Social media marketers are often expected to “go viral,” especially through the content they share on TikTok. Though TikTok’s algorithm and features do encourage brand and user discovery, it can be challenging to amass thousands of video views — and this often shouldn’t be the end goal of your social video strategy. So how do you find the right balance between consistency, fun, brand awareness, and trending content? Let’s turn to the experts.
Bari Rosenstein is a master when it comes to crafting engaging short-form videos for social media. Currently managing social strategy at Focus Brands for Auntie Anne’s and Jamba, Bari harnesses the power of TikTok to build brand voices while cultivating an audience of loyal, engaged followers. We asked Bari to share her journey bringing Auntie Anne’s to life on TikTok, as well as her best tips for other social media managers looking to cut through the noise.
Hi, Bari! Can you tell me a bit about yourself, your background in marketing, and your current role?
Okay, so, me! I'm from Baltimore, Maryland, and I went to college in Pennsylvania at a tiny little liberal arts college to play lacrosse. This was between 2010 and 2014, when social was just starting out and wasn't even a career possibility yet. I was the friend always uploading albums on Facebook and posting everything, so I created a blog to be a part of internet culture, and I realized I wanted to do that for a living.
After college, I worked at two different marketing agencies doing social and, from there, got a job with the Coca-Cola Company leading social for Honest Tea, ZICO Coconut Water, and Costa Coffee. I was there for about three years, and then I took my leap to Focus Brands, where I was brought on just to manage Auntie Anne's and, later, Jamba. I oversee a small team that does all things social, from community management to content strategy to influencer partnerships.
Having worked at a big public company and now a private company, I’ve been around the block in terms of structures and the ways social is talked about and prioritized. It’s been really interesting to see the evolution of social from a career standpoint.
How would you describe your approach to TikTok marketing and building a brand voice for Auntie Anne’s?
I was brought on at Auntie Anne’s in February 2021, when TikTok was really blowing up. I’m a true Millennial through and through, so I was more familiar with posting pictures than videos. I started my TikTok journey by just reposting other users’ videos, and I remember my first TikTok took me over an hour to make. I just started posting every single day using every single trending audio and every single hashtag.
Then one day, I posted a compilation of videos of crew members rolling pretzels and it just went off. Zero views to 21,000 to 30,000. That’s the moment people started to really notice us on TikTok. I realized people loved seeing the pretzels being rolled, so I kept posting that over and over, and I started getting more comfortable using TikTok. I came across more trending songs and tried to figure out how to bring Auntie Anne’s into different trends. We’re just a pretzel brand, so I wasn’t doing anything crazy, I was just looking for unique ways to make pretzels a part of the conversation.
@auntieannes can we get a round of applause plz?? #fyp #auntieannes #fypage ♬ original sound - T in Techno
It was really about understanding what was resonating with our audience and doing it literally over and over again. Rolling pretzels, cheese dip, drive-throughs, cinnamon sugar — TikTok loves cinnamon sugar. Any time it’s mentioned, people go bananas. Over time, I discovered more of these tiny content nuggets that resonated with our audience and integrated them into our videos. So I went from using every trending audio and causing chaos to the more defined strategy we have today. With Jamba, I had the same approach. I gave my specialist the runway to do whatever she wanted and start getting views, which has led us to also defining a strategy for Jamba.
How do you find inspiration for TikTok content? Do you ever feel like there’s only so much you can say about pretzels?
I look at a lot of brands and creators on TikTok that use trending audio to see how they’re interacting with the audio, as well as any content about food in general. I saw that there are so many ways to talk about snacking and eating, so I can really insert pretzels and smoothies into any conversation.
But that doesn't work all the time, so I also lean on my insights. I went to Target the other day and thought about how people still don’t know that our frozen products are available there. I made a video that ended up getting 30,000 views. It’s also about getting inspired by being a TikTok user. For example, I'm a fan of The Summer I Turned Pretty, and I see a lot of “team Jeremiah, team Conrad” content — how do I turn that into “team cinnamon sugar, team original pretzel” in our videos?
@auntieannes LET US KNOW!!! #auntieannes #fyp #MakingTheCut #GetYourJeansOn ♬ Sunny Day - Ted Fresco
I’m constantly thinking like that, being inspired by creators and other brands, and trying new things, whether it's polling, different video types, things like that. Just being part of internet culture can really help you understand what's trending and where your brand might fit in.
What’s your take on the “unhinged brands” trend we’re seeing with brands like Ryanair and Duolingo?
It really depends on your brand and your content strategy. For Auntie Anne's, we are not "unhinged" because we are a family brand and your internet Auntie. We do get a little sassy, but I wouldn't call that unhinged. For Jamba, we have the runway to be a little more forward, but I, again, wouldn't call that unhinged. Being unhinged is for certain brands online that know their audience will resonate.
It’s such a trend right now to be unhinged — just be you. You can post a chaotic Tweet, but I personally don’t think it’s a full strategy. It’s a tactic. You can be unhinged at certain points, but I wouldn’t revolve your entire social strategy around that.
What are your goals when posting organic content on TikTok?
Follower growth was a big goal, but now that we have a pretty healthy following, I think it's just posting quality content and getting consistent viewership. We can't use trending audio unless we have permission, so our strategy has completely changed from the beginning. We can’t hop on every single trend, so we focus on quality content that we know is going to perform well instead of throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks. Our content has to work harder now that we don't have the clout from that trending audio and have to use the commercial-approved audio library.
@jamba its the small things that make a big difference in the smoothie making business #jambajuice ♬ original sound - jamba
What’s your best piece of advice for social media marketers expected to “go viral” on TikTok?
Post as much as you possibly can and be consistent with it. I used to post every single day, and that was my mission, that was my goal. If you're low on resources, pick a cadence that you can keep up with. But if you have a dedicated social team, I would post every day and something will hit. Send it, post, and go crazy, but have somewhat of a strategic lens toward it. Know your KPIs and understand why your brand should or shouldn’t be on TikTok — not every brand has to be.
I also think it's important to see what your competitors are doing and replicate some of the content that you see working for them. Obviously, put your brand’s unique touch on it. If you're asked to “go viral,” you should challenge that, because that shouldn’t be the end goal. TikTok is a place where you can have fun and stray away from your brand guidelines a bit as you hop on trends. I would change the narrative of “go viral” to just having fun, being relaxed and posting things that you would want to see as a user as well.
For smaller brands and businesses, one viral TikTok can generate buzz and sell out your product. But then, your numbers go back to where they were before. You have to captivate your audience, hook them on your brand. We were able to continue to grow and captivate our audience after that one viral video. Continue that momentum, keep posting about what made you go viral, and build a trusting audience over time. I would take an engaged audience over random followers any day.
Any last thoughts to share regarding TikTok for brands?
TikTok is definitely a powerful platform. If you have someone dedicated to it, go ahead and start posting, but keep your expectations low. It's become a lot harder to break through the feed now than it was in 2021. Have fun testing different things, but know that quality over quantity reigns supreme now.
TikTok is a great place to tell your brand story and reach a new audience. It's not just “the dancing app.” It's a huge community with the potential to really help your business.