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A printing press operator and a snail expert? These museum workers have become unlikely TikTok

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Not much has changed since Howard Hatch started working in the creaky, old printing shop at the Sacramento History Museum 22 years ago.

He always arrives early in the morning so he can focus. In those quiet hours, the only gripes come from the floorboards, squeaking as Hatch weaves his way around hulking equipment. The only chatter comes from the machines: the gentle clinks and clatters of a 102-year-old jobbing press, his “one-legged StairMaster” whirring to the beat of his pumping foot. To the tune of rattling ink rollers and clicking gears, he prints museum bags, holiday cards, and facsimile wanted signs and newspapers for visitors.

Another press, the Washington hand press, works just as well as it did the day it was manufactured in 1852, Hatch says — with such certainty you’d think he used it back then. The print shop, the century-old presses and the wholesome man who operates them — they all seem impervious to the flow of time.

Not much has changed these days, except that Hatch has an audience around the world watching.

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On TikTok, a popular app for sharing short videos, Hatch has gone from beloved local museum docent to — in the words of one online commenter — “a national treasure.” Videos of him explaining the printing process or even simply using the equipment, which doubles as an exhibit, have racked up millions of views in a matter of months. With Howard at the helm, the Sacramento History Museum has become the most popular museum TikTok account in the world, boasting twice as many followers as the population of Sacramento.

Most people associate TikTok with Gen Z, but Hatch is an octogenarian, and the star of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s widely followed account — snail expert Tim Pearce — is a baby boomer. The two men’s charm is not a result of keeping up with the latest memes and trends. Quite the opposite. Neither Hatch nor Pearce, who is known for his “Mollusk Monday” jokes, own a smartphone or send text messages. Pearce calls himself “a technological klutz.”

TikTok users have garnered a reputation for valuing authenticity, but videos on the platform can seem contrived and overproduced. Confessional monologues can sound scripted. Slice-of-life footage often looks rehearsed. For Pearce and Howard, who have spent much more of their lives off-screen than on-, that ever-elusive “authenticity” isn’t an aspiration. It’s simply their default state.

While TikTok has been the site of many online trends related to history — such as medieval TikTok and dark academia — the platform still lacks a significant presence from major U.S. museums. Long before popular international museum accounts, such as the United Kingdom’s Black Country Living Museum or Italy’s Uffizi Galleries, joined the app, Pittsburgh’s Carnegie museum paved the way.

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The museum began posting videos in early 2020, and it saw quick success with Pearce, the mollusk curator. For Pearce, who has a cult following in Pittsburgh, being on TikTok has allowed him to get closer to achieving one of his life’s goals: to make mollusks as popular as football. It’s a tall order, but at one point, he notes, the museum’s videos were receiving more hits than those of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

There’s no doubt the success has to do with Pearce’s enthusiasm. Wearing a snail-patterned mask, Pearce begins each video the same way: “I’m Tim Pearce from Carnegie Museum of Natural History and I’ve got a snail joke for you!” The way he emphasizes the word “snail” captures an unbridled eagerness as pure as it must’ve been when he started collecting snails as a toddler.

“I’ve always been interested in the underdog,” Pearce says of his affinity for the slimy creatures.

The museum’s account has a nerdy goofiness to it. Stevie Kennedy-Gold, collection manager for amphibians and reptiles, makes occasional appearances, filming from a chamber deep in the museum, full of jars of salamanders and snakes. Sometimes, Kennedy-Gold says, she has to take multiple videos because she gets too excited and trips over her words.

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“It’s a job where you get to be like a 5-year-old,” she says. “We get to be like little kids looking at cool things all the time.”

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That’s not always the perception from the outside. “Natural history museums can become didactic really quickly,” says Sloan MacRae, director of marketing at the Carnegie museum. TikTok, he says, allows them to show that scientists are approachable — even silly — and that natural history isn’t all dead animals and dioramas. “It gives us some swagger,” he says.

Still, when Jared Jones, a 28-year-old guest-services associate at the Sacramento History Museum, proposed starting a TikTok account, it didn’t go over well. “The sound of eyes rolling around the room was loud,” says Delta Pick Mello, the museum’s executive director.

But the museum was desperate to stay relevant during the pandemic-induced closure, so the staff eventually gave in and opened an account. And Hatch hit his stride on the app not by dancing but by deadpanning.

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In one early video, Hatch is printing wanted posters on the hand press. “Can you explain a little bit more about it?” Jones asks. “I would, but I’m really pressed for time,” Hatch replies so matter-of-factly that the pun almost seems unintentional.

As if traveling back in time, Hatch went from working with rockets in the 1950s to fixing cars in the ’70s to operating the museum’s printing presses in the ’90s. For Hatch, a lifelong tinkerer, operating the machinery scratches an itch. “It keeps the mind occupied,” he says. “It’s almost like diagnosing a fault in an automobile.”

There is an undeniable quaintness to Hatch’s videos. He moves the pieces of the press around as he explains print jargon — “pieing,” “quire,” “furniture.” He talks about sayings that come from printing, such as “Mind your Ps and Qs” and “Hot off the press.”

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In the background, the mechanical sounds — the paper releasing from the hand press, the hum of the jobbing press — are so precise and crisp, it’s as if you could reach out and touch them.

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On TikTok, watching information produced over a minute rather than milliseconds can seem like a revelation. And Hatch’s full-body motions operating clunky machines are a mesmerizing contrast to our fingers flicking across smooth screens.

Mello thinks the popularity of the account, which has continued even after the museum reopened in March, has something to do with such contrasts. “There’s this juxtaposition of an older person with an older medium on a newer way of communicating,” she says.

But it might go even deeper.

“Some of [the Carnegie museum’s] popular personalities are gray-haired, very wholesome, grandparent-like personas,” MacRae says, referring to Pearce and Bonnie Isaac, the botany collection manager. He has spotted online comments along the lines of “Adopt me, Bonnie!” and “Tim, will you marry my mom?”

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“There is sort of a nostalgic parental thing going on,” he adds.

Similarly, on the Sacramento videos’ pages, viewers liken Hatch to their grandparents. “Protect Howard at all costs” has become a refrain among commenters, alluding to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Whenever the museum reaches a new milestone in followers, Hatch prints a newspaper announcement. As he moves around the print shop on those squeaky floorboards, he shakes his head and says, “I just don’t get it,” which has become a catchphrase. And it’s true — Hatch isn’t keeping track of likes or followers. He’s just working in the print shop, as he has for decades — doing his thing in true 19th-century style and succeeding in the most 21st-century way.

Sometimes, his admission sounds gleeful: “I still don’t get it.” It almost makes you wish you could retreat to the print shop and not “get it” either.

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TIKTOK

TikTok Expands Creator Tipping and Video Gifts, Providing More Monetization and Marketing Options

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TikTok continues to expand its creator monetization tools with the addition of video tipping and virtual gifts for regular uploads, in addition to live-streams in the app.

To be clear, live tipping and digital gifts have been available for selected live-stream creators via its Creator Next program since last year. This new expansion brings the same functionality to regular TikTok videos, which will add another way for users to generate direct income from their TikTok videos.

TikTok Creator Next

As you can see in these screenshots, shared by social media expert Matt Navarra (via Dan Schenker), to be eligible for the new Creator Next program, users will need to have at least 1,000 followers, and will need to have generated more than 1,000 video views in the previous 30 days.

Though TikTok does note that these requirements vary by region – TechCrunch has reported that creators need to have at least 100k followers to qualify in some cases.

As explained by TikTok:

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The new Tips feature allows people to directly show gratitude to creators for their content, much like recognizing exceptional service or giving a standing ovation. As is standard for tipping in person, with Tips creators will receive 100% of the tip value.”

Tip payments will be processed by Stripe, with creators required to sign up to manage their earnings in the app.

“With Video Gifts, also available today, creators can now collect Diamonds not only by going LIVE but also by posting videos. This also gives people an all-new way to interact and engage with content they love.”

TikTok live gifts

That will provide expanded capacity to generate real money from posting, without having to go live, which will open new doors to many TikTok creators.

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In addition to this, TikTok’s also lowering the threshold for those who can list their profiles in its Creator Marketplace brand collaboration platform, which enables businesses to find TikTok influencers to partner with on in-app campaigns.

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TikTok Creator marketplace

Up till now, creators have required 100k followers to qualify for these listings, but now, TikTok is reducing that number to 10k, which will further expand available opportunities for both users and brands.

That could make it much easier to find relevant creators to partner with, in a lot more niches, which will add more considerations into your TikTok posting and engagement process.

As noted, these are the latest in TikTok’s broader efforts to provide comparable monetization opportunities, in order to keep its top stars posting to the platform, as opposed to drifting off to YouTube or Instagram instead, which have more established monetization systems.

The advantage that other apps have in this respect is that longer videos can include pre-roll and mid-roll ads, facilitating direct monetization, which TikTok can’t utilize given the shorter nature of its clips. As such, it needs to look to alternate funding methods, which will also include eCommerce listings, with direct product displays now the primary source of income for the Chinese version of the app.

The platform’s continued growth facilitates even more opportunities in this respect, with more brands looking to tap into the various opportunities of the platform, and partner with creators to maximize their presence.

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How popular, and valuable, direct tipping and gifting can be is more variable, as some dedicated fan bases will pay, while others will see no reason to donate for what they can already access for free.

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But even so, it adds more opportunity, and the lower thresholds for monetization will see many more opportunities across the board in the app.

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Shorter Videos Are In Demand. Here’s How Different Social Media Platforms Are Reacting.

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

With TikTok and Instagram Reels slowly conquering social media marketing, there’s no mistake: Short videos are in demand.

The average length for most, if not all, business videos is only six minutes long. And that number is set to decrease as consumers look for shorter videos.

With that in mind, why are short videos in demand? What platforms are implementing short-form videos the best? And most importantly, how can they benefit your business?

TikTok – Changing consumerism, one video at a time

Where shorter videos are concerned, TikTok has always led the industry. What started as a merger with Musical.ly quickly became one of the world’s most powerful social media platforms. And what made it so famous? The same concept that made Vine viral short videos.

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TikTok has over 1 billion active users, twice as many as Snapchat and Pinterest. For reference, Twitter only has 397 million users. With such a massive user-base, the only thing keeping the platform alive are the 15-second-long videos.

But why are short videos so popular? Simple – people don’t have time on their hands. When they open apps like TikTok and Instagram, they’re more likely to spend time watching shorter videos.  And businesses are already catching up.

The impact of Instagram Reels

With the invention of Stories by Snapchat, other platforms like Instagram caught up on short videos. Instagram Reels presents adults and young users with a more straightforward way to tell others about their day. It employs quick photos and videos that are only available for 24 hours instead of being permanently posted. Now engagement is encouraged, especially after Instagram included the “Swipe” option. This has allowed e-commerce sites to both advertise their products and make instant messaging easier.

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Youtube has joined the bandwagon

While YouTube is more or less a platform for long-form videos, its recent update offers shorter vertical videos. Known as YouTube Shorts, the feature allows creators to engage with their audience in under 60 seconds.

But YouTube has another trick up its sleeve, and this one is mainly towards advertisers. It is “YouTube TrueView” and is the primary advertising technology for YouTube. Through this, advertisers can promote long or short videos, with some being skippable after five seconds.

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However, since most people are unlikely to click on longer ads, YouTube now offers 6-second non-skippable ads. The clickthrough rate for shorter 15 and 30-second ads is around 70%, a whopping number for any business.

It’s time to say goodbye to IGTV

With Instagram’s IGTV coming off as less captivating than its Reels and video posts, it has decided to remove IGTV. Instead, it has a separate section for videos. These videos will appear on a person’s profile and can be viewed from the Instagram app.

The change they made here is that videos posted to the Instagram feed can be up to 60 minutes long. The exact reason for doing this is not confirmed. But it seems like Instagram wants a seamless platform where short and long videos co-exist.

This makes long videos more accessible to users using the Instagram app. And it helps promote video tutorials that people typically do not consume on social media apps.

Another significant change is that Instagram videos that are longer can be monetized, a feature not available on Reels. This significantly shifts the focus towards creators who don’t sell a service and want to gain cash through Instagram.

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Does this mean long-form videos are out of the picture?

With short-form videos becoming more popular among consumers, will long-form videos die out? While it’s highly recommended for any business to create videos as short as possible, the answer isn’t that black and white.

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While short-form videos will drive traffic from new users, long-form videos are better for brand loyalty. Shorter videos will get more engagement and show up on new users’ feeds. But longer videos will be the backbone of your business.

Of course, that depends on what service you’re offering. Ecommerce companies will want to direct their attention towards short-form videos and ads. However, long-form videos are better suited for when you want to go in-depth about product details. That is, of course, only after you’ve grabbed the user’s attention with a short-form video.

Companies that offer webinars will benefit from longer videos. And so will companies that post interviews. However, promos and how-to videos should remain under a minute or two, depending on how long the tutorial needs to be.

Essentially, ask yourself two questions:

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  • First, can the video content be summarized in a short-form video?
  • Do you want to merely catch the attention of the consumer or develop brand loyalty?

The correct formula is neither short nor long, but a mix of both.

What this all means for an entrepreneur

Short-form videos hold substantial market value, especially for new businesses. Take the example of the Dollar Shave Club. What started as a viral video on YouTube grew to become a behemoth of a brand.

And that’s not where the examples end. There are countless success stories like this one that prove the value of short videos.

Short videos have a higher clickthrough rate, and for entrepreneurs, that’s all you need. Short videos are of particular interest to people with ecommerce businesses. For example, 84% of people say they are more compelled to buy a product by watching a video. And the statistics keep on showing a friendlier short-video market.

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There is no doubt that short-form videos are gradually creeping up the graph. And while long-form videos are great for information and brand loyalty, shorter videos are better for PR.

This begs one last question: Are videos beneficial for you? The answer is – yes!

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How to Make a TikTok Video: Beginners Start Here

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Let’s face it, TikTok is the moment.

And with 1 billion monthly active users, it’s time to join the action and get your brand out there to a wider audience!

Want to learn how to make a TikTok Video but don’t know where to start? Don’t sweat it! We broke down all the steps and tools you’ll need to make a viral-worthy first video and make sure your debut is anything but cringe.

Download the full Social Trends report to get an in-depth analysis of the data you need to prioritize and plan your social strategy in 2022.

How to create a TikTok account

First things first, you’ll need to create a TikTok account.

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There are different ways to sign up for one: you can use your phone number, email address or social media account. Here’s how to do it using your phone number.

1. Download TikTok from Google Play or the App Store.

2. Open the TikTok App on your iPhone or Android.

3. Click the “Me” or “Profile” icon at the bottom-right of your screen.

profile icon on TikTok

4. Choose a method to sign up (we’re choosing “use phone or email”)

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sign up for TikTok using phone or email

5. Enter your birth date and phone number (make sure this is accurate because it’s how you’ll retrieve passwords and confirm your account).

enter birthday when signing up on TikTok

6. Enter the 6-digit code sent to that phone number (see, told ya!)

7. You did it! Celebrate by scrolling TikTok for too many hours.

How to make a TikTok video

Here’s how to get started on your very first TikTok video. Luckily for you, it’s way easier than learning this TikTok Shuffle dance.

1. Hit the + sign at the bottom of your screen.

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2. You can upload photos and videos from your phone’s library or make a video directly using the TikTok camera.

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3. If recording directly, hit the Record button at the bottom of the screen. Hit it again when you’re done recording. The default video mode is “Quick” which is for 15 second videos but you can switch it to “Camera” for more editing options and longer videos (15s, 60s and 3 mins), or “Templates” to create a specific style of video.

record button on the bottom of TikTok screen

4. Tap the check mark when you’re done shooting all your footage.

tap checkmark after shooting footage

5. Make any edits or changes on the post page. All your edits are on the right sidebar of the screen. Also, add music or sounds by hitting “Add sound” at the top of the screen.

add sound on TikTok

6. Post that video and share it everywhere! Make sure to include a description with some hashtags so it finds its way to your audience.

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post video on TikTok with description

How to make a TikTok with multiple videos

Instead of taking one long video, why not capture shorter videos and edit them together to make your TikTok video? Here’s how to do that (and you don’t need a film degree).

1. Hit that “+” sign to start your video

2. You can either shoot multiple videos directly by hitting that record button after each clip, building up your video with different shots. Or, you can hit the “Upload” button next to the record button and add multiple videos and photos you have stored on your phone.

3. Select all your media and tap Next.

4. You can now sync sound across your videos and make adjustments (or try “Auto sync” which will do the syncing up for you.)

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sync sound on TikTok

automatically sync clips

5. Hit Next when done. You’ll be brought to a preview screen where you can further add sounds, more effects, text, and stickers.

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hit next and add suggested sounds

6. Tap Next when you’re done editing your video and proceed to the Post screen.

7. Remember to throw in a description and some hashtags and bingo-bango-bongo you’re the Steven Spielberg of TikTok!

5 things to know before creating your first TikTok

TikTok style is less polished than other types of video

Don’t worry about being too precious with your videos. On TikTok, videos are meant to be candid, and natural—and they should show off your personality. Things like perfect edits, smooth transitions or flawless lighting shouldn’t get in the way of your idea and your own charisma.

Sure, there are lots of editing options, effects and filters to choose from (what the heck is the difference between B3 and G4 filters anyways?) but the real star is you —or, at least all 6 of these friends belting out Lady Gaga for the #caughtinabadromance challenge at this bachelorette. If that’s not candid, I don’t know what is.

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@ariellehartford

That finger stole the show! 😂😂😂 #bachelorettetrip #gatlinburg #caughtinabadromamce

♬ original sound – Arielle Hartford

You don’t have to dance

Good news! You don’t have to spend 2 hours trying to perfect the LaLisa dance tutorial to make sure your video stands out (unless you want to, then no judgment over here!).

There are so many different ways to engage your followers that don’t involve you popping and locking in your living room in front of a ring light (but again, no judgement if you do, except maybe from your pet and their adorable judging eyes).

You also don’t have to attempt whatever this is.

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@sdavidrodriguez

♬ Grab Da Wall & Rock Da Boat – 504 Boyz & Weebie

Hashtags can help more people see your post

It’s no secret a good hashtag can go a long way on TikTok. Strategic use of hashtags will help people find your videos who don’t already follow you, and maybe even see it on their For You Page (FYP).

Find the best hashtags to grow your views and help get your content recognized by the algorithm. You worked so hard on it, might as well show it off to as many people as possible.

The right song can go a long way

Attaching a trending song to your video or audio from a popular TikTok video can help it get seen by more people. This app has a big music following (lots of new songs are intentionally promoted through the app to help them climb the music charts) so lassoing your video to one of these shooting stars is only going to help you get on more FYP and in front of new audiences.

@suzyjonesmusic

♬ original sound – Suzy Jones

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Your greatest asset is you

Don’t overthink it, just come up with a simple idea and let your personality shine through. The sense of intimacy and community that TikTok brings is why people love this app—it feels personal.

Even if you’re doing a TikTok challenge or trend that’s popular, the thing that will make you stand out is your unique take on it. It’s not about gimmicks but about putting your best self out there. Nothing should feel too staged or self-aware (that’s cringe territory). Pretend your audience are your good friends and approach it with that energy!

@janikon_No, I can’t re-record this, I’m laughing too hard #fyp♬ original sound – Stu (he/him)

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