Guilt-Marketing Needs to Stop: An Open Letter to Small Businesses on TikTok

Brianna M. Walton
3 min readSep 18, 2022

Dear Small Businesses on Tik-Tok,

I want to preface this by saying that I absolutely love seeing your content on my FYP. TikTok is a powerful social media marketing tool for gaining brand visibility. Its super intelligent algorithm determines the right audience for your content and pushes the posts to people it knows would be interested in it.

Unfortunately, I’ve noticed a trend that continues to stay alive and well — guilt marketing. This is content in which small businesses complain about how they don’t get views on business content, don’t get sales, or how clients complain about pricing. In my opinion, this content is not the best way to develop a strong brand image. Although admittedly there is a level of humanization in those posts' vulnerability, it usually just comes across as begging for pity sales.

While I have seen businesses go viral and make sales using those tactics, this is not the best decision concerning branding your business. Do you want your customers to remember you as the brand they bought from out of pity or guilt? Or as the brand everyone just scrolled past? I doubt it.

The reality is that every piece of content published on your business's behalf affects how consumers perceive your content. Even if it isn’t your intent to guilt-trip potential clients, the reality is if you make content complaining about how few sales you drive, how customers undervalue your work, or how little attention your business is getting, you’ll likely be seen as a guilt-tripper or beggar. You’re pretty much telling your audience that your product is something that is not currently being desired or sought after — which is the complete opposite of how you should be portraying your brand.

Even if you aren’t getting sales or views, that shouldn't be the focus of your posts. Instead, you should shift your attention to the value you are offering. If people aren’t viewing your content or buying your product/service, it’s simply because they do not see its value yet — and it’s not their job. They’re not going to dive deep into every piece of content they see to determine if your product is for them. They’ll simply keep scrolling until they find a brand that shows them the value immediately.

To be successful on Tik-Tok, you must gain a deep knowledge of your ideal customer and how your product/service will make their lives easier — then show them. By gaining a deep understanding of your audience, you will be able to:

  1. Determine if TikTok is even the right platform for your content, based on your target audience's social media habits.
  2. Create messages that resonate best with your audience and receive the best results.
  3. Highlight the features and benefits of your product/service that your audience would find most valuable.

Having said that, while I understand that it can be compelling to express your frustrations or the difficulties that you’re facing in your business, it is essential that if you do decide to make a post about it, do so in a tasteful way, so it doesn’t seem like you’re begging for sales. An example of a refined way to do it would be to describe the business’ dry period in retrospect, then explain how you shifted your perspective, approach, strategy, or even product/service listing to increase your visibility. Take control of your brand’s image and do your best to shift the narrative.

If you’re still confused about the next steps or how to hone your brand’s image, hire a social media manager. I’m a social media manager with experience in many industries. I would love to help you create a social media marketing strategy for your brand to increase sales and develop/refine your branding.

Let’s take your brand’s online presence to the next level, together! Reach out to me at hello@briannamwalton.com to get started!

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Brianna M. Walton

I'm a digital marketer who is dedicated to ensuring that brands have the tools and resources to create conversations with their audience.