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Meet the TikTok whisperers helping 10 top brands stand out on the app — from Netflix to Duolingo

Collage of the top brand professionals on TikTok 2x1
Netflix; Lionsgate; Duolingo; Current; Rachel Mendelson/Insider

– TikTok recently crossed 1 billion users, and brands are staffing up to engage with its audience.

– Many hire TikTok power users who can help a company find the right tone for the app.

– Insider compiled a list of professionals who are innovating on TikTok at 10 leading brands.

Business Insider – It’s 2022, and brands have entered TikTok in full swing. 

Companies are jumping into TikTok users’ comments sections, asking creators to redesign their logos, and riffing on memes started by the app’s Gen-Z users. 

Many of the professionals behind TikTok brand accounts are members of Gen Z themselves.

Take Zaria Parvez, the 24-year-old who runs language-learning app Duolingo’s TikTok account, for example. Duolingo has grown quickly to around 3.4 million TikTok followers by tapping into TikTok trends and posting humorous videos featuring its company mascot Duo. The company rarely uses TikTok to promote its own product.

“People on TikTok expect a brand personality, while I feel like on Twitter and Instagram you can still get away with just producing content about product updates,” Parvez told Insider. “We found that if we try to be like, ‘Learn a language,’ or be really specific about our product, it didn’t hit well.”

Managing a company’s TikTok account comes with a variety of challenges.

Social-media teams need to strike a balance between being funny and entertaining without crossing a line and damaging a brand’s reputation. And brand managers have to move quickly to participate in TikTok trends that are often only relevant during a short window.

“We have very strong relationships internally that make reviewing and posting of content really fast and streamlined, which is awesome because that’s very tailored for TikTok and how quickly things move,” said Olivia West, associate manager of media strategy at Dunkin’.

Insider is publishing our inaugural list of the TikTok professionals at 10 brands, who are coming up with new and innovative ways to grab attention on the app. The list was determined based on our reporting and the nominations we received.

The 10 brands are listed in alphabetical order below, along with the teams running their TikTok accounts: 

“Arthur” (PBS): 223,000 TikTok followers

Tara Mayes and Tory Starr
Malakhai Pearson; Steven Noreyko

The children’s program “Arthur” may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Gen-Z content. But the team at GBH, which produces “Arthur,” knew there was appetite for short-video clips and memes from the show before the company even joined TikTok. 

“We knew there was a huge audience for ‘Arthur’ on TikTok,” said Tory Starr, GBH’s director of digital and social content innovation. “We had been following and excited to see all of the memes and celebrity endorsements and athletes that just love ‘Arthur.’ We knew that this was an important cultural brand in addition to a kid’s show.”

In February, the team at GBH partnered with Gen-Z consulting firm JUV Consulting to launch its @ArthurPBS account on TikTok, and it’s since gained over 200,000 followers.

The account was created as part of the team’s broader marketing push celebrating the 25th and final season of the TV show. The group said “Arthur” will live on in other formats, including social-media apps like TikTok.

To find the right tone for the app, GBH worked with JUV to identify relevant TikTok trends that could be combined with “Arthur” clips. The goal was to be in tune with TikTok culture while protecting the legacy of the show’s family-friendly brand.

“We’ve done a lot of work with JUV on the voice of Arthur, making sure that it stays true to the sound and making sure that everything is appropriate,” Starr said. 

The TikTok strategy for “Arthur” is led by:

  • Tory Starr, director, digital and social content innovation at GBH
  • Tara Mayes, communications manager, children’s media and education at GBH
  • Joanie Tobin, senior producer, social media at GBH
  • Denise Olson, director, education marketing at GBH
  • Angelica Quintanilla, digital marketing specialist at GBH
  • Liz Fassl, managing director at JUV Consulting
  • Felipe Mendez, account director at JUV Consulting
  • Tori Romo, director, production at JUV Consulting
  • Afreka Ebanks, senior partner at JUV Consulting
  • Walker Williams, associate director at JUV Consulting
  • Matt Salter, consultant at JUV Consulting

Chipotle: 1.7 million TikTok followers

(L to R) Candice Beck, Neiv Toledano, and Jenny Williams
Chipotle

Chipotle was a relatively early entrant to TikTok, joining the app in March 2019. The company has since built an audience of around 1.7 million followers by partnering with TikTok creators and generally making entertaining videos about its food.

One of its first TikTok posts was a burrito bowl lid flip that one of its east coast crew members uploaded to Instagram that caught the attention of the social team, for example. The company also occasionally reposts user-generated videos from non-staffers who have made content about its brand.

“We had our eye on TikTok for a while prior to us launching our account,” Candice Beck, director of social and influencer at the company, told Insider. “We knew we wanted to show up in a way that felt unique to Chipotle, but also understood the platform.”

While other brands rarely reference their products in TikTok videos, Chipotle’s content is largely focused on its menu items.

“We’ve dropped our guacamole recipe, our chips recipe, our white rice recipe, corn salsa, mild salsa, and it’s really about how do we make those videos and that content interesting and worth sharing and something that Gen Z would care about,” said Neiv Toledano, a senior social media strategist at the brand. 

The TikTok strategy for Chipotle is led by:

  • Candice Beck, director, social and influencer
  • Neiv Toledano, senior social media strategist
  • Jenny Williams, manager, social and digital

Read more: Chipotle’s VP of marketing breaks down the brand’s social-media strategy and why it’s launching a new TikTok ambassador program

Current: 605,000 TikTok followers

Current Adam Hadi
Adam Hadi 
Current

Current’s VP of marketing Adam Hadi, a former influencer marketing consultant, is teaching hundreds of thousands of TikTok followers about saving, spending, and financial technology in an entertaining fashion.

Current, which offers online banking, mobile payments, and other financial services like a debit card, started its account in April 2020. It pipes out content, including posts spoofing horror movies and holiday-themed romantic comedies, as well as cash giveaways by Logan Paul and Jimmy Donaldson, also known as MrBeast, who is a Current investor.

Hadi said Current’s social media efforts are not just a marketing play, but an educational tool that meets the younger demographic where they are, namely, on platforms like TikTok. 

“It’s really important that the content educates people, but at the same time, everything you put out there also needs to be compelling and interesting,” Hadi said. “The last thing I would want is for Current to waste 30 or 60 seconds of our content.”

Duolingo: 3.4 million TikTok followers

Duolingo's social media manager Zaria Parvez poses with company mascot "Duo"
Zaria Parvez 
Duolingo

Language-learning app Duolingo has grown rapidly on TikTok by posting funny and irreverent videos featuring its green owl mascot Duo.

It owes much of its success to Zaria Parvez, a 24-year-old social-media manager who scans the app daily for trends and memes. 

“TikTok is such a new area and zone that I felt like I needed a quarter to just constantly test and learn and experiment and figure out what will actually lead to conversion or what actually resonates,” Parvez told Insider.

Many of Duolingo’s videos have nothing to do with language learning. The company regularly posts about the music artist Dua Lipa, shoots collaborative videos with other creators, and generally leans into funny content.

“We decided we just wanted to be entertaining and gain share of voice and brand recognition on the platform,” Parvez said.”We saw the opportunity to still take on this brand persona of being fun, but doing it in a way of how the audience wanted to be spoken to and engaged with.”

Read more: How to excel as a social media manager, according to the 24-year-old mastermind behind Duolingo’s viral TikTok account

Dunkin’: 3 million TikTok followers

Olivia West, associate manager, media strategy at Dunkin' poses in a sweater in front of a blue sky and green trees.
Olivia West 
Dunkin’

Dunkin’ began uploading videos on TikTok in late 2019. But the company’s TikTok journey arguably started when the app’s most-followed creator, Charli D’Amelio, chose to make the brand a centerpiece of her early posts, earning Dunkin’ hundreds of millions of free video impressions.

The company later hired D’Amelio to launch a custom drink, selling “The Charli” cold brews at locations across the country. On the day the partnership launched, Dunkin’s app set a new daily active user record, the company’s president told investors during its Q3 2020 earnings call.

Since then, Dunkin’ has greatly expanded its work on TikTok, working with influencers, making in-store workers official TikTok “crew” ambassadors, and growing its own TikTok account to 3 million fans. The company uses its TikTok account to promote new menu items and play off of TikTok memes, with Olivia West, its associate manager of social, leading the charge (and occasionally making cameos in videos). 

West said hanging out on TikTok to understand new trends is a key part of the job. “It’s really a 360 approach, and just being in the platform constantly and monitoring the conversation and how it evolves,” she said. 

Dunkin’ studies the business impact of its TikTok account by looking at in-app metrics such as views, “likes,” comments, and shares. It also tracks some off-platform performance metrics, such as loyalty program enrollments and merchandise sales driven through TikTok.

Read more: Inside Dunkin’s influencer-marketing strategy, from hiring Charli D’Amelio to employees posting on TikTok

Lionsgate: 3.9 million TikTok followers

(L to R) Sebastian Crank, Eric Dachman, and Kathy Arendain
Lionsgate

Movie studio Lionsgate has made a big splash on TikTok since joining the app in July 2020. The company nearly doubled its TikTok follower count over the past six months by finding social-media friendly videos from its content library and recutting clips to riff on current TikTok trends and memes. 

The page is run by Lionsgate social-media manager Sebastian Crank, with oversight from the company’s brand manager Eric Dachman and VP of digital strategy Kathy Arendain.

“TikTok has such a contained world in that there’s inside jokes on TikTok and sort of a language on TikTok that doesn’t really translate to the other social platforms very often,” Crank told Insider in September.

Clips from Lionsgate films like “The Hunger Games” and “Twilight” have performed particularly well on the app. And its team isn’t afraid to dip its toes into trends that other brands may shy away from, like a recent video sampling audio of Miranda Cosgrove cursing.

“There are times where we will toe a line, but we do have guardrails in place to make sure that we’re not completely crossing a line,” Arendain told Insider

The TikTok strategy for Lionsgate is led by: 

  • Sebastian Crank, social media manager
  • Eric Dachman, director, brand engagement
  • Kathy Arendain, VP, digital strategy

Read more: How the team behind Lionsgate’s viral TikTok uses humor, nostalgia, and trends to boost movies like ‘Twilight’ and ‘John Wick’

Manscaped: 467,000 TikTok followers

Manscaped Director of Social Media Tyler Wentworth
Manscaped Director of Social Media Tyler Wentworth 
Manscaped

Manscaped starting creating original content for TikTok early on, when it joined the platform in August 2019.

Led by Tyler Wentworth, Manscaped’s director of social media, the company’s TikTok account quickly built an audience by quickly hopping onto and capturing emerging trends in posts, as well as starting candid conversations about male grooming.

In addition to racking up nearly 467,000 fans, Manscaped’s TikTok page has garnered over 50 million views across more than 500 videos.

The startup, which is currently gearing up for an initial public offering, has since expanded its content to feature more members of the Manscaped team. Its also partnered with influencers including Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski to promote its products.

Netflix: 22.3 million TikTok followers

Netflix manager of brand and editorial Kelli King and director of publicity Seana Johnson
Kelli King and Seana Johnson 
Netflix

While Netflix may be considered the dominant force in streaming, it also has a strong social media presence, particularly on TikTok.

That’s thanks to the work of employees like Netflix manager of brand and editorial Kelli King, who shepherded the launch of Netflix’s TikTok account in August 2019 and grew it to 22.3 million fans in under three years by understanding the algorithm in relation to Netflix’s consumer offering and picking content that users would engage with and share with most on the platform.

King also works with title teams across the marketing division to hone their TikTok activations and pull the most conversational moments. Some examples include the Anna Delvey “I Do Not Have Time For This” scene from “Inventing Anna” which quickly went viral, as well as “Squid Game’s” Red Light/Green Light Squid Game moment, which racked up 128 million likes.

“I will sometimes watch Netflix series and films with my eyes closed to see if I get the TikTok ‘vibe’ as audio is key to content’s success on the platform,” King said. “You need to imagine someone using your audio to tell their own story.”

Netflix director of publicity Seana Johnson, meanwhile, has helped define Netflix’s presence on TikTok when it comes to red carpet events for projects like “Bridgerton,” “Stranger Things,” and “Don’t Look Up.” She has also helped fine-tune how to best work with TikTok creators by focusing on their individual fandoms and providing unique opportunities to attend select events, interact with talent, and create content that’s organic to their channel. Under Johnson’s guidance, Netflix became the first streamer to be featured on TikTok’s main page. 

“Whether we are matching up creators that are Broadway fans for ‘Tick, Tick…Boom’ or going live via the @TikTok channel for Netflix red carpet events, we’ve found a sweet spot by leaning in to what feels organic to the platform and approaching it through the lens of connecting fans with the titles and talent they love,” Johnson said.

The TikTok strategy for Netflix is led by: 

  • Kelli King, manager, brand and editorial
  • Seana Johnson, director, publicity 

Ryanair: 1.6 million TikTok followers

Ryanair airplane on TikTok.
Ryanair’s TikTok “mascot” 
Ryanair

Ryanair’s social-media strategy has long centered on posting playful and self-deprecating content. But the budget airline really hit its stride on TikTok, where buttoned-up branded content doesn’t fly.

Like other successful companies on TikTok, Ryanair created a mascot — an airplane with a human face appended on its nose — to be the face of its brand on the app. Its social-media team posts videos highlighting its cheap prices while also making jokes about its flights’ relative lack of amenities. Recently the company began testing putting actual humans in videos to avoid being dependent on the single airplane-with-a-face gimmick. 

The key to Ryanair’s TikTok success is hiring in-house creators who dedicate time each day to understanding the app’s latest trends, Michael Corcoran, the company’s social-media lead, told Insider. 

“We’ve put Gen Z at the heart of the platform,” he said. “Somebody who lives and breathes the channel day and night. Somebody who actually understands the language and the references and the cultural trends that are happening within the world of TikTok.”

The TikTok strategy for Ryanair is led by: 

  • Michael Corcoran, head of social media
  • Lily Raffety, social media creator
  • Megan Kennedy, social media creator
  • Amy Lynch, senior social media manager
  • Luke Colgan, social media graduate

Scrub Daddy: 1.2 million TikTok followers

Scrub Daddy CEO Aaron Krause
Aaron Krause 
Scrub Daddy

A social media account about a cleaning company that produces sponges, scrubbing heads, and soap dispensers shouldn’t be funny, but Scrub Daddy’s TikTok account manages to find a comical side to cleaning accessories. That’s in large part to Scrub Daddy CEO, president, and founder Aaron Kraus, who has been hands-on with the company’s TikTok account and captured in posts doing product giveaways and partying when Scrub Daddy’s TikTok account was verified in December 2021.

“TikTok has absolutely been transformative,” Kraus said. “It already took our brand that’s well known and disseminated it to an entirely new segment of the population that didn’t know about us and didn’t know how much fun we were.

Scrub Daddy’s irreverent attitude has obviously struck a chord, racking up 1.2 million followers and roughly 1 billion views since it was created in July 2020, as well as celebrity users like musician Jason Derulo, who toyed with a Scrub Daddy sponge last in a TikTok post last December.

Disclosure: Mathias Döpfner, CEO of Business Insider’s parent company, Axel Springer, is a Netflix board member.

JUV Media is a collection of JUV press features — from our staff to our campaigns.