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TikTok Helps Small Businesses Stay Afloat

A plate with a burger and fries with the TikTok logo in front
Graphic created by Kaylee Haas

TikTok has become influential in society. The video-sharing social media platform lets anyone create from anywhere. There is a lot to learn and see in the world and TikTok is a great tool to discover new products and businesses. However, there is a lot of planning, organizing and networking that businesses do behind the scenes that users may not see.

The Herald recently conversed with Instagram and TikTok food critics, @platesofasians. Creators Linh Nguyen and Justin Quimbo had a lot to say about the influence TikTok has when it comes to sharing recommendations. The duo mainly tries restaurants in the Triangle, and they tend to stick with mom-and-pop style places. With COVID-19, they want to help local businesses gain attention. However, they are open to trying new products from chain restaurants, too.

A screenshot of Platesofasians' profile on TikTok
Image courtesy of Platesofasians

Nguyen commented on why she loves to create exposure on the app. She said, “I want to help other people out. There are so many choices and if you’re visiting, it can be hard to pick. We want to help others explore new cultures and foods.” Quimbo had other personal reasons for why he likes to create content. He commented, “Marketing is a passion project, but I combine it with my love of food and the area. I combine what I can market with what I like, all while working on my own marketing skills.” Creating TikToks happens on a whim for them. It’s not something that they plan extensively, but it’s something that they enjoy. As for their name, Nguyen states, “We’re Platesofasians, but we don’t just focus on Asian food. We’re the Asians and it’s our plates of food.”

TikTok’s algorithm is something else to account for. Quimbo stated, “One of our viral videos was for Bumble Tea. Some people get the perception that if it’s viral it tastes better, but you have to take that power with a grain of salt. Form your own opinions.” It is easy to be stuck in the endless wonderland that TikTok has to offer. There are always new items and places that people showcase. Yet, viewers may not be able to see creators’ favorites if it doesn’t land on their “For You Page.” Nguyen went on to say, “With the algorithm, we don’t get to decide what goes viral. We have a lot of 10/10 places that don’t get as many views as we wish. TikTok has a love for aesthetics, so our viral ones are mainly mid-tier items.” Knowing that viewers may be missing out on worthy content can be a scary aspect of the app. Nguyen explained, “We just want to be able to showcase the local businesses and help them stay afloat.”

The front of Trunkshow
Photo courtesy of Amy Barnard

With the virus wreaking havoc on many small businesses, TikTok can help them thrive. The owner of the thrift store Trunkshow, Amy Barnard, commented on how TikTok has changed her vintage-based store. She stated, “Since one of our customers with a large following posted a video tour of our store that went viral the same day, our foot traffic has increased exponentially along with sales. We also have had a 30% increase in repeat customers since the video.” The app has also changed the perspective of business owners. Barnard commented, “[TikTok] is a fantastic tool for supporting local businesses, because it allows people to post videos about your store, what you sell, make, etc. It reaches their customers that aren’t already yours. People seem eager to share something they really admire or feel passionate about, and TikTok is a great platform for them to express that.” It’s going to take time for owners to grasp the momentum of TikTok, but this doesn’t mean it won’t work for them. As for keeping up with Trunkshow, “At the moment, our Instagram and Facebook accounts display more of what we have for sale, new arrivals and items you can buy via direct message. As a business, we are still very much figuring out what TikTok is about, and what people want to see. It’s a learning process!”

By Kaylee Haas, Staff Writer


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