Tag Archives: tiktok

Think Strategically Like Meghan Trainor Thinks About TikTok

Meghan Trainor is not the biggest Pop star on the planet. Her 28 million monthly listeners on Spotify aren’t in the rarified 80 million plus numbers claimed by artists such as The Weeknd and Taylor Swift, but sharing a similar ranking with Nirvana, Flo Rida, and ABBA isn’t too shabby.

From a radio standpoint, it would be easy to dismiss Trainor as a fringe artist. Three of her four top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 were released on her debut album nearly a decade ago. The other, “No”, appeared on 2016’s Thank You. “Made You Look”, from her most recent album, peaked at #11.

And yet, Meghan Trainor has nearly 18 million followers on TikTok. That’s way more than chart-toppers The Weeknd (7.6 million), Morgan Wallen (4.4 million), and Luke Combs (4.7 million), and just behind Miley Cyrus (18 million) and Taylor Swift (19.2 million).

How she did it is no accident. Meghan Trainor thinks strategically about how she uses TikTok to her advantage.

During the pandemic, when she was unable to go on tour to support her new music, Trainor performed covers and participated in dance challenges on the platform. But in late 2021, she noticed older songs of hers going viral including “Title”, a previously unreleased track from her debut album. She wisely created a video and a dance, which helped boost her exposure. But Meghan Trainor’s super-secret weapon is Chris Olsen.


Chris Olsen is a social media celebrity, made famous by his TikTok videos (he joined the platform, like so many others, in March 2020). One night in 2021, he posted that he was thinking about Meghan Trainor. Trainor reposted it, saying she loved his content. About a year ago, she invited him over and asked him to bring “some TikTok ideas”.

Trainor and Olsen hold “content days” twice a month, during which they record 10 videos at a time. They share an iCloud album with video drafts. They dissect minutiae that includes which emojis to use, captions, video length, and notifications. Her most popular video on TikTok, an a capella version of “Made You Look” with her and two friends in a marble bathtub, has over 100 million views. Seems informal and casual. Like, let’s hop in the bathtub and sing!

Chris Olsen, TikTok celebrity and Meghan Trainor’s secret weapon (Photo credit: Shutterstock)

Great content should feel that way, even though there’s intense preparation and strategy going on behind the scenes that the consumer is rarely privy to. Trainor’s TikTok “rising tide” content strategy lifts all boats. It benefits her numbers on other platforms like Spotify, boosts her personal brand, and increases her awareness.

Meghan Trainor’s strategic approach to TikTok is a timely reminder that talent alone is not enough to build a strong brand. In our line of work, we hear and see countless numbers of talented individuals and audio brands. Almost all of them trust their talent and their instincts, as they should, to be successful. A select few think highly strategically about their brands, using an effective combination of art and science.

Ultimately, these are the brands that will survive and endure.

How Local Radio Should Use TikTok

If you oversee the operations of a contemporary radio station in 2021, you’ve likely had a conversation that includes a line that goes something like this:

“Do we focus our strategy on younger, harder to reach people that we know aren’t listening as much to Radio? Or do we skew older to the upper end of the demo to reach those that we know are listening more and that Nielsen has a better chance of finding?”

It is a real challenge, and it isn’t going to get easier.

The fact that many younger listeners are more likely to consume music via streaming services like Spotify and YouTube rather than local radio stations more than older listeners isn’t a secret, nor it surprising. Now that most local radio stations are available on a multitude of platforms, programmers can reach younger listeners on their devices. The big question of course, is “Are they gettable?” That very question, while completely valid, is also a gateway to a very dangerous self-fulfilling prophecy for the industry.

First things first, make sure you’re not referring to your younger listeners as Millennials, because they’re not so young anymore (sorry, Millennials!). Born between 1980 and 1996, Millennials now squarely occupy the young and middle range of the coveted 25-54 demographic. (Side note: I’m in denial that us Gen Xers are on the older end, but I’ll get over it. ☹)

Gen Zers were born between 1997 and 2012, so today these 9- to 24-year-olds occupy that special area of influence (and it’s worth pointing out that, while they may both carry the same generational label, today’s nine-year-old and 24-year-old are hardly the same.)

Hey, wouldn’t it be great if there were somewhere local radio stations could hyper target their marketing to Gen Z consumers?

If you ask Chipotle, Guess, the NBA, Levi’s, and The Washington Post how they reach them, TikTok is going to come up in every answer.

Wait, back up. Yes, I just said THE WASHINGTON POST.

You know, the traditional old guard media publication founded in 1877? The Washington Post adapts its content by platform. It posts serious journalistic content on Facebook and Instagram, but its TikTok page is filled with memes, skits, and behind-the-scenes videos. Dave Jorgensen, the man behind the company’s account and unlikely star of many of the videos, starts every day making a TikTok video. The Washington Post–THE WASHINGTON POST!­–has over one million followers on TikTok

Watch this interview during which Jorgensen discusses why The Washington Post invests so much time and energy on TikTok:

While we were all in stir-crazy mode during the pandemic, TikTok was experiencing a flamethrowing growth curve. This time last year, the platform had 667 million users worldwide, while today it reports over a billion. Leaning about 60% Female, 28% of TikTok users are under 18 and 63% are under 30.

One of the ways legacy brands have adapted to using TikTok is by specifically tasking employees with the responsibility. Chipotle has a team of “culture hunters” that seek out viral trends and turn them into social media campaigns. So many of these successful campaigns integrate music, like Chipotle’s Guac Dance Challenge. Used to promote National Avocado Day, the campaign resulted in a 68% jump in avocado usage at Chipotle locations. Holy mole!

Challenges are a core component of TikTok’s brand, and so often they use music that contemporary radio stations play. The “Beautiful People Challenge.” The “Old Town Road Challenge.” The “Blinding Lights Challenge.” The “Toosie Slide Challenge.”

If contemporary Radio’s biggest challenge is attracting younger listeners to the format, and those potential listeners are on a massive, often music-based, platform for an average of over an hour a day, shouldn’t strategic discussions involve that platform?

Here are six ways contemporary radio stations should incorporate TikTok into their strategic planning:

  • Designate a younger member of the team (and heavy TikTok user) as a “culture hunter.” Have them monitor trends on a daily basis and report to the team.


  • Create channels to regularly brainstorm ways to integrate the station into the trends. If there is no time for formal meetings, use tools like Slack, Chatter, and Teams to bounce ideas back and forth.


  • Find TikTok users that already love your station. You may have influencers with robust followings in your audience. Find them and find ways to use them. Include them in the previous idea. And pay them (use trade if you need to!)


  • Mobilize your personalities on TikTok. Personality has always been a key differentiator between local radio stations and streaming services. Make sure your talent is inviting TikTok users to your station.


  • Advertise on TikTok. Up until recently, advertising for local brands was a challenge due to the lack of DMA targeting. That changed this past May. TV and outdoor should not be the only media that are discussed when precious marketing budgets arise. Run some test campaigns on TikTok, track them, and see how they do.

Just because Radio is “legacy” or “heritage” media, it cannot be an obstacle to reaching younger consumers. None of the brands mentioned in this blog are particularly new (the newest is Chipotle, founded in 1993 – 28 years ago.) If The Washington Post – THE WASHINGTON POST! – can figure out a TikTok strategy, I feel pretty confident Radio can do it too.