In 2022, TikTok, the short-form video-sharing app, had the fastest-growing audience in the world, with 656 million individual downloads. Though still thought of primarily as a virtual playground for Gen-Z, the number of adults in the United States using TikTok increased by over five times in the last year. In short, everybody’s on TikTok, and if you’re a company, brand, public figure, or thought leader looking to grow your audience, you should be too!
But to the uninitiated, TikTok can be intimidating. Nobody wants to look sus1 or cringe2, and there’s a lot of mystery around how exactly to beat the dreaded, all-powerful algorithm. Don’t worry! We’ve been there too! To help you out, here are 7(ish) tips to get your TikTok account off the ground.
1 Sus (adj) – giving the impression that something or someone is questionable or dishonest; suspicious.
2 Cringe (adj) – When someone acts/ or is so embarrassing or awkward, it makes you feel extremely ashamed and/or embarrassed.
You don’t need to splurge on a glossy HD camera, high-tech editing software, or a cameo from Dua Lipa before you start producing TikToks. TikTok is purposefully DIY, and a large part of the app’s appeal, if not its explicit purpose, is to turn everyone into a content creator. You want clear crisp images, to be sure, but most smartphone cameras are more than up to the challenge. When it comes to editing, TikTok lets you shoot and edit within the app itself. The editing feature is remarkably sophisticated, allowing you to cut and rearrange clips, add sound effects, music, image filters, and even some simple visual effects. Don’t let lack of equipment become a barrier to entry. All you need is an iPhone and you can get started right now! Well… not right now, please finish reading this article first.
So now that you know you can make TikToks, the next question is what to make. The first thing you need to consider is the audience you’re trying to reach. TikTok has roughly 1 billion active monthly users across 155 countries, so chances are whatever you’re passionate about, someone on the app will be too. While it can be tempting to reach for the broadest possible audience right away, we recommend planting your flag in what makes you unique and special – what will allow you to stand out from the crowd. Once you start to make a little headway, encourage your audience to generate their own content for your brand with challenges, contests, or reviews of your product/service. Whether UGC3 or self-produced, the key is to create content that will entertain your audience, and that can organically foster an online community by drawing like-minded people to your account like moths to a light party that says, “moths welcome!”
3 User-generated content
TikTok is built on trends. Trending audio. Trending videos. Trending dance challenges. Trending nasal spray tans. When a trend blows up on TikTok, it gets shared, stitched4, dueted5, commented on, analyzed, and imitated over and over and over again. Like fidget spinners, Ken Bone, or The Harlem Shake, trends can be extremely brief cultural flashpoints and you want to be ready to hop on that wave. Riding the wave looks like this: 1) find a trend and 2) find a creative way to adapt that trend to fit your brand/business/person. This means that in addition to making content, you’ll probably want to spend a lot of time on TikTok. Scroll for a couple of hours, maybe just even a couple of minutes, and you’ll see these trends emerge. But one word of warning: TikTok restricts branded accounts from using licensed music in their videos, so be sure you actually use the audio before doing all the work of planning and shooting a video.
4 A creation tool that allows you to combine another video on TikTok with one you're creating.
5 A creation tool that allows you to build on another user's video on TikTok by recording your own video alongside the original as it plays.
This might come as a shock, but people today have very short attention spans. In fact, people spend an average of 45 to 54 seconds on a webpage before clicking to something up, which means if you’re still reading this blog, you either have better focus than most people or you’re a faster reader than everyone. Congrats! Though TikTok allows videos to be up to 10 minutes long, the numbers show that shorter is almost always better. One out of every four of the most liked videos on the app are between 21 and 34 seconds, and videos as short as six seconds can get literally millions of views. Now, there are of course exceptions to this. If your subject is an expert explaining a complicated topic, then a longer video may be warranted. But in general, you want to be brief and to the point, so you can capture and keep your audience's attention.
Like Twitter or Instagram, hashtags can be your secret weapon for finding your audience. The key is to be precise. When searching for relevant hashtags on TikTok, don’t just look for view count but the recency of those views. A hashtag might have hundreds of millions of views, but if those views are from videos that were trending in 2020, it’s probably not going to help you very much right now. Choose a hashtag that is currently trending, and the algorithm will reward you.
Because TikTok is an app built around creators, it helps to think of your account as its own individual creator with a unique voice and personality. This applies to the content you make, but also to how you engage with your audience. Did someone comment on your video? Awesome! The more comments you have the higher you will rank in TikTok’s algorithm. Take the opportunity to reply to comments and get a conversation going. Users spend a lot of time in the comments section of videos, so a funny or informative reply or call to action (like “duet this”) can be a secondary way to entertain your audience, and might even inspire them to engage with your content. You can even pin6 a particularly relevant comment, so it's the first thing everybody sees. All these little details help your brand feel more alive and dynamic and will increase the likelihood that your viewers become followers.
6 To pin: 1) go to your video's comments. 2) Press and hold the comment you'd like to pin or unpin, then tap Pin comment or Unpin comment.
Building your TikTok profile takes time. It can be disheartening to spend time, energy, and creativity on videos only for them to get less than 100 views. But don’t lose hope! Virality wasn’t built in a day! Just because something doesn’t work immediately doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong. Like anything else, you want to wait until you’ve accumulated enough data over at least a couple of months before determining if you’re on the right track or not. Even an increase from a few dozen to a few hundred views is a tenfold progress worth celebrating. You’ll probably have dips where suddenly your videos are getting fewer views than before. This is usually just due to the fickleness of the algorithm, and you shouldn’t panic. The most important thing is to keep up with a consistent posting schedule (experts recommend every other day) so that you build a reliable presence on the app. Eventually, people will look forward to watching your videos every time they open the app, which according to some studies averages eight times per day!
Okay, so we’re breaking our own rule here and adding an eighth bonus tip. As you can see from our previous tips, running a TikTok account is a big project that requires a lot of time and effort, more than you might have the resources to handle on your own. The good news is you don’t have to! Over the last year, Hello SciCom has built successful TikTok accounts for a coding brand, a health food brand, and a robotics company. We’ve had viral hits, and grown our clients’ audience by as much as 500x within a few months. And now we’d like to help you!
Contact us for a free consultation, and let’s see if we can be your partners in TikTok.