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The thin line you’re walking when responding to customers on TikTok

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The thin line you’re walking when responding to customers on TikTok

Anyone who has downloaded TikTok and swiped through a few video clips will probably notice that one hashtag in particular gets a lot of use: #Foryou.

This a reference to the fact the social media service sets up its feed into two versions. If you tap one side, you’ll see clips from all the people you’re following. The side marked “For You” is filled with clips from people TikTok’s algorithm thinks you’d like to follow or simply content you’d enjoy.

This is not a bad attempt at customer experience (CX) design. Unfortunately, other brands that operate on the platform are personalizing content in much more head-scratching ways.

In a recent article on Wired, for example, there was a story about Jack Remmington, who bought an umbrella from Uniqulo that broke the first time he opened it. He uploaded a video on TikTok showing his exasperation, and also tweeted about it on Twitter. That’s when it got a bit weird:

A day or so later, the brand hadn’t responded to his tweet—but Remmington did get a response on TikTok. Uniqlo stitched his video and posted a clip of an umbrella with human eyes looking shiftily from side to side. It seemed to be saying—Remmington thinks—“Oops, haha, what have we done?”

This was just one of several examples where brands have responded to CX issues on TikTok in ways that suggest they’re gently making fun of the people they’re supposed to be serving.

CX is not about sassing back
Brands have been known to get sassy on social media before, of course. Wendy’s Twitter account is the most well known, where comments about direct competitors have been both provocative and funny. That’s a marketing tactic, though. In a customer service scenario, many might expect brands to respond in more earnest and genuinely valuable ways.

Here’s what’s different with TikTok. On, Twitter, Facebook or even LinkedIn, angry or upset customers tend to use text to make their complaint or vent. If they are targeting a brand on Instagram, they’ll likely still do so in words – perhaps as a comment underneath a brand’s most recent images.

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As a primarily video-based social media service, customers who choose to air their grievances there are more likely to do so in a live action-style, probably comedic manner. Humor in the form of brief sketches is the accepted tone on the platform.

Brands that misstep by responding in the same tone and approach may be simply trying to do as the Romans do, so to speak. What they may fail to realize is that they’re probably better off saving their creativity for other purposes. TikTok allows users to comment, too, even if they’re get more buried within the experience.

The increasingly digital-first nature of consumer activities is going to complicate CX for many brands. TikTok is one thing, but imagine what it will be like if and when people are trying to represent themselves effectively in the metaverse.

A good rule of thumb? If you’re responding in a creative way to the voice of the customer on social media, make sure the result isn’t performative, or about you. For brands, the better TikTok hashtag would probably be #AboutThem.

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