Awareness campaigns by TikTok itself, collaboration with the International Red Cross and spontaneous videos made by TikTok creators have combined into a barrage of information, education, awareness and social consciousness around the coronavirus.
Both globally and in South Africa, TikTok’s Covid-19 campaigns have gone viral.
The local #HayiCorona challenge, designed to remind people not to touch their face and wash hands regularly, has passed 1.5-million views. The TikTok collaboration with the International Red Cross, the #WashingHands challenge, has passed 12.6-million views.
One of the best-known participants in these challenges is the past year’s icon of South African talent, the Ndlovu Youth Choir, took up the global challenge with a 20-second hand-washing video.
It put together a performance that brings tremendous energy to what can be a clichéd message, and ends with a punt for the Department of Health’s WhatsApp information service. The video can be viewed below.
“On a global scale, TikTok also partnered with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to ensure that, while creators are still having fun and expressing themselves on the platform, they stay informed with Covid-19 information coming from a reliable source,” a TikTok spokesperson said.
The page can be viewed at vm.tiktok.com/GHTEGf
TikTok has hosted a number of livestreams with WHO experts, attracting users from more than 70 countries, tuning in for live question and answer sessions. It has also introduced labels on coronavirus-related videos, to point users to trusted information.
Resources are also offered directly in the app and in a dedicated Covid-19 section of TikTok’s Safety Center, at www.tiktok.com/safety/resources/covid-19.
If users simply want to explore videos on the topic, they can search via the #coronavirus hashtag, or click on vm.tiktok.com/swKbn4. The hashtag has had an astonishing 33.8-billion views.
South African TikTok creators have embraced the campaign wholeheartedly. For example, comedian Nathan – or @nathanmolefe on TikTok – had more than 5,000 likes for his video on social distancing. He also took part in #SafeHands and #21DaysLockdownSA challenges.
“During the national lockdown, people will have a lot of free time and we are seeing how the TikTok community has united around the things that show we’re more alike than ever before,” he said.
The default TikTok video, typically a tedious attempt to dance for 60 seconds while sharing the latest inane thoughts, has also been given new life. Dancers in particular are able to turn that approach into educational videos.
According to dancer and choreographer @Kelly_KiKx, TikTok contributes to educating users about healthy habits through hygiene tips.
“What’s great about being part of the TikTok community is that there’s an outlet for many to share their views and experiences around the coronavirus pandemic,” she said. “But it’s also a place to make some good lighthearted content to bring the masses out of the stress they may be feeling around the Covid-19 outbreak.”
Kelly’s videos on remaining active and healthy during the lockdown can be viewed here:
Greg Justice, head of content programming at TikTok US, echoes Nathan’s sentiments: “As the world comes together to fight the spread of Covid-19, we’re confronted with the cruel irony that one of the most important ways to combat the virus – social distancing – requires us to physically isolate ourselves from our fellow human beings.
“One thing that has really moved our team is seeing the TikTok community unite around the things that show we’re more alike now than ever before.”
Justice added that we’re all adjusting to the new normal. “We couldn’t be more inspired by the strong show of compassion and solidarity across the TikTok community.”
Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee