Brooke Clanton, Account Executive, Rooster Strategic Solutions

Recently, my colleague led an independent review of Tik Tok that identified 15,000 to 25,000 active farmer users. And almost immediately, the Rooster phones started ringing with calls from Ag Companies wanting to know how to get on board. How exactly do you reach these farmers? What content will they engage with? Is it Tik Tok dances? Q&A? Learning content? Trending sounds? Is it nine words typed on a screen for a duration of two seconds to get you into the fold? What exactly do farmers want to see?

Truth is, there are no easy answers. It’s great that farmers are on Tik Tok, and Ag Companies can and should use this to their advantage. But finding the time, resources, skills, strategy and authenticity to use the channel successfully can be challenging, to say the least. Here are the primary obstacles that Ag Companies considering Tik Tok will have to address – and some practical tips to overcome them.

It’s a really, really, young audience. Tik Tok’s largest cohort is 18- to 24-year-olds, which account for 42 percent of total users, followed by 13- to 17-year-olds at 27 percent. This means that more than half of Tik Tok’s users are under the age of 25. This alone has scared off countless Ag Companies who are quick to point out that teenagers don’t purchase much in the way of equipment, seed, or ag services. And that’s true. Today. But these users are not only the next generation of farmers and customers; many are already influential in ag purchase decisions. And they don’t consume media like older generations. They’re far more likely to scroll through their phones for information than flip through monthly magazines. This is important. And Ag Companies should start building new avenues to reach these potential and future customers where they live.

Start by diving in with a personal account. Spend some time on Tik Tok and pay special attention to what is working, and what isn’t – songs, fonts, effects, filters, and types of content that generate high engagement with the farmer audience. Get a feel for what’s available and how you might use it for your brand.

It takes a lot of time. Much more than you think. The most common mistake I encounter is from companies that underestimate the time consumption that is Tik Tok. It’s not like any other channel where you can simply post a video you created for your website and call it a day. If it’s not original and authentic, it won’t perform, and this takes time. The first Tik Tok I created was a 15-second video that took me nearly 3 hours to craft.

That’s why brands are hiring Gen Z kids who understand Tik Tok as second nature. They were making Tik Tok dances in junior high. They’re not afraid of the channel, they grew up using it. With a little guidance from seasoned marketers on the mission and goals of the campaign, as well as the company’s core values, these younger creators can knock out authentic content in a fraction of the time. It’s typically worth the investment in time alone to bring in a new entry-level position or intern.

If you can’t hire a full-time employee, look for a high-quality influencer. Someone who shares your company’s values and already has a large Tik Tok following that you can leverage. It may cost more in the short run but partnering with an established creator is an easier hurdle for many companies to overcome.

Content schedules are pointless. Knowing that authentic content takes a long time to produce, one of my clients showed up with a 12-month calendar of potential messages. Good idea, but tactically worthless. Tik Tok is constantly changing and adapting. Even trying to plan month-to-month is a losing battle. I typically recommend looking no further than three weeks into the future.

The key to Tik Tok is speed, flexibility, and reaction. One of the hottest trends right now is the duet, where two videos are played side-by-side, with the second video responding to the first video’s content. Another popular feature is the stitch, which is like the duet; a second video is “stitched” to the first, with the videos playing consecutively rather than side-to-side. In both these cases, you’re not planning new content, you’re piggybacking on content that users are already engaging with. And you have about three weeks at most to respond before users have moved on.

Brands are automatically at a disadvantage. Every Tik Tok comes with a sound, either the original from a video, or you can lay over music, movie clips, even comedy routines. But if you have a brand account, you don’t have access to any trending sounds because of copyright issues. You can find user-generated content that’s relevant to your brand and stitch/share it to your page, but this takes a dedicated creator and lots of time. And nobody has the time, especially if your content goes through 20 different approvals before it gets the green light.

Here’s another case where partnering with influencers makes sense. As individuals, they have access to trending sounds, as well as the expertise to create engaging content for the audience you want to reach.

There’s no control over placement. Tik Tok isn’t completely “wild west.” There are guidelines that provide curbs to block the worst kinds of content – hate speech and nudity, for example – but the boundaries are often pushed well beyond what the typical Ag Company is comfortable with, and you have no control over which videos precede and follow yours.

This has been the biggest stumbling block for many Ag Companies in the past. My advice for clients is to focus more on how users consume the media, which is one separate and unrelated video at a time. Users won’t connect you with the previous video, they’ve already moved on. This is the scroll generation, after all!

Sometimes your content will fall flat. I posted a video last year that I’d worked on for the better part of a day and it got two views. The same day I posted an ugly, ridiculous video that I’d spent 5 minutes working on and it blew up. I have no idea why. That’s Tik Tok. You’re going to fail more than you win. Marketers are all about targeting and hyper-targeting and super-hyper-targeting, but Tik Tok is a pure “spray and pray” medium. It’s a shotgun, not a sniper rifle! If you can come up with something that hasn’t been done before, that’s the keys to the kingdom, particularly if the content is an extension of your brand’s authentic voice.

Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to Tik Tok. That’s part of its unique appeal, as hard as this may be for many Ag Companies to embrace. It will take time and sweat to figure out how to make the channel work for you. Experimentation and learning from your mistakes are crucial. But when you consider that 15,000 to 25,000 farmers are already using the channel, and that the average user spends more than 46 minutes daily on the app, it’s a lot easier to justify the time – and sweat – necessary to make this a part of your media mix.

Yes, there are challenges and risks with Tik Tok, but with a little guidance, these are surmountable. If you have any questions or aren’t sure how to start using the medium or finding the right partner to help you, I’d love to have a conversation.