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Unrivaled Authenticity Fuels TikTok’s Success

“TikTok might not be forever, but its relevance is.”

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In the immortal words of Kesha, “TikTok” was on the clock.

Just another day in the soap opera that is TikTok. It was going to be banned, then it wasn’t—or will it still be? No one really knows. But, let’s get you up to speed.

Citing national security concerns, NEW downloads of the Chinese-owned app were supposed to be banned starting on Sunday, September 20. But even rival Instagram chimed in on TikTok’s behalf, while also chiding a Wall Street Journal headline.

But, then in perfect soap opera fashion: A day before the new downloads ban was supposed to take effect: A plot twist.

President Trump gave his “blessing” to the marriage of TikTok and Oracle & Walmart and TikTok announced: “We aren’t going anywhere.”

In the deal:

  • Oracle will be TikTok’s cloud provider and will become a minority investor with a 12.5% stake
  • Walmart has tentatively agreed to purchase a 7.5% stake
  • TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, will own the remaining 80% of TikTok

WHY IS WALMART INTERESTED IN TIKTOK?

E-commerce. And, a fast pass to the next generation of consumers.

But, it’s not over. TikTok still remains on shaky ground.

That’s the news you read. You heard all sides of the story, except for one. In none of those stories were the people who actually use the app on a daily basis. The people who are left in the middle of this international tug-of-war, the 100 million monthly active U.S. users, including thousands of small businesses and well, me.

I went onto TikTok last year to learn it for a client that was interested in it and was reeled in by a TikTok done by ABC Denver 7, who in a short :15 described exactly what it was like to work on a morning show, something I did for nearly 20 years.

I had no clue what I was doing. I posted a few of my Instagram Stories on TikTok, violating my #1 social media rule:

Respect. The. Platform.

Then, I consumed a lot of content. Because my #2 social media rule: You have to listen before you talk. And, I do mean A LOT.

And, that was a rabbit hole I wasn’t prepared for.

This is what makes TikTok well, TICK. It’s secret sauce is its algorithm. Specifically targeting what it is you want to see and before you know it, you’ve been watching :15 videos for HOURS.

But, it’s algorithm also does this: It levels the playing field. You don’t have to be a celebrity to succeed on TikTok. In fact, regular teenagers are not just keeping up with the Kardashians, they’ve long since surpassed them.

Just ask Charli D’Amelio, a 16-year old girl-next-door, who joined TikTok in 2019 and has amassed 85 million followers and a net worth of $4 million dollars.

ajgirl1 link: https://vm.tiktok.com/ZMJDwXubk/

I started making videos, fascinated by the green screen effects and special effects that you can control with your hand— things that would have taken us days, if not weeks, to do back in the golden days at a TV station, not really paying attention to the numbers and before I knew it, I had generated 75,000 followers and nearly 1.5 million likes as “ajgirl1.”

Not a lot in the land of TikTok, but not bad for a 49-year old mom, who mostly just showed up in the morning with her coffee to lip sync to the only songs I know from the 80s, which brings me to this:  TikTok is no longer just for GENERATION Z.

Who is using TikTok? The short answer is: Everyone.

There was a time when only teenagers were on Facebook, until mom and grandma took it over. Then, the kids went over to Instagram, until moms in their 40’s started posting selfies, then came TikTok.

It happens on every platform over time.

It just happened way faster than it normally would have.

WHY DID TIKTOK BECOME SO POPULAR, SO FAST?

You can thank COVID-19 for that, too.

Suddenly, we had a lot of time on our hands and a lack of positive content. We were stuck at home and the world was suddenly a very strange and scary place. My daily coffee check-in with that community was a life saver for me, personally. But, I’m not the only one. TikTok offered an escape and a way to cope for many.

“The platform is a place I can truly be myself. Whatever version that I want and I know many people feel the same way. I’ve met some I incredible people. Those people bring laughter, smiles, good vibes and me the motivation I need when days are hard. Honestly, I’d be lost without it.” -TikTok User

TikTok was the app that was in the right place at the right time.

Viral videos on the app do at least one of these four things and sometimes two or three of what I call “The Four E’s” of content.

  • Entertain
  • Educate
  • Empower
  • Evoke Emotion

No platform has been able to do what TikTok has done, the way TikTok has done it. Authenticity was a huge marketing buzzword going into 2020. And, with shelter-in-place orders all across the country, it got really real, really fast.

We started to embrace or no longer care how we looked first thing in the morning in our pajamas and posted anyway. And, you’re seeing that kind of content everywhere now. You’re seeing TikTok like content in commercials and even LinkedIn professionals changing their professional headshot photos to a simple iPhone photo of what they actually look like in just normal, everyday life.

Authenticity. Compared to its rivals, TikTok maintains a level of authenticity that is unrivaled.

90% of customers say authenticity is important to them and that includes TV viewers: Where’s the authenticity?

Where’s the good morning in Stories?

Where’s you getting your first cup of coffee?

Where’s the showing up with curlers in your hair?

Where’s talking TO your viewer, instead of AT them?

                          Authenticity = Loyalty = Trust

Small businesses were in a perfect position to jump on board the authenticity train. They didn’t have to wait for a corporate boardroom vote or focus group results. They jumped on that train, while others keep checking their tickets.

And now, in the middle of a pandemic, they’re not just surviving, they’re thriving.

Color My Credit: Alisa Glutz is a former producer from Politically Incorrect. She wrote a book on how to clean up your credit, but no one listened. Then, she went on TikTok. Her book is #147 on Amazon now. She provides value on credit repair every day, which has resulted in stories about people, who never imagined they’d be in a position to buying a house, becoming homeowners.

TSP Baking Co: Kari Garcia’s personality is as glittery as her eyeshadow and she simply jumped in front of the camera one day and said, “Did you know we ship cookies?!” She spent this past Labor Day weekend baking non-stop and preparing to ship more than 200 orders of cookies after that one post and she documented it ALL. She didn’t go viral and disappear into filling orders. She brought them along for the journey.

So, you might be saying to yourself: That’s great, but TikTok might still get banned. And, you’re absolutely right.

It might be gone tomorrow.

First of all, if you’re doing it right, the brand goes WHERE you go. Case in point, I haven’t been able to budge my Instagram account in four years, but it’s increased ten-fold, thanks to TikTok’ers, who’ve crossed over. And, second of all…

TikTok might not be forever, but its relevance is.

Short form, mobile-first, vertical videos are here to stay. Just watch what the competition is doing.

  • Facebook already tried and failed to duplicate TikTok with Lasso.
  • Instagram introduced its TikTok carbon copy, Instagram Reels, in August
  • YouTube is currently testing “YouTube Shorts” in India
  • Triller, another TikTok copycat has lured TikTok’s biggest star, Charli D’Amelio

TikTok is right. They’re not going anywhere.

It’s provided a different option, a new way to tell stories and connect with our audiences like we never have before.

“Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity—not a threat.” -Steve Jobs

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Barrett Blog

Geraldo Rivera Doesn’t Believe Trump Campaign’s Claims of Voter Fraud

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Photo by Mark Taylor CC BY 2.0.

Fox News personality Geraldo Rivera is not buying what the Trump campaign is trying to sell. Rivera appeared as a guest on The Five Thursday following a ninety-minute press conference hosted by Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani.

During the presser, Giuliani alleged widespread voter fraud. That assertion was echoed by host Jesse Watters but rebuffed by Rivera. “Come on, Jesse,” he exclaimed. “The Clinton Foundation, George Soros, Hugo Chavez! I’m probably the only one in this building who has actually met Hugo Chavez!”

Rivera told Watters that the Trump campaign was giving “false hope” to people by lending credence to the unhinged election conspiracies. Five co-host Greg Gutfeld took issue with Rivera questioning the lack of proof.

“We are hearing reporters saying there is no evidence as if they themselves looked,” Gutfeld said. “It’s not investigating just to listen to a press conference and say there is no evidence.”

Rivera said that he “loves the president and wanted him to win” but added Giuliani’s performance as “bizarre and unfocused.” 

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Barrett Blog

Journalists Attempt to Rewrite The Rules of Election Day Reporting

Uncertainty will govern the day — and night for those tasked with reporting the vote.

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Throughout my years as a journalist, I’ve worked as part of an Election Day team twice — once for NPR, and a few years later for the Voice of America. Both nights were unsurprisingly similar:  lots of team meetings and emails in the run up to the night and lots of staff and junk food scattered about the newsroom.

We took our cues from the usual suspects: our reporters in the field, the AP wire, and cable and network news programs blaring out predictions and calls from a bank of television sets. By the end of the shift, a winner was declared, the losing candidate had conceded, and America survived yet another exercise in democracy.  It was, for the most part, business as usual.

For my fellow journalists, that commonly recognizable election night scenario simply will not apply in 2020.

Indeed, with the election less than 24 hours away, news executives, editors, and reporters are preparing for a night of coverage like never before.

Uncertainty will govern the day — and night for those tasked with reporting the vote.  

It could be an utter landmine for reporters, editors, and producers, who may be confronted by bewildering scenarios, such as claims of ballot fraud from President Donald Trump, his surrogates and supporters, or former Vice President Joe Biden and HIS surrogates and supporters. In fact, with an estimated 97 million votes already cast (thanks in part to the COVID-19 pandemic) as of this writing, one could reasonably argue that it’s a misnomer to call November 3 Election Day.  

“I think this will be the strangest election night of my lifetime,” said Ryan Whalen, a Buffalo-based reporter with Spectrum News and host of the network’s Capital Tonight political show during an appearance on the podcast It’s All About Journalism.

“Generally, we’re sitting there, hoping that the ballots will come in quick enough that we’re not there until 1 a.m.,” added Whalen said. “We’re going in knowing that’s not going to be the case this year.”

Whalen also expects additional delays due to litigation, given Trump’s repeated public statements of doubt over the ballot count.

Adding to the confusion is the patchwork rules under which states will count ballots. Consider two highly consequential states: Florida began counting ballots September 24, when counts each ballot as its cast; Pennsylvania begins counting when the polls close at 8 pm. That reality alone will cause unfamiliar surge of results that will – in real time – distort the outcome. 

High profile cable news television journalists will be under a nationwide microscope like no other — and they know it.  Consider the words of CNN Washington bureau chief Sam Feist in an interview CNN’s Brian Stelter.

“This is going to be an election like no other. You’ve heard that over and over. But I’m not sure that the counting or reporting of the votes are going to be a whole lot different,” Feist added, acknowledging that the count will take longer than in years past. 

“I really believe that if we don’t have a winner on election night, there’s a very good possibility that we’re going to know the answer on Wednesday or Thursday because the vast majority of votes will have been counted by then,” said Feist. “In fact, I think there’s every reason to believe it’s going to be orderly.”

Maybe. But others are clearly trying to sort out how to respond if and when things are not so orderly. 

“We have to be incredibly transparent all through the night with what we know and what we don’t know,” said ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos in the New York Times.

And what if President Trump declares victory before the complex process of counting ballots across 50 states is deemed complete?

“I don’t think we can censor the candidates,” Stephanopoulos told the Times. “But we have to be vigilant about putting whatever comments are made in context, with everything we know about where the race stands, where the law stands, where the votes are.”

NBC News president Noah Oppenheim made the following pledge to the Times: “Frankly, the well-being of the country depends on us being cautious, disciplined and unassailably correct,” he said. “We are committed to getting this right.”

Other high-profile journalists like CBS’s John Dickerson are admonishing his fellow scribes to rethink how they’ve presented election results – with little to no context — in the past. 

“If you go back and watch some of the election night coverage like in 2000 and a couple of years after, anchors would announce the results in Massachusetts as if it were leading towards the great illumination of the night’s result,” Dickerson pointed out during a recent appearance on Slate’s podcast Political Gabfest.

“It comes in too early in the night for it to matter relative to whether a candidate is going to get to 270,” explained Dickerson. “But people were always speaking breathlessly about early night results because they’re trying to get everybody all hopped up. 

Dickerson added: “We need no hopping up. Everything is plenty hopped up on it’s own.”

Indeed. Given the tension and uncertainty, historian, academics, and election experts have put out guidance to help sooth our collective nerves. Consider this from noted presidential historian Michael Beschloss:

As Beschloss shows, Twitter will undoubtably be it’s OWN network of election information, with its reported estimate of 340 million users, according to Hootsuite.

Despite Twitter’s efforts to label disinformation, it will hard for the platform to control the certain deluge of election results, claims of fraud, and possible protests from credible journalists and ordinary citizens alike.  And because Twitter serves as kind of AP wire for reporters, one can imagine the retweeting of unconfirmed information by well-intentioned journalists.

As Spectrum’s Ryan Whalen told It’s All About Journalism podcast:  

“The worst thing you can do as a journalist is say something definitively that doesn’t end up not being true, right?” 

His advice?“Just go in knowing the scenario. It’ll be bizarre.”

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Barrett Blog

New Yorker Reporter is No Stranger to Covering Sexual Misconduct Cases

Jane Mayer wrote a controversial piece about Democratic Sen. Al Franken who resigned amid accusations that he forcibly kissed someone 11 years earlier.

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Reporter Jane Mayer was on the infamous Zoom call when her colleague Jeffrey Toobin was allegedly masturbating, according to a report.

This is not the first case of sexual misconduct that The New Yorker reporter has been involved with. Two years ago, Mayer reported on the sexual escapades of former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. In 2018, she wrote an article accusing then-Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct.

The Toobin story was first reported by Vice Monday. The news prompted The New Yorker to suspend Toobin and for CNN, where he is the chief legal analyst, to grant him a leave of absence.

Toobin told Vice that the mistake was “embarrassing” and “stupid” and said that he thought he had muted the Zoom video. He was on the call acting out an election simulation with several high-profile reporters when the incident happened. Toobin was reportedly playing the role of the courts.

Mayer and Toobin have worked together for more than two decades. She joined the New Yorker in 1995 right at the same time as when Toobin was reporting on the OJ Simpson case. Mayer wrote a controversial piece about Democratic Sen. Al Franken who resigned amid accusations that he forcibly kissed someone 11 years earlier.

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