Flicker, Flash, & Flare TikTok Content Strategy For Brands: The Ultimate Guide
Brands tend to fall flat on their face with ads on any new medium.
The first television ad aired in 1941, before a game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies. It shows the hands of a clock overlaid on to a map of the US. There’s dead air for the first several seconds before a voice chimes in with, “America runs on Bulova time.”
That’s it. That’s the ad.
Was it any good?
I give props to Bulova for taking the plunge, but damn if they didn’t whiff their first ‘at bat’. It’s ok that they didn’t nail their first attempt in an uncharted medium. They had no guidance or examples to reference.
You on the other hand have a roadmap. Your brand doesn’t need to pull a Bulova and publicly fail when it (inevitably) joins TikTok.
Instead, you can come out of the gates using the same content strategy utilized by the savviest brand on social media… Red Bull.
In this post I’ll outline the content framework developed by TikTok. I’ll share how its implemented by Red Bull to generate over 5.2 million followers on their primary account (and millions more across secondary accounts).
But first…. Why should brands even bother with TikTok?
When you think of TikTok, what comes to mind? Tweens dancing, Charli D’Amelio, silly lip sync videos?
While all these exist, this perception is limiting.
As of August 2020 there are over 100 million US TikTok users (and likely far more by now). That is nearly 1/3rd of the total US population.
It’s not just for teens and tweens. The majority of its users are adults.
According to data from app analytics firm AppApe, 67.5% of all TikTokers in the US are 20 or older. Users aged 40+ make up 20% of the site. The app is a snapshot of the american populus – with people creating content around all the same interests and verticals you’d find on any other large scale social network.
Additionally, TikTok is an incredible value for brands. It is one of the few platforms where one can still grow without paid support.
For example, the organic reach rate on TikTok is 118%! Compare this with Facebook where average reach for brands is only 5.5% (if you’re lucky) and around 5% for Instagram stories.
On average you reach your entire audience PLUS 18% new viewers. You broaden your audience with TikTok vs Facebook where you struggle to reach a fraction of your followers. Organic reach on Facebook or Instagram is about 5%
That means that on TikTok you generate at least 21 times more reach than Facebook or Instagram.
Additionally, engagement is far higher on TikTok.
Brands on TikTok have an average engagement rate of 8%. This is multiples more than Facebook or Instagram. The average average engagement rate for brands is 0.09% on Facebook and 1.6% on Instagram.
On TikTok brands get 5-8 times MORE engagement per follower.
So how should brands approach TikTok? TikTok’s Flicker, Flash, and Flare model
TikTok recommends that brands implement what is called the Flicker, Flash, and Flare model. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Flicker content – reactive (ie participation in trends)
- Flash content – proactive (ie planned/episodic content)
- Flare content – interactive (large scale campaign initiatives)
So what does this look like in practice? Let’s do a deep dive:
Flicker content is meant to be:
- Built upon trending content (hashtags, music, sounds, filters, etc)
- Turnkey and easy to produce
- Posted frequently
The focus of flicker content is participation in relevant trends. For example hashtag trends, new music or audio, or memes. Ultimately, the goal is to help the brand stay relevant and top of mind for users.
By drafting off of trends brands leverage borrowed interest. They generate earned exposure and trigger users to visit the brand’s account and follow.
Examples of Flicker Content:
The #bikelife hashtag has become incredibly popular. As I write this, it has an accumulative 3.6 billion views. It’s become a destination for all things biking related.
Red Bull has deep ties to the biking community. The brand jumped into the fray posting a #bikelife video of team rider Belaey Kenny going down a wooden walkway backwards.
When the PS5 launched, Playstation’s tagline #playhasnolimits began trending.
Once again, Red Bull was quick to participate and created quick turn flicker content. They had Jason Paul, one of their freerunner athletes, create a video sharing their exclusive Red Bull PS5 box set.
Red Bull also posts flicker content using trending sounds.
When ‘On No’ by Kreepa became an incredibly popular song on TikTok, Red Bull pounced.
The song was being used in conjunction with things going wrong. Red Bull did the same. The brand posted a video of a truck racing through sand dunes during one of Red Bull’s events and then flipping over. The video generated 200k views in just over a week.
Producing Flicker Content
You’ll notice that the Red Bull content (while amazing) looks like it could have been shot on an iPhone.
Flicker content does not need to be overly produced, the majority of the TikTok community is making content solely using the TikTok app. Something too glossy runs the risk of feeling out of place and overly ‘ad like’.
Where to Find Trends
You can locate the most popular trends at any given moment by visiting TikTok’s explore page. It’s recommended that you develop a criteria for what trends would be worth participating in.
Just like hashtags go viral on Twitter, songs and sounds can go viral on TikTok. TikTok consolidates a list of the most ‘viral’ songs at any given moment by clicking on the ‘sounds’ icon that appears before uploading a new TikTok.
Memes and non-music sounds also go viral and do not necessarily surface to the explore page. As a result, it’s important to keep a keen eye on your ‘For You Page’ and identify any patterns. If you see the same meme, format, or audio appear multiple times odds are it is a trend or starting to become one.
Flash content is meant to be:
- Original content in a consistent format (ie not existing trends)
- Less timely and medium effort production quality
- Posted on a regular schedule (weekly or monthly)
Flash content is meant to engage the tiktok community via the brand’s unique style. This should be defining content for the account. A format or style that is proactive, planned, and rolled out on a set schedule.
The role flash content plays isn’t to sell products. Instead it should focus on bringing the brand to life in an entertaining way. It should incorporate original elements such as a recurring storyline or format.
Examples of Flash Content:
For Red Bull flash content comes in the form of several content series. Their most common flash content series include their snowboarding and skydiving videos.
Each of these features Red Bull athletes doing extreme stunts that embody the “Red Bull Gives You Wings” slogan.
Producing Flash Content:
From a production standpoint flash content can be a bit more deliberate because it’s proactive and planned. However, it still should avoid looking overly produced.
So what are engaging ways to bring to life flash content?
Anything exclusive and/or behind the scenes of the inner workings of a brand are a great place to start. Share things that someone working within the industry wouldn’t know.
Flare content should be the following:
- Large scale campaign initiatives for most important events
- Highly engaging and interactive
- Bigger investment (without being overly produced
Flare content should be utilized to support 1-3 big brand moments in a given year. Major campaign or product launches are ideal. It is meant for those handful of times a year you want to generate mass awareness and engagement.
Flare content should be different from flash and flicker content in that it should be as engaging & interactive as possible. Welcome the TikTok community to become part of the campaign. Ideally provide them fun and engaging prompts that give them a chance to create.
Common Flare tactics include the launch of a branded hashtag challenges or sponsored effect. Each of these gives the brand broader exposure to the TikTok community and participation is built in.
Flare Content Example:
A great example of Flare Content is Red Bull’s Dance Your Style challenge.
The Red Bull Dance Your Style Challenge is an online street dance competition running on TikTok, where the public – that’s you – picks the winner!
Red Bull’s challenge resulted in thousands of participants. The cumulative views on the #RedBullDanceYourStyle campaign hashtag is nearly 9 billion!
What Red Bull did so well here was provide a fun, straightforward path to drum up participation.
So, what is your brand about that’s also exciting for your audience? How can they take part and express this excitement?
Focus on something that has a level of broad appeal and is relatively accessible for anyone to participate in. If you create something that is overtly self-serving (to the brand) it will alienate users.
Producing Flare Content
This content can be higher production value. It should be a larger investment than any other content category. Partnering with TikTok for promotion of a Branded Hashtag Challenge or Sponsored Effect will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Additionally, it’s recommended you work with influencers to help kickstart participation. While paid promotion will help generate mass awareness, the influencers will be best for driving engagement.
You have everything you need to launch
Attempting anything new can be scary and challenging.
But, if it’s any consolation, you’re not going to create your equivalent of that Bulova ad.
In fact, you’ve got the TikTok playbook of one of the most successful brands. The flicker, flash, and flare strategy provides all the ingredients to make a huge impact. The deck is stacked in your favor:
- Organic reach and engagement are high
- There’s blueprint to follow (flicker, flash, and flare)
- Competition is low (most brands are not on the platform)
Use this opportunity to be bold and dive into TikTok.
Because the clock is ticking, and at one point this window for massive organic growth will close. Just like it did with Facebook.