TikTok making experts of the unsuspecting

Over the last nearly two years we have seen some pretty dodgy dance moves courtesy of social media platform TikTok, all in the name of entertainment though.  We all took to alternative ways to stave off the boredom, distance and loneliness that Covid brought into our households. 

People claim to have lost many hours of their lives scrolling through the vast array of entertaining videos, each leading one into another, into another.

But there is a lot of value to be found on TikTok too, and anyone who has ventured into the #booktok hashtag will have come across a host of new reading suggestions, reviews and literary discussions. 

What predominantly began as a teenage readers’ following, has ventured into  an opportunity for authors to promote their writings and encourage budding authors to follow in their footsteps.

Booktok seems to be where all worlds collide, it has a diverse range of contributors and followers, from authors to avid readers and would-be writers.

This is where UK-based author Fiona Lucas found her tribe and gained a following.

Lucas was first introduced to TikTok during the initial lockdowns in the UK, her daughters showed her what they were ‘giggling at’ on their phones and that was the start of it. 

Fiona Luca

“Eventually I downloaded the app and kind of two hours later I looked up and wondered where did my afternoon go?” she explains.

“Sometimes it’s just little windows into other people’s lives from different countries, different cultures and different interests – it’s also interesting if you like people watching,” she says. 

Lucas ventured into the #bookTok community to see if she could find any authors. 

“I could see there was a healthy booktok community, but it was really mostly teenagers and a few authors, again mostly writing young adult fiction. There were only a couple of other people I could find, like me, writing contemporary fiction,” she explains.

“I thought, well, I missed the boat with YouTube, and with Instagram and Twitter, maybe if I get on this early, I could build a following before anyone catches on,” she says.

“It was a bit of a gamble because I had no idea whether anyone would want to watch a 50-year-old woman talking about her book because they don’t have fairies in them,” she adds.

As it happens people did want to hear from a middle-aged contemporary fiction writer and Lucas found the value she could add to TikTok. 

“People started asking me questions like ‘how do I get an agent?’ So I started answering their questions and that was quite popular,  I began doing more of that than talking about my own books,” she says. “Slowly I began to build a following.”

To date Lucas has built her following to 24.3k followers. “It’s much more effective than I have managed to do on any other social media platform.”

While there are lots of different ways you can entertain your followers, that’s what the whole platform is based around, making it easy for you to become an entertainer. But the niche that Lucas has carved out for herself should not be lost in that, as followers are always looking for the value in following an account.

“Occasionally I’ll do an out of the blue video or something I think is funny or interesting – but I think it’s better to stick in my niche most of the time, because people know that’s my content and that’s what they come back to me for,” she says.

Another TikToker I met recently, with a niche following, is young Irish Farm Manager John Halton. He was also a TikTok newbie when the Covid lockdowns began and wasn’t quite sure where the social media platform would take him.

John Halton

His niche is introducing agriculture to the next generation of farmers like himself. 

“I started TikTok at the start of the pandemic, it was more out of boredom. I started posting a few videos and messing around and then all of a sudden I was at 10,000 followers so I started to think about what I could do with that,” says Halton. 

At the time Halton was splitting his time between the farm at home in Ireland and college and work in England, so he had plenty of content to introduce his followers to. Halton shows the differences in farming, whether it is covering large scale silage pits or the daily milking routine of a dairy farm, whatever he feels his followers would be interested in knowing about. 

“I try to educate people about agriculture. I don’t do the videos, I walk and talk –  I just take out the phone as I’m walking across the yard, that’s the way I have always done it,” he says. 

TikTok making experts of us all, when we were least expecting it.

Fiona Alston is a freelance journalist based in Ireland covering tech, innovation, start-ups and interesting SMEs. Alston is also passionate about athletics, health and horses having competed in triathlons, equestrian events and horse racing, and her lived experience comes through when covering sports personalities or fitness features. Growing up on the family farm in Scotland, Alston graduated from the University of Sunderland with a BA (Hon.) in Broadcast Journalism, and is frequently published in The Irish Times, The Business Post, RTÉ and 4i Mag.