When you watch Megan Erber’s TikTok videos, it’s easy to understand why she was named to the No. 3 spot on Dale Denham’s #Online18 for 2022. She’s silly, she’s quirky and most of all, she’s relatable. Erber, an outside sales rep and self-proclaimed educator for Bolingbrook, Illinois, supplier S & S Activewear, uses the social media app as a tool to excite viewers about promotional products, but she also peppers her feed with content from her everyday life.

In addition to her role in promo, Erber is a Navy veteran, a Jiu Jitsu fighter and a mom of seven, and her non-promo posts on TikTok (@MegErber) and other social channels feature silly tidbits on everything from the everyday chaos of kids to snippets of yoga classes and PromoCares initiatives and even a few moments of vulnerability. “If you’re not yourself, people can tell,” she says.

PPB spoke with Erber to learn about her experience and insights on social media, especially the fast- growing TikTok.

PPB: When it comes to TikTok, so many companies and individuals struggle with striking the perfect balance of marketing their brand while showcasing their own personalities in a way that’s genuine and relatable. When creating video-based content, how do you personally achieve this blend?

Erber: People can see through BS—they just can. So whatever social media platform you choose to use, you have to be authentic; you have to be yourself. I was always the nerdy kid and it wasn’t always accepted when I was younger, and now I can be the nerdy kid and people embrace different… I’d say with any social media platform, by being your authentic, weird self, you become human, you become relatable.

I’ve been very lucky with the companies that I’ve worked for, where they’ve just allowed me to be myself.

PPB: Your videos feature such a variety, from promo products themselves to stats about the industries these products are promoting, to hot-button topics on promo and your own take—and let’s not forget your own funny, relatable content. What are some of the strategies you use when creating videos and how do you balance all of these components, along with text, sound, music, etc.?

Erber: It’s not as hard as it may seem. I literally just look for inspiration. It can come from outside the industry or inside the industry. We have an amazing marketing team at S & S Activewear here, and we send out these marketing campaigns to our customers.… When I see something on Facebook or Instagram, like a video trend or something, I’ll take those marketing campaigns and use them, and put them together with a trend. I think that’s the best way to do it, but I don’t always want to be product-based or data-based because that’s so salesperson-y. During COVID, I started an Instagram of me wearing items in real-time in a lifestyle-type environment; not something created by our marketing team. That was what it was in the beginning, and then I just started using the TikTok videos and all that good stuff. I look for stuff that’ll make somebody laugh.

For PromoCares’ Sleep In 4 Good campaign [an initiative to raise awareness on mental health and its connection to sleep deprivation] we had influencer kits with seven or eight items, and each week you had to highlight an item. One week it was a pen and notebook, one week pajama pants, etc., and the initial thought was to keep everything light, but not funny. The week of the journal, all that news from Afghanistan had hit and it was very emotional for me, and I embraced it. I put together this “dear diary” type video, and I wrote something out and did a voiceover. It took me a really long time to do it, but once I put those thoughts on paper, I contemplated posting it. It was a lot heavier than anything I would ever put out there.

This is what it’s all about—being my true, authentic self. I felt at that moment it was right for me to make that post. Again, it just takes being inspired by something, whether it’s good or bad, and being yourself through it.

PPB: What would you say to a company or employee looking to use TikTok to boost engagement and sales, and who is feeling overwhelmed with getting started on the app?

Erber: If you are feeling overwhelmed to do it yourself, then hire someone who does it for a living, because social media marketing is exhausting. It is mentally exhausting. I would never want to do that as my job, because you feel there’s so much pressure to put out good content that people are expecting it, or expecting a certain level of marketing. Someone that’s feeling overwhelmed is probably [feeling that way] because they’re trying to make it perfect and it’s not them. There are a lot of people in college that are going to school for this, and why wouldn’t you hire people in that age range? This is where they live.

Danielle Renda is an associate editor at PPAI.