This article was first reported on, and published by, WorkLife sibling Digiday
Bernie Williams has nearly 15,000 followers on TikTok, where she’s crafted a following by focusing on a specific niche: books via BookTok. Doing so has not only helped Williams grow her own audience and figure out what works to go viral but, this past July, led to a new job at creative agency OKRP.
“Our recruiter went through all of my socials and reached out to me,” said Williams, adding that a friend had recently started at the agency and helped her put together her resume. Williams put her personal social media work on her resume and noted that she had been “featured in articles about being a BookTok influencer,” which can “help legitimize the work — you don’t know how serious people will take it.”
Williams’ presence on TikTok and her innate ability to understand the platform appealed to the agency, according to Betsy Ross, OKRP’s head of client business. “We took a look at who Bernie was on the platform,” said Ross. “We had the content need to take advantage of real-time trends. Who Bernie was became the answer before we knew what the role would become.”
Williams joined OKRP as a trendcaster last summer. (She has since been promoted to senior social strategist.) Since joining, she has used her understanding of social trends to help the agency find ways to get in on current trends for clients, and she uses insights she gained as a creator and producer to edit content in such a way that it will have a better chance to go viral.
As TikTok continues to grow and become a staple for advertisers, some marketers and agency executives are using the platform to seek out talent, or taking a closer look at potential hires’ personal profiles. In doing so, agencies hope to find talent with a better understanding of the platform.
“The ask from clients for TikTok content is increasing,” said Bridget Jewell, Dentsu Creative group creative director, social, adding that the agency’s team focused on TikTok content has tripled in size over the last year. The agency has started to use people’s personal TikToks as a way to source talent and “put candidates in the pipeline,” per Jewell. “It’s easy for us to understand that they can make content that will resonate,” Jewell said.
Other agencies are paying more attention to portfolios that include TikToks that exemplify what potential employees can do for their clients on the platform. Showcasing the ability to make the kind of content that would work well for clients has long been a part of advertising — extending this to TikTok is simply an evolution of this idea to fit the needs of agencies today, according to execs.
“Someone’s ability to gain a social following is really great experience,” said Gabe Gordon, co-founder of social shop Reach Agency, adding that while the shop has hired creators in the past, that wasn’t the only reason they were hired. “It’s unique in the age we work in. Before, people couldn’t make TV advertising or banner advertising for fun. It’s a paradigm shift that people are afforded the opportunity to get needed experience and accelerate.”
While Gordon specified that Reach Agency doesn’t hire employees based on social followings, he did note that there’s been an uptick with resumes, especially creative resumes, in which people share TikTok content they’ve made. At the same time, a hire from this past summer stood out to the shop with a TikTok she made specifically to apply to Reach. “We saw her amazing ability to tell a story,” Gordon said of the TikTok. “It helped her stand out. She showed us she could do the job.”
Glenn Ginsburg, president of QYOU Media, echoed that sentiment, noting that potential employees’ personal understanding of platforms comes up in interviews and that when they showcase personal profiles “it helps them stand out.”
“When we see someone who is clearly in the mix, provides us with the understanding to tell a story in a few seconds and creator formats and creators, that makes a difference,” said Ginsberg.
The need for the kind of expertise someone may have from their own personal profile on a platform like TikTok is likely more important for boutique agencies than holding companies, according to ad recruiter Christie Cordes, who noted that “each employee represents the agency a lot more” at boutique shops. “We’re seeing boutique agencies, younger agencies want to see that someone has mastered the platform before they hire,” Cordes said.
That’s not to say that agencies as a whole are now combing TikTok for potential hires or that a personal profile will make or break someone’s ability to be hired. Marinda Yelverton, svp of brand solutions at creator commerce company Whalar, explained that hiring talent who are also creators can be a benefit because they also offer the creator perspective. But it’s really a “benefit, not a vetting criteria” for the shop, Yelverton said.
That’s a point-of-view shared by Shuree Jones, group director of paid social and influencer at Rain the Growth Agency. “If you have a creator mindset, and you’re working in social media, it does benefit to show potential shops you can create content,” said Jones. “It’s not necessary but it is an extra bit of help.”
Even so, that is less important to Jones than a candidate’s ability to talk about trends in the content they consume and how brands can get in on that content.
“Someone’s personal social profile is less important to me than their view as a consumer of that media,” Jones added. “Can you identify three trends on Pinterest? What are your favorite accounts to follow on Instagram? What’s your TikTok trend lately?”
Jones continued, “I want to know less about how you produce content and more about how you consume it. To me, our job is to be in the eyes of the consumer and how our brands interact with consumers.”