TikTok for NPOs

You Can Do It!

What is TikTok?

TikTok is a video-sharing app that quickly became one of the most widely used social media apps, with more than a billion downloads. The majority of users are under the age of 30, though more and more people are getting in on the game, including non-profits. In fact, TikTok launched TikTok for Good last year, partly to combat negative stereotypes, and to use its network to promote positive change.

TikTok is the leading destination for short-form mobile video. Their mission is to inspire creativity and bring joy.

As with the many different social media apps out there – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat and others – TikTok has a certain connotation about what it is used for and who uses it. TikTok began as a lip-syncing app called musical.ly. Users could post videos of them with original music content or lip-syncing to sounds, songs or comedy routines. There were even artists who launched original music on musical.ly and there were widespread hashtag campaigns that became popular with millions of teenagers.

What is a hashtag campaign? Hashtags are a way of organizing information, so a campaign utilizes an easily recognizable hashtag to group like videos, tweets and posts. As a hashtag gains traction, any time a person is looking for information about a certain topic, they can search a hashtag to find any content related to that topic. One of the most well-known hashtag campaigns is #ShareACoke. Anytime someone posts a picture or a tweet or a video of themselves drinking a Coca-Cola, they can tag it with #ShareACoke and it joins the compendium of content about Coca-Cola. It’s all about the algorithm, so the more a hashtag is used, the more traction a topic will have. Hashtags are a great way to engage people and make them feel part of a community. They can help people express emotions and incentivize people to share.

We’ll talk more about hashtag challenges below.

How do I get started?

Easy! Download the app from the Apple App Store, Google Play Store or Amazon Appstore. You’ll set up an account and get scrolling. You’ll need to create a username, have upload a profile picture and decide what you want your name to be on the app. You can also create a brief bio and include links to your Instagram and YouTube channels. This is a great way to share content across platforms.

Best practice

Recycle content!

Profile Picture:

This is a great place for your NPO’s logo or a key figure that is easily recognizable. You want people to feel confident when they land on your page that you are who you say you are. It’s all about building trust.


Many individual users create usernames that have clever puns or jokes, but an NPO will want to state as closely as possible to who they actually are. There are only so many characters, so may organizations will use recognizable abbreviations, for instance, World Health Organization is simply @who. That’s also a common abbreviation they themselves use. If you have other social media accounts, make your TikTok handle similar, if not the same. Be consistent so people know how to find you.


Make sure to link your account to any other social media outlets you already curate and make your messages and brand consistent across platforms. It’s a great idea to recycle content.

Best Practice

Pick one or two platforms to do really well.

Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Try to have a presence on the key platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn – but you don’t need to build original content for all of them. Pick up a couple to make quality content and share it on multiple platforms.

Be thoughtful about your brand and your voice, and make sure it’s consistent.

Verified accounts:

A verified account on TikTok is denoted by a blue check mark. This means that the service has verified that the user is who they say they are (i.e. not a robot). Often these tick marks are assigned to celebrities and well-known public figures, but on TikTok, popular content creators can also be verified. So how do you get verified? TikTok is pretty mum about how to get verified, but here are some tips:

  • Post frequently. Set a regular schedule and stick to it.
  • Post good, well-made content (This might mean you need to use something other than a cell phone to create and edit content, though it’s not required. There is a lot you can do on cell phones now!)
  • Do your homework and see what is popular and trending.
  • Make fun, lively content.
  • Interact and engage with your followers.

 So what do I even do on TikTok??

There are so many ways to use TikTok, and as with any social media platform, the name of the game is community engagement. The way TikTok is successful is when it becomes viral. The way to go viral is to create content that is interesting, fun, joyful and encourages your viewers to participate or respond in some way. Here are the key ways people use TikTok:


Lip-syncs were the bread-and-butter of TikTok’s predecessor, musical.ly. Users would upload videos of themselves lip-syncing over a sound file, sometimes music, and they would try to line up perfectly as part of the challenge. On TikTok, lip-syncs have evolved to incorporate humor or share a message. Here’s a great one featuring Drake’s song, Flip the Switch.

@nbcsnl𝗙𝗹𝗶𝗽𝗽𝗲𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘀𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗰𝗵.♬ Nonstop – Drake

Here, Unicef utilizes a short clip Bruno Mars’ song Up Town Funk. As you can see, the message has nothing to do with the song but uses the lyrics to get your attention.

@unicefKnow the facts about ##coronavirus by visiting UNICEF and ##WHO websites. ##COVID19♬ Stop! Wait a Minute – Bruno Mars, Tik Tok

“Stop, wait a minute” is a lyric that can be used in many different contexts. The way it’s positioned in most TikToks is to literally get the viewer to wait in anticipation to see what the resolution of the video will be.


Dances are a great way to get more staff or even constituents involved in your account. As songs become popular, choreography will be developed to go along with the song. Many different people will attempt their version of the choreography, generally just for fun, as a personal challenge to themselves. Here, Dr. Austin Chiang (@austinchiangmd) repurposes the choreography that goes along with popular song, Renegade, to talk about the conoravirus.

@austinchiangmdCan you spot the changes? 😷 (RIP Kobe) ##coronavirus ##flu ##medical♬ Lottery – K Camp

Another example from Unicef which involves staff and children and choreography developed specifically to demonstrate ways people can help prevent the spread of coronavirus. This is a great and fun way to get a message across.

@unicefSpread the dance, not the disease 💪. @im.quangdang 💙 ##coronavirus ##covid19 ##ghencovychallenge♬ Ghen Cô Vy (Vũ Điệu Rửa Tay) – Khắc Hưng, MIN, ERIK

Best Practice

Encourage interaction!


Duets are a way for people to interact with and respond to your video. Many times, users will literally make a reaction video to something someone has said on TikTok or in the media. These videos might be expressing approval by silently clapping or disapproval by shaking their heads or making incredulous faces.

@theconsciouslee is great at this:

@theconsciousleeA Sabotaged Culture ##duet with @kofi_ofori ##HipHop ##Rapmusic ##rap ##history ##freestyle♬ original sound – kofi_ofori

 One of the most fun ways to use duets is to create a duet chain. You can encourage others to participate in your chain or use duet chains to create a ripple effect. Here are a couple of great and super silly examples.

The second example created a challenge for users to duet and try to line up the objects outside of the screen. As they got progressively sillier, it became more fun to participate. Try to think of how you can get your followers to duet or respond to your videos. The more people who see an interact with your videos, the more your videos will appear in new people’s feeds.


How-tos are another great way to engage followers. More and more people look to social media and specifically look for videos to learn something. Your non-profit can help educate! Are you a music non-profit that has musicians on staff? Can they share a super short tutorial about how to tune an instrument? Are you an environmental non-profit that can share quick tips about how to live more sustainably? These easy to digest and easy to use are great to encourage people to like and share.

@newlifestyleThis is my zero waste version of Goo-Gone I use to take labels off my jars. See my previous video for my DIY labels. ##fyp ##zerwaste ##foryou♬ Can I Call You Tonight – Dayglow

 #Challenges and Competitions:

Challenges and competitions, like duets, really engage the public. You might remember the #IceBucketChallenge. In the video, a bucket of ice is dumped on someone, and they challenge someone else to participate, thus the video permeates out. The next person who participates also shares and tags another person. TikTok is no different, and challenges are a fun way to engage users. #RespectTheDrip was one of the sillier challenges, but many different people participated: children, adults, animals.

Look for ways that your non-profit can participate in a challenge that is already happening so you can utilize momentum that is already on TikTok.

Go live!

Now you’re ready to get started. As with any marketing strategy, you need a plan. Decide what message you want to get across, how you want people to feel and interact with you and schedule your content.

TikTok videos are only 15-60 seconds long, so these are quick bites. They can be teasers of other content, which is why it’s important to link to your other accounts. A great way to recycle content is to use clips from interviews or longer videos and encourage people to check out the rest of the video on another platform.

Think about recording your videos in another way and uploading them to TikTok. For a tutorial of the TikTok features, just go to the source: https://support.tiktok.com/en/using-tiktok. There are tons of great in-app features that you can use to your advantage when creating a video. These will help make your videos compelling and more likely to be liked, commented on and interacted with.

Don’t be afraid to try something!

Cause-marketing on TikTok

TikTok is a great tool for raising awareness, and it can be a great tool for non-profits to raise money. There are minimal ads on TikTok, like when you first log into the app, so for the most part, organizations have to rely on earning followers organically.

One way to do this is to check out what is trending on TikTok and see if you can make a video that fits into what is already trending. Using this resource will help you pop up on TikTok’s For You page, a video feed that is generated based on what the use previously viewed, commented on, liked, or interacted with. As a result, you will see more success if you figure out out to tap into what users are already looking for.

One of the great upsides of TikTok is that it “can potentially be a great venue for organizations that want to engage with their younger supporters (around 41% of TikTok users are aged between 16 and 24), especially if they want to create awareness around specific causes.” Millennials and GenZ are crucial demographics for non-profits as Baby Boomers are retiring and transferring wealth. They are the activist generations who share content and engage their peers and will ultimately change the world. To have their attention and engagement could truly have a transformational impact for a non-profit.

Here are some of my favorite NPOs on TikTok:

https://www.caenhillcc.org.uk/ | @caenhillcc

https://zoo.sandiegozoo.org/ | @sandiegozoo

https://carnegiemnh.org/ | @carnegiemnh

@carnegiemnhAKA Limax maximus 🐆♬ original sound – carnegiemnh

https://www.ifad.org/en/ |@ifad

https://www.unicef.org/ @unicef

Bree Muehlbauer is a passionate, donor-centered fundraiser who is a geek for story-telling and obsessed with TikTok. She is an elder millennial and works on a college campus, so she’s pretty sure she “gets” kids these days. Sort of.  Check out her TikTok @breeheartskale.

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