If you’re over the age of 45, you’re unlikely to use the video, livestream, and music platform called TikTok. If you’re somewhere between the ages of 25 and 45, there’s a chance you’re using the platform.
But if you’re between the ages of 16 or 24–or even younger–then you’re likely to use TikTok, even on a daily basis.
TikTok is the social media platform that took America by storm in 2020. In the first quarter of 2020, this app had 315 million downloads–setting a world record for the most downloads of an app in a single quarter.
While it’s no mystery as to why this platform gained a sudden, rapid rush of popularity in the spring of 2020, TikTok became more than just a way to fend off boredom during pandemic shutdowns. It became a fun, engaging tool that was refreshingly different from its predecessors (such as Instagram and Facebook).
As we’ll talk about in a bit, TikTok was never about FOMO (a term now cited in medical articles) or feeding comparison. It’s about engaging with content in a way that feels more personalized and interesting. On TikTok, for example, you’re far more likely to watch a funny video clip from someone you’ve never met before then you are to see a post from a party that you were excluded from.
Today, TikTok has 1 billion active users all over the world. This is a pretty startling statistic, considering there are less than 8 billion people in the world.
TikTok is incredibly popular and impactful. It has a ton of influence, especially on younger generations. It’s an effective way to spread information quickly. And it’s engaging, fun, and entertaining.
But is it a tool for churches?
In the following article, we’ll talk about how to use TikTok as an effective outreach and branding tool for your church–and how to use this viral tool to reach people with the Gospel, encourage believers, and build awareness around your church community.
What is TikTok?
TikTok is a video, livestream, and music app that you can download for free on your smartphone. When users log into TikTok for the first time, they’re given a range of categories that might interest them–such as fashion, fitness, comedy, food, or travel.
Like other social media platforms, TikTok users can follow their friends, post their own content, use hashtags to cross-reference content, and create an account with a bio, link, and, saved/posted content.
The difference, however, between TikTok and other platforms is that users are far more likely to watch a stream of funny, uplifting content from people they may not even know–and less likely to try and put together a polished, unrealistic “brand image” on their account.
The New York Times said that TikTok was “rewriting the world” with their novel approach to social media. In other words, whether you use TikTok or not, it has an impact on the way we think about online engagement, marketing, awareness, and reaching new audiences–especially under the age of 25.
If you’re a church, missing out on TikTok as a tool for outreach and branding could be a huge missed opportunity. But to use TikTok well, you’ve got to understand how it works...and how to use it well.
TikTok: It’s All About Video Content
Everything on TikTok revolves around video content. Forget about super polished content. Think funny home videos, mini monologues from the car, and music videos filmed in the living room–all overlaid with subtitles and simple special effects.
When users view content, they have the choice to share, like, save, comment, or even start a “duet” by posting another video side-by-side the existing video. They can also post a reaction by “stitching” a video, or trimming a clip from the beginning of a video to add onto their own reaction.
If you’re a little unsure about how 1 billion TikTok users are able to create funny, engaging video clips on their phone, it’s important to know that TikTok also allows you to use filters, upload music to your videos, and add captions with just one click.
In other words, it doesn’t take a video editor to make great content. It’s one of the reasons that TikTok–like YouTube, for example–has made “celebrities” with millions of followers out of everyday people. Much of the time, these are people with “normal” professions and “normal” lives who simply have something interesting to say, a unique talent, or a gift for comedy. TikTok is a platform for people to just be themselves–in fact, their stated mission is to inspire creativity and bring joy.
For churches, this might represent a shift in thinking about content. You may hire a videographer to create content for your website, or use a media kit to create beautiful posts for your Instagram or Facebook accounts. But for your TikTok account, you’re better off catching awesome video content on your smartphone, or hiring a younger intern to spearhead posting on your account.
How Churches Can Use TikTok for Outreach
TikTok can be used to entertain, create, and interact with others. But can it be used for an even bigger purpose–to reach out to others and advance the Kingdom of God?
In the following section, we’ll talk about how to use TikTok for outreach to your community and beyond.
Focus on Gen Z
The first thing to know about TikTok as outreach is that you’re going to reach a very specific audience. In other words, don’t rely on TikTok alone as your means of digital communication (You’ll also want a beautiful church website and other social media accounts).
TikTok, however, is an especially powerful tool for reaching Generation Z. And in a generation that has double the number of atheists as previous generations, there is ripe opportunity to reach non-believers with the Gospel.
Don’t be afraid to preach on TikTok. There are plenty of Christian users–including teenagers and Gen Z-ers–who use the platform to speak truth, discuss Scripture, and encourage others. Remember that users of TikTok aren’t just looking to laugh. They’re also looking for encouragement and inspiration.
Ask pastors, leaders, and staff from your church to film quick videos where they can talk about what God has been speaking to them. These can be easily turned into TikTok clips (Just make sure to keep it brief and casual!)
If you’re specifically using TikTok to reach non-churchgoers, be wise about creating interest. Think about ways you can create accessible content that’s understandable to anyone. For example, you might want to talk about experiencing peace, eliminating fear, or living a meaningful life. These are topics that are relevant to anyone–and are rooted in the Bible.
Another way to draw interest is to post clips from worship or other creative arts at your church. Music, dance, and drama are interesting to everybody. When executed well, they can make a powerful impact on people that don’t typically go to church.
Ultimately, TikTok provides a unique opportunity for your church to do outreach. Using this social platform to share the Gospel, teach truth, and encourage those who are hurting are broken can make an impact on people that may never enter through your doors.
How Churches Can Use TikTok for Branding
Whether you like it or not, branding is an important part of creating awareness around your church.
Branding includes the “distinctive feature or set of features” that help people to quickly recognize your organization. Effective branding helps people associate a specific logo, slogan, color palette, musical score, and personality with what you offer.
Branding helps build recognition and interest, and communicates who you are and what you’re all about. It helps create a powerful impression on Sunday morning visitors and website visitors. It can make your church experience more memorable.
Though churches will want to build a clean, user-friendly website and use beautiful graphics for their branding, they can also use social platforms–such as TikTok–to build branding. For reaching younger audiences, this can be especially effective.
Here’s how to create brand awareness with this less-than-conventional social platform.
People respond to authenticity. Authenticity builds trust. It’s also one of the reasons that younger generations love TikTok. Content on this platform tends to be more raw and real, and feels more community-oriented and less “exclusive.” In fact, over half of all users report feeling a sense of “community” on the platform. And three-quarters of users say they feel like they can openly express themselves on TikTok.
You can use graphics and language that align with your branding and still be authentic on TikTok. Be natural and conversational, talk to followers as if they were friends, and film in everyday settings–like your car, in your living room, and at the grocery store. Talk about what’s real and relevant to your audience and your church, and be honest about what you’re going through as well.
When you stay true to who you are as a church and a community and you seek to connect with audiences that may be less familiar with you, you’ll come as truly authentic.
Don’t reinvent the wheel every time you post. Once your followers have gotten used to your content, they’ll come to expect the same kinds of content from you. If you got a lot of traction and comments with a short, inspirational post with something God put on your heart, then post something similar the next day.
Building a brand on TikTok doesn’t have to mean being the most creative or innovative account out there. It can also just mean posting the same kinds of content frequently (Pro tip: Posting frequently also means your post will get higher levels of exposure and engagement–In other words, more people will learn about your church).
As mentioned above, you’re not going to reach everyone on TikTok. That being said, your TikTok account won’t be the foundation of your branding. But it can be a powerful tool that supports and builds your church brand, and helps you reach a specific audience with your message and core values.
Tips for TikTok
Ready to take the plunge into TikTok? Here are some tips to consider before getting started.
Let a Gen Z-er spearhead your account.
Make life easier for everyone, and put a Gen Z-er (that you trust) in charge of your account. A church intern or younger staff member will have an easier time navigating the user interface, engaging with others, and posting great content.
Create a Challenge
TikTok challenges are a great way to engage other users and create interest. Dance challenges ask users to perform the same dance and post from their accounts, and “couples” challenges ask users to post something sweet from their significant other.
Not all challenges are fun or harmless, however. There’s been backlash against school challenges on TikTok that encourage students to do harm to their schools (or teachers).
Turn the tide against unhealthy challenges, and create your own challenges on TikTok. You could ask users to post thoughts from their daily devotional time, to pray for someone in public, or post a clip from worship practice. Challenges don’t have to be all serious, though. Feel free to have fun with it, and challenge church members to do something silly at home, choreograph a dance, or create a skit with friends.
More than maybe any other social media platform, TikTok relies on the power of the hashtag.
Hashtags (#) are used to cross-reference different kinds of content, making it easy to search for similar content once you’ve viewed a video that you like. For example, if you watch a video with the hashtag #dadjokes, you can find similar content under the same hashtag (If you think #dadjokes is random, consider the fact that this hashtag has nearly 7 billion views!)
Popular hashtags for Christian or church-base content on TikTok include #christiantiktok, #christiantiktokcommunity, and #jesuslovesyou. And in fact, Christian content is very popular on TikTok. Secular publication The Daily Beast even published an article about the popularity of Christians who are “conquering TikTok.”
Start with Tithe.ly
Ultimately, you’ll want to link out to your website and additional social media accounts from your TikTok account. But before you can do that, you need to make sure you have a solid digital presence and branding strategy in place.
Tithe.ly Website Builder and Tithe.ly Media can help you:
- Build a beautiful church website quickly
- Collect and edit free media for social media accounts, sermon series, and more
- Get started on creating a brand you can build onto with a TikTok account
- And more
To learn more about how you can use Tithe.ly to build an awesome online presence–and reach others with the Kingdom of God–click here.