The TikTok Small Biz Block Party

Mayor Eric Johnson, seen in this photo speaking at the State of Entrepreneurship event in May, spoke to local entrepreneurs during the TikTok Small Biz Block Party, Aug. 12. – Photo courtesy of the city of Dallas

By DIANE XAVIER

The Dallas Examiner

 

Small businesses are often considered the heart of a community. During the global pandemic, however, many businesses struggled to keep their doors open, while many others had to shut down completely.

In order to help build back local communities and their small businesses, TikTok – one of the latest major social media platforms – held The TikTok Small Biz Block Party, Aug. 12. The nationwide event featured 20 workshop series where small business owners and entrepreneurs in cities around the U.S. could learn how to grow their business with new customers by reaching a wider audience through e-commerce.

The mayor’s office in Dallas partnered with TikTok to help boost the local economy through entrepreneurship in the area.

“This partnership is a perfect match for our city,” Johnson said. “We’re a top 10 American city with a diverse economy and a city that’s on the cutting edge of the 21st century economy. We’re a city where businesses of all sizes are able to thrive. This event comes at just the right time. I know the last year and a half has been difficult for small businesses across our country. That’s also been true here in our city. As COVID-19 restrictions have come and gone, we’ve all been focused primarily on survival.

“There’s no doubt that your businesses were all hit hard in some way. We’ve been working hard here in Dallas to provide opportunities for success for all of our businesses, but especially for the small businesses that spur innovation, define our neighborhoods and employ so many of our residents. That’s why we created our small business continuity fund in the early days of the pandemic, to help keep your businesses afloat. It’s why we created the Dallas Forward Initiative, which provided PPP and coaching to small businesses. And it’s why we created the first ever Mayor’s Task Force on Innovation and Entrepreneurship to help create policies that will make our city an internationally recognized and inclusive hub for startups. It’s also why we’re here today, to learn from each other, and figure out how we can grow your businesses.”

The social media group offers businesses and entrepreneurs of all sizes a business platform at https://www.tiktok.com/business/en-us.

During the discussion, Jose Antonio Tijerino, president and CEO of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, talked about how the foundation is working with the Southern Dallas community.

“Dallas is an important region for our organization,” Tijerino said. “We’re actually teaching computer coding and leadership to hundreds of kids and adults in Oak Cliff through our partnership with John Gonzalez. As part of our institute, TikTok and my organization want to make sure that we have more entrepreneurs like you in America because America needs our community to be entrepreneurs.”

He emphasized that the best way for any business to grow is through advertising.

“We need to grow, right?” he asked. “That’s the key to running a business is growth. And you can grow businesses in a lot of different ways. But one of the quickest ways is by advertising. That’s why global ad spends are going to hit a record high of $605 billion this year. Obviously, advertising ain’t cheap. But we needed to promote our brands, our services and our stories.”

He also mentioned TikTok as a form of free promotion to enhance the marketing strategy for small businesses and entrepreneurs.

“You can reach millions in an instant in a really fun, authentic, compelling way through TikTok,” he said. “At this point, all of our entrepreneurship, training, workshops and even our youth institute employs a TikTok marketing strategy to their business plans … It’s critical to our success as small businesses, or even as nonprofits or someone building a personal brand.”

He said the platform has also brought his family closer.

“On a personal note, thank you TikTok for also helping keep my family connected during a very difficult time of disconnection. We were able to dance together, listen to music together, do science experiments in order to gather and share content that made us laugh and sometimes cry, thanks to your platform,” Tijerino concluded.

For those not familiar with the social media platform, known for its trending dances and challenges, users can showcase their talents and marketable skills while still being their authentic selves.

“Small businesses continue to be an important part of the TikTok community, from giving people a fun way to review their favorite sandwich shop to helping shoppers discover Black-owned and women-owned businesses,” said Becca Sawyer, global head of server message block for Global Business Solutions at TikTok.

Currently, the brand has 100 million users in the U.S. and was the most downloaded app in America 2020. The country’s population sits at 330 million people, which means that one and three Americans are actively using the platform, according to executives.

Officials with the company estimate that the platform usually has 3.7 billion views and 74% of its users say that the social media site has influenced their purchasing decisions.

Glen Pool, the owner of Izola’s Country Cooking in Hinesville, Georgia, said he used the platform to increase sales during the coronavirus pandemic. After posting a video sharing the business’s daily menu updates, Pool stated sales tripled, which enabled him to stay on his feet during the pandemic while still being able to serve the food he loves to his community.

Sawyer summarized the effectiveness of the brand.

“There’s no doubt that small businesses enrich our lives. They are the coffee shop where you sit with your dog, the burgeoning artist who created your favorite t-shirt, and the woodworker who made your kitchen table. We’re thankful for everything they give us, and we’re proud to celebrate them this and every month,” she stated.

New users can get more information on how to get started promoting their business on the frequently asked questions page on the website.

The platform is different from the others since users don’t have to depend on followers to get their content seen, according to company representatives. It brings the content directly to the people it knows will be most interested in the videos, which results in a broader reach with much less effort and more relevance for your potential customers ….

In a recent study, 80% of its users reported that they frequently discover new content, and 52% state that they have found new products on the platform.

The brand encouraged new users to just start creating, be themselves and just have fun, since there is no silver bullet or one size fits all solution to make a brand more visible.

Pati Jacobs and Max Kincaid are owners of Bastrop Cattle Company in Central, Texas. They used TikTok to survive during the pandemic.

“We’ve been in business over 15 years … We’ve just organically grown over the years. But we were really affected by the pandemic,” they stated, as they discussed how they had to maneuver during the pandemic.

“We had to change our entire business from doing a lot of wholesale to only direct to customers and we figured out how to ship everything,” he said. “TikTok was a really important part of finding our new audience. That’s now our entire business is retail. So it was very funny because basically, I had left my job at an entertainment company, and I was just messing around on the ranch. We were trying to work with the cattle. I filmed one video of just me yelling at them in a sassy way. And that got 9 million views on the platform.

“I was so confused because I was not even trying to get any sort of attention, or I didn’t even think people were interested in it. And then the more that I was working with the cattle, the more that I would go and film with them. People just kept on going wild for it. It was so confusing, because it was not a high production value sort of scenario. It’s just me walking around. It was funny because for a good while, I didn’t even make the connection of like, ‘Can I use this for the business? Can I connect this to the business?’ Because I just assumed that somehow if I go to the business level that I’ll need to do a lot more of different stuff that will need to be a much more polished thing.

“It’s really funny because whenever we did dip our toes in, immediately we had results from it. So I didn’t actually have to change anything about my approach. I didn’t have to go to a higher production value level. I love that people just wanted to see the cows. We have been getting a lot of people coming back and saying they’ve seen us on TikTok, and they’re interested in knowing more about the business. So it does really give us an opportunity to explore various aspects.”

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