Insights from a TikTok media launch in Ukraine

TikTok is an interesting option for media looking to reach a young audience. Ukrainian media hromadske launched an account in due time to cover local elections and share their lessons in a how-to guide, produced by The Fix with support from IMS.

Find the full report here

The short-form video platform, with more than 850 million monthly active users and over 2 billion downloads, is receiving increased interest from media companies seeking to reach out to and build relationships with a younger audience. 

A growing number of global heavyweight media are jumping onto the new platform. In September 2020, the BBC joined the ranks of Le Monde, NBC, The Washington Post and The Daily Mail in trying to use the platform to engage with audiences in unconventional ways. 

However, content creation on TikTok can be a daunting challenge for news media used to fact-filled texts and lengthy visual narratives.

This work is funded by the UM as part of the Ukraine Youth and Media project – UPLOAD.

hromadske, a large national media in Ukraine launched its TikTok in the middle of October 2020 – just ahead of local elections – and in less than two weeks they managed to get 36,5 thousand likes and over 350 thousand views.

One of the reasons why the team decided to launch its TikTok in October were the upcoming local elections. Interest in voting is low among young people, so it was important to engage them on this topic. 

Initially launched in 2013 as an attempt to create an independent communal (“hromadske” means communal in English) public broadcaster, hromadske quickly became an important news provider during the Euromaidan revolution in Ukraine by streaming street protests on YouTube around the clock.

Young Ukrainian citizens with age from 16 to 24 are one of the two core audiences of hromadske, which made TikTok an obvious choice for expansion. 

“We launched TikTok because we need to reach our youngest segment of the audience. We are strong in video content, so we believe that we can be successful there,” says Mariia Leonova, Head of Social Media and Communications at hromadske.

For IMS it is very interesting to see how Hromadske is taking their engagement with audiences to the next level.

“It started off as a short project to engage young Ukrainians with independent media with local elections coming up; and the learnings encouraged Hromadske to continue the outreach – and the results are impressive,” says IMS programme manager Henrik Underbjerg. He is managing IMS’ activities in Ukraine.

To have a host or not

Some, like Le Monde or Radio Svaboda (RFE/RL’s Belarusian service, which runs a great TikTok), have a number of journalists regularly appearing in their videos. Others, like The Washington Post or Argentina’s La Nacion, mostly feature a single host who becomes the face of the media. 

hromadske opted for the latter, with Olha Ptashka running the account and some videos passing the 10 or even 20 thousand like bar. Given the smaller, Ukrainian-language target audience, this is regarded as a solid success.

The team has played around with a few formats, including street interviews (vox populi), humorous sketches, and short educational videos. Vox populi received the most views and likes. 

This relates to hromadske’s strategy on the platform. 

“What we managed to learn is that you have to work for recognition. Create your ‘trick’ in the content, stand out in terms of color, format, appearance, music – not to get lost in the thousands of recommendations that your subscribers see,” Leonova explains. 

The team noticed that the traffic is increasing and decreasing in certain periods of time (notably early evenings and some mornings, but not always consistently) and would upload videos to be ready for release, only once traffic was picking up.

The report outlines the first steps for media on TikTok, as well as useful resources, case studies and tips and tricks. The report, published in November 2020, is produced by hromadske, The Fix and IMS .

This article first appeared in a longer format on Le Fix,  written by Zakhar Protsiuk

This activity is funded by the Danish Foreign Ministry as part of the Ukraine Youth and Media project called UPLOAD.