How TikTok was used to get key Covid-19 pandemic messages out

Storytelling rather than facts from 'faceless governments' helped to keep public informed in UK, expert says

Governments need to change their perceptions about social media to be able to reach and efficiently engage young audiences, a British social media expert said.

Timothy Armoo, 26, founder of Gen Z specialist marketing agency, Fanbytes, has been helping some of the world’s biggest brands like Apple expand their reach to the younger generation.

Two years after Mr Armoo started his company in 2017, Fanbytes became the lead social media agency for the UK government to help with its communication strategy during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We have become experts in understanding how to reach to the young audience and helped the government of the UK, but this can also help all governments that are willing and accepting to change,” said Mr Armoo.

Instead of telling people to stay home or be punished and fined, we turned it into a story with TikTokers and influencers
Timothy Armoo

He says the UAE is planning for its future by promoting careers in digital, such as the plan to provide 100,000 golden visas to the best computer programming talent.

“By celebrating digital careers more, UAE government will be creating a new generation of digitally savvy entrepreneurs who can push forward its economy,” he told The National.

Importance of storytelling

During his talk at Sharjah International Government Communication Forum, he said storytelling and creative targeted content can communicate government messages effectively to all young people.

“We’ve had to run different campaigns for the UK government about lockdown, stay home and vaccinations, making use of storytelling because we want people to genuinely like us rather than see us as faceless government organisations,” he said.

They designed targeted videos using TikTokers and social media influencers.

One of their videos about encouraging people to stay at home was viewed by more than ten million people in less than 24 hours.

“Instead of telling people to stay home or be punished and fined, we turned it into a story with TikTokers and influencers,” he said.

Another clip aimed at encouraging young people to take part in government surveys made use of an American rapper’s song.

"Taking surveys is not exciting," he said, "but using the American rapper lil Wayne’s famous song about how many cars he has linked taking surveys to making money.

“It's a silly idea but it touched a cultural moment with the young audience.”

To promote Covid-19 vaccinations among young British people, Timothy said they created social media content around fashion.

“Simply by asking people how they dress up when going to take their vaccination, we knew they will start creating their own stories around that and post it on social media,” he said.

He said platforms, like TikTok, Instagram and SnapChat are popular because they share content that viewers feel they can relate to.

“This is why you don’t need followers but rather need creative content to become a social media star,” he said.

Sharjah's International Government Communication Forum - in pictures

Updated: September 28, 2021, 7:48 AM