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What can TikTok teach us about immune health?

TikTok is massively underused for insights.

It can help you understand what consumers are buying, why they’re making the choices they do and how you can better appeal to them.

So we’ve researched the topic of immune health to show you why you need to be using TikTok data, what sort of insights you can gain from it, and how brands might use this information to better connect with customers.

Overall, we can see that there is a strong interest in boosting immune health on the platform. For brands looking to enter this space, there is opportunity to innovate in food and drinks, exercise, sleep aids, mental health and supplements. Products using natural ingredients will especially appeal. However, there may be a need to educate consumers better: although the interest is there, understanding of immune health is relatively poor.

So let’s dive in.

How big is the conversation about immune health on TikTok?

At the time of the research, there were 87 hashtags featuring the word “immune” or “immunity” on TikTok.

The biggest 10 hashtags had an incredible 4.7 billion views between them – excluding those that were specifically related to Covid or immune health conditions.

This is a big conversation, that’s reaching a large audience.

For brands wanting to reach this audience, these hashtags highlight the type of language consumers are using – language like #immunitybooster, #immunesupport or #immunityshot.

They also highlight the need of targeting multiple hashtags to increase reach – whether on TikTok, or other platforms.

Who’s talking about immune health on TikTok?

By analysing TikToks containing the top 10 hashtags, we found that people were talking about immune health from a lot of different contexts.

The biggest groups were those with an interest in wellbeing, alternative medicine or natural remedies, and doctors or other healthcare professionals.

But there were also parents, chefs, nutritionists, and a few entrepreneurs and brands taking part in the conversation too.

What does this tell us? 

It highlights how many different voices are influencing consumers online – from wellness influencers to people talking about diet and those concerned with family health. What’s more, doctors with real medical knowledge are outnumbered by those talking about alternative and natural remedies – see this shiver-inducing example:

@barefootsue

Snow & cold water plunge in May. 🇨🇦 #mothernature #wimhof #quarentinelife #immuneboost #guessmyprovince #snow #coldtherapy #barefoot #fightorflight

♬ original sound – Barefoot Sue

For brands who want to talk to consumers in this space, these are the types of concerns to be appealing to, or the types of influencers to be teaming up with.

Are brands part of the conversation?

These numbers also highlight how little place there is for brands in the health conversation on TikTok – only 2% of posts were from brands and these were mostly small, local startups. 

It’s well publicised that the best way for brands to cut through on TikTok is by teaming up with influencers, rather than with branded content – and these findings suggest the same is true in a health context too.

We can see this in the biggest hashtag related to immune health on TikTok: #immuneupvapedown, which is a great example of how brands or organisations might approach TikTok marketing.

The #immuneupvapedown hashtag was created by an organisation – The Truth – with the aim of educating people about the alleged risk that vaping poses to immune health. Instead of vaping, they encourage people to whip up an ‘immunity boosting drink’.

Rather than relying on videos from their brand account, The Truth called on influencers to create videos using a custom soundtrack and the #immuneupvapedown hashtag. The hashtag challenge was simple, fun and easy to take part in: others joined in on the trend, and the campaign overall generated billions of views.

@chefkelsey

no vapes in this recipe! #ImmuneUpVapeDown #truth #sponsored

♬ karrots&beets – Truth (@truthorange)

So what are people talking about?

Most of the TikToks we analysed were about methods to boost immunity.

These videos far outnumbered those about why immune health is important, how the immune system works, or causes and symptoms of poor immune health.

On the surface, this suggests that people are looking for information on proactive steps to improve their immune health, and that TikTok is seen as a legitimate source of advice for how to do this (remember – these videos have billions of views!).

But it also highlights that the type of information being shared on TikTok – and correspondingly consumer knowledge around immune health – is quite shallow, and doesn’t often go beyond ‘immune boosting’ tips.

It also brings up questions about the quality of the advice being shared on TikTok. 

Only 15% of the videos we saw sharing medical advice were posted by doctors, nutritionists or dietitians. This means there are a lot of opportunities for consumers to receive medical advice that could be incorrect – and at worst could be harmful.

For example, here’s a video advising viewers to take colloidal silver to prevent cold and flu: a claim that is not backed by research.

@brookethestylust

Flu season is coming. This is what I use for a healthy immune system #coldandflu #silver #healthy #sick #immuneboost #immunesystem

♬ original sound – Brooke Udy Clark

For health brands and organisations, understanding the types of information that consumers are accessing about their health – particularly where this information is inaccurate – is really important for knowing where education is needed.

Of course, we already know that consumers influence each other when it comes to decisions about their health. But analysing TikTok data lets us see this influence as it happens. For brands or researchers looking to understand why people make the decisions they do, this is really powerful.

What are the most popular methods for boosting immune health?

A majority of videos were about improving immune health. People used language around “boosting” or “supporting” immune systems, or “staying healthy”. In some more technical videos, people talked about antioxidants and anti-inflammatories.

But what were the most common methods of ‘boosting’ immune health?

Here are the top 10:

There’s an obvious focus on ‘immune shots’ – partly driven by The Truth’s campaign.

But apart from this, our research has shown that some consumers are approaching immune health in a holistic way – taking in diet, mental health, sleep and exercise alongside vitamins.

@glowwithava

kimchi for lifeeeee 😷😷 #hmart #musthaves #immunity #ginger

♬ original sound – AVA

If we take this a step further and look at the ingredients people are most likely to talk about, there is a significant focus on natural ingredients. We can see the usual suspects – like lemon, ginger, honey and turmeric. But there are also people talking about apple cider vinegar, garlic, black seed, charcoal and avocado oil.

@almasjid

How to Increase Your #Immunity and #Cure yourself from any #Disease from #Foods in the Sunnah. #fyp#foryourpage#foryou#foryoupage#coronavirus#stay

♬ original sound – AlMasjid

This sort of information can be super powerful for brands wanting to understand what kind of products consumers are interested in, what ingredients to include – for example in a new vitamin or immune-boosting food or drink item, or where there are gaps in the market.

What are people’s motivations for boosting their immune health?

We can also learn about people’s motivations for engaging with their immune health by watching TikToks. This can help brands understand what benefits they should appeal to in marketing.

So what were the top 10 motivations mentioned?

A lot of videos were very generic when talking about motivation: people were simply trying to ‘boost’ their immune system or their general health but weren’t going much deeper than this. 

This suggests a lack of real engagement with the topic, that brands may seek to increase by educating consumers about the benefits of immune health-related products. In particular, improving the body’s protection against sickness appears to be something that could capture consumer attention – particularly, during Covid spikes or cold and flu season.

Although a minority mentioned them, the other motivations for boosting immune health again reflected a holistic mindset: people were talking about gut health, mental health, energy, skin health and weight loss. All of these are areas that brands could potentially speak to when marketing products with multiple benefits.

What types of posts are most popular?

By analysing TikToks we can also learn what the key codes are when creating content in this category.

These were the most common characteristics we found when looking at demographics, location and tone of voices of videos posted:  

And here’s a video (with over 50 thousand likes!) capturing all of these characteristics:

@sly_vee

🤓 #immunesystem #healthy #foods

♬ original sound – SLY VEE

For brands or creators looking to create their own videos – or choose the most relevant influencers – these are the sorts of characteristics they need to be aware of. 

So, as we have seen, TikTok can be a hugely powerful source of insights – especially considering how massively underused it is by most brands.

If you want to see how TikTok can help your business, search for relevant hashtags on TikTok and immerse yourself in the content that your target audience is posting and watching. This will help you to:

• Understand the language your target audience use, to feed into better marketing.

• Discover what help your audience needs, to make your brand more relevant.

• Identify the ingredients, features or benefits people are looking for, to feed into innovation

• Observe how people are being influenced online, to make sure you’re in the right places with the right messages.

In short, what consumers are buying, why they’re making the choices they do and how you can better appeal to them. 

Our research has shown that there is a strong interest in boosting immune health for brands to build on. Food and drinks, exercise, sleep aids, mental health and supplements are the best areas to focus on for product and service innovation. Using natural ingredients across these areas will especially appeal. Just make sure to keep your consumers well-informed: although the interest is there, understanding of immune health is relatively poor.

So go forth and use these findings to better connect with your customers. And above all, start turning to TikTok for better business insights. You won’t regret it.

 

By Hannah Hargreaves

 

If you need some help with understanding how your target audience uses TikTok, don’t hesitate to book a chat with us here

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