazing. This is mile 2." Get some little snippets of what's going around there, and say, "You're going to be at mile five." You click, and then all of a sudden, you go to the next location. You click again, you've transitioned, and you're like, "Here at mile five, this is where the hill is, but it's fine because we're gonna have a band here." So you can keep your content really quite fluid, smooth, and quick even though you're telling a story over 50-60 seconds. On the flip side, if there is a song or a sound that is trending, but the clip is only, say, eight seconds long, your video can only be eight seconds long. So sometimes, your content is bound by the length of the sound or the song that you're using. So there are two ways of thinking about it really. 

Panos  36:38  
And by the way, listeners, that was Oliver snapping his fingers. 

Oli  36:41  
Oh, yeah, sorry. I get excited.

Panos  36:44  
No, and so you should! I'm just explaining. So speaking of snapping fingers and all of these kinds of, like, rush in the scrolling and stuff. Like, I've sat next to 12-year-old, like, sons and daughters of friends and stuff, and I see them just endlessly scrolling. One thing that strikes me, since we're in content, is, unlike YouTube - where you even get this kind of thing these days - or Instagram, it's not the kind of platform where you start your content with, "Hi, my name is Oli." Right? I mean, you would have been scrolled over 10 times by them, right?

Oli  37:24  
Literally, literally. We call it hooks. Internally-- I try not to click my hand. 

Panos  37:30  
Click away. Click all you like. 

Oli  37:32  
Internally, we have these things called video treatments. For every piece of content, we will write a treatment, where it's essentially, "What is the purpose of the video? What is the information we're trying to get across? What shots do we want?" There is a whole section in there called hook. "What is the first three seconds?" That is the most important thing. I don't care what the edit looks like after 30 seconds. I just don't care. What are the first three seconds - because I need to grab your attention? Now, the litmus test for any good TikTok video is to scroll through 5 or 6 to 10 videos on your "For you" page and then watch the video you've created. If it's not within that style, it's not good enough. So the first three seconds, it could be like, "Here are five ways that you can sort out your nutrition." Everyone's buzzing. "I know what the video is going to be about. I can either choose to watch that because it's relevant to me or I'm going to skip on because I'm just not that bothered right now, but I might save it for later. Rather than, like you said, "Hi, I'm Oli. I'm the CEO of Nonsensical. We're a TikTok agency. Today, I'm going to show you-- well, actually, no. I think I might show you tomorrow. But yeah, no. Let's do it now. I'm going to show you how to make better TikToks." 10 seconds in, everyone's gone. They haven't even seen that. So snappy. You can either use, like, your voice and present it but you could also use text captions on TikTok that you can easily have to be, like, "Here are five things to look out for on the run." And you can just have that as text. Or it could be, "I'm going to review the new New Balance running shoe." That sound okay. "Cool. I know what you're gonna do." So hooks are everything - first three seconds. It gotta bang in. It's gotta be good. It's probably worth saying at this point, one of the major reasons why companies, race directors, and whoever don't start TikTok is because they don't have people comfortable on camera. More often than not, TikTok is a presenter-led platform. It is someone who is there speaking to the camera or on-camera doing something. Now, that's a bit of a change when you're so used to either creating graphics or uploading photos. You now need somebody to represent your company, your event, whatever it may be, and be good on camera to create. So, that is something that you just need to get around, whether you find an ambassador or a member of your team, or go onto TikTok and go and find people already creating content about running, and see if they'd be up to working on your behalf. You can create content from anywhere on tick tock. You haven't got to always be in a certain location. So, as an example, at Nonsensical, we have about 50 or 60 different content creators around the world, who we know are amazing at creating content, and we're just like, "Oh, here's a brief. Here's an idea. Can you just go and create that for us?" And they can create it from the front group. So, getting over that presenter or talent problem of who can actually front your videos is one of the biggest things you need to get over in order to get going.

Panos  40:39  
Yes, I think that is true. That may be a hurdle for some race directors. If you're the type of person who basically is comfortable in that kind of scene and relishes doing that kind of stuff, I think you're going to do quite well. One of the accounts that I actually checked out on TikTok-- I actually searched - I just wanted to see what's there from our side of the world - and I looked up the London Marathon account. I think New York doesn't even have an account. Chicago either does or it's, like, completely dormant. So, some of the largest accounts - and we're going to go into some more details on that later - don't even have an account. Then, I checked out a couple of accounts from our Race Directors Hub members - one of them was the Canaan Valley Running Company, Robby's company, and the other one is 3 Bros Running, which is also very strong on YouTube - and you see, indeed, that the kinds of videos that do well there are around the front people of that race. It's around the race director being there and saying stuff. As you say, London Marathon, particularly, has some on-this-day type of throwback content  - really interesting for some people because it's a big event and it attracts all kinds - but then, it also has those kinds of, like, generic race course type stuff, and I can see that not standing out very much on TikTok among people. Like, you need a person there to be speaking. Another thing about the London Marathon account that I noticed-- this whole DIY look that we're after - the ridiculously authentic one you mentioned at the beginning - is actually a pro. It actually works in your favour, right? I mean, your video doesn't have to be very polished. 

Oli  42:27  
Correct. Actually, it sticks out if it is. 

Panos  42:30  
Yeah, so that's the problem. So, in a way, being genuine and being comfortable just sitting there for 10 secs knowing you're going to say something creative or grab your-- that's all you need to do, right?

Oli  42:42  
Correct. I mean, our team only ever films on a mobile phone. We have zero cameras in the agency. We just don't use them. Some of our best pieces of content literally took 10 minutes from idea to posting. The hardest thing today, especially with people knowing they can get a lot of stuff from home-- I mean, there's the big challenge of going back into the office or not, etc. The big thing in life is, like, "What is the value or what is the reason why I should go and do that?" So a lot of people during the pandemic learned that they could just go and run a 5K. And did they actually miss the camaraderie of an event? Maybe not. Did they really need a medal and a T-shirt? Well, not really because I'm doing it for different reasons. So what is it about your event that is going to make somebody stop and make time in their calendar to actually pay to enter? That is all based on experience. If your video is showing this most ridiculous polished perfect event, people would say, "Looks a bit fake. Doesn't look real." If you show people - just get out your phone - like you stumbled upon something, they are like, "I'm gonna have a good time there. The founders are really fun. The event organisers give a bit of a laugh, so I think we're gonna have a good time there." That whole authenticity piece and showing people what it's actually like-- everyone has rejected this perfection of Instagram because everyone knows that it's nonsense. Why did TikTok blow up during lockdown? Because you couldn't fake your life - right? Instagram is about, "How do I fake my life to make it look perfect? How do I go to Blackpool Beach - if you haven't been to-- clean up a bit of sand around me, put a ridiculous blue filter on the sky and on the sea, and pretend I'm in Barbados. Or walk through Central London, go and find a Lamborghini that's parked at the Savoy Hotel, and pretend it's mine." Like, that is what people did on Instagram to create this fake affection. When you are locked in during lockdown, you can't do that. Your life is exactly what it is like. TikTok basically went and said, "Why don't you create content of what your life is actually is like?" That is what people expect. So when you're a brand, why don't you show people what it's actually like? Don't try and fake it. Don't try to, like, falsify it. Show people they're gonna have a good time. Show people what it's going to be actually like when they rock up. "Hey, when you turn up, here's where the baggage is going to be." Thank God, I don't need that to be perfect. That's a 5-second clip and everyone goes, "Cheers. Appreciate that." So it's just a completely different mindset when it comes to creating content."

Panos  45:41  
So having been through all this and hammered in the point about authenticity, how the content should look, and the kinds of people who are on TikTok, what's the case for a race director, thinking about putting some effort and some resources into TikTok for marketing their event? Is it worth it? And how should they do it?

Oli  46:03  
Good question. I mean, it's only worth it if you can commit to it. I'll come on to paid advertising shortly because that's a completely different kettle of fish. But if you're trying to build an organic community on TikTok, then it's worthwhile investing. "I want to make sure that my account or my content is being seen by runners within a specific location." My argument is always, "If you try and create that content on Instagram and Facebook, nobody will see it because the algorithm is working against you." What they're trying to do is push reels and YouTube is trying to push shorts. So you're gonna have to invest in short-form video anyway in order to be seen on those other platforms. So you might as well take the opportunity to do on TikTok, which is built around discovery - people discover new content there. So essentially, everyone's going to have to shift to short-form video anyway because that's what all platforms want - not just TikTok. So you might as well do it on the place, which was the pioneer for that, and then cross-post content onto your other platforms. Ultimately, for an event organiser, it is a case of what is important or what is of interest to the runners or cyclists or whatever, within the locations of my events. So create content that is of interest to those people.

Panos  47:30  
And for the organic part of what I'm doing there-- we will get into paid ads indeed in a sec. For the organic part, are my objective similar to the objectives I have when putting out content on Facebook and Instagram? Am I trying to sell? Am I trying to engage or create brand awareness? What am I doing on TikTok?

Oli  47:49  
Generally, you're trying to build a community of people who are interested in what you've got to say. So it's more top-of-the-funnel. Organic social is always more top-of-the-funnel. Ultimately, it is giving people advice and guidance, forming an education, and entertaining. Everyone knows that being a runner or a cyclist is hard - right? There are sketches that you can do. There are things that absolutely relate. So your alarm goes off. It's 5 AM and you've got to go for a morning run. Like, every single runner will go through that. So, how do you build content that relates to that person? How'd you do it in a sketch format where you play two different characters? You could be the "Don't go for a run" and "Go for a run" - two sides of your brain - for example. You create content like that. So it's very much a case of not saying, "You should enter this event. You should enter this event," because everyone's just gonna scroll on by. How do you earn respect, engagement, and interest from that community? Then, you can start dropping in more salesy content, but you can't just overload with sales contents - nobody's bothered. How are you providing loads of value in this end so that it enables you to put some more, kind of, focus salesy messages in every six or seven posts or something like that?

Panos  49:11  
Yeah, I've seen those kinds of posts. They seem to me, sort of, like, the running meme type of posts you get on Facebook, but in short-form sketch kind of format, which makes them even more fun in a way because it's almost like a person trying to enact a meme.

Oli  49:28  
Yeah, it's probably so good. 

Panos  49:29  
Yeah. And I think those kinds of posts would work quite well for races because, as you say, runners-- we have our routines, rituals, or little things that only runners understand, and nailing that bit could go a long way. You mentioned earlier what a long way looks like on TikTok. I mean, you could strike a gold and get, like, millions of views, right? 

Oli  49:53  
Yeah, totally. 

Panos  49:54  
Let's assume that you do something like that. It goes viral. It's super successful. In terms of your brand as a local race or as a medium-sized race in your area, how does it translate to your brand? Are you going to be capturing most of those people who saw the content organically and it was amazing and they liked it? Is there a "Like" button? Would they follow your account? How do you then reengage with them once you surface on their "For you" tab? Obviously, you can't hope to be nailing that successfully every time. How do you make the best of, like, a homerun you hit? 

Oli  50:28  
Yeah. So ultimately, there are engagement buttons that you can like, comment, and share all that kind of good stuff. So if your video absolutely bangs and goes viral, there will be a tonne of comments that you can reply to and start engaging in the comments. Again, it's not really a follower base platform - some will follow your account - but if you want to capitalise on that, then you can run what's called "Spark Ads". Spark ads is where you start putting spend behind your organic videos and then you can start to insert links into it. So if you know for a fact that that video is already banging and already getting good engagement, you could then put a little bit of spin behind it with a URL through to your website or whatever it may be. So ultimately, you can convert a win - a viral hit - into more of a lead generation tool from the media spend hype.

Panos  51:21  
That's actually an interesting point I want to clarify. Can you actually insert links into organic content? Like, can you actually-- no, you can't? 

Oli  51:29  
Just like Instagram. 

Panos  51:30  
And that, I guess, is on purpose, right? 

Oli  51:32  
Correct.

Panos  51:33  
To stop you from diverting your attention away from being on TikTok?

Oli  51:37  
Literally. You should never put a link on any post on any social media platform. Why? Because the platforms don't make money when you send people away. What do I want as Facebook? I want more eyeballs on my content as possible. If you're putting links, I'm not going to send anyone there. I'm not going to show it to anyone because all we're doing is taking attention away from my site. Now, if you're going to pay me for ads, put your links, and I will make sure I put that to people who are more likely to click because I want that to work for you. So then you spend more money. Everyone plays social media, right? Social media is a case of building communities, engaging with like-minded individuals, and creating content that resonates with them. If you are there purely for sales or making genuine action, go down the paid route - paid advertising - because, then, you can put your content with links, super-targeted, in front of people who are more likely to buy. So having both those strategies side-by-side is really powerful. If your budgets aren't too big and you've just got enough to invest in one side of it, and you know for a fact that your outcomes and goals are very sales-led - you want people signing up or whatever - then run ads. You can do it location-based, based on interest, and based on hashtags people have engaged with. There are so many different things that you can do to the really targeted outcome. If you're not committed to invest in building organic social long-term, then ads is probably the place for you. You can run ads on TikTok without an account. You don't even need to have an account to run ads.

Panos  53:21  
Okay. But there's a catch with running ads on TikTok, which we'll get to in a sec. You can't escape them being interesting, which is a really hard thing. Even your ads need to be interesting, but we'll get to that in just a sec. Another interesting point you mentioned there, which resonated with me is the whole thing about short-form video. So you're saying things are heading towards short-form video. If you want to be on social platforms, you'll need to get more comfortable with this kind of format. You were saying that you can create content in short-form videos for all kinds of different platforms and crosspost, but your recommendation is to do it on TikTok. Do it on TikTok and then take that finished product and publish it on YouTube - not the other way around - for instance. Why is that?

Oli  54:08  
I guess we're a TikTok agency, so it's just the way that we do it. Again, some of our team will create and edit videos outside of TikTok. For me, TikTok has the best editing platform. So if I know that I'm going to be creating content using the features that TikTok has - like green screen or whatever it may be - then I might as well do that within TikTok and then just extract it using, like, a website called Tikmate or something like that, where you can extract videos without the watermark. So I just use TikTok because it's, in my opinion, the best editor.

Panos  54:43  
Also, I guess, in terms of the discipline it instils with hooks and stuff like that, being in the environment that TikTok is super competitive - like, no second to waste on your videos - I guess, puts you in a mindset of creating probably better and more effective short-form video.

Oli  55:02  
Yeah, correct. I mean, just scroll to the "For you" page and you will immediately know what works and what doesn't. Also, you can get a lot of inspiration from TikTok. Like, if you're wondering what to post, I would just go and search "What would a runner think? Running routes around Birmingham." People use Tiktok search engine, right? So what are those questions that people are asking? Go and search for those. Look at what contents already working under those searches or under those hashtags, and create your own variation of it. So, use Tiktok as inspiration for the types of content that you can create. And again, it's built around copying, so use it as inspiration. Don't get embarrassed by doing that.

Panos  55:41  
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Ok, now, let’s get back to the episode… In terms of some nitty-gritty around content, the kinds of things like best practices and do's and don'ts, one of the things that is always a big question for people posting content on Facebook and Twitter is posting frequency. Is that a factor on TikTok? Does it matter if I post once a day or once a month or five times a day?

Oli  57:13  
Ultimately, no. I have a bit of a weird answer to this, really. I only post when I got something interesting to say. So ultimately, most companies fall over because they say, "I'm going to post twice a day, and it's going to be great." Four days in, they're like, "What should I post? I don't know. I'll just post that graphic. Let's just do a video on that." And it's not. So I would always suggest around one or two a week just to get that consistency. If you can do five a week, if you can do 10 a week, do it, but only if your content is good enough. As soon as you start forcing content out, because you're trying to hit this imaginary "I need to get three things out a day", because you heard on a podcast somewhere-- nonsense. Only post content when you've got something useful and valuable for your community, but do it consistently. I mean, once a month is a bit pointless - I'll be honest. Once a week. I'd go for at least twice a week if you can because it gets you into the habit of creating, but don't force yourself to have to do 10 a week if you can't think or create good content because, all of a sudden, everyone loses.

Panos  58:26  
Make sense. Another thing is hashtags. I mean, on Twitter, it was the thing when it got started. Now, people use it less and less. LinkedIn seems to encourage it. Facebook has them - and Instagram - but it doesn't seem to me that people consistently use them. Is that a thing on TikTok? Does it help to use hashtags when you post your content?

Oli  58:49  
Yeah. All of these things help to basically train TikTok. You don't do it necessarily for any other purpose than helping TikTok learn about what creating content about. #running #cycling #runningevent. Use? Absolutely, because it helps train TikTok around what your content is. Also, use local hashtags as well. For example, Birmingham Updates is an account that we run. It's very much centred around content in Birmingham, UK, so we use the hashtag all the time #BirminghamUK because we want to train TikTok that that is the location that we want this to go and we want the content to appear in front of people who have already engaged with that type of content with that hashtag. So it's all of these things that you can do to train TikTok and make their AI algorithm push your videos in the right place - super important. 

Panos  59:42  
Right. It goes back to this curation and the algorithm-type stuff. It's almost like putting, I guess, meta tags on your website. I mean, Google can figure out what's on it, but helping goes a long way - I mean, you can sort of speed up that process. 

Oli  59:58  
Yeah. "Search" on TikTok, as I mentioned briefly, is one of the quickest-growing areas. People are now using TikTok as a search engine, rather than Google. Anything that you can do to help your videos appear in those searches is really, really powerful. 

Panos  1:00:16  
That's interesting. The other interesting point here is that-- when I was trying to get up to speed with TikTok a little bit, I actually saw that even Google surfaces TikTok videos in a native kind of way, like in a Rich Snippet kind of way, which sounds interesting because those firms don't like helping a competitor - and you have YouTube - right? Still, they seem to be in good terms or they're taking it easy. So, even by searching on Google, you'll get lots of TikTok results.

Oli  1:00:44  
Correct. I mean, essentially, if you've already searched on Google, then they've already won because they've serviced their ads to you at the top. Essentially, it doesn't matter where you go after that, as long as Google knows that they are getting the answers to the questions they want by initiating that search for Google and they're actually quite happy. What is interesting is what people find, especially, if you think about restaurants and stuff. TripAdvisor is a load of nonsense, right? Even Google reviews is nonsense. I could sit here now, pay some person on Upwork or something 500 quid and write 100 fake reviews about my event. It's not hard. So nobody trusts them anymore. Actually, how do I see with my own eyes whether something is right or not? When you go and look at a TikTok video - because I can see it. Like, if they're at the event, they're like, "Oh, we had a great time here." You can't get any more real than that, right? Whereas a person in Malaysia or Singapore writing a review on a restaurant in Birmingham, you're like, "Unless you happened to be here, I'm not sure I trust that." So it's an interesting way that TikTok started to be used in that space as well.

Panos  1:01:53  
That's interesting. I mean, it's still very early days for TikTok - which I think is at least part of the bullish case - to tell people, particularly the more adventurous ones and the more, kind of, like, trying-new-things type of people, to just go out and give it a go. That would be my suggestion, right? As you say, you want to do it right. Spend the time. Be on it. It's zero cost. Getting your handle and just starting to experiment because these platforms can go in all kinds of directions. Twitter started out as "People airing their opinions", and it was a little bit of a cacophony at the beginning. Now, it is, for many people, the de facto platform where they get their news kinds of stuff. You just don't know how these use cases are going to evolve.

Oli  1:02:38  
If you think about LADbible-- LADbible got on Facebook early. They have 20 million followers. They then got Instagram early. They then went on TikTok early. So, as a new platform comes out, you may as well give it a go. It may die a death - fair enough - but, like I said, it only takes a little bit of time in terms of the content. You never really have to pay to be on these platforms - it's just that time resource that you need. So still, now, like I said, there's, like, zero events on TikTok. So, even now, you could be massively early in that space, which is unbelievable. Then, the next one will be BeReal or whatever the next app is - get on that early and see how you can do it. Every social app has a shelf life, right? I know TikTok. We went all-in on TikTok because it's interesting and changing the way social works, right? So that's interesting for us. I'm still looking at other social apps that come out, and be like, "Could that work? Let's get on early. Let's test it and see what happens." So you've always got to be doing this thing behind the scenes because, if one takes off and you're in early, it's unbelievable potential.

Panos  1:03:55  
Yeah. And I think TikTok, these days, has enough of a proof of concept to not be a totally speculative thing, right? I mean, it's an unknown quantity. It's growing. It's almost getting to a mature kind of stage, as you said, which is really frustrating for people. There are so few racisms there. I haven't looked at other events, but I was actually trying to see what races are doing on TikTok and it's a desert out there. Like, there are very few events doing anything there, which is a little bit discouraging because the first thing I would advise people when they try a new social network is to just see what other races and events are doing. Unfortunately, there's very little in the way of that, I think. Whoever decides to go on Tik Tok now, though, they'll probably need to figure it out for themselves. London Marathon has some content, which seems a little bit repurposed to me. Very few high-profile races even have an account. Some of the smaller races, as I said, have accounts and they seem to try to experiment with, like, the funny stuff - like 3 Bros Running which also has a great YouTube channel. People should check that out on TikTok - they have some really interesting ideas there. They do some dances and stuff. Their whole company is 3 brothers sitting up a running Company, which in itself has lots of mileage behind it. You've also done some work for the great run. You've done work for other accounts. Besides that kind of thing that we seem to have nailed - the funny video, meme-y type of stuff around running, some in front of the camera, like, "Here's me, the race director, doing this for the event" or, like, a medal reveal or something like that - do you have any suggestions on what kind of content people should think of doing on TikTok that may get a little bit of traction?

Oli  1:05:42  
I mean, hopefully, everyone doesn't go and try these because, then, everyone's doing the same thing. I think it's a mindset thing with any social, right? So, I'm going to answer this question in a slightly roundabout way. What is it that your community is actually interested in? I would almost go on TikTok - this is completely counterintuitive, but it's just the way I think. I would just go and create an account that is, like, the place for runners - nothing to do with your event - and create content that is all useful advice, guidance, and relatable funny stuff for runners, cyclists, or whatever your target community is. Don't even call it after your event name. Build a community and then you can start dropping in content about your event without them even knowing. Think about it. We have an account that we own internally, called Endless_Pride all for the LGBT community. We just set up because we wanted to prove that we can build communities. We set it up in December 2021. It's now at 240,000 followers or something. So we have 240,000 people who are interested, motivated, whatever it may be, with the LGBT community. Imagine that you are HSBC bank or like-- bear in mind, they sponsored most of the Prides in the UK, right? HSBC could own that account and just drip feed occasionally content about HSBC. But what they've actually done is built to the community that they want to speak to on a regular basis. Because they own it, they're not going to talk about anybody else. So honestly, I know it's so counterintuitive because everyone is obsessed with their bloody logo on social and they shouldn't be. Create a community for your target audience that has nothing to do with your events, and drip feed content about your events into it as and when that community is built - that is what I would do. No one will ever do it, mind, but that is what I would do.

Panos  1:07:43  
It's so amazing to me that you made that point because I've been making that exact same point for Facebook groups for years. That is my point. I mean, Facebook groups are a slightly different kind of gig, but we have a very successful group on Facebook about race directors. Of course, we have RaceDirectorsHQ. On our website, we give out resources and tools, and we have some paid stuff for directors, but I never created a RaceDirectorsHQ group for people who are into what we do on the website. I created a theme topic-based thing, which is about race directors. When someone tells me - let's say, a race director - "What should I do?" Most groups on Facebook-- they are the ASICS 10K kind of group, right? I mean, it's a group around an event, but that is not what you want to do. What you want to do is think, "Okay, I'm in Birmingham. I own the Birmingham half marathon. What do I do? Well, I will create either a half marathons group like the UK-wide half marathons group or a Birmingham runners group." You need your scope to be larger than the brand because the people who know the brand and are attracted to the brand know you already. 

Oli  1:09:06  
They're going to sign up.

Panos  1:09:07  
Exactly. You want to have, like, a theme and attract all kinds of people who could potentially be interested in your brand. Like, I've been making that point for ages on Facebook. As you say, very few people do it. I am 100% -convinced that is the way forward. You need to have non-branded themed communities. Then, as you said - just to take the HSBC example, I think - if you have a race, let's say, in Birmingham, and you own the Birmingham running community scene on TikTok, on Facebook, or wherever, not only can you occasionally plug your Birmingham race, but it's a channel for other races that you may not compete directly with to come and promote their events in there, and then you cross-promote with them on their media. I mean, it's so important to own that topic and not make it like a fun page for your brand.

Oli  1:10:03  
Yeah, honestly, no one cares about brands on TikTok or any social platform, but nobody gets their head around that. Nobody gets their head around that. It's baffling. So baffling. That endless pride community-- honestly, if you owned that as a brand, no other brand is getting anywhere near it because you own it. You choose what content goes out. There is no better place for that specific community on TikTok right now. So you are the voice. Tell me who would go and actively follow HSBC UK's account? Nobody is that bothered about banking, right? Nobody cares. So, yeah, just go and build a community for runners. and own it. If you own it, no one else can own it. The biggest thing is knowing that that is a long-term strategy because, all of a sudden, if you've got that, it's just like, "Oh, guys, where would you like to put a race up on Milton Keynes? If there are enough people that see it, then you just go and launch it." You've already got the community. That's the way you scale and grow. Nobody will do it. Nobody will do it because it's too risky. It's so hard to sell that in.

Panos  1:11:19  
I don't think it's a risk thing in the sense that the outcome is like roll of the dice. I actually think that if you do this and you do this well, and you create the community, the outcome is 100% guaranteed to get you what you need out of that. But as you said, it's a commitment. It's like a long-term thing. I mean, building these communities-- if they are to be authentic, if they are to spread by word of mouth and be valuable, and if you are to not try and sell to them, sort of, immediately or in a really crude way, it's really playing the long game. People don't have the patience or the time - to be fair to everyone - to do this right now to think of, "Oh, I'm going to have a community of 10,000 of my target audience in two years' time." They want results right now.

Oli  1:12:06  
Yeah, I mean, we own endless_mythology, which has got 348,000 followers. We got endless_pride that's got that 240,000 followers. We have endless_scenes, which is a film-based community, which is 25,000 followers. I may just go and launch endless_running. Just go and win it.

Panos  1:12:23  
Well, do that. I'm so delighted to hear that someone else has come to the same conclusion as I have. I think that's just me and you - only me and you.

Oli  1:12:32  
Yeah. Well, hopefully, the listeners of this podcast go. "Okay, these guys talked a little bit of rubbish throughout this thing, but that's a bit of gold."

Panos  1:12:40  
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the big brands do it, right? I mean, I'm gonna end it right there because we've been banging on this for a while, but I think it's really important. The big brands do it. If you have Burger King, they want to set up a community around the perfect burger or something. They don't want to build the Burger King community kind of thing so that people get shown their products, or where you have all the Burger King fanboys and girls in there. You want to be nailing the perfect burger kind of community where all the burger lovers would go there.

Oli  1:13:15  
That's the point. Yeah, totally. Love it.

Panos  1:13:19  
Anyway, let's wrap up. I think I was probably, like, "Super helpful." Anyway, listeners will decide. So let's wrap up a little bit on TikTok ads. You mentioned spark ads that's, sort of, the equivalent of boosting posts on Facebook. 

Oli  1:13:40  
Correct. 

Panos  1:13:40  
It's like the gateway to proper TikTok ads - it's, like, a simple thing. You have your content there. Click it. Put some money behind it. Boom.

Oli  1:13:48  
Essentially, yes. You can post some content onto your channel, onto your account. You can buy this thing called coins, basically, and then you can put coins behind your videos and target them to who you want that video to go to. That is your spark ad entry-level way of doing Tiktok ads, basically. It works. We've done it with some of our clients that we work with. It absolutely works. It just helps to, again, train the algorithm to put your content into the right feeds that you want it to go to. The biggest thing is always the content. It still has to be a TikTok, not an ad. That is the most important thing.

Panos  1:14:24  
Right. Which is the hardest thing because, in a way, you can have all the money in the world, but you can't escape the absolute, I guess, Darwinism of the Tiktok "For You" screen. It's a survival of the most engaging. You can't go around that.

Oli  1:14:41  
Correct. Yeah. So that's spark ads. They work. They're really good entry-level or exactly the same as Meta - Facebook and Instagram. They have TikTok ads platform which is, funnily enough, set up - at campaign level, ad set level, ad level - exactly the same as Insta or Facebook. It's probably the first thing they copied from them, to be fair, which is fair enough. So that is where you can do traffic ads if you want people to click through to your site. You can do conversion ads if you want them to buy something. You can do awareness ads if you just want those people to see it. You can do all of your targeting. Location targeting isn't the best yet on TikTok. It's getting there. It's not the best. It's not postcode-level like you can do on Facebook. Again, interest, demographic, hashtags that people have engaged with, and the types of videos people have watched-- you can do all sorts of different targeting and layers of targeting within that space. You can't upload email addresses like you can on Meta, but you can if you have an app. Getting appstore IDs is another way of doing a bit more detailed targeting. You can attach your Pixel - again, very similar to Facebook or Instagram - to your website. So you can do retargeting. It's all set up in exactly the same way. Then, obviously, when it comes down to your actual advert content, that's where you are 100%, right. You still have to make it look like TikTok because, unless you can afford half a million quid or whatever it is to take over the first page when you log into TikTok - which is where you'll see Apple and Samsung and all those 60 brands - your video will appear in someone's feed as they're scrolling through. So again, the litmus test-- scroll through five or six videos on TikTok and just imagine that your video is next. Is it good enough? Does it deserve to be there? Is someone going to stop? Have you got them in the first three seconds? Make them feel like it's not an ad. That's the panacea here. That is obviously the hardest thing, but if you think content first, actually, the rest of it kind of makes sense. Then, you can add in all of your links and all that good stuff. So, ultimately, we've had huge success with TikTok ads for a variety of different brands. So it's definitely worth testing. If you're already spending money on Facebook and Instagram, you may as well test, obviously, if you get the content right in TikTok and just see if that works. Believe me - it's not just 13-year-olds on the app. 

Panos  1:17:00  
Yeah. I mean, if you are really worried about that aspect of things, can you actually exclude demographics by age? Can you just show it-- I think it'd be a little bit self-defeating to do that on TikTok, but it can still be done.

Oli  1:17:14  
Correct. Yeah. So you can target just 45-to-54-year-old men and women. You could target 25-to-35-year-old women, if you want. So that's fine.

Panos  1:17:24  
You said that, in terms of the return on advertising spend, the performance you've been getting as a professional compares quite well to what you might get on Facebook or other platforms.

Oli  1:17:36  
Yeah, correct. The interesting thing is you get less click-throughs, generally, but it's cheaper in terms of cost per impression. So you get a lot more reach, a slightly less click-through rate, but these things - when they add - end up generally with a higher click-through rate overall. Ultimately, what we've started to see is using the creative that we have on TikTok as an ad placement on Facebook, and reels actually really work. We get better performance through TikTok ad content on Facebook and Instagram than still photos and graphics. So again, your investment in content over here can work for you over here as well.

Panos  1:18:17  
Yeah. It's interesting. Back to your earlier point, maybe some of the targeting features on TikTok are not as good as on Facebook. So you can take the best of both worlds - get creative on one, the targeting on the other - and then you get the right results.

Oli  1:18:33  
Correct. Right. Ultimately, all we've talked about for the last kind of hour and a half or so is that TikTok's algorithm knows you better than you know yourself. The data they have on people is mind-blowing. It's just that the level of options that you have when you're setting up your ads are slightly less than Facebook and Instagram, and that is only going to get better as the platform matures and gets better. So again, you'll be quite early into TikTok advertising even now. 

Panos  1:19:03  
Yeah. Which actually brings us to the conclusion in all of this. I think we're saying that if-- again, there's a few if's there. If you're the right kind of person who doesn't mind being the front person for something like this, and you think that your edge is in being creative - which costs nothing but you can't, sort of, like, make it up, you need to be that kind of person - and you're of that generation that is a little bit comfortable to experiment with stuff, just give it a go. Right? 

Oli  1:19:36  
Give it a go. Like, local colleges, local universities-- give people internships, give people an opportunity. There are so many creative people out there who are itching to be creative on TikTok. I mean, we work with the local universities here in Birmingham - several universities here in Birmingham - and we just get them creating content, and they're absolutely amazing. Or like I said, go on to TikTok and search for people who are already creating content about running and see if they'll work-- just say, "Oh, can you just create a couple of videos for us and we'll pay you per video or something?"

Panos  1:20:11  
Yeah. And to be honest, every race director has a handful of people in the race. I mean, lots of races have race ambassadors and those people are naturally extroverts. They love the brand. They love the event. I mean, there's always a demographic within that ambassadorship that is younger. I'm sure they would love to produce some Tiktok content for you.

Oli  1:20:34  
What's the worst that you can do if you ask? They'd say, "No." At least, you've given it a go, right?

Panos  1:20:39  
And I'm sure they want. In case people want to seriously think about this and may have some reservations or don't know where to start, and they might be interested in getting a professional in - I know, you guys also do consulting and other stuff and training besides also managing accounts of people - where can they find you? How can they reach out to you?

Oli  1:21:01  
Nonsensical.agency is our website. Or me on LinkedIn - Oli Hills. I think I am on LinkedIn. Literally, just this week, I've started my own TicTok channel, which is just OliHills. So, if you want some guidance on TikTok, then you can see me rattle, hopefully, some goodies on my own TikTok account, going forward. 

Panos  1:21:22  
Oh, so your TikTok account would be about TikTok marketing? 

Oli  1:21:26  
Correct. Yeah, we basically call it The TikTok show. 

Panos  1:21:29  
Oh, that's awesome. That's great. Okay, so there you go people. 

Oli  1:21:32  
Again, it's nothing to do with Nonsensical. I just want to build a community of marketing people interested in TikTok. I just happen to own it.

Panos  1:21:39  
Awesome. And that's the right way forward. Oli, I want to thank you very, very much for this time. I think we couldn't have had a better way of introducing people into TikTok. Hopefully, a lot of these things would have been clearer for everyone listening in. So thank you very much for coming on. 

Oli  1:21:55  
Thanks, Panos. 

Panos  1:21:55  
And thank you very much to everyone listening in. We will see you all on our next podcast.

Panos  1:22:07  
I hope you enjoyed today’s episode on TikTok marketing with Nonsensical CEO, Oli Hills.

You can find more resources on anything and everything related to race directing on our website RaceDirectorsHQ.com. You can also share your thoughts about race marketing or anything else in our Facebook group, Race Directors Hub.

Many thanks again to our awesome podcast sponsors RunSignup and Racecheck for sponsoring today’s episode. And if you enjoyed this episode, please don’t forget to subscribe on your favorite player, and check out our podcast back-catalog for more great content like this. 

Until our next episode, take care and keep putting on amazing races.

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