Taking TikTok Professional: the trailblazers using the platform to build their brand

Taking TikTok Professional: The trailblazers using the platform to build their brand

We spoke to two TikTokers successfully proving exactly how the platform can be used to build a professional brand.

4 minute read

The China based social media platform blew up during pandemic. But, at first glance, its dancing dogs and Gen Z audience, didn't appear fertile hunting ground for professionals attempting to build a business brand.

Like the social media giants before it, TikTok followed a natural life cycle from upstart to household name. With back-to-back lockdowns, this process moved quicker than it had for it's older Silicon Valley cousins. For many the opportunity to take advantage of this rapid growth and captivated audience flew past. But some were able to get ahead of the game and have reaped the rewards.

We spoke to two TikTokers that have taken the platform by storm, proving its value for professionals.

Tell us a little about yourself

TikTok Professionals
TikTok in law

I’m Alice Stephenson, the CEO and founder of Stephenson Law, and the leader of the #HumanLawyers movement. I’m all about challenging the status quo, subverting the norms of the legal industry, and breaking down barriers to self-expression as a lawyer. I’m driven to challenge our preconceptions of what it means to be a lawyer in the modern age… and as a result, you may have seen me on TikTok!

My name is Isobel, also known as @abusinessapprentice. I’m 20 years old, and embarked on a Business Professional Apprenticeship within a law firm in 2019, after turning down a place to study law at a Russell Group university.

If you are unfamiliar with apprenticeships - you study one day per week and work the remaining four days. They have many benefits - such as gaining a head start on your career, the company paying for your course/degree and you also earn a salary.

TikTok Professionals

Why did you start using TikTok

Alice: When I first started using TikTok it was really an experiment. I wanted a space where I could express myself, and subvert the ideas surrounding what a modern lawyer is. So often we’re perceived as stuffy and uptight, and I wanted to show there was more to the legal industry than a few grey suits. TikTok stood out to me as a platform where I could be creative, authentic, and untraditional. Ultimately, it stood out as a place where I could challenge the stereotypes of the legal industry. And it turns out I was right!

Isobel: I started using TikTok at the very start of 2021. I wanted to share what it was actually like to be an apprentice, because when I started looking into them it was impossible to gain a real insight. I posted one day in the life video on the 1st of January, and now have over 170,000 followers. After noticing how many young women were looking up to me and becoming inspired by my content, I decided to create a new aim - to inspire young women to be excited for their careers. In a world where so many young girls are influenced online to think having a sugar daddy and making an OnlyFans is the easiest way to make money, I think it's really important to have career focused ‘influencers’ to look up to and I really hope more will appear.

Do you think TikTok has benefited you professionally?

Alice: Absolutely!  I’ve been using TikTok for just under a year, and within that short time, I’ve gone viral, I’ve developed a personal brand creatively, and I’ve received countless messages from people who’ve seen my TikToks and have found themselves inspired, enthused, or drawn to my cause. Over night, I gained over half a million views, and was immediately thrust into the legal limelight. At first, it was a daunting experience, but in time I realised I now had a platform where I could shape my industry for the better.

So often I’ve been told it’s unprofessional for a lawyer to be on TikTok, but that’s not been my experience. It’s restrictive ideas like this that holds the legal profession back, and being unafraid to challenge the norm is exactly how we will excel professionally.

Isobel: Absolutely. Not only have I created a personal brand for myself, but I am learning key marketing and business skills every single day. How to engage with an audience and create high performing content, understanding social media, working with brands - I've essentially created my own business to run. It’s not directly benefited me in my apprenticeship due to the nature of my role, however, I was asked to help video pitch to a large fashion brand back in March, which was amazing. The firm knew I had a talent for creating videos and interested in fashion. It has also boosted my confidence massively. I used to be so afraid of what others thought of me, and hated anyone I knew finding my account in fear they may laugh at me. After being informed the CEO of a company took on apprentices because of me, earning an additional income through brand collaborations, and most importantly receiving thousands of messages telling me how inspiring I am and hearing from so many I am the reason they applied for and secured apprenticeships - I no longer care for anyone's opinion. People will always talk about you, so you may as well give them something good to talk about.

"It’s a lot easier to follow someone else’s path than to carve your own. That takes real guts."

-Alice Stephenson-

Why do you think professionals and professional organisations are so nervous about using the platform?

Alice: Organisations often get stuck in age-old processes, and a traditional way of doing things. That old adage, this is how we’ve always done it”, often holds industry giants back, and it can be harder to break the mould when facing decades of tradition. Moreover, there’s always an element of risk when it comes to going against the grain, and I can understand why organisations might want to play it safe.  But the problem with playing it safe is that you get left behind.

That’s why smaller firms like my own, Stephenson Law, have the opportunity to adapt quickly, embrace new tech, and approach the industry with an innovative mindset. We’re not trying to preserve the old, we’re trying to completely reinvent what it means to be a lawyer.

That can be a scary thought for professionals. They might worry about the prospect of failure, the potential to lose clients, or the difficulty in standing out from the crowd. It’s a lot easier to follow someone else’s path than to carve your own. That takes real guts.

Isobel: Because it only takes one wrong move to find yourself in a lot of trouble. With professional organisations and individuals spending years building up their reputations, it is understandable why the subject is nerve-wracking and not always worth the risk. There is one rule I stick to - if i wouldn't sit in a boardroom with the partners of my firm and confidently show them a post, I won’t post it! I also think the meaning of 'professional' has been confused. ‘Professional’ does not mean only discussing and showing your work. ‘Professional’ is being respectful, presentable and reliable at all times and in all environments. It is easy to forget we are all human beings and we do have a life outside of work. However, it is very possible to remain professional whilst sharing your interests and passions outside of the workplace. Without doing this, how can anyone become inspired on a personal level to take the same path as you?

"This is the first example of ‘career influencing’ I have seen, and I am just waiting to see many more. "


Do you see this changing?

Alice: The legal profession has changed enormously, even from when I qualified. In the last few years, I’ve really seen a boom in innovative legal leaders, untraditional lawyers, and a growing sense that the legal profession is shuffling off it’s old stuffy persona.

I’m seeing more and more lawyers take to TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter, and I think it’s the way things are going. The modern era is digital, it’s creative, and it’s moving fast. I really feel in the future, the modern lawyer will be a far cry from the suited and booted solicitor of years gone by.

Isobel: I do - especially from a careers/recruitment point of view. The best way to market and influence the younger generation, the future of the UK workforce - is via social media. I believe painting a company's culture in a positive light online, will attract the best talent, therefore maximising its performance. I worked with NotGoingToUni.co.uk to create their ambassador programme, which promotes apprentices sharing their experiences on social media with the aim to provide students with a better insight into on apprenticeships. This is the first example of ‘career influencing’ I have seen, and I am just waiting to see many more.