HomeNonprofit Marketing TechNonprofit Digital Marketing TechDigital Dynamism: Applying TikTok's Lessons on Authenticity and Engagement for Nonprofits

Digital Dynamism: Applying TikTok’s Lessons on Authenticity and Engagement for Nonprofits

Curious about the phenomenon behind TikTok’s rise? Delve into the captivating evolution of this billion-user powerhouse, exploring its cultural impact and how your organization can leverage short-form content for heightened engagement. Plus, discover the innovative solution empowering nonprofits to harness the authenticity of user-generated videos with Gather Voices. Read on to unlock the secrets of digital storytelling in a rapidly evolving landscape…


  • Background and Growth: TikTok rapidly gained traction by merging a user-friendly interface with an engaging content algorithm resulting in over 1 billion active users.
  • Unique Features: The platform’s strength lies in its algorithm and its ability to make viral content creators out of everyday users.
  • Cultural Impact: TikTok influences so many aspects of culture, from music to literature, and even culinary trends, showing just how extensive its reach can be.
  • Implications for Nonprofits: TikTok has the potential to amplify nonprofit messaging and engagement. The platform encourages content that is empowering, educational, engaging, and entertaining, aligning well with nonprofit goals.
  • Potential Challenges: The looming threat of a potential TikTok ban in the U.S. could mean the future of the platform is unclear.
  • Future Outlook: Despite uncertainties, the platform’s approach to engagement and community-building offers valuable insights for nonprofits aiming to enhance digital connection and authenticity. With the integration of solutions like Gather Voices, organizations can unlock the full potential of storytelling, driving meaningful change in the digital age.

Let’s get into it!

With a charmingly addictive and virtually infinite stream of short form content, TikTok has taken the US by storm. The platform, characterized by a 5-second to 10-minute video format, was dubbed the most downloaded app in the United States in 2018 and has maintained this popularity, now boasting over 1 billion active users. Here’s a bit of background regarding the app’s rise in popularity, why it’s been so wildly successful, and how you can utilize this kind of short-form content to bolster engagement for your organization.

It began with Musical.ly, a Shanghai-based app founded in 2014 that captivated US audiences with in-app video editing tools and a library of sound bites. This user-friendly interface led to an outpouring of creative expression by way of lip-syncs and viral dance trends. A Chinese tech giant, ByteDance, founded a similar short-form video platform called Douyin in 2016, which achieved the same widespread popularity amongst its domestic audience. In 2017, ByteDance, who wished to expand into the US market, purchased Musical.ly for an estimated $1 billion. So, in 2018, Musical.ly was changed to TikTok and the platform, immediately injected with 200 million dedicated users, saw explosive success.

Other content-creation and social media platforms have existed in the US for decades, so what sets TikTok apart? 

TikTok is characterized by a powerful, yet simple algorithm that has one goal: To learn what captures your attention and feed that content to you. This data is then funneled into the “For You Page,” a bottomless and ever-evolving stream of content that greets you the moment you open the app. Though the content is typically only a handful of seconds long, users still spend an average of 52 minutes a day scrolling through videos, most of which are created by other ordinary users.

TikTok completely subverts the idea of the traditional influencer. It makes virality and ongoing engagement possible for the everyday user, where previously, achieving online fame was an honor reserved for a select lucky few. If a TikTok user produces good, genuine content it will more than likely gain traction, regardless of an individual’s follower count or production value.

Given TikTok’s endless potential for virality, it’s not surprising that the platform has made significant cultural impact. Musical artists have changed the way their music is formulated, ensuring there is a catchy, 15-second clip that can circulate the For You Page. Barnes and Noble put out displays reading “#Booktok” for the community of users who look to the app for book recommendations. Recipes like feta pasta and whipped coffee are familiar to many as “TikTok pasta” and “TikTok coffee.” These trends are impacting what people are wearing, eating, listening to, the news they’re consuming, and so much more.

But why does this matter in the context of organizations?

TikTok democratizes trendsetting, empowering everyday users to directly impact culture. Users are increasingly reliant on peer recommendations, shared experiences, and a sense of community. This has significant implications for organizations as they navigate the evolving world of digital community engagement.

56% of users on TikTok feel more connected to marketing on the platform because the content is more ‘human.’ That’s a nice sentiment, but what does ‘human’ content look like?

It helps to remember the 4 E’s of content: Empower, Educate, Engage, and Entertain.

Empower- Content that acknowledges and uplifts people.

Educate- Content that tells you about something new.

Engage- Content that creates ongoing dialogue.

Entertain- Content that develops an emotional connection.

Incorporating one or more of these elements in a short video can help achieve the level of authenticity that performs best on platforms like TikTok. These combined with the trending music, eye-catching graphics, and social features contained in the app can allow you to appeal to users and the algorithm to bring attention to your organization.

Here’s the bad news…It’s possible that TikTok could cease to exist in the near future.

TikTok could be banned in the US if ByteDance does not divest from the app, the reason being national security concerns. The app has been scrutinized over allegations that its links to China pose a risk to the personal data of American citizens. This measure, called the Protecting Americans From Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act, or H.R. 7521, was approved by congress in April 2024, but it remains unclear whether or not ByteDance will challenge the statute.

This potential TikTok ban, the second of its kind, has sparked widespread criticism due to constitutional concerns regarding free-speech infringement. This measure threatens millions of creators, including musicians, filmmakers, chefs, educators, actors, and writers, who would be deplatformed en masse. Additionally, approximately 5 million or so businesses and nonprofits reliant on the app would face significant losses.

Despite the looming threat to the platform, TikTok has continued looking ahead to the future. On February 13th, Adobe announced a “first-of-its-kind integration” with TikTok’s Creative Assistant, developing an all-in-one content creation platform for marketers, brands, and businesses alike. Adobe Express provides creators with templates, stock video, audio, and stickers, while TikTok’s Creative Assistant allows users to fully generate the structure of an ad campaign at the click of a button. Additionally, the Creative Assistant will provide users with “best practices, trends, and insights” giving useful information as to what content could produce the most engagement.

If the platform might get banned, why consider its potential?

The TikTok ban has served as a necessary reminder of the impermanence of each and every online platform. However, amidst this uncertainty surrounding TikTok’s future, it has offered valuable insights into what users truly value in media. TikTok’s success underscores the importance of authenticity and relatability in content creation. Users gravitate towards genuine, unfiltered expressions over polished, professionally produced content. So, whether or not TikTok continues to exist, it has permanently redefined the way we understand virality, content, engagement, and community going forward.

In exploring the transformative potential of TikTok’s authenticity and engagement for nonprofits, one crucial element often overlooked is the practical application of these principles. As organizations seek to harness the power of user-generated content to drive their missions forward, they encounter a common challenge: the daunting task of collecting and showcasing authentic video content.

This is where Gather Voices comes in.

At Gather Voices, we understand the value of authenticity and engagement in storytelling. Our innovative software, which follows a simple three-step process — Gather, Build, Share — empowers organizations to effortlessly collect, create, and distribute compelling user-generated video content.

1. Gather: With Gather Voices, the process of gathering video content becomes seamless. Our platform allows nonprofits to collect videos from anyone, anywhere, and at any time. Whether it’s capturing volunteer testimonials, donor stories, or impactful moments from community events, our intuitive software enables organizations to create video request landing pages with just a few clicks. These pages easily integrate into existing member workflows and touchpoints, making it a breeze for contributors to share their authentic narratives.

2. Build: Building authentic and engaging video assets has never been easier. Our user-friendly editing tools empower anyone on your team, regardless of their video expertise, to create compelling content that resonates with your audience. From adding captions and overlays to trimming and enhancing footage, our platform ensures that every video looks great and performs even better. With Gather Voices, nonprofits can transform raw footage into polished stories that capture hearts and minds.

3. Share: Sharing your organization’s story across multiple channels is key to maximizing impact, and Gather Voices simplifies the process. Our platform makes it easy to publish videos across email, web, social media, and more, ensuring that your message reaches audiences far and wide. Whether you’re launching a fundraising campaign, promoting an upcoming event, or simply engaging with your community, our easy-to-use publishing features enable you to incorporate video effortlessly into your marketing and communications strategy.

At Gather Voices, we’re not just providing a software solution — we’re driving a movement to democratize content creation for nonprofits. By empowering organizations to capture and share authentic video content, we’re amplifying voices, fostering connections, and driving meaningful change. Join us on the forefront of the digital revolution and elevate your nonprofit’s mission with Gather Voices. Together, let’s unlock the full potential of storytelling and create a brighter future for all.

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