Nikki Bogopolskaya is motivated by “health, wealth, and community,” whether she’s helping big brands reach Gen Z through TikTok brand partnerships or making angel investments in emerging startups on nights and weekends. She’s taken a stab at entrepreneurship herself, cofounding acupuncture health and wellness startup Area 25, and has also led partnerships at Match Group, Foursquare, and an influencer marketing agency, Social Studies.
In this article, get some insider tips on how to use TikTok as a growth platform, learn how the Super Bowl might become a screen-agnostic experience, and uncover the success of the #tiktokmademebuyit movement.
What companies do you look for as an angel investor and what are some companies you've invested in?
When it comes to investments, I’m very interested in businesses that target Gen Z'ers. I’m an “elder millennial,” but working at TikTok has really opened my eyes to how transparent, authentic, and hardworking Gen Z’ers are. I want to work alongside them to build products for the next generation with passion and vision. This being said, I’m especially drawn to startups in health, wealth, and community, and this mindset has motivated some of my current investments.
One of the first companies I invested in is Upstream, an up-and-coming social networking platform, where I started my experience as an event participant and soon became a community host. I’ve seen the great potential of the product, and their differentiating factor, which is their passionate focus on community building. I've also invested in a couple of companies in the wellness space, for example, House of Wise, which is a CBD company that aims to improve sex, sleep, and stress. Other investments include a non-alcoholic alcohol company transforming the health component of drinking, an app called SwayPay that allows everyone to become an influencer, and a company called RealWorld, which is a marketplace for everything you need to be a grownup. Yes, this includes how to do your accounting and filing taxes.
What is the observable impact TikTok has on Small Businesses?
There’s this hashtag on TikTok, #tiktokmademebuyit, which has over 4 billion views and insane virality. This example goes to prove that the TikTok community is an extremely special and leaned-in platform for driving commerce, I think due to its genuine nature. A lot of the times when I'm on another platform, and I see an influencer selling something, I am not necessarily drawn or convinced, whereas TikTok has such raw and unfiltered content that people love to see. At TikTok, brands have the opportunity to tell their stories in a less expected way. Many elements of marketing have become very by the (brand) book, where everything is beautiful and coordinated into your content strategy, while TikTokers can be funny, weird, and themselves.
I recently talked to a non-alcoholic beverage company, and they sent me a TikTok video that somebody made about their drinks, which wasn’t even commissioned or paid for. This TikTok entirely sold out their product in the United States. TikTok has the ability to make small businesses go viral like no other platform.
What's interesting and a bit unexpected is that most of the work I do on TikTok is actually with financial services brands. I’m working with big banks, credit cards, brokerages, and insurance companies and teaching them how to use TikTok to reach their target demographics. This is becoming increasingly important especially because the Gen Z’ers don’t necessarily trust these big banks, but they’re so leaned into their financial literacy and fitness. I’m working on helping brands be a big part of that financial journey through the power of TikTok marketing.
How can startups take advantage of TikTok to increase sales?
One of the biggest things about TikTok that is amazing for startups is that it can be rather inexpensive to find massive success. You don't have to necessarily have to pay our creators a lot of money, because the people who are “influencers” on TikTok are often just regular people who found their niche and audience. You don’t need to pay a production company to film your commercial; making a TikTok is as simple as giving a company intern a phone. Content production, therefore, comes at a very low cost of failure. If you make a TikTok and it's bad, no one's really going to see it; our algorithm pushes content that people are engaging with to your feed. This is why TikTok is so valuable for startups. With little risk-taking and comparatively small budgets, you can see really high rewards
My biggest tips to take advantage of the platform are to work with the community to be authentic and unexpected. Lean into our creators, lean into your consumers, and don’t be afraid to be weird. Simply go behind the scenes and tell your brand story. People come to TikTok to be entertained and be educated, and as long as your brand content demonstrates either of those two values, you can find a lot of success on the app.
What trends are you following in Media?
The first trend I’m seeing is screen-agnostic entertainment. It used to be, for example, when the Super Bowl aired on TV, you were able to see it through CBS. Now, entertainment is airing everywhere. So if the Super Bowl is airing on TV, how can TikTok offer a different experience? Like broadcasting a “behind the scenes” with the players or brands while the Super Bowl is airing live. It’s important to keep in mind that when brands and companies start creating content for these smaller screens, it has to be native for these mediums and how consumers are using them.
The second trend I think will begin to elevate even more is ecommerce. With COVID, ecommerce has really accelerated, making nearly everything we buy an online purchase. At TikTok, we're working on making this type of shopping more fun. For example, how can we have live streams with creators selling products directly from the platform? How can we make online shopping as fun as window shopping with friends? Going through a website, browsing through a bunch of stuff, and not buying—it’s not fun. Nobody enjoys that, so we’re trying to build an experience that improves it. That’s why I’d say mobile-first entertainment and an improving ecommerce experience are two of the biggest trends right now in media, and we're really trying to be at the forefront of both.