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Retailers on TikTok
Via TikTok @ricky.federici, @dunkin, and @starbucksrecipeswithm

Retailers want their employees to be TikTok famous

Brands are hoping to turn staff members into influencers as part of their marketing strategies

For years, brands have been enlisting the help of influencers to market their products, more recently turning to employees to offer a personalised, behind-the-scenes glimpse into their businesses. Now, they’re determined to capitalise on the newfound popularity of TikTok.

As reported by Digiday, retailers are desperate to get their employees famous on the video-sharing platform, in the hopes of reaching a new, widespread audience. “You don’t want to go on social and just keep hearing from lots of brands,” Jody Leon, the marketing manager at employee advocacy platform DSMN8, told Digiday. “However, if their employees have something to say, you’re more likely to listen than a brand shouting advertising at you.”

Along with the fact that TikTok has an estimated 800 million monthly users, retailers are particularly keen to break into the app because of its ability to make seemingly insignificant videos a viral success.

One recent – but granted, accidental – example is Ocean Spray, which found itself at the centre of the Fleetwood Mac x TikTok “Dreams” guy moment. In case you missed it (how?!), a video of 37-year-old Nathan Apodaca skateboarding to work while drinking cranberry juice and singing along to the 1997 chart-topper went viral. Ocean Spray capitalised on the moment, gifting Apodaca a car (and a lifetime supply of their juice), and saw their sales get a much-welcomed boost.

American companies including Sephora, Wendy’s, and Dunkin’ Donuts have all reaped the benefits of employee influencers, who offer their followers an exclusive insight into what it’s like working for the brands. 

Retailers don’t always get it right, though. Last week, GameStop faced criticism after encouraging its workers to join a dance challenge on TikTok, with the aim of winning “10 additional labour hours” to use during Black Friday week. One former employee described the challenge as “demeaning” on Reddit.

Although Dunkin’ Donuts told Digiday that employee influencers are “compensated for their work and content”, many workers who organically advertise their employer may receive little to no benefits for it.

This marketing method also relies on employees being happy in their jobs. Having an employee go viral may be beneficial if they’re saying good things, but as MAC Cosmetics recently found out, a disgruntled worker speaking out about systemic problems can be very bad for business.