This Q&A originally appeared in WQP September 2021 as "What is TikTok?"
No doubt about it, the COVID-19 global pandemic has changed how we interact with customers and the role digital communication plays in that. One water treatment dealership, Advanced Water Treatment (AWT), is leveraging a new digital tool to connect with consumers— TikTok. WQP Managing Editor Lauren Del Ciello spoke with Nicole Wheat, director of operations for AWT about the dealership’s experience using TikTok as a digital marketing tool, from how to get started to engaging customers.
What is TikTok?
Lauren Del Ciello: What is TikTok?
Nicole Wheat: At its very basic core, TikTok is a short-form video creation platform, as well as a sharing community. It started with just being able to record, edit and share 15-second videos. Recently, they released the 1-minute format, and they have now released the 3-minute format. So, it’s growing and changing as more people join. But really, that’s what it is; you can create and edit content in a very simple manner. It’s very user-friendly. There are filters, effects, music you can add to it. You can really do almost anything you want with these video clips.
Del Ciello: How did AWT get started on TikTok?
Wheat: The owner of the company, Brad, mentioned TikTok to me probably in 2019 and I was like, “TikTok? Isn’t that just for kids? Aren’t teenagers just on it?” And at that point I looked into it, did some research, and it was a very younger generation. It wasn’t our target generation or demographic. So we didn’t do anything with it, but once the pandemic hit TikTok really exploded. Let’s face it, everyone was home, everyone was looking for something to fill their time with, and TikTok was the new and greatest thing, and it really did explode.
So when we revisited it in the beginning of 2021, it had expanded. The demographics on TikTok were no longer just teenagers. We thought that we could show our personality as a company. We have a lot of fun here. We enjoy and love what we do. There’s a lot of unique things about water treatment that people don’t know and we wanted to showcase that and we thought that TikTok would be a good way to really show the personality of our company and make content that would make people laugh and engage them. It’s been working so far pretty well. We have quite the engagement.
How to Find Success With Marketing Through TikTok
Del Ciello: Have you seen success with this unique form of marketing?
Wheat: It’s daily that I get someone who mentions our TikToks on the phone that’s calling in, whether their following us on TikTok or our regular social media. People who come in the office say, “Oh I saw that TikTok.” [...]
The engagement on our Facebook has gone up quite drastically. We’re still getting the same amount of views, but people are actually taking action and engaging with the post, whether that’s liking the video, commenting on it or sharing it. I can share our salt sales, our filter sales, new inventory — I can share that all day long and people will see it — but if it doesn’t engage them to take action, it’s not really getting the message across. So what these videos are doing is actually making people engage with you. That’s the big thing. I’ve always struggled with Facebook for small businesses on how do you get people to actually engage?
Advice for Water Treatment Dealers Considering Using TikTok
Del Ciello: Any advice to other business owners who may be wondering if this is a potential digital marketing avenue for them?
Wheat: Have fun with it. I think that I spent about a month on TikTok just consuming content, scrolling, watching and seeing the community. I think you need to get familiar with the TikTok community and how the app operates and what other people are doing. That’s my number one tip. Don’t go into this blind and just say, “We’re going to make these videos,” because they may not fit with what the TikTok community will even consume.
*Responses have been edited for clarity and length. Listen to the full conversation from the Checking In series at bit.ly/checkingin53.