Inside NowThis’s restrained TikTok content strategy

Illustration of a rocket launching with the TikTok logo on the side.

NowThis’s strategy of syndicating across platforms works on TikTok too. The social video publisher just passed its 100-day mark on TikTok and has already gained an audience of 642,000 followers and received over 19 million likes by posting less than once per day.

Since launching its TikTok account on December 2, NowThis has published 85 videos on the platform, with 17 of them receiving more than 1 million views, at the time of publication. A separate channel, NowThisPolitics, has published 27 video, with two hitting above the 1 million view mark.

While that’s a small audience relative to its other social channels — NowThis published more than 1,400 videos to its 14.7 million followers on Facebook over that same period, according to Crowdtangle — NowThis has found that not only does the standard news content from third-party sources perform just as well on TikTok, but getting the content ready for that platform requires a lighter editing lift than for other channels, like YouTube.

Tina Exarhos, chief content officer of NowThis, said that like most of the content that the brand publishes across its platforms, TikTok content is usually syndicated from third-party sources because in the publisher’s nearly eight-year history, the team found that this type of content has been the most successful in scaling the business.

NowThis also produces its own content in-house, which is then edited and shared across its platforms. Supervising producer Brian Patrick Byrne said that his team tested various types of content, including videos that feature editorial staffers. Some of the content has been produced or edited specifically for TikTok first, such as an impeachment explainer for its Politics page. 

Byrne said that editing is also different on TikTok due to the 60-second time restriction. “We will pare down a story to the most powerful elements,” such as a 20-second video that showed American firefighters arriving in Australia to assist with the bush fires that was overlaid with small amounts of text and gifs, he said.

NowThis producer Scout MacEachron said that the brand is still very much in the experimentation phase of figuring out what frequency and video length performs best for its audience on TikTok. She added, however, that it is a casual platform that requires minimal edits on videos, therefore it’s easy to post content, particularly if it’s repurposed from other platforms or sources.

Nick Cicero, vp of strategy at digital video analytics company Conviva, said his company found that the 20 fastest growing brands on TikTok posted on average three times per day from the start of the year until now. That said, Cicero said that NowThis ranked number nine on Conviva’s media and news TikTok leaderboard.

NowThis just has the one active subject-specific vertical on TikTok currently (NowThisPolitics). Instagram has five verticals and Facebook has eight, according to Exarhos. If you search for NowThis on TikTok, however, 13 total NowThis branded verified accounts surface including NowThisWeed, NowThisHer, NowThisFood and NowThisEspanol, though none of the accounts aside from NowThis an NowThisPolitics have posted any videos yet.

Cicero said that because NowThis is a generalist publisher and TikTok’s algorithm is driven by personalized content recommendations based on interests, it could be a good strategy for the publisher to try and build deeper connections with niche communities based off those vertical accounts.

TikTok “is a place where people are spending their time and any place where people spend time is valuable,” said Cicero, though he continued that the way monetization trickles down through the platform can be tricky.

The most logical way that both Cicero and Exarhos see monetization coming to TikTok is through branded content.

“Having the audience is half the battle. You have to have the eyeballs that brands will pay you for,” Cicero said. “But you also have to have the community there as well. It may be more difficult for a publisher on TikTok who is repurposing content” as its main content strategy to achieve this.

Exarhos said that branded content has always been a revenue stream for the brand, though it has become less than half of NowThis’ overall revenue. Because of this, she feels that once the platform becomes capable of monetizing, NowThis will be prepared to sell.

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