Black History Month TikTok: What’s Happening & How Can Your Brand Join In?

Black History Month on TikTok is a time to learn about Black history, contributions and achievements. Here's how your brand can join in.
Fanbytes | Black History Month TikTok

In 30 seconds:

  • Black History Month in the UK is in October, meaning Brits are taking the opportunity to celebrate the contributions of black people – and acknowledge their ongoing struggle.
  • TikTok is becoming the new centre of gravity of the internet. But how is the app supporting Black TikTok creators?
  • TikTok has already celebrated Black History Month in February this year (Black History Month USA) – what can we learn from its previous Black History Month events, and what can your brand do now?

Black History Month UK takes place in October. The theme this year, developed by Black History Month magazine, is “Time for Change: Action Not Words” – and calls to question the double burden black people face of both experiencing racism and discrimination, and then being expected to fix it. But what about Black History Month TikTok?

As of yet, TikTok haven’t announced how they’re celebrating the month in the UK. But its celebration of Black History Month USA, which takes place in February each year, is usually a great indicator of what’s to come. Often, the same theme appears in October, which means your brand can prepare.

In this article, we’ll advise you on the best ways to join Black History Month TikTok, as well as examine past hits – and misses. Throughout, we’ll be walking you through how to celebrate black creators and the black community in general, so your activities don’t just feel on-point, but make a meaningful difference too.

Black History Month TikTok: 2022

This year, TikTok kicked off Black History Month in celebration of #BlackTikTok, which the app describes as “an industry-defining community that is continuously originating, trailblazing, and trendsetting.”

In the past, black TikTok trailblazers have been left on the sidelines, as non-black creators who have adopted their trends have gone viral, instead of the trend’s – black – originator.

TikTok’s statement makes clear the importance of black influencers and content creators to the app, continuing, “Black creators inspire mainstream culture and continue to define what’s next — from creating viral moments and pioneering new spaces in fashion and music, to advocating for others and organizing for a better future.”

TikTok’s celebration of the #BlackTikTok community featured a series of initiatives and in-app activities, including Black music playlists, new in-app stickers, short-form stories highlighting Black TikTok Trailblazers and TikTok LIVE programming that spotlights Black creators.

But it wasn’t perfect. In February, TikTok hosted a Black History Month event with Nicki Minaj, but many black creators on the platform said they felt excluded, and that the event was dominated by non-black voices. The event was an exclusive virtual TikTok Creator Meet Up, with spaces limited to 300 people. Many Black creators only received an invite after the event had started, and Black attendees noticed they were in the minority. In one TikTok video, Dessy Joseph (@jodessy) notes “it was giving very 2% Black”.

On an Instagram Live after the event, Nicki Minaj said “I heard what y’all were saying and let me see if I can schedule something else for you guys.” Meanwhile, a spokesperson from TikTok admittedWe fell short”.

Continuing controversy

The Nicki Minaj debacle is the latest in a series of controversies concerning Black experiences on TikTok. Last year, Black creators on TikTok pledged to not create any dance challenges for the foreseeable future in protest of their appropriation by non-black TikTok influencers.

Notably, Black creators used Megan Thee Stallion’s latest release, “Thot Shit” to serve as a rallying point.

Going back further, in 2020, the hashtag #BlackTikTokStrike trended on Twitter after non-black TikTok influencers created videos to Nicki Minaj’s “Black Barbies” song. The strike was in response to cultural appropriation as mostly white influencers copied black creators’ dances without crediting them – effectively erasing their contribution.

More controversy also surfaced last year after Black TikTok creators using the app’s Creator Marketplace tool, which allows influencers to connect with brands, found that searching for “Black Lives Matter” resulted in the content being labelled “offensive.” TikTok has since responded to say this was an error and they have fixed the issue.

With this background of tension between TikTok’s efforts to showcase and support black creators and its pattern of failures, brands should take the utmost care to be sensitive and ensure they use their social media presence to make a genuine contribution rather than simply pay lip service.

BHM: Brands getting involved on TikTok

TikTok’s in-app Black History Month activities are very much centred on attempting to uplift black creators. So what can brands do to add meaningfully to the BHM conversation on TikTok?

Here are some examples of brands that got it right in very different ways, to inspire you.

1. The Uffizi

In 2020, The Uffizi Galleries in Florence, Italy used their TikTok presence to tell the stories of the presence of black culture in the European Renaissance. The project included publishing several educational TikTok videos, culminating with a live broadcast on TikTok starring Justin Randolph Thompson, director of the cultural network @black.history.month.florence.

Fanbytes | Uffizi Black History Month

Among the works explored included the portrait of Alessandro de’Medici, who became the first head of state of African ethnicity to govern in the history of Europe. The TikTok series is no longer live, but you can watch the videos here on the Uffizi website

This campaign took Black History Month quite literally, but also made use of TikTok’s growing reputation as a learning resource to create an engaging history lesson and shine a light on lesser-known black history.

2. Urban Decay

In 2021, makeup brand Urban Decay created an initiative on TikTok that didn’t have a product tie-in or a larger brand awareness undertone. Instead, Urban Decay field team member and makeup artist Joda Jackson helped create an original sound that prompted users to “Show me you’re making Black History without telling me you’re making Black History.”

@veondre #stitch with @urbandecaycosmetics #TransAndProud #BlackBoost Happy Black History Month! #MakingBlackHistory Thx 4 raising my voice #UrbanDecayPartner ♬ original sound - Ve’ondre Mitchell

This video made use of TikTok’s stitch feature, which is a collaborative tool that allows other users to create videos in response to a prompt. Urban Decay worked with 10 paid black TikTok influencers to create stitch TikTok videos that also included the hashtag #BlackBoost alongside #BlackHistoryMonth.

This campaign set out to amplify black voices – and the method also amplified the voices of the brand’s black employees.

3. Adobe

Like Urban Decay, Adobe tapped its own Black Employee Network to create a multifaceted campaign for Black History Month. Influencers whose work and voices resonate with the Black community, such as Blair Imani and Monique Jones, participated in Adobe’s Women Create Wednesdays series, which is broadcast on the tech giant’s TikTok.

@adobe Passion first ☝️ @hannahbronfman weighs in on building a brand that's truly your own. #AdobeTok #womencreatewednesday ♬ original sound - Adobe

Notably, Adobe used its already-popular platform to amplify the voices of Black women, rather than staging a specific Black History Month initiative. The brand effectively shows that they elevate and prioritise diversity throughout the year.

Brands that can demonstrate long-term commitments to diverse representation inspire trust as they are rooting their content in tangible action.

Winning over the next generation

While getting involved in hashtags such as #TraditionTales and #MyRoots is a great way for Black creators to celebrate their heritage, getting involved with these initiatives as a brand should be undertaken with extreme sensitivity – lest they risk drowning out the voices these hashtags and events are created to celebrate.

Celebrating Black History Month in a thoughtful way, however, has the power to bring new, needed perspectives. Brands should be looking to help wherever they can.

And if this isn’t a big enough carrot, there’s also a stick: Gen Z- the majority of whom hang out on TikTok – expect brands to make a stand on social issues, and will be all-too aware if your brand fails to speak up when called upon.

The above examples are a perfect indicator of where you can add to the conversation on TikTok. Demonstrate your expertise and shine a light on the contributions and achievements of black people in your area. Uplift your own black employees and create your own, new hashtag to help generate more opportunities to uplift black voices on TikTok, rather than drown them out. Work with black influencers to spread your message, and give them creative freedom to share their own experiences. Then make sure you’re doing the same year-round. Black History month should not be the only time your brand is centring black perspectives.

If you’re just starting off now, that’s OK: Mckinsey found that Gen Z are generally forgiving of brands that admit their mistakes – as long as they correct them.

The final step? Take your Black History Month campaign off-platform. Are you donating to charity or providing equal opportunities? In particular, UK brands should pay attention to how they can help in current affairs. The police shooting of unarmed black man Chris Kaba is resulting in protests and is at the front of many citizens’ minds currently. Brands should look for ways they can meaningfully contribute.

Read our article on How Brands Can Meaningfully Celebrate Black History Month to make sure you get it right.

Remember Black History Month magazine’s theme of “Time for Change: Action Not Words”? There’s a huge opportunity here to showcase how you’re changing. The time to act is now.

Kicking off Black History Month on TikTok now

If you’re here because you’re looking for ideas for your Black History Month brand campaign on TikTok, no fear: you’ve come to the right place.

@reginaeigbe Ad @YSL Beauty I make my own rules. Confidence is key! #blackopiumextreme #yslbeauty ♬ original sound - Regina

Last year, we worked with Yves Saint Laurent to promote their new Black Opium Extreme fragrance. Rather than simply going down a traditional route, we worked with black British dance TikTok influencers. It was a great campaign because it ignored the traditional perfume ad narrative of romance and instead was dynamic and fun.

With our vast network of TikTok influencers, we’re well placed to find the perfect influencer for any campaign – fast. And with our creative strategy division and expertise in Gen Z attitudes, we’re able to conceptualise new campaign ideas that capture young people’s attention and add a new dimension to your brand.

Our content-first approach and quick turn-around times mean our campaigns reach TikTok users’ For You Page for all the right reasons: the creative reads as genuine – true to the influencer’s style, and current for what’s trending on this fast-moving app.

If you’d like to work with us to create a fresh Black History Month campaign that hits the right notes on TikTok, or if you’d like to strategise for how you can uplift black voices throughout the year, get in touch. We’d love to talk through how we can showcase this dimension of your brand.

Want to learn more about how to celebrate Black History Month as a brand? The articles below will help you land on that FYP, all while making a meaningful difference.

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