Should your charity be on TikTok?

23rd February 2023
The team at WaterAid editing a TikTok video.

The team at WaterAid editing a TikTok video.

Earlier this week we launched our new report, TikTok: A Guide for Charities. Henry Roberts watched the launch event and shares five key takeaways. 

Everyone, whether they’re on the app or not, is talking about TikTok. The video platform has skyrocketed in the past few years. Whilst this may be just the latest phase in the ever-changing social media landscape, with the app projected to reach one billion users by 2025, TikTok isn’t going anywhere soon.

In light of this, many charities are asking themselves whether TikTok is for them. Here are some insights, based on our recent event, on whether your charity should embrace this platform.

  • TikTok is the place to reach young audiences 

A billion people will soon be on TikTok. Does this mean every charity should be on TikTok? Not necessarily. In reality, not every charity will benefit from TikTok. For one thing, it’s almost exclusively a young person’s platform: 92.39% of TikTok users are aged between 13 and 34. That’s great if you want to target young people, but if your key target demographics are older, then it’s unlikely you’re going to reach them with a snappy TikTok – no matter how funny it may be. You can’t engage an audience that isn’t there. Don’t feel pressured to get a TikTok account if you know that young people are not your target audience.

  • TikTok users are hungry to learn

For those who do want to reach younger audiences, TikTok is an invaluable tool, not least because users are actively seeking out informative content. Many people use TikTok as a search engine, typing in questions or phrases in the search bar rather than using Google. Millions of people enjoy learning from TikTok’s short-form video content, as the abundance of accounts dedicated to educational videos suggests.

Charities therefore have an audience on TikTok hungry to learn. Many NGOs, such as British Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders, use the platform to post informative videos: from the issues behind their work to insights on how their fundraising works. Sharing insights can help charities be transparent and informative, which are in and of themselves goals for many organisations. These videos may not generate income, but they can provide charities an audience to share their message.

These need not be international stories. Citizens Advice post tips on their TikTok channel on how to deal with landlords, rent disputes and other domestic issues. They’re a great example of an organisation using TikTok to create punchy content that remains informative without diluting their key message. 

  • Jumping on trends is the key to success on TikTok

Creators can choose to spend weeks preparing a video. But the best videos tend to be reactive, responding to trends of the day. Reacting to trends is the best way charities can work with TikTok to get the algorithms on their side, allowing more users to see their content without necessarily searching for it. Charities can keep up with what’s trending by spending time on the app each day, following the #trendalert hashtag on TikTok, or by following @tiktok_uk on Twitter, which posts weekly ‘what’s trending’ round-ups. 

Trends can help charities shape their content, but they also pose problems. One is that trends can get oversaturated. If everyone is jumping on the same trend, then your video will have less chance of being seen. It simply becomes one of many – and your message will become diluted. All the more reason to be as reactive as possible; getting on a trend first is a good way to stay ahead of the curve before your video becomes just another in a sea of similar content.

Charities therefore need to dedicate time and energy to manage a successful TikTok account. Ideally, an organisation will hire somebody who is on the channel daily, someone who understands the platform and can jump on trends as soon as they arise. But this is not always realistic, especially for smaller charities who are already under-resourced. 

  • Be careful to get the tone right

The rush to jump on the latest trends may also lead to short-sighted decisions. Speed is rewarded on TikTok, but charities should be careful not to sacrifice the tone of their messages for the sake of jumping on the latest trend. 

This is particularly the case when dealing with sensitive and important topics, such as content from a war zone or natural disaster area. 

That’s not to say that charities who deal with serious overseas issues should not be on the platform, but social media officers need to be careful that they are not trivialising the issues they are trying to promote with some of TikTok’s more wacky features. 

  • Understand why you are on TikTok

So, does every charity have to be on TikTok? No. It’s almost exclusively a young audience, takes time and dedication to get it right, and may not provide monetary returns. However, if you want to educate people about your cause and have the time to dedicate to honing your channel, then creating a TikTok can be a brilliant way to boost your charity’s brand. 

It’s important to have a mission statement, to understand why exactly you are on TikTok and what you want to get out of it. If you are simply recycling content from other platforms like Facebook and Instagram, then your channel isn’t going to perform well. 

TikTok has its own language and culture. This is where time and skill comes in. But if you can dedicate that time, then you can create content that will attract people and amplify your charity’s message. There is a world of young people who care about global issues. If you reach them in formats that speak to them, you may inspire the next generation of charity supporters.


Henry Roberts is IBT’s Communications and Membership Officer.


Related Articles

View All

Keep up to date with IBT news

Non-members can sign up to our mailing list here