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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

TikTok a powerful marketing tool for small businesses in Spokane

TikTok isn’t just for the kids. It can be a powerful tool for connection, learning and doing business.

Local influencers and co-editors in chief of Trending Northwest magazine Melissa Berry and Erin Peterson use the platform to share lifestyle content and news about local businesses.

It’s the latest evolution in their careers as social media and marketing experts.

Peterson, who grew up in Post Falls, spent years as an elementary educator specializing in digital technology. In her free time, she created a Facebook group called Spokane Guild, where she shared updates on her life and her favorite spots around Spokane.

She quickly gained a following, expanded to Instagram and began doing social media full time.

@trendingnorthwest Alright, it’s official. I’m obsessed. 😅 I’ve never been gifted at doing my own hair, and I’ve been begging my friends with salons for years to have a blowout subscription. I finally get to have my dream become real thanks to @drybar_cda ♬ Girls Just Wanna Have Fun - UNDRESSD & Ellie May

Berry started her Instagram account, Everyday Spokane, when she moved to the area in 2018. She had previously worked in homeland security and saw how important it was for public information officers to get accurate information out to the public, but also how they struggled with the bureaucracy of doing that quickly.

Last year, the pair founded Trending Northwest. They also host a podcast and function as a mini-advertising agency creating content for local businesses.

Over the course of their careers, the pair has seen a shift from photo- and text-based content to short-form video spurred by TikTok’s success.

“Short-form video has the highest rate of conversion for all forms of advertising,” Peterson said. “It has been really empowering for local businesses to have a choice on the digital space.”

When creating content for businesses, Peterson said the videos that do best are 30 seconds or shorter and immediately hook the viewer.

Unlike other social media platforms where the content the user sees is mostly dictated by who they follow, TikTok instead relies heavily on an algorithm serving the user content based on what they like.

“You’re able to find things that are of interest to you incredibly easily,” Peterson said.

Peterson gets lots of gardening tips from TikTok and is partial to corgi videos. Her sons, who have Tourette’s syndrome, have found community on the platform, connecting with other people dealing with the syndrome.

Berry recently connected with her mom over her love of skincare and has gleaned tips and tricks from TikTok.

That level of curation can be good for businesses. A local business can post about their brunch menu with the #Spokane hashtag. When users planning a trip to the area search the word “Spokane,” it’s likely that video will come up, Berry explained.

@trendingnorthwest Rediscovering a hidden treasure in Spokane - Fern Plant Shop! If you know me, you know my love for plants and gardening, and this is the ultimate shopping experience for the hardcore (like me) or beginning green thumbs alike. 🌱 The in-store plant experts, help you to select something that is perfect for your home environment, and provide you with plant care cards to take the mystery out of maintenance. 🪴 My favorites here were absolutely gorgeous terrariums, the whimsical kokedama (is a ball of soil, covered with moss, on which an ornamental plant grows) and the adapted kokedama on pieces of bark that you hang on the wall. 🌸 I went home with about a dozen plants, and I spent all day putting them in the perfect pot and placing them around my home. It has been such a hectic and busy week that I desperately needed this little hygge moment. 🥹 Tag a friend who you want to go plant shopping with! 🙃 #plantsoftiktok #planttiktok #fypシ #plantlover ♬ Flowers - Miley Cyrus

Berry, who is an expert in search engine optimization, works with businesses to help their content appear higher up in search results.

Millions of advertising dollars are spent on the platform, making it a legitimate business, the pair said, but it’s also new, and the societal problems with the algorithms and privacy are still being worked out.

“I thinking with any social media platform there are going to be challenges with privacy issues,” Peterson said. “We’re in this Wild West era where the rules are being formed as we are experiencing the negative effects of social media.”

Neither Berry nor Peterson thinks it’s realistic that TikTok will go away, but they also encourage people to engage with the platform thoughtfully. They teach businesses best practices for using the platform.

“For people using TikTok, get out of it what you can get out of it,” Berry said. “But don’t make it your whole entire life.”