How Sesame Street launched on TikTok

Bert & Ernie were born for fit checks.

I grew up a Sesame Street kid (even though I was terrified of Cookie Monster). Maybe lanky kid me related to Big Bird? Maybe still relate to Big Bird? Jokes that aren’t jokes aside, the show has entertained and educated over 80 million Americans over its 53 seasons, watching several generations grow into adults who tell their kids how to get to Sesame Street.

TikTok’s grown up as well. Far too many marketers casually claim it’s a Gen Z app, when in reality over 53% of TikTok users are 30+. That’s why it made so much sense for Sesame Street to start Toking—they can reach the grown-ups who’ve harbored those fond memories, but only engage the brand by comfortably tossing their kids in front of the tube.

Let’s take a look at how Elmo & Oscar hit 1 million views in 4 days, 19 million views in a year, and grew to 500,000+ followers in 365 days.

The content strategy

Sesame Street kinda nailed their content pillar thinking by keeping it simple. As you peruse their TikTok, you’ll notice most pieces fit into one of three types:

  • Original content: totally new pieces starring Sesame Street characters, usually tied to TikTok or cultural trends

  • Nostalgic content: fan-favorite scenes from the show with little to no edits

  • Engagement content: intentional swings at encouraging TikTok user-generated content via attempted viral sounds + videos that encourage stitches + duets

Featuring “The Talent” in trends

The open secret of brand + team sports social: it’s tough to secure the spokespeople or pro athletes to make original content for social. Most companies don’t give social teams enough support in this area, choosing to tippy-toe around celebs & stars instead of confidently asking for their help to make great marketing.

Fortunately, Bert & Ernie seem plenty comfortable lending their time to TikTok. It’s clear that Sesame Street has prioritized their social, securing the puppeteers, voice actors, and presumably the show’s writers in the name of content.

Take this Fit Check TikTok from B & E. It’s so great! And it rightfully earned all 1.5 million views by blending creative strategy (understanding a cultural trend + a platform trend) and blending it with fantastic writing (classic banter from our favs). That’s not just a team effort—it’s a full company effort, and it’s makes for great results.


All this drip, and it’s not in the bathtub! 💧🛁 #FitCheck #OOTD #Bert #Ernie #SesameStreet

The 1st TikTok’s always a wave

It’s customary for a brand’s first TikTok to be a hello of sorts—a self-aware introduction, often referencing TikTok itself within the content. Take Fortnite’s 1st TikTok—the caption literally says “You called? We’re now on TikTok 😏” alongside a trending audio Earth, Wind & Fire x Post Malone clip. 20.5 million views and an immediate jump in following.

Sesame Street recruited their own Yip Yip Martians to kick off their Toking. I giggle every single time I watch this clip.


Yip, you read that right. #SesameStreet is on TikTok! 🎉

Caveat time: while I think this move’s worth doing for every brand, those with significant brand awareness & equity certainly have an advantage from the tactic. Seeing Sesame Street joined TikTok drives more follows than your B2B SaaS company joining TikTok.

Play your greatest hits

Honestly, your TV show can build quite the following by just reposting scenes from the show. Check out Community’s TikTok—the show hasn’t ran for years, but they’ve reached 400k followers by just recutting clips for vertical video. Sesame Street’s got a vault’s worth of episodes ready to be cut up, like The Pigeon Song.


You’re either doing the pigeon, or the pigeon’s doing you. 💃🕺 #OldSchoolSesame #TBT #SesameStreet #Dance

The most liked comment on that TikTok: “oh my god, I just unlocked a core memory.” It’s the ultimate nostalgia content because it’s literally the content we saw as kids. You can’t beat that!

Planning ahead

Okay, I know we’re running long today, but I want to specifically call out one element of preparation for Sesame Street’s TikTok launch. The show had 40+ videos specifically made for TikTok before they posted their first piece of content. No flying by the seat of their pants—that’s at least a month in the bank.

I’ve seen a weird trend in social media manager world of arguing that real-time content should be a bigger % of our overall content strategies. No. No, it shouldn’t. We should always have the flexibility to call audibles and create extra content to leverage moments, but you do that by having a bunch of content already prepped.

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Social Cues

There are so many social big thinkers out there, writing all kinds of amazing strategies, analysis, and breakdowns. All ships rise with the tide, so here are a few reads from other places I think you could learn from.

Social media is a function of marketing. It’s related to PR, it’s tied to operations… it can touch every part of your company, but where it’s placed within your company matters quite a bit. A great read from Jess Smith on how to ladder your social team to your org.

We knew this day would come—when the kids of millennial parents woke up and realized their faces are all over the internet. A great read & wonder on documenting kids before they know they’re being documented.

I wanna help small businesses learn social, so I teamed up with Paysafe to offer 5 SMBs free consulting sessions, which we’ll turn into blog + video content! Sign up via the above link.