Mall of America Helps Retailers Get TikTok Famous
Behind the scenes at a Mall of America TikTok live stream with Wisdom Gaming brand director, Jacob Neerland. Courtesy of Tina Nguyen

Mall of America Helps Retailers Get TikTok Famous

Marketing beyond the mall, Mall of America teams up with TikTok to help independent store owners leverage social media.

Susana Mendez stands in front of her jewelry counter at Mall of America, extended arm holding a phone to record herself lip syncing to “Despecha” by Spanish pop singer Rosalia. She gives the video a sparkle filter before posting to TikTok. Goofing around while on the job? Hardly. Mendez is leveraging one of the most powerful marketing tools available to a small business owner, and the mall wants to help.

Mall of America has been proactive about extending the shopping experience beyond its mega walls, even launching an e-commerce platform so consumers can “shop the mall” from home. MOA has also proven itself a social media powerhouse, now with 210,000 TikTok followers and more than 4 million “likes” to its credit. Next frontier: helping some of its newer, independent tenants leverage the platform to benefit their small businesses.

“It’s a great way to get exposure—we want to help our small businesses capitalize on that,” said Nate Sandell, MOA’s senior manager of social media. “Our channel is here to assist our businesses, but we can only do so much. It’s on these brands to help support themselves. The ones that have done the best are the ones that are finding other avenues besides just Mall of America social channels.”

That’s what Mendez is working on for Susana Mendez Jewelry, currently a tenant of Community Commons, a marketplace where MOA offers short-term rent-free opportunities for small, local brands to gain the exposure that only Mall of America, with its 40 million annual visitors, can provide. Even so, Menedez wants to reach beyond the mall. “They don’t have to come in,” Mendez said of her social media audience. “They can see the merchandise through my Instagram and TikTok.”

With the average American exposed to an estimated 4,000-10,000 ads a day, competition for attention is made tough especially as 55% of consumers learn about new brands through their feed.

Social media expert Betsey Kershaw, founder of the Minneapolis-based agency BK&Co., emphasizes how social media is not just a critical channel, but oftentimes the only channel for small businesses. “For a small eyewear retailer we work with, we’ve seen sales increase as much by 23% just by creating a social media playbook that they use to execute social media in-house.”

More than 11,000 people tuned in to watch the MOA’s TikTok for Small Business livestream, which racked up nearly 2,000 comments from viewers and 200-plus shares. You can find it on the TikTok Small Business feed.

Here are some TikTok takeaways from the pros:

  • Post a video before you go live to give viewers the heads up, said a TikTok representative. Be sure to actively engage with viewers during a livestream by responding to their comments or answering questions.
  • Figure out what your target audience is doing online, said Jacob Neerland, brand director for MOA esports studio Wisdom Gaming. Create buckets for different goals to create serialized content.
  • Separate the personal from the professional. That’s how Mo Stewart of handbag and accessories brand Mars Jameson maintains some sanity and privacy, by having two different social media accounts.
  • But bring personality to your work account. “Ultimately, social is meant to be fun,” MOA’s Sandell says. “It’s meant to be interactive. It’s a one-on-one digital media, and nobody is seeking out social to be promoted to, they want to go there because they like the content.

Of course, before you dive in, consider your audience, advised M.E. Gray, an associate content creator for MSPC Agency, which is also owned by TCB’s parent company, MSP Communications.

If you’re a business-to-business company, LinkedIn is going to give you the greatest payoff for your efforts because that’s where your ideal customer is spending time, Gray said. Facebook gives you a lot of bang-for-your-buck in terms of paid social media advertising, with users skewing towards an older demographic. Instagram is a fun platform to be active on if you can share behind-the-scenes or work-in-progress (WIP) content. And if you have a young customer base, TikTok might be the place to get your work found — but know that competition will be tough, Gray said. (Gray offers additional advice for businesses trying to figure out whether they should be on TikTok, here.)

“Content creators are driving what consumers are interested in and that evolution is here to stay. To get ahead and thrive using social media, a business needs to be either great at making content or find someone who can do it for them,” said BK&Co.’s Kershaw. “Consumers are smart, they don’t want to be sold to and can detect bad marketing a mile away–they want to be entertained and educated in an authentic way and that approach can be applied to almost any business.”