WTF is Quittok – and why Gen Z is increasingly doing it when they leave jobs

You’ve heard of quiet quitting but what about loud quitting?

Last year, there was a great deal of noise about quiet quitting — namely, doing the minimum amount required per someone’s job description. Gen Zers led that trend. (Click here for WorkLife’s guide to The Quiet Workplace).

Now many young professionals are taking a very different approach to head for the exit, being as loud as possible by live-streaming their resignations on social media. Their platform of choice: TikTok. Hence the inevitable hashtag #quittok.

So what exactly is quittok, where does it come from, and what are the pros and cons?

The full version of this article was first published on Digiday’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in April 2023 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

Banning TikTok: Should companies follow the U.S. and U.K. governments?

With government workers in the U.S., U.K., Canada, France, and elsewhere recently banned from installing or having TikTok on their official devices, is it time for companies to follow their lead? With greater awareness of allegedly nefarious data-harvesting activity, the clock is ticking.

Political leaders posit that because TikTok is owned by Bytedance, China’s state-linked technology corporation with ties to the Chinese Communist Party, there is a significant cybersecurity risk. The wildly popular social media platform – with 150 million U.S. users, it is currently one of the country’s top-ranking apps – is being used to promote the party’s interests overseas, runs the logic. 

Organizations must think hard about whether these two supposed issues are worth not banning the app, and if, on balance, the company and employees benefit more or less from engaging with and using TikTok to inspire and amplify content.

The full version of this article was first published on Digiday’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in April 2023 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

Businesses wake up to the immense potential of TikTok

Companies are increasingly cottoning on to the fact that the video-sharing app, once seen as the preserve of the young, is increasingly a powerful marketing tool to reach all ages

TikTok celebrated its recent fifth birthday by announcing that more than one billion people – almost one-in-eight people on the planet – now use the video-sharing app every month.

And its star is only set to shine brighter: a new social media trends report for 2022 by marketing experts HubSpot and consumer intelligence platform Talkerwalker suggests it will continue to expand and “take over social media”, forcing other brands to adapt. This is based largely on TikTok’s highly personalised feed, which curates different content for each user drawing on known interests as well as previous likes and comments on the platform, instead of simply showing them videos from accounts they have chosen to follow.

Given this colossal global reach and potential, combined with the ability to easily record and edit videos of up to three minutes in-app and then share clips to multiple platforms, it’s no wonder that businesses of all sizes are flocking to the platform. TikTok’s growing corporate appeal, including to B2B companies such as financial and technical services providers, has been boosted by a shift in the user demographic. Once seen almost solely as the preserve of the young, the latest user base statistics show that almost one-in-four users are now over the age of 30.

However, despite this promise, getting started can still be daunting to companies unused to using video as part of their marketing efforts. As inspiration, here are five examples of brands using TikTok in unexpected ways to expand their audiences and boost awareness of their services.

•   Sage

In February, Sage – a cloud business company best known for its accounting software – launched the #BOSSIT2021 Challenge, challenging UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to use their creativity to showcase their ‘boss it’ moments inside work or out. Over one million companies took the opportunity to show how they were excelling despite the uncertain times. The overall winner was Broken Planet Market, a recycled fabrics clothing company, which documented the struggle to keep up with storage in the one-bedroom flat it is run from after the company ‘blew up’ on TikTok.  A podcast, a yoga company and a jewellery business were among the runners-up in the campaign, which won the Best Use of TikTok Ads category at the UK Paid Media Awards.

Sophie Fresco, a TikTok specialist for communications consultants Hotwire Global, says Sage is continuing to build on that initial success. “Following the triumph of the #BOSSIT2021 Challenge, it asked followers to use #SageTellMe and create their own videos and explain how they are an SME without saying they are an SME,” she says. “The hashtag has over 4.5 billion views, so far.”

•   Harvard Business Review

The renowned business management magazine posts videos on how to “deal with work, school and life” and has over 1.2 million likes. Its TikTok account is an extension of its global Ascend brand, which targets modern young professionals just starting their careers and is not behind a paywall – unlike the content targeted at more mature workers. Paige Cohen, Ascend’s editor-in-chief, told media trade magazine Digiday that: “We introduce younger people to the brand, help them build better habits, help them make better career decisions. And when the day comes that they’re more in the middle of their careers instead of at the beginning, they will turn to the Harvard Business Review content.” She, and other editors, are the faces seen on TikToks on subjects including interview hacks and tips, and Halloween-themed resumé killers to give “more personality and connection to the brand”.

•   Gymshark

“On TikTok, you’ve got to put entertainment and comedy value before your product,” advises Harvey Morton, digital expert and founder of Harvey Morton Digital. He singles out Gymshark, a British fitness clothing and accessories brand which posts content designed to help its users stay active, as using the platform well. “They have built up a large following from posting consistent, quality videos from workouts, workout memes and inspiration,” he says.

Playfulness seems to be the winning ingredient. Gymshark’s profile description states: “Nothing to do with sharks. Something to do with the gym.” On TikTok, the brand has 3.4 million followers, and its irreverent videos about life in the gym – including men wearing crop tops to work out and pet dogs obediently watching their owners lift weights – have amassed more than 51 million likes.

•   Marks and Spencer

M&S dates back to 1884, but its food division has enhanced its modernity by entering the TikTok scene and using the self-parodying profile description “This is not just any TikTok page…”, in a nod to the brand’s famous marketing tagline. By leveraging the reputation of own-brand sweet favourite Percy Pig, piggybacking #FoodTikTok and responding to viral trends and news, M&S Food has attracted 133,000 followers and over 2.3 million likes. A recent video for Hallowe’en, which showed Percy Pig and friends doing an amusing ‘pumpkin workout’ to a spooky song, generated over 110,000 plays in less than a week.

•   Ryanair

The budget airline offers a perfect example of how a sense of humour can trigger a surge in customer engagement and brand presence on the platform. The consistency and tone of Ryanair’s TikTok output has attracted over one million followers. The formula is simple – often images and footage of its planes with superimposed human facial features, or cabin crew sharing common thoughts – but very effective. Set to funky music, the results are amusing but subtly keep attention focused on the airline’s branding and core product of low-priced flights across Europe.

•    Miss Excel

Used well, TikTok can raise the profile of individual entrepreneurs, too. For example, Kat Norton – aka Miss Excel – has danced her way to becoming a full-time spreadsheet influencer by making Microsoft Excel “fun”. Having attracted over 652,000 followers and had one video go viral with over three million views, she has given up her day job as a consultant to focus on being Miss Excel.

She mostly posts clever dance videos containing shortcuts, tips and tricks for the masses, with a subtle message to seek out her courses. Normally, how-to videos are step-by-step posts, possibly with screenshots with helpful arrows. Not so Miss Excel. The message for other businesses is that it’s not just what you do, it’s how you frame it. Even the dullest of subject matters can become fun and excite with a quirky twist.

“You have to have an element of polarity,” Norton told Quartz, when asked what makes a successful TikTok profile. “When you take something as boring as Excel and something so different like dancing and combine them… people are flabbergasted.

Joining the TikTok revolution

So, now we’ve shown a snapshot of how other businesses are embracing the TikTok opportunity, why should yours join them? Top of the long list of reasons to post on the social media platform are that it’s free to use and videos can be as short as 15 seconds in length, so content can be produced and published quickly. Crucially, you needn’t be a big brand or have a big budget to make TikTok a success.

Additionally, Jon Abrahams, global managing director of virtual office provider Rovva and a big fan of TikTok, suggests bearing in mind that while the playful nature of the platform is forcing brands to be more innovative, quality rather than quantity of content is still key.

“It’s important to remember that your business’s TikTok account is essentially an extension of your brand, and jumping on trends that don’t fit with your core purpose and values can make your response appear out of place,” warns Abrahams. “This can negatively impact engagement with your brand. Essentially, don’t try to do everything that’s trending; if it’s not in line with your brand personality, leave it.”

Lastly, remember TikTok’s stated mission to “inspire creativity and bring joy”. In this spirit, businesses should not be afraid to experiment or try doing things differently. And certainly, they ought not shy away from being either bold or quirky with their videos. While there may be an element of trial and error to begin with, those that craft a winning TikTok marketing strategy will discover it can pay off, handsomely.

This article was first published on First Word Media in November 2021

Easy recipes: cooking became a piece of cake with TikTok’s snappy videos

How a series of 60-second videos helped a hapless cook like me whip up date-night dinners in lockdown

Carving out romantic “couple time” with my wife was pretty difficult during lockdown. In addition to all the pandemic-related chaos, it included a house move, the birth of our daughter and home schooling our energetic five-year-old son.

Before our first child was born, knowing friends urged us to feast at as many upmarket restaurants as time and money allowed, given the impending, limiting reality of life with a baby. It’s advice that we have passed on to other expectant parents. During lockdown, however, it was impossible to play restaurant-going gourmand.

But when my wife suggested we make an effort to pencil in some food-focused “date nights”, I silently balked at the prospect for fear of my hopeless cooking skills. It wasn’t a case of can’t cook, won’t cook: shamefully, I just haven’t clocked up many hours in the kitchen. After an internalised pep talk, convincing myself it would be a cinch, what with my – ahem – natural creative flair and love of food, I informed my grinning wife that I would relish the opportunity.

I determinedly set about my task and reached for the dusty cookery books on the shelf above the oven to find winning recipes for our favourite cuisine: Italian. Leafing through the oil-slicked pages, I quickly became overwhelmed by the dull, lengthy, hard-to-follow instructions. I needed a shortcut, and fast.

Oliver lights a candle.

Funnily enough, it was my son’s relaxed home schooling that provided me with the perfect solution. We afforded him a carefully monitored 10 minutes a day on TikTok and usually admired the dance routines, laughed at the pranks and cooed at the cute animals. Shortly after we had formed the dinner-date plan, he swiped to reveal a video of a charismatic Italian chef explaining how to cook spaghetti al limone in her 20-second film. The quick, instructive video begins with Nadia Caterina Munno – @the_pastaqueen, who has 1.5 million followers on TikTok – saying: “When life gives you lemons, make spaghetti.”

So I did, following Munno’s short and straightforward guide, which was part spoken, and mostly visual. The dish was a modest hit on our inaugural lockdown date night.

I’d seen boiled-down recipe videos on social media – often called “hands and pans” videos – before. But, because of my lack of hunger to cook, I never paid too much attention, save to marvel at the satisfying brevity and beauty of the mini films. The successful spaghetti al limone changed everything, though.

Encouraged by my wife’s reaction, and slightly surprised at my ability to present a respectable main course that took me mere minutes to master, I sought out more ambitious Italian dishes on TikTok.

To start the next date night, a couple of weeks after the first, I served rolled aubergine slices, momentarily deep-fried in olive oil (Italian, of course), stuffed with mashed up ricotta and mozzarella, and topped with chopped parsley.

Munno was my inspiration once again. And she also helped with the main: a hearty bowl of seafood linguine, accompanied by slightly chewy, oozy and warm garlic bread. For the latter, I took Munno’s advice to rub the garlic clove over the bread “passionately”; and for the former, I easily followed the – unusually – wordless video.

The starter and a glass of fizz.

Wishing to round off the meal with something extra special, I typed “Italian dessert” into the TikTok search bar on my smartphone app, and immediately found a tiramisu recipe. It was the perfect sweet course for our date night. There is a family joke about the coffee-flavoured pudding – which translates literally to “pick me up” – being so similar to our surname, Pickup.

For the tiramisu, my guide was Arturo Avallone: a refreshingly cool LA-based Italian chef, with 31,000 TikTok followers. His 60-second film – featuring dark rum, Savoiardi sponge ladyfingers dipped in cold coffee, and a whipped mixture of eggs, sugar and mascarpone cheese, plus a sprinkling of cocoa powder – proved a doddle to understand, even for a beginner like me. “And no,” Avallone says at one point to the camera, shaking his head, “in the original recipe, there is no heavy cream.” So now you know.

And, more importantly, now I know how to wow my wife with home-cooked food. All thanks to the fun and free videos on TikTok that pack a lot into less than a minute. Moreover, since I started engaging with the hands and pans films on the platform, I’ve discovered a love of cooking and newfound kitchen confidence.

As for those sticky old cookery books, you’ll be relieved to read we have “decluttered” them. Ciao!

The article was first published by Guardian Labs in November 2020