Social Media

This puppet has some TikTok lessons for you

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Illustration: Francis Scialabba, Photo: TikTok

· 7 min read

This piece is part of Future Social, a newsletter from Jack Appleby all about social media marketing. Subscribe here to get insights in your inbox every week!

I’m a firm believer that we can learn something from every creator, every brand, and every regular human on social media. We’re all just out here experimenting with how to share our thoughts, lives, and products.

That’s why today’s lesson on TikTok comes from an unlikely…well, let’s just get into it.

Meet @starwarsdinx. They’re just about the most wholesome TikTok creator I’ve come across. They’re also a puppet. Who loves Star Wars. Who grew from 30,000 TikTok followers to 130,000 in just one week. You’ll get why once you see it.

Dinx is sweet as could be, sharing their passion. It’s 10/10 edutainment, packaged in a surprisingly accessible format (...does Morning Brew need a puppet correspondent?). More importantly, kindness and caring aren’t common in the often persnickety Star Wars community. It’s a tonal offset and a welcome breath of fresh…whatever puppets breathe.

So, what can social media marketers learn from this adorable puppet?

From my perspective, Dinx does pretty much everything right, but there are two specific areas I want to focus on today:

  • A clever community management strategy
  • A wise pinned-TikTok approach

When hundreds of replies become thousands

As a puppet with felt thumbs, it’s not easy to respond to every comment, which has always been their priority. They seem to truly care about making sure every follower and fan feels welcomed and heard, which is why Dinx turned to their own community for help.

Empowering an online community—let alone a fandom—can be a little unnerving for usually-risk-averse brands. I can already hear your organizational worries:

  • Isn’t that a community manager’s job?
  • No brand can endorse unofficial community chatter!
  • Are we taking advantage of our fans?

The reality of social media in 2022 is this: It’s pretty easy for fans and followers to differentiate between official representatives and fellow community members. If anything, asking the community for management help just stokes more commentary, as it encourages fans to speak among each other. I promise your community manager won’t mind the extra help one bit.

What’s really special about this approach is how it encourages the most core of core fans to do what they do best: comment! This is Relationship-building 101. Creators would certainly notice which fans are actively helping out and acknowledge them publicly for their assistance.That’s a dream transaction for the faithful.

Consider if your brand could benefit from an active message encouraging discussion among followers. Maybe you run or represent a food brand where commenters can help with recipes. Perhaps you’re a pro sports team who’d love more fan debates on the biggest rivals or best moments. I know every TV and film IP with a fandom could run this playbook, and you don’t even need a puppet.

Now let’s take a look at some of Dinx’s wins and why they worked.

Pinning TikToks

When users visit a TikToker’s profile, they’re met with the standard elements of almost every social profile: name, avatar, a short bio, followed by content displayed in reverse chronological order. To give users a little more control, TikTok lets them pin up to three TikToks at the top of the profile. Here’s what it looks like on my own TikTok.

99.99% of TikTokers use pinning to show off their most viral content. It’s like Mom putting your report card on the refrigerator—everyone likes showing off what we’re most proud of.

For TikTokers in entertainment, that’s likely the best strategy. If I were a comedian, my most viral TikToks would presumably be my best jokes, and I’d want anyone visiting my profile to see my best jokes! That exposure creates the best chance for converting visitors into followers.

A Social Media Newsletter by Jack Appleby

However, Dinx has taken a different, but brilliant, approach to pinned TikToks that could be very applicable for quite a few brands. Can you spot it in the screenshot below?

StarWarsDinx's pinned TikToks

The primary purpose of pinned TikToks should be to drive new followers. Account owners want to make sure anyone who’s visiting their profile is converting. Because Dinx is a Star Wars creator who aspires to answer questions and build a positive community, they’ve created three TikToks specifically for pinning. Let’s take a look at the role they each play in Dinx’s success.

TikTok #1: Allow me to reintroduce myself

Sometimes the best way to introduce yourself is…to literally introduce yourself. Consider the usual flow of discovery on TikTok:

  1. You’re thumbing through the app when TikTok serves you new video content.
  2. You begin watching, then decide whether to continue watching, engage, or visit their profile.
  3. If you visit the creator’s profile, you’re there to learn more.

That’s what makes Dinx’s intro TikTok smart. They give a brief overview of their beliefs, their background, and everything followers can expect from them. And yeah, the omnipresent puppet helps, too. By the time you visit Dinx’s feed for the first time, you’re probably at least just a little curious what this puppet’s deal is. Dinx’s strategy makes it easy to get all these answers at the top.

TikTok #2: Rules of the game

Star Wars fans have…opinions. Lots of them. And they’re not always nice about it. Dinx prioritizes kindness, though. They want to build an engaged, but friendly, community. To keep things as peaceful as possible, Dinx dedicated an entire pinned TikTok to their personal rules for commenting:

  1. Family-friendly language
  2. Legends (EU) welcome, but it’s not canon
  3. Fan thoeries are welcome
  4. Please help me answer questions
  5. All fans are welcome

This serves both tonal and mechanical purposes. Yes, commenters are expected to use family-friendly language in line with the family-friendly Star Wars IP, but the Star Wars fictional universe also has lots of baggage with what is and isn’t considered “official” in the current iteration.

When Disney purchased LucasFilm in 2012 and launched a new trilogy, the company dubbed many of the novels, comics, and Star Wars stories of the last 40 years the “Expanded Universe,” meaning they’re officially not canon anymore. That choice had especially important implications for the future of Star Wars storytelling, as many of those books built storylines over periods that the new films would also tread on (e.g., in the original Expanded Universe, Han and Princess Leia have three kids together, none of whom are Kylo Ren, and Chewbacca infamously gets crushed to death by a falling moon. Yeah, that didn’t make it into the new films).

That’s where establishing community rules upfront is so helpful. By clearly stating their take on the Expanded Universe, Dinx sets up the community for healthy commentary.

Your own brand’s community probably needs rules like this more than you realize. Are you family-friendly, or can anyone drop F-bombs with no repercussions? Are spoilers welcome or shunned? Is there a reason you’d block a follower?

If you haven’t thought about these questions, now’s the time. A puppet beat you to it.

TikTok #3: Merch store

This one’s pretty simple. Creators need to monetize! They’re making wonderful content, and we want to support them. Sure, you could do the good ol’ link in bio, but having a visual place to show off your merchandise right on your profile makes a whole lot of sense.

When it comes to social media thinking, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. We can learn so much from each other. The more open we are to listening to different voices, the more we’ll learn—even from a puppet.

A Social Media Newsletter by Jack Appleby