Entrepreneurship and TikTok: How Creativity Sparks Business Growth

Earphones next to TikTok app on phone

On an early-2020 trip to film the Sierra Canyon basketball team, the idea came to Liam Callahan ’21.

The California high school squad is known for its top prospects such as Bronny James and Zaire Wade. As a content creator for SLAM, Callahan captured a clip of pregame handshakes, and posted it to TikTok.

That video was the first of many. About a year and 116,000 likes later, Callahan has used the app routinely to post highlights, recap videos, and more for the magazine. “With TikTok, I feel like I’m reaching new people with almost every video,” he said.

@liam.slamBronny keeps intros lit 🔥 #篮球 #bronny #bronnyjames #lebron #lebronjames #lakers #sierracanyon #basketball #friends #photomagic #handshakeschallenge♬ My Friends (We Get Turnt Up) – Mr. Hotspot

Callahan isn’t alone. Entrepreneurs of all kinds are turning to the video-sharing platform to grow their brands and their online presence.

TikTok uses a recommendation system that curates videos to users’ interests, determined by what content they are creating or interacting with, or by which accounts they follow. From January to September of last year, TikTok grew 75 percent, and was tracked at more than 53 million weekly average users in the United States, more than 33 times its closest competitor.

Be Brief, Be Creative

Over the past several months, Callahan has found success by creating content that is relatable, unique, or features household names.

“It’s given us a whole new way to be creative,” he said. “If you’re not on that new platform, you have to be a massive brand in order to survive.”

Jonathan DiModica ’21 brought his business, Got Sole, to the platform at about the same time as Callahan did. The online subscription service has created a home for users to buy, sell, and trade sneakers with no fees.

Early videos allowed users to weigh in on polls to decide “winners” of a shoe trade, vote on a pair of shoes they liked better, or rate an outfit, a few of which rapidly amassed millions of views.

“I knew the people were there, I knew it was going to keep growing,” DiModica said.

@gotsoleWhich Pair Would You Cop? 👟🤷‍♂️ Comment Your Pick! Giveaway Coming Soon! 🤫 ##sneakerhead ##hypebeast ##reseller ##yeezy ##foryou ##fyp ##gotsole♬ THE SCOTTS – THE SCOTTS & Travis Scott & Kid Cudi

While Got Sole has used TikTok as a branding tool and works to funnel users to other platforms, DiModica has learned that strong content stems from community and authenticity.

“Give value and entertainment in a very short and succinct way,” DiModica said. “If your video isn’t entertaining in the first three to five seconds, you’re done.”

Richard Hanna, senior lecturer in the marketing division at Babson College and an expert in social media, says creativity is at the crux of TikTok.

“The best videos are the most funny, the most creative, the most interesting,” he said. “The reality is, the audience on TikTok, over 40 percent is over age 30. It reaches a surprisingly wide audience.

“TikTok is the training ground for future creatives,” he added. “These people can practice their trade, and become the next greatest influencer.”

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