I’m not the target demo for the TikTok app, but I play one as a mom. Rarely does a day go by without my two teenage daughters showing me a new 10-second dance video or funny slice of life shared by their favorite TikTok stars. Like the apps that have come and gone before, I relegated it to the harmless (when supervised) entertainment category.

Then, a morning news story changed my perspective. 

“When Alex Griswold shared a video on TikTok about married life with his nearly 500K followers last December, two complete strangers reached out to warn him of a possible sign of skin cancer.”

Griswold had posted a lighthearted video about married life, during which a comforting scratch on the back from his wife turned into a less romantic pimple-popping session.

A suspicious mole on his back caught the eye of two viewers – one of whom was a melanoma survivor – who urged him to get it checked by a doctor. He did. The mole was biopsied, then removed, along with surrounding tissue to avoid its progression into skin cancer.

“TikTok saved my life,” Griswold said in his most recent video.

TikTok, it turns out, is not alone in its emergence as a potential channel for health information, connection and engagement. In fact, as Padilla’s Insights and Strategy experts have determined, the blending of entertainment and information is a growing trend that can pay dividends if used strategically to engage the next generation of consumers.

So, What’s Up (or App) with Gen Next?

Research shows that Millennials and Gen Z are consuming news in very different ways – on different platforms – than their predecessors.

  • More audio for Millennials: According to studies cited in AdAge, Millennials are listening to more podcasts, live streaming services and radio than any other generation; and listenership is increasing.
  • Insta-News for Gen Z: While it’s no surprise that social media is Gen Z’s go to resource for news, its preference for Instagram, especially for the latest political news (65% according to a BusinessInsider survey) is worth noting.
  • Fortnite – It’s Not Just A Game Anymore: And leave it to Gen Z to elevate Fortnite, the free online game with over 250 million users, into a growing social media platform (AdAge), rivaling the likes of Facebook in increasing numbers.Unlike other platforms and services, Fortnite uniquely combines benefits from gaming, social media and streaming platforms, offering consumers a singular experience,” according to the report from NRG, a brand consultancy that specializes in the intersection of entertainment and technology.
  • Take Note of Twitch: This streaming service – originally for video games – has captured the attention of The Washington Post, Cheddar and Buzzfeed. Not only has Twitch emerged as a new way for publishers (and organizations) to reach and learn about younger audiences; it also offers direct monetization options like in-stream ads and subscriptions that can help organizations leverage contributed content.

Why This is Happening

To effectively capitalize on this trend, it is important to understand why it’s happening. It all comes down to humanizing the organization – and the interaction – between brands and their audiences.

  • Humanity: Allows for people to see brands as more than a symbol.
  • Authenticity: Creates a sense of intimacy and familiarity with a brand or others.
  • Connection: Creates interactions that are fun and harmless in an increasingly serious world.
  • Control: While other brands are marketing to them, people can choose which brands they interact with.

A great example of this is the United Nations IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) utilizing TikTok to share information about rural agriculture and fighting hunger.

Five Tips to Capitalize on this Trend

Circling back to the story of Alex Griswold and how TikTok saved his life – how can health organizations leverage the power of entertainment platforms like TikTok to inform, engage with, and ultimately earn the loyalty of the new(er) generations?

Evolve your social media presence: Publish news stories in Instagram catered to the interests of Gen Z and consider opening a TikTok account.

Expand your media relationships: Engage with reporters and social media influencers and pitch content designed for Millennial and Gen Z preferred platforms.

Turn up the audio: The podcast and live streaming markets are growing exponentially. Mine opportunities to create, capture and repurpose audio.

Reputation management: Consider paid partnerships or create content to proactively reach Millennials and Gen Z on these platforms about topics they are already discussing, such as mental health.

Crisis communication: Proactively build a presence on these platforms so they can be used to communicate to these groups during crises, when they can be the most vocal critics.

By definition, a trend is only a trend until it becomes mainstream. The short window between trend and traditional offers health care organizations a unique opportunity to meet these new generations where they (newly) are; empower them with “app appropriate” health information; and build relationships that carry into the next iteration of their platforms of choice.

But, time is of the essence if organizations are to fully capitalize on this trend. As my teen daughters would say, “TikTok, mom. Tik Tok!”

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