SALT LAKE CITY — TikTok has drawn some 70 million U.S. fans and been downloaded 2.6 billion times across the globe thanks to the short, quirky homemade videos shared on the China-based social media platform.
But what else is it good for?
Sweeping home isolation wrought by COVID-19 restrictions helped fuel record volumes for online shopping over the past year but, and perhaps surprisingly, most social media sites earned only modest gains in their audience size in 2020 with the exception of video streamer YouTube, which saw its viewer group jump over 20%.
Still, a new report from Pew Research found more than 7 out of 10 U.S. adults are engaging with one or more social media platforms regularly, and the numbers skew larger for some age groups, including 18- to 29-year-old U.S. adults who engage with social media at a brisk 84% rate. TikTok popped up on the data set, snaring 21% of all U.S. adults and 55% of the 18- to 24-year-olds.
And that ubiquity is not ignored by retailers who have, since the advent of social media as a thing, been on a constant hunt for the best ways to get the attention of users and inspire them to reach for their credit cards and give a final click on the order button.
Now, new efforts are afoot among businesses looking to elevate (or keep a hold of) their reputations for being on-trend or cool in the eyes of social media mavens beyond incentivizing "influencers" to hawk their latest and greatest products. The new ploy: Why not just hire directly from the ranks of social media's prolific posters?
In May, Axios reported that TikTok was testing a new program where users can post a TikTok video resume in lieu of a traditional resume. The pilot effort has roped in a few major brands — and some professional sports franchise marketing departments, according to Axios — and could open up a whole new recruitment pathway that helps employers target candidates with high social media acumen.
In the meantime, however, a Utah company is pushing forward with its own recruiting plan that's targeting TikTok as a place to snare new talent to fill a key position.
Roolee specializes in fashion for women and kids and can trace its roots back to a small Logan shop, Bella Me Boutique, that served Cache County customers for decades.
Kylee Champlin was attending her last quarter of studies at Utah State University in 2013 when Bella Me's owner decided it was time to close up shop. But Champlin and her husband thought there was an opportunity to revamp and revitalize the business, so they bought it and took the entrepreneurial plunge into the world of retail fashion.
Besides changing the name to Roolee, a portmanteau combining Champlin's childhood nickname Roo with Kylee, she also began offering new, original clothing designs and identified a key marketing opportunity that went underutilized by the previous owner: leveraging social media to build customer interest.
"Instagram is where we started," Champlin said. "At first it was very basic ... we would just take an item and post a picture of it."
But Champlin didn't have to wait long to see if the experiment would work.
"We started getting calls about the products we posted almost immediately."
Those would be the first steps in building a company, which has brick-and-mortar stores in Logan and Ogden, into a still-growing online retailing champion that's doing business across the country and around the world. Champlin said Roolee also experimented with a location at downtown Salt Lake City's posh City Creek Center, but the company's bread-and-butter is all about online sales.
Champlin said her concept for Roolee has been resonating with customers and it's one that tries not to leave anyone out of the mix, be it about style or affordability.
"The vision that I've had from the beginning is I want there to be something for everyone, whether it's my 90-year-old grandma or my little sister," Champlin said. "And the same for price points. We want to be able to offer great quality products that are affordable for everyone and ... have stuff for people on tighter budgets and for people who want something a little more expensive."
And, as Roolee continues to work on building its customer base and expanding its reach, Champlin said it made sense to hire for its new chief fashion officer position using a fast-growing platform like TikTok that was already making waves in the retail fashion world.
"Instagram has been a strong tool for us for years," Champlin said. "But TikTok has really been catching on and it made sense to build a presence there and keep up with the times."
To that end, Roolee launched a sweeping, multiround TikTok-based contest that's asking applicants to submit videos on TikTok that show the applicant's sense of style and embodies why they should be the face of Roolee on a new TikTok channel dedicated to the company.
After Champlin and her team winnow the submissions down to the top 100, TikTok fans will play a role in voting for their favorite Round 2 submissions that will ask applicants to shoot new videos using Roolee products. And, the decisive Round 3 will bring 10 finalists to Utah for activities and the announcement of the final selection for Roolee chief fashion officer.
The part-time contract position pays $2,500 per month and comes with a slew of perks including a $500 per month clothing allowance, an additional $250 per month clothing allowance for a friend, an all-expense-paid content-creation trip and the chance to brand Roolee's 2022 spring collection.
Champlin said the goal is not necessarily to bring a professional influencer into the Roolee fold.
"It's not like we're looking for someone with a huge amount of followers," Chaplin said. "We're leaving this very open. We don't know what the perfect person in the role may be."
On the other side of the social media equation, West Linn, Oregon, resident and longtime Roolee customer Alyssa Dodson said she first discovered the company on Instagram in 2016.
Dodson said the products she saw on the photo and video sharing app were the initial draw, but it's been Roolee's fair prices, quality merchandise and customer service that's kept her coming back for more.
"Early on, they were pretty simple in their marketing on social media," Dodson said. "No models, basically just a picture of the product.
"But, they've evolved over time and the quality is amazing. And if something doesn't work right, or you're not happy with it, they'll make it right."
Dodson said she has a closet full of Roolee products and would be hard-pressed to pick a favorite, but had bought a pair of clogs that had served her well for years and were "the most comfortable shoes to wear to a job where I was on my feet for hours."
She's also traveled to Utah on several occasions to visit the Roolee store in Logan and has another trip planned this fall to do the same.