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Next Up: How to evaluate shiny new things like TikTok

This Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020 photo shows the icon for TikTok taken in New York.  (AP Photo)
This Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020 photo shows the icon for TikTok taken in New York. (AP Photo)

Should our brand be on TikTok? Should we create a podcast? It’s questions like these that keep marketers up at night.

To them, I say, don’t get frustrated. Get scrappy.

I spend a lot of time talking about “scrappy marketing.” I guess it’s fair to say that I wrote the book on scrappy marketing. (Announcer Voice: “Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small” — available wherever books are sold.) As such, I’ve spent a lot of time to defining what it means to get scrappy with your marketing.

Many think that scrappy marketing is trying to do everything with as little effort as possible.

While scrappiness is about doing more with less and being effective and efficient while doing it, it’s not about doing everything. It’s about doing as many of the right things as possible while maximizing the resources you commit to these activities.

However, there’s a big assumption buried in that description. Getting scrappy with your marketing is dependent on doing more of the “right things.”

But what are the right things? And what do you do when other new platforms such as TikTok and popular content formats like podcasting come along?

Resist the urge

We are living in a state of rapid change, especially when you consider the media landscape. If you could print it on paper or send it through the airwaves, you could buy an ad on it and get your message in front of most people.

It sounds trite but the internet really did change everything. How we connect with people, how we consume the content we love and, of course, how we buy. The internet also has given us an influx of new tools — new social networks, new forms of content and an emerging paid advertising ecosystem that’s dwarfing everything that came before it.

There are many “shiny new things” out there that can distract you. As a marketer striving to stay relevant, you need to be aware of these shiny new things.

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Download TikTok and watch some of the fun, silly musical loops. Be a podcast listener and learn before rushing to make yourself a podcast creator.

You need a basic understanding of what new things there are and how they work. However, as a brand, you must resist the urge to jump onto the shiny new platforms.

Unless, you’ve answered some key questions first .

The right questions

I’m not anti-TikTok. I’m not opposed to podcasting — I’ve published hundreds of podcast episodes over the past decade.

And I’m not opposed to whatever we’ll all be talking about a few months or even years from now. And you shouldn’t be opposed to any of those things either.

But what we should all be against is leaping without looking. Specifically, in jumping on new platforms without asking some critical questions first.

Why? Because of all the marketers I’ve talked to through the years have one thing in common. No one has all of the resources they need. Everyone could use a few people and a few — hundred? thousand? — dollars more.

Alas, in an era with more to do than ever before, our resources are finite.

That’s why when it comes to evaluating shiny new things, we have to ask ourselves a few questions first.

Start with two questions about you and your organization:

• What’s your marketing objective? Try to limit yourself to one to two strategic objectives such as “brand building” or “lead generation.”

• Who are you trying to reach? Describe your target customer as specially as possible.

Now, answer three critical questions about the shiny new thing du jour:

• Will this shiny new thing help me accomplish my marketing objective?

• Are my target customers using this shiny new thing?

• Could we create something interesting here that we couldn’t elsewhere?

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Answering these five simple questions provides you with direction on the attention and resources you could commit to this shiny new thing. If you’re generating investment leads for the 55+ crowd, TikTok probably is something you can steer clear of for now.

If you’re selling burritos with an emphasis on 12 — to 24-year-olds, that’s another story. Given TikTok’s popularity with this demographic, brands such as Chipotle have developed a strong presence on the network.

They’re not just being trendy. They’re being strategic.

Chipotle and brands such as the NBA and the San Diego Zoo have answered these questions and forged a path forward. It makes strategic sense, their customers are here, and they can create fun, different content here that they aren’t elsewhere.

For example, the NBA focuses on behind-the-scenes access to motivational musical loops of players’ workouts. This stands in contrast with what they’re doing elsewhere such as Instagram where they focus on game-specific content and highlights.

But what if your answers aren’t as clear?

Scrappy is saying no

If your answers to a majority of the questions is no, then your answer to launching a presence on TikTok or starting a podcast should be “no” as well. For now. You always can re-evaluate down the road but at this time it doesn’t need to be a focus of your already stretched resources.

Again, being scrappy isn’t about doing everything. It’s about doing more of the right things as effectively and efficiently as possible. Being scrappy is about saying “no” more than you’re saying “yes.”

“No” means focus, and focus is your friend. Embrace this friend and don’t get caught up with those nagging questions about the shiny new things you’re not doing. Instead, use these scrappy questions to avoid trendy time sucks and find more of the right things for you, your brand and, more importantly, your customers.

Nick Westergaard is a marketing strategist, keynote speaker and author of “Brand Now” and “Get Scrappy”; nick@branddrivendigital.com; @NickWestergaard

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