How organizations are using TikTok to bridge the generation gap


Maricopa County Democratic Party/TikTok

The Maricopa County Democratic Party’s TikTok account is hosted by Arizona musician Robbie Pfeffer.

Video platform TikTok scores over a billion video views daily, with young people drawn to its high-energy content and charismatic influencers. And it’s caught the attention of more mainstream institutions, which are looking to capitalize on the app’s popularity.

Some organizations appeal to young creators to bridge the generational gap.

The majority of TikTok users are young people. More than 70% of account holders are between 18 and 24 years old.

Tens of thousands of those users see videos from the Maricopa County Democratic Party, hosted by Arizona musician Robbie Pfeffer, updating them on political events in Arizona.

Pfeffer is a member of the Phoenix precinct committee, as well as the lead singer of Phoenix’s Playboy band Manbaby.

Robbie Pfeffer

Tim Agne/KJZZ

Robbie Pfeffer is the frontman of Playboy Manbaby from Phoenix.

As the pandemic put live music on hold, Pfeffer used his band’s TikTok to keep his creative edge.

“It fulfilled an incredibly important thing for me, just like the creative output. And like, just basic mental health stuff, or just having something to do was really huge,” Pfeffer said.

→ Playboy Manbaby: Little Desert Concert

Playboy Manbaby’s TikTok page started gaining traction in 2020, with Pfeffer and the band posting everything from political videos to songs and comedy sketches. Pfeffer says the videos started spreading widely outside of Arizona, but he still wanted a place to create local content.

“I basically reached out to them, and I was like, ‘Hey, who’s running your TikTok, for the Maricopa County Democratic Party? And they were like, ‘We don’t have any.’ I’m like, “OK, well, would you let me do it?”

Pfeffer says he was given free rein to his creativity on the account. The videos are laid back, full of bright colors and filled with 1990s clip art. Pfeffer says it’s meant to look bad – like something out of a public-access TV show.

@maricopadems #Maricopa #Arizona #phoenix #tucson #maricopacounty #prescott #climate change #homeless #mesa #temple #scottsdale #az ♬ original sonido – Maricopa County Dem Party

But, the videos are a far cry from normal party communications – press releases, official interviews and official statements.

Edder Diaz-Martinez is the former communications director for county Democrats, who helped get the project off the ground. He says Pfeffer’s style works perfectly.

“He’s able to not only highlight important issues, but he does it in a light-hearted way where he can really connect with people. And I think he kind of takes the whole suit-and-tie aspect off as well. of the Democratic Party politics and fair politics in general,” Diaz-Martinez said.

Martinez says he hopes county Democrats can turn TikTok followers into voters.

“Getting them, maybe, to help us, whether it’s signing petitions or volunteering, and then obviously once we get closer to the election, you know, I hope we we can send them information about our candidates and get them to vote for us,” Diaz-Martinez said.

Among the billions of videos on TikTok viewed every day, other brands and organizations use the platform to inform.

A pioneer in videos like these, especially in tone and aesthetics, is NPR’s Planet Money. Jack Corbett began making offbeat videos under the show’s name in 2019, covering different topics than the weekly radio show.

@planetmoney Epic learning moment! Discover episode 2 of our Summer School series on investing! #invest #hedge funds #economy #actions #learnontiktok ♬ original sound – planetmoney

There has been no shortage of complex economic stories in recent years: cryptocurrency, NFT, inflation and the impact of the pandemic. Corbett says TikTok is a great platform to make these topics easier to understand.

“It’s really rewarding. It’s like that kind of comment. I always look back to love, people are like, ‘Wow, I haven’t figured that out until now,’” Corbett said.

The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix has created videos, using the garden as a backdrop, to educate people about plants.

Abdel Jimenez, marketing and communications manager for the garden, says that by educating people on TikTok, he learned a lot himself.

“I don’t really come from botany or, you know, that plant background. I don’t know how to take care of the plants myself. But it’s pretty good to, I guess, you know, showcase all the knowledge that I learned,” Jimenez said.

Jimenez says that since garden videos have grown in popularity, more and more people are coming to see the plants they’ve seen online.

Although some see the app as just a place for dance trends and comedy videos, Corbett says TikTok is a platform to be taken seriously when it comes to education and outreach to young people.

“TikTok is not just a way to catch Gen Z here, so you can pull them to do something else. It’s like, you know, you can actually do some meaningful stuff there,” Corbett said.

@desertbotanicalgarden How do you know if a plant is a cactus? #Arizona #desertbotanicalgarden #planttok #cactus #cactuslovers #orchidcactus #epiphyllum ♬ Blue Blood – Heinz Kiessling and various artists

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