Get ready for TikTok, Reels, and other short-video apps

Short video apps are all the craze, taking the world by storm. Is your brand ready?

At this point, there are good chances you’ve heard of TikTok, a Chinese-based app that has been downloaded 1.5 billion times outside of its domestic market (as of early 2020).


Apps like TikTok are basically video-sharing social networks that are used to create short lip-sync, comedy and talent videos. These videos can run from 3 seconds all the way up to 60 seconds, depending on the platform. Users select a soundtrack (a music clip, the sound from another video on the platform, or recorded sound, for example). This is why you’ll often see dozens, if not hundreds of videos that use the exact same soundtrack, but are “re-enacted” by other users, in their own way (a choreography or specific dance moves are good examples).


But it is not the only app that was born in the Chinese market off the buzz around creating short-video content that can be easily produced and then shared.


Kwai is hot in Brazil, VMate is hot in India and Likee is hot in Russia and Southeast Asia.


Brands are starting to take notice and many have started producing for the platform.


Publishing content on TikTok and similar platforms require having specific narratives, an approach that is different from what a brand might by publishing elsewhere. Your Facebook or Instagram story is a great start, but it might not be exactly what the user base is looking for when spending time on TikTok.


So how should your brand evaluate if there is potential for it on this new venture? First, create yourself an account and spend 5 minutes every day watching what is being published, which memes or challenges or type of videos seem to work well. Follow some brands and look at what they are doing.


These platforms are mostly relevant for consumer goods brands, but there will be other categories that can make their way into it.


If you want to learn more about the sector of short video apps, be sure to take some time to read Wency Chen’s in-depth article on the current state of the various networks being created, including Facebook’s second test in the category with Reels in Brazil (after Lasso failed to make a dent in 2018).


But one thing is sure, create an account on TikTok, spend some time looking at where teens and younger generations are spending a large amount of time. This will allow you to have a better view of what could be possible for your brand.

Would you like to dive deeper into TikTok and short-video apps with us? Contact an expert at Toast and schedule a consultation with our experts today.

Conversational content: 9 keywords that work

“The most human companies will win.” — Mark Schaefer

We publish a lot of content on our client’s properties and social platforms. Our website’s masthead says, “Our goal is to make an impact and build, with you, brands that are more human, more useful.”

How do these two things tie in together?

Although sometimes we simply fill a need to inform audiences of a certain point of information, at other times we are aiming to be conversational, to actually trigger deeper engagement.

And our clients are not alone.

All brands create a mix of content that aims to inform, educate or entertain, but at times, many of them also want to add a conversational level to the messaging.

But how often do we see marketers and brands try to create this kind of engagement and right away know that it will be a failed attempt at generating feedback, comments or any other form of deep engagement?

Buzzsumo published an article that outlines the words they have seen consistently work in creating engagement on conversational social media posts.

They based their analysis on the “Social Penetration Theory” that describes that people have 4 levels of disclosure:

  • A. Clichés
  • B. Facts
  • C. Opinions
  • D. Feelings

The further down this scale you go, the better you can understand someone.

Or a brand.

Brands should not be afraid to take a stand, either directly or through their employees.

At Toast, if you subscribe to our Facebook page for example, you will get a weekly article recommendation from one of our employees. This is an article that resonated with them, made them feel something, and aims to allow you to get to know us and the people that work on our client’s mandates.

This week, Giuliano Bossa shared an article about a specific word that generates longer view time when it is used in the first moments of a video. And that word is also part of this study by Buzzsumo. Which word is it? Visit our Facebook page to know!

In Susan Moeller’s research from the Buzzsumo article, the words that have been found to work pretty well in conversational content, on social platforms and others, are:

  1. Passionate
  2. Agree
  3. Think
  4. Feel
  5. Support
  6. Story
  7. Improve
  8. Hear
  9. You

So how often is your brand using these words and approaches in conversational posts? How well do these resonate with your audience?

Moeller digs deeper into the 4 levels of disclosure along with the words mentioned above, I strongly invite you to read the entire article and start crafting better conversational messaging.

Want your brand to have better conversational success with your audience? Let us know and schedule a consultation with our experts at Toast today.

The Incredible Rise of Stories

Stories have taken over the content strategies of many advertisers. Here is an overview of the situation.

More than 500 million accounts use the Instagram Stories every day and 300 million do so with Facebook and Messenger Stories.

Is your brand present in this format? Does it reach its audiences on the different platforms that offer this type of tactic?

More and more studies and analyses are being published on the successes that many have seen through Facebook’s Stories platform.

AdWeek recently posted an interesting guide on the format, a guide that presents many practical examples from brands such as Marks & Spencer, HelloFresh, OpenTable and Coca-Cola.

It includes guidelines on Stories’ performance factors such as the use of vertical format, rhythm, sound, sequences and playfulness.

The article is sponsored by Facebook, and written by Kay Hsu, Global Director Instagram Creative Shop, so of course it leans towards all the positive aspects of Stories, but it contains excellent examples from which your brand can benefit.

If you would like to explore the potential of the Stories for your brand, let us know and schedule a free consultation with our experts at Toast today.

TikTok has passed the billion download mark on Android and Apple…!

Do you know TikTok?

Here are some numbers:

  • 52: Average number of minutes per day that TikTok users spend on the application.
  • 500 million: The number of monthly users TikTok reports having in China.
  • 75 million: The number of new users that TikTok added in December 2018, a 275% increase over the previous year.

The platform, developed by ByteDance, is the result of a merger between one of their projects and, which they bought for $1 billion in 2017.

The explosion in the popularity of the application is dazzling and very impressive.

Its concept is simple, users can publish video clips of up to 15 seconds in length, often lip-syncing on a soundtrack of their choice. But there are also some very entertaining “challenges” (Lip Challenge, Rotation Challenge, Boy Challenge, Shoe Change Challenge, etc. New challenges are constantly bubbling up in your news feed).

“Everything about TikTok teeters on the edge of amateur professionalism — and it’s that juxtaposition that makes the app so bewitching. Impressive editing is paired with the childlike acting and lip-synching the app and its challenges call for. It’s gleeful and adorable. …. TikTok isn’t about perfection; it’s about belonging to a movement.” – Julia Alexander, The Verge.

And that’s what makes the application so popular with teenagers.

The strength of the platform lies in the tools it makes available to its users: video editing, music, filters, duets, virtual money. They become the source of a great deal of creativity among the most successful young people that use them.

If you are not familiar with the application and platform, or even to learn a little more about the latest statistics, an article from the Quartz Obsession newsletter allows you to discover what TikTok means in the emerging social networks landscape. (By the way, don’t hesitate to subscribe to this newsletter, its content is fascinating with each mailing.)

How National Geographic reached 100 million followers on Instagram

The brand gives credit to its 130+ photographers, to whom it has given full control of its Instagram account.

Have you ever heard of a “takeover” of a brand’s social network account? It is a practice where a brand gives control of one or more of its accounts for a day, a week or even a month to a well-known individual, an influencer or even another brand.

The idea is that this new person will give a different vibe to the account during this period because of the content they will be posting and thus will not only attract a new audience to the brand, but also create renewed engagement from its existing audience.

But how about giving control of your Instagram account to more than 100 highly creative brains at the same time?

This is what National Geographic has been doing with its @natgeo account for a long time, giving control to its photographers, allowing them to publish directly on the platform.

The advantage is there for photographers, as Aaron Huey, who has been contributing to the account since 2012, says:

“You can spend a year and a half publishing eight, ten or twelve photos, but during the same period on Instagram, you can tell 30, 40 or 50 stories.”

And this approach not only highlights National Geographic’s photographers, it also generates revenue given the size of the audience.

The photo you see at the top of this article is from a collaboration with Samsung where the captions accompanying the photos mentioned the fact that they were taken with a Samsung mobile device, while retaining the importance of the story being told.

This is what made the @natgeo account the first account of a brand to reach 100M followers on Instagram.

This article published in AdWeek gives a lot of details on the brand’s approach and thinking in this context, an excellent example from which your brand could perhaps be inspired? (you will notice that you must be registered with AdWeek to view it, but it’s free, don’t worry!)



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Photo by @katieorlinsky // Captured #withGalaxy S9+, produced with @samsungmobileusa using Pro Mode ISO 50 at 1/2449th f 2.4 // Flying through the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes in Katmai National Park, Alaska. Along with a group of scientists and park rangers led by archeologist Laura Stelson, we followed in the footsteps of botanist Robert F. Griggs who led multiple National Geographic Society expeditions in the early twentieth century to explore the region and study the aftermath of the 1912 Katmai Volcanic eruption. The Nova Rupta volcano displaced the area’s mainly Alutiiq indigenous population, filling their surroundings with ash flow we can still see today. Meanwhile the eruption decimated massive swaths of land, including what Griggs named the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, ”The whole valley as far as the eye could reach was full of hundreds, no thousands—literally, tens of thousands—of smokes curling up from its fissured floor,” he described. After nearly two weeks hiking hundreds of miles, climbing up mountains, wading through rivers and sleeping uncomfortably close to Grizzly bears, we finally reached the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes.

A post shared by National Geographic (@natgeo) on



If you would like to explore the Instagram potential of your brand a little more, contact us and let us know about your current projects and we could help you in your efforts to implement a new dimension to your content strategy.

On the importance of not depending on other people’s platforms

How digital media company Defy went from a funding round of $70M to $0 in a very, very short period of time.

What is the proportion of the effort you put into producing and deploying content on platforms that do not belong to you?

Your Facebook subscribers, your YouTube channel, your Instagram community, they do not belong to you. It will not happen, but those to whom they belong could decide to put an end to all this overnight, and they would have the right to do so.

Your content hub, your email lists, those are assets that belong to you.

In the 6th section of the workbook on content strategy we recently published (see below in this email), we address the subject with a series of questions:

  • Is your portfolio of platforms balanced between the platforms you have 100% control over (your website, for example) and so-called “influencer marketing” platforms, where the platform has control over the distribution of your content (Facebook is an excellent example)?
  • Are your audience growth tactics balanced between audiences and communities that already belong to you (mailing list, for example) and those that don’t (subscribers to your Facebook or LinkedIn page, for example)?

The essential part of spending time thinking about this is not to structure your content strategy solely around “owned” platforms, but to be aware of the relevant value we attach to each of the distribution channels we use.

For example, this article discusses Defy Media’s recent history and how, in less than 2 years, they have gone from 75 content series in production to none.

Their fall is not entirely due to the fact that they relied heavily on YouTube and Facebook, but that contributed greatly to it.

This text is therefore intended to make you aware of the importance of balancing your content platforms, to ensure that you keep in mind what belongs to you and what does not belong to you.

In the end, also make sure your social media agency partner is properly helping you navigate this reality.

The Snapchat strategy of The Economist

“We’re talking mainly to 14-17-year-olds, but we don’t dumb any of our content down.”

The Economist was founded in 1843. It’s a very long tradition that can be felt throughout all its articles and what it publishes.

This media, seen as serious and “adult” is currently having great success on Snapchat thanks to a strategy and an approach to content that was well thought out, leveraging the Discover section of the platform, the one that allows its users to discover new high-quality content and relevant publishers.

“Snapchat Discover has led to the single biggest step change in our readership since we were founded in 1843 – it’s extremely exciting for us to be put in front of an audience this age,” says Lucy Rohr, in charge of Snapchat at The Economist.

What they are doing extremely well, is to follow the path of a media that covers deep and important issues, but by adapting them to a 14 to 17 year-old audience, without oversimplifying or dumbing down the content.

I always like to keep an eye on what media and publishers (big or small) do. I fundamentally believe that there is something to learn, for brands, from the strategies that these organizations put in place. Let’s be honest, if there is one segment of the content industry that needs to use content tools and capabilities at peak level, it is the media. Brands will survive if they don’t use content to its full potential but the media, for them, it’s a whole other story.

To learn more about The Economist’s Snapchat Strategy, head over to for a great article that recaps a recent talk by Lucy Rohr.

Complex content and chatbots: the BBC is experimenting

Sometimes, you wonder how deep you should go on a given topic. What if people could choose how deep they want to go?

On a recent Content Decoded masterclass, Benoit Giguère (who was key in the design and content architecture of LaPresse+) told us about the importance of entry points in content.

Entry points that cater to each user’s desire in the details he or she wants for a given topic. An initial entry point might just touch the surface on a topic, while another will do a deep-dive into context, history and the like. Both for the same topic matter or article.

The BBC has been testing this reality with the use of in-article chatbots.

Yup, you read that right, chatbots smack in the middle of the content.

The model allows users to ask questions on the topic they are reading (selected from a list of 3 suggested questions for example), having the chatbot respond by giving an answer and more details on the topic.

What this does is that it allows someone who is familiar with the context of the theme being treated to skim right through and get the latest information, but also allows someone who might want more historical details (for example) to get it without leaving the page.

I am a big fan of the Nieman Foundation at Harvard, which studies media (both traditional and newer digital media properties). I believe that as brand marketers and audience builders, we have a lot to learn from the media, who have been telling stories for so long.

This is the reason I believe you might be interested in one of their articles, that details how the BBC has been building a chatbot framework for their content, and make us, on the brand side, think about how we can leverage this knowledge to make better content for our own audiences.

You will also find multiple links to BBC content that has a chatbot embedded, in the Nieman article, a really interesting approach.

Crafting the perfect social video

Hootsuite shares 4 ingredients that make the perfect recipe for your social videos.

Social videos are all the rage.

Social videos are videos that are produced and aimed at generating engagement and viewership on social media.

But there are tweaks that you can use to make them perform even better.

Hootsuite’s Kaylynn Chong recently shared 4 key ingredients that will make a difference in the results and ROI you will get from videos that you share on social media:

  • They are short and sweet: Nearly two thirds of consumers prefer video under 60 seconds according to an Animoto study.
  • They are optimized for specific platforms and devices : Mobile first, sound-off, square? You need to think about these things.
  • They include descriptive text or subtitles : Going back to that sound-off issue mentioned above, you need to consider subtitles and visual descriptive text.
  • They have a clear call to action : You’re not producing video just for fun. You are actually tying it to a business objective. People should know what you want them to do after watching your video.

The article points to many great resources, so you can spend some time reading it, but if you have extra time on your hands (sure you do!), take the time to click on the links to do a deeper dive into social videos.

“Stay Tuned” : NBC is making it on Snapchat

With 29 million unique viewers, NBC’s “Stay Tuned” Snapchat show looks like a success.

Who hasn’t wondered how their brand could make it on Snapchat? Or if onboarding on Snapchat would be the holy grail to reach Millenials?

NBC hired a 30-person crew to produce a daily 2-3 minutes news show to reach younger audiences, and it’s working.

I’ll let you learn all about it in a recent Axios article that will allow to learn more about the show and its preliminary numbers (they are pretty impressive!).

So, will you subscribe? (I just did…)