Welcome to the Marketing in the Wild podcast. I’m Julia from Stratos Creative Marketing, where we are obsessed with finding real-life examples of the good, the bad, and sometimes wild, in marketing.

Julia: Hey, everybody. I am excited to introduce you to Jonathan Corone. He’s a fellow StoryBrand guide, but before I get into our conversation, the reason I am really interested in talking with him is because he has been using TikTok with his marketing. TikTok, I feel like is the wild, wild west and we don’t really know what’s happening totally. And so, Jonathan, I’m really excited to talk to you about it. But before we get into that, tell us where you’re from, who you are, what you do, anything you wanna tell us. 

Jonathan: So I am from a little small town, just north of Winston-Salem, North Carolina that no one’s ever heard of. I can see the real-life Mount Pilot from the Andy Griffith show from my house.

Julia: Oh, nice. 

Jonathan: If that tells anybody anything, probably not, but whatever. So yeah, I do marketing and web design, have my own business doing that. I work with businesses, nonprofits, churches, all sorts of things, to do things and help them get the word out about what they do and how they can help solve people’s problems and really serve their audience.

But on top of that, and what kind of got me here is I host a podcast with another StoryBrand guide, called Unlearning Youth Group. We are both former student ministry guys from the church world. And so we started that about two years ago or so. And the biggest growth that we have seen for the podcast is directly related to TikTok.

I stopped doing any type of promotion for the show on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and it’s all TikTok and we have grown significantly. And so that’s what got me here. That’s kinda in a conversation we were having and that’s kind of the world I’m in. Eric, my co-host, he actually has used TikTok on the business side of things. So he’s positioned himself as a business coach and has like, high five-figure followers at this point. He’s even got paid tos at this point. Wow. He’s gotten paid for creating Tik Toks at this point. There’s been some lead generation there, so yeah, it’s a fun, wild, wild west world that I have no clue what I’m doing on.

Julia: Well you have more clue than what I know. And this is the honest truth, I feel like we do a ton of social media for people and everybody’s like, “Should I do TikTok?” and I’m like, I have no idea because I don’t totally know. And there’s definitely a specific age range that TikTok primarily has, but it sounds like you’ve gotten even a different audience than you expected.

Jonathan: Yeah. So, the specific age range thing isn’t as much anymore. What happened during the pandemic is, millennials were so bored that they jumped on that app that all the gen Z kids were dancing on and now there’s all sorts of millennial trends and millennial stuff, and then gen X has gotten on as well.

So I mean, other than boomers, if you’re trying to reach ’em, there’s some boomers on there, but millennials are probably as much as gen Z at this point on TikTok because Facebook became a cesspool and Instagram started becoming trying to become like everything else. And so it’s just where people have landed. And then here’s the other thing. Instagram reels is just TikTok three weeks later. There’s all generations there. So it’s not just a gen Z thing anymore. 

Julia: Okay, sweet. So I should actually probably back up. Tell us what is your podcast about and how did you end up on TikTok for?

Jonathan: So our podcast is called Unlearning Youth Group. And we say that we take a look at all the things we learned back in youth group, find the good, unlearn the bad, and figure out where the heck we go from here. That is kind of our tag on it, we open every show with that idea. It’s all the stuff we learned back in youth group, because Eric and I both led and we all had good intentions, but with some time and perspective, we realized there were some things we did that weren’t so great. And it started because I had a conversation with Wes Gay, another StoryBrand guide who has been in the ministry world, and I made this statement, “It’s sad that so many people are having to go to therapy to unlearn the things taught in youth group.” 

And so we’re trying to find, what are the good intentions behind all those things? But where did we go wrong and what do we need to unlearn so that we don’t train up our kids or the next generation that we’re leading, in the same way and make the same mistakes. Because now that we have the information, if we make the same mistakes, it’s on us. That’s the idea of the show. With TikTok, I joined last summer and I wasn’t sure what I was gonna do with it. I was just bored and I wanted some new creative outlet. 

And so when I first got on, I was kind of positioning myself as church marketing and some of those things, and I would do series on StoryBrand for churches and more business stuff, beause I used to have a podcast called Solving Problems. That was a church marketing podcast, how do you do StoryBrand for churches and all that. I actually co-hosted with Kyler for a while. Just a big old StoryBrand group. 

Julia: I know, all these people, we know all of these names. Listeners, if you don’t know who they are, just find them on Facebook or Instagram.

Jonathan: So I started off doing that and I would post show clips. Eric and I started recording video. And I would post show clips and they wouldn’t get a ton of traction. And so I’m just kind of going through the motions with TikTok, just trying to figure out where I can get some traction. I had a few hundred followers, but nothing significant. And then back in January, I posted a show clip that got some traction. It got a few thousand views and some comments and some new followers and that. So I started doing some TikToks talking about the same idea as that show clip, but not actually from the show. So it was basically repurposing the same type of content but doing it directly for TikTok instead of the show.

Julia: Like with the trends and stuff?

Jonathan: Well, I didn’t even do the trends. My TikTok is boring as crap, it’s just me talking straight to camera. I don’t do the trends because I just can’t put myself to do that. 

Julia: You don’t wanna dance on TikTok, Jonathan?

Jonathan: No. Eric does some of that! Eric has done the trends, he’s done the thing where he was sitting in the shower fully clothed with the water coming down. He’s done them all and he has significantly more followers than I do. But I started, what I learned was I started talking about the things from the show. So I would show clips occasionally, but I would talk about the ideas we’re talking about. And sometimes I would promote the show sometimes I wouldn’t, but people started following me because of those ideas. And so I have the show in my bio, and a lot of times I would start my TikToks and say, my name’s Jonathan, I host a podcast called Unlearning Youth Group and here’s a thought on this thing.

So it kind of became a thing of, Jonathan, Unlearning Youth Group podcast. If I wanna know more about this guy, I go there. And so, since January I have gone from a couple hundred to I’m pushing 8,000 followers. And our show went from like 50, 60 listens within 30 days of an episode to now we’re pushing.700-800 listens. After 30 days, we’ve had a couple hit a thousand at this point. So we’re not gigantic by any means, but for two guys that are just trying to do something that we think will help people it’s already so much bigger than we thought it would be. 

Julia: Wow. And it’s reaching more people, which that’s kind of the point.

Jonathan: Yes, exactly. And so not only is the content going out. If we wanna go in depth, the content’s going out on the podcast. But it’s also allowing me to take the content in little 60-second blips or 15-second blips and get to more people because, I kind of have a bet going on right now, am I gonna get to a hundred thousand likes or 8,000 followers first?

So I’m within 2000 likes and like 50 followers. So I don’t know which one will come first. But I mean, I’ve had a few videos pop off and get 30, 40, 50,000 views. And so even if those people don’t listen to my show, the reason I started the show was to get ideas into the world to help people. And so they’re still getting the bite size version of those ideas, even if they don’t ever listen to the show, but more people are listening to the show than I thought ever would. So it’s been this weird thing. 

My wife makes fun of me doing the TikToks and I purposely never followed anyone that I know. So TikTok is the only platform, the only major social platform that is made for people you don’t follow. Cause you think Instagram and Twitter and Facebook, they open up to the feed of people you have chosen to follow. When you open TikTok, it opens to the for-you page, right. It’s a list of videos that the algorithm thinks you want to see. So the amount of messages I’ve gotten from people like, “Hey, you popped up on my for-you page! I was like, yep, that’s me. Yeah. Cool. But I purposely didn’t seek those people out because they’ve already heard all myself before. Right. So these 8,000 people who are following me now, I think I know 10 of them in real life. So it’s a whole brand new audience that I never would’ve reached had I stayed on the other three. 

Julia: That’s amazing. So what I’m hearing from you is, instead of following TikTok trends or anything like that, like you’re just taking like a nugget of information from your podcast and then making that into a video.

Jonathan: That and other thoughts that I had that didn’t make it to shows. So one of the other things you can do on TikTok that’s pretty fun is, you can take a video someone else posted and stitch it. So you basically take five seconds from that and respond to it. So I responded to something this morning. I did that with something this morning and it had gotten about 1500 views by the time that we did this. I recorded 10 seconds on a five second clip. So then I posted it and I’ve wasted way too much time arguing with people in the comments, but it was a super easy thing to do. 

It’s kind of brand building, I guess you could say, because, our show is very in the middle of the road. We are not conservative Christians. We are not progressive Christians. We are right there, square in the middle. And so what it does is it allows people to look at me and I say some things that progressive Christians like and some things that conservative Christians like, and so they kind of get a feel for who I actually am, which makes the people who are in the same boat as I am trying to figure out how to walk this tension. Like oh, that guy is like me. I want to go listen to more. So even if it’s stuff that never makes the podcast, it’s stuff that makes people want to listen to the podcast. 

Julia: Well, what I appreciate about what you’re doing, I would imagine that it doesn’t necessarily require a lot of prep work. I think about when I’m like, “Julia, I’m gonna make a reel” because we do reels on Instagram, I get into my head because I’m like, well I have to look this way or I have to have this set up, because I am looking to do a trend, per se, or I have to find the audio, but you’re just kind of going like, “Hey, here’s a piece of information. Let’s just put it up on the internet.”

Jonathan: I keep a running list in a note on my phone of ideas I have throughout the day and I try to post two or three a day during the week. I don’t post on the weekends because I’m with my family. But I literally, so my desk is right here. I’m looking at you on the desk for people who can’t see us. If I turn 90 degrees, I have a wall back here with some posters on. And my TikTok is literally me holding the phone with that in the background and me talking. I do the same setup so that it’s consistent. People are used to it, but I don’t seek out trends. I don’t seek out trending songs. I don’t seek out whatever. I just kind of do it. 

And here’s the thing. Some videos get 150 views, right? Some totally bomb. Some get 70,000. It’s a crap shoot. I was talking with Eric about it because he’s asked me, “With the amount of engagement your videos get, I don’t see why you get don’t get as many views.” But it’s because I ask questions. I’m like, what do you think about this? Or what are your thoughts on this idea? And so I invite people to give responses. So what gets your views up is when people share your videos to other people. But I would rather have engagement than views. So I ask those questions and invite the back and forth. And so that keeps the conversation going more, cause I’m more interested in the conversations than I am the views. 

So I may only have 1500 views, but I’ve got 200 comments because I’m starting discussions and that type of thing. 

Julia: Right. That’s awesome. And that engagement is probably more likely to translate into podcast listens than views would.

Jonathan: Correct. 

Julia: Because then they’re actually engaged with you as a person. 

Jonathan: And that’s the goal. I don’t want it to be just some random talking head. I want them to know there’s more to this. And I kind of niche down to only talk about church stuff on there. I’m starting to do more and more that’s not church related because I have realized I want people to see that entire person and not just the guy talking about church stuff, because as people get to know you in other ways, they’re more drawn to you and want you to…with my church clients, for when I do websites and marketing with them, I tell pastors all the time, you need to show people your real life because people are more likely to want to be led by someone who is showing real life things than someone who just stands up on stage and talks to them about Jesus. And so I wanna follow my own advice and show more than that, but for me, it’s all about the conversations more so than the views. 

Julia: Totally. So a couple questions on TikTok, just based on what you’ve learned, what would you say are some best practices that you’ve learned for TikTok?

Jonathan: Probably none of the stuff that I do. So I mean, the best practices I have heard, and that I think are easiest to follow is to be consistent. That doesn’t mean you have to post at the same times every day, just put out consistent content because people who follow, they want to seek consistency and nothing screams amateur more than putting one thing out today and nothing until next Thursday and then nothing again until three weeks after that. 

So just be consistent, whether that’s batching content and making it all at once and just streaming it out or setting aside time in your day to make a couple throughout the day. Another best practice that helps a lot of people, especially probably the audience that we’re talking to right now is to niche down and make consistent content about the same thing. You can be broad in that niche. My stuff’s not just youth group stuff. Mine is just a church in general type of content. So whatever that niche is, you’ll find the hashtags that can do it, because unlike Instagram, hashtags still help you get in the algorithm on TikTok where they don’t on Instagram anymore. 

So that that’s one way to do it, and interact with others. So comment on other people, follow other people, stitch or duet other people’s content, because then they’ll see, get a notification every time you do that. That’s a good way to start building up TikTok relationships and they’ll push people to you and you’ll push people to them. Those are probably the three biggest things that I would suggest 

Julia: Sweet. Those are perfect. Thank you. Another question. I realize you are using TikTok to promote your podcast, but an underlying current that I’m hearing is that you also just wanna serve people and put information out there. If someone were wanting to use TikTok in their marketing plan, how would they know that’s a good option for them? 

Jonathan: I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it work. Eric, my co-host, he has, if you look at, businesscoacheric on TikTok, he puts out consistent content about business leadership because that’s one of the avenues he’s in. And so he’s able to serve people by like helping them lead better by answering questions that they have. I follow another guy who is a web designer. He talks about best practices and other things like that. When I was doing the church marketing side of things, the ones that got the most views were just tips and tricks of how to actually do this stuff.

And so there’s, you’ve heard the story or phrase, give away the why, not the how. And so we talk a lot about, this is what you should be doing. And then you can give some tips, here’s a way to do this. Here’s a quick way of how to do this. And just give the broad strokes pictures of how to do stuff, because then you’re seen as an expert, but they don’t know enough to actually do it on do it themselves.

Another thing is, so for my business, the thing on my website that has gotten the most feedback is, I have a section on my website that says “You could do it yourself, but you probably shouldn’t.” And then three points of why they shouldn’t. And so as you’re doing your TikTok for your business, by showing that you’re the expert and showing how hard some of this stuff is, you’re gonna show people, yeah, you could do this, but do you really wanna waste your time and your energy on all of this stuff when you were better suited to be doing this. If you don’t wanna waste your time here, hire me.

Julia: Are there any businesses that you think wouldn’t be like good candidates for TikTok? For using TikTok in their marketing? 

Jonathan: I would say, I wouldn’t say any type of business, I would say any type of audience.

Julia: Okay. Cause you mentioned boomers. Not really. 

Jonathan: Yeah. I mean, if your audience isn’t there, then there’s no use doing it. Go to where your audience is. But I would think it’s worth taking the time to search out if there’s a niche for your audience on TikTok. Because even if it’s small, it’s almost easier to reach them than if it’s a giant niche. But I mean, I can’t tell you how many things I have seen and I’m like, oh, I didn’t realize there was that niche on TikTok, but it somehow showed up on my for-you page. And it’s all there. If you think it could help you do it, if you don’t then don’t, but don’t just write it off because it’s that weird thing that gen Z does. 

Julia: Cause it’s not about gen Z anymore. Millennials have taken over. But yeah, one of my colleagues, she has a friend who’s a dentist who, one of his videos about dentistry went viral. 

Jonathan: There’s so much stuff like that!

Julia: And so it just is so fascinating. Like what can go viral and what won’t? 

Jonathan: So, I mean also, the amount of medical field stuff there is, just talking about this and that, are fascinating. There are a couple guys that have landscaping businesses. And they go around and they’ll mow someone yard for free. And they just do a time lapse of them cleaning up the edging on a sidewalk or them mowing an overgrown lawn or something like that. And I sit there and I watch it every single time! I’m not gonna hire them. Right. But I’m so intrigued by like just watching someone clean up a sidewalk. I don’t know why, I don’t want to clean up a sidewalk but watching them do it, like pressure washing. Why am I watching a 60-second pressure washing video? I don’t know, but I love it. 

Julia: I think that’s so fascinating because I will also sit and watch videos like that. Maybe not of sidewalks or pressure washing, but just process videos, like cleaning.

Jonathan: Pool cleaning? Yeah, I don’t know why, but watching someone clean a pool. Okay! I watch it. 

Julia: Oh my gosh. Um, but I think that’s, yeah, that’s so fascinating. I wonder why our brains do that? 

Jonathan: Here’s the one that’s gonna get me in trouble. There are quite a few people who have their solo pilot license that will film themselves flying somewhere, “Hey, we did this quick two hour trip down to Florida, blah, blah, blah. This is what we did.” And I’m like mm-hmm and then Kyle and I were in a conversation last week and he casually dropped he’s thinking about getting his pilot’s license and I’m like, okay. TikTok and peer pressure are gonna get me in trouble.

Julia: Or you’ll have a lot of fun. And then you’ll just have to put all of your flying videos on TikTok. 

Jonathan: One of the two!

Julia: Maybe you can start doing your own bite size piece of information, but from the plane.

Jonathan: Sure. I would love that, flying wherever I wanted to go. Who knows! But that’s what I’m saying. There’s all sorts of stuff out there that you probably don’t think someone would watch, but they’re watching. If they’re watching me talk about church stuff, they’ll likely watch you talk about other things, especially if you do it in a way that serves them, that is giving them information that is showing them behind the scenes, that is allowing them to get a bit of a better idea of what actually goes into something, they’ll follow it.

Julia: Well, and I think it’s even interesting. I often think about my own consumer trends, the fact that you can sit there watching somebody pressure wash something, or I will sit there watching somebody work on some sort of project or paint or something like that. To those people, like who are actually doing it, they’re probably like, this is the most boring thing ever, but consumers will watch it. And so I think that’s the other thing is we have to think, what would be interesting to me or what would be interesting to the audience, because I think we can be surprised too. 

Julia: So I actually saw a TikTok earlier this morning that kind of speaks to that and it speaks to the, probably millennial and gen X reason why we’re on TikTok. When we were growing up, we didn’t have a thousand different ways or things to watch on TV. But we also weren’t able to see what was on. So we would scroll through the channels, watch a second of something until something caught our eye. We would watch that something until we were bored and then we would keep scrolling.

Julia: Oh, wow. 

Jonathan: This is just the cell phone version of what we used to do, watching TV. 

Julia: Right. And none of it is really long. 

Jonathan: Most videos are between, Probably 10 and 60 seconds. Occasionally you’ll have a three minute one. But the way TikTok works is you do, they do 15 seconds, 60 seconds, or three minute videos. And so those are your three types. 

Julia: Other totally random question. But have you found any commonality between all of the videos that have performed better? Yeah. I’ve got a few topics that I know if I need that dopamine rush of a bunch of people watching stuff, I know I can either go to purity culture, women in ministry, or, there was a third one I was thinking about, I can’t remember what it is right this minute, or I could just criticize the church, right? Those are the three. If I need those videos, that’s what it’ll be. But I try not to cuz a lot of times that ends up being negative stuff and I don’t wanna be the negative guy all the time. But if I ever need that, that hit, I know these are my go-to bags that I can hit on and I’m gonna get people arguing with me in my comments, which will drive engagement up. 

Julia: I believe it.

Jonathan: So I actually did one earlier this week that another StoryBrand guy, Trip Crosby, do you remember the viral video a few years ago about if a zoom meeting came to real life? 

Julia: No, I don’t think I watched that. 

Jonathan: Okay. Trip wrote that and started it. He’s done a ton of viral video stuff. But he’s commenting, arguing with a guy, and I can tell Trip is just egging this guy on. So I text Trip, just a joke, I was like, “Hey, $10 says this guy…” I don’t know what I said. And he comes back and goes, “Sorry for trolling. It’s a release for me sometimes.”

I was like, “Troll away!” Because that gives me more engagement, which gets more view counts. So we laughed at that. So there’s all sorts of stuff. You can spend way too much time on there. It’s easy to get sucked in the rabbit hole so you have to be smart about it. 

Julia: That’s why it’s not on my phone anymore. I spent way too much time on it. 

Jonathna: And that’s one of the reasons I don’t do the trendy stuff because I don’t wanna have to take the time to set up all that stuff and to think through it. I care about it, but I don’t wanna care about it that much. So I post stuff and there, there are times like, I’ll forget hashtags. Well, crap. That’s not gonna do anything cause you can’t go back and edit it. So it’s either take it down or redo it. And so there are times I’m like, well, I probably should have spent more than 20 seconds thinking about that one. But then sometimes I’ll do that and it’ll pop off because the algorithm sees something in it because AI is smarter than we are and they’re taking over the world. They’ll see something and it’ll still get pushed out. So who knows what’s going on? 

Julia: Yeah, I mean, I think it is like a grand experiment and it’s cool that you’ve been able to use it to serve other people and also boost your listens in your podcasts.

Jonathan: And it’s fun, it’s legit fun. It’s a good outlet to just have a little bit of fun, especially because on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, I know the people who are following mostly. And so I think about what they, how they would respond to me because I know them. On TikTok, I don’t know my followers. So I don’t give two craps what they think of me. 

Julia: Well, and I think also if you’re engaging with people in the comments and really driving engagement, it does give back to this root of social media being social rather than just marketing.

Jonathan: Yes, I like to say, with the marketing that I do, it’s ethical market. It’s not hacks. It’s not like growth, whatever, for the sake of doing it, it’s not best practice. I’m gonna go out. I’m gonna do something that serves the people I’m trying to reach. And in return, I’m gonna trust the process that they will want to follow that and it’ll turn into what it needs to turn into.

Julia: I like that. That’s how I’ve built my business as well. All right. So Jonathan, this was super helpful. I am feeling personally convicted almost that I should be using TikTok as well. We’ll see what happens with that. But if people wanna connect with you or find you, where should they do that? 

Jonathan: I am at jonathan_carone. On Twitter, Instagram and TikTok. You can find Jonathan Carone on Facebook. I’m pretty sure I’m the only one there. That’s the socials. Unlearning Youth Group is the podcast. Business-wise, it’s Carone Designs. All of that is found jonathancarone.com. If you can’t remember anything else, basically if you search my name, it’s going to come up. 

Julia: You’ll find it somewhere. You’ll find him. Well, Jonathan, I really appreciate it. Thanks for coming on and talking about TikTok and all of like these cool insights about it. So thank you. Jonathan: Awesome. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

Friends, thanks for tuning into this week’s podcast episode. I am so glad that you have, if you’ve enjoyed it as much as we have, I just ask you to subscribe so you know each time we have a new episode coming out. If you loved our podcast and want to give us a rating or a review, I promise we will read each and every one of them. A special shout out to our friend, Carson Childers, who is producing our podcast. We really appreciate him and all the hard work that he’s done for us.

Also thanks to the Stratos team. They have been behind the scenes doing all of the graphic design, brainstorming, et cetera, et cetera. Really, this wouldn’t be possible without them. I’m thankful for each and every one of you guys. Lastly, listener, we’ll be back next week and I hope you will be too.