By Madeline V. Twomey
By now, we all know that TikTok’s role in our culture is unmatched. The platform regularly births top hits and new artists (Lil Nas X was the first), sells out products (recently, Tarte’s Juicy Lip & Cheek Shift), and fuels political ideologies (#trump2024 has 7.3 billion views). The platform reached one billion active monthly users in 2021 after just five years — Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube each took eight — and even while advertising budgets are being slashed, TikTok is expected to double its ad revenue this year.
But if you’re not yet on the platform, it may seem daunting to start. For the past three years, I’ve supported content creators and organizations navigating the social media giant. Here are my top six tips for creating a successful TikTok account.
1. Spend Time on the Platform: You need to understand TikTok before you start posting.
Use the platform for at least an hour daily for 1–2 weeks to become familiar with it. Take notes on what content you find engaging. Then, use the “search” function to explore the various “sides” of TikTok (CurlyHair, BookTok, Mental Health, Restock ASMR, etc.). You’ll see very quickly: TikTok has a specific language and culture that is entirely different from other social media platforms. You’ll need to absorb these before you can begin creating content.
2. Content is King: Yes, the adage applies to TikTok, too.
TikTok’s innovation is the For You Page (or #FYP). Content is served to a user based not on following an account but on an algorithm. What that means for content creators is that your content has to be good to get served. You could have 1MM followers, but if your video isn’t compelling, it may only get 200 views. Every other social media platform has begun serving content this way — from Youtube Shorts to Instagram Reels, etc. — so you’ll need to up your content game across the board to stay relevant.
3. Make a TikTok, Not an Ad.*
While platform- and placement-specific creative isn’t anything new for innovative marketers — it is especially crucial for TikTok because of the two things I mentioned: Tiktok’s culture + its algorithmic curation. Compelling storytelling and utilizing “TikTok-y” filming and editing styles go a long way.
Your content should be filmed and exported vertically and use fast editing or looped video. Low production quality isn’t just okay; it’s recommended. Selfie-style videos are the norm. And a little bit of weirdness and authenticity go a long way. TikTok is a community who are skeptical of outsiders — embrace the strange, and make sure your content is entertaining above all else! Straightforward ads about your product or organization will not cut it.
4. Engage in Trends. The easiest way to go viral on TikTok.
Because of the FYP innovation, TikTok analyzes the videos you have watched to understand what you will watch in the future. Then, it serves you similar content. So, if a specific dance (like the Wednesday Addams dance trend), meme (Finn Wolfhard snapping), or sound (like #ilikeitpicasso) is trending, hop on board! Your video is more likely to be served to viewers of that trend and get more views as a result.
5. Short is Best: Help the algorithm help you.
While TikTok is tight-lipped about its algorithm, users and marketers are confident that watch time plays a significant role. While TikTok continues to increase its maximum video length (recently up to ten minutes to compete with YouTube), short content generally outperforms long content. Stick to videos under one minute, and shoot for 15 seconds for trends to help increase watch time and repeated views.
6. Be Consistent: If your first few videos are a flop — don’t panic!
Consistency is KEY. You will have good and bad weeks, and even the most successful creators who utilize these recommendations can’t always predict which video will take off and which will crash and burn. Keep at it! Additionally, viewers reward consistency — if they see a video on their FYP and visit your profile page — they expect to see several videos just like it. Post a ton of content, and eventually, one will resonate with your audience. Then double down on that style of video.
*S/o to Daniel Daks who coined this phrase.
Madeline V. Twomey is a campaign veteran and seasoned digital communications professional. She runs Rufus And Mane, a boutique consulting firm for progressive organizations and funders.