What I’ve Learned as a Creator on TikTok

January 27, 2020
What I've Learned as a Creator on TikTok - Meredith Noyes, Chief Creative Officer

Don’t worry, there’s a TikTok glossary at the end.

by Meredith Noyes

It’s the app no one asked for or thought they needed. Carefully guarded by Gen Z, its endless creative and funny content will keep your already over-stimulated brain entertained for (if you’re not careful) hours.

For those of you who don’t know anything about TikTok, here’s a quick breakdown. Launched internationally in September 2017, the short video-sharing app currently boasts somewhere in the realm of 1.5 billion users. Originally called Musical.ly and picking up where Vine left off, the platform rebranded as TikTok in August 2018. The hook: pair 15 – 60- second music clips with videos you create, post it to your account and wait to see if anyone likes, shares or comments. TikTok’s most popular creators get clout for lip-syncing songs and/or performing choreographed dances. If you think that sounds like people with no discernible talent whatsoever, you are probably half right. More on that later.

I’m a TikTok creator

There, I said it out loud.

Maybe it’s sparked by my overwhelming need to be the cool kid I wasn’t in high school, but for about a month I’ve been a creator on TikTok. That’s right — to my 19-year-old daughter’s horror — I not only WATCH TikTok videos, I also CREATE THEM. You might think I’m brave for putting myself out there but let me be clear: I am hiding behind my family’s pet hedgehog. Trust me, he is much more charismatic and natural in front of the camera than I am. Nevertheless, I think I’ve learned a bit about what makes it tick (I’m not even going to touch that pun, Teresa Dainesi, queen of puns).

I could go into a bunch of stats about TikTok’s meteoric rise in popularity, but I’d rather share some first-hand knowledge. Here are a few personal observations backed by almost no data and hours of fun/wasted time in my quest to make the family pet TikTok famous.

The trends. Oh, the trends.

Renegade. Woah. Charli D’Amelio. The Hype House.

If you aren’t familiar with TikTok’s December 2019 trends, those words probably mean nothing to you. (Sadly? Impressively?) I am quite familiar with them. I started my personal TikTok account in November 2019, and I can tell you by observing the speed at which trends come and go that these will probably be old news by the time this blog is posted.

Regardless, hopping on trends is a big part of starting and growing your account. Does it mean you’ll get a million views overnight? Not necessarily, but I’ve found it’s great for familiarizing yourself with the app and puts you on a level playing field with other creators.

From what I can tell, there are four ingredients for content that does well:

  • Beautiful, young people dancing, lip-syncing and living an Instagram-worthy life
  • Funny and relatable meme-like videos
  • Inspirational stories
  • Cute and/or funny animals

As with most social media platforms, using hashtags, sharing and tagging other users increases your chances of being seen. Posting at least one video a day is a good idea. “Does TikTok favor users who post a lot?” you ask. Maybe or maybe not, but regardless, it does increase your chances of getting better at making TikTok videos. Practice makes perfect and all that.

The most random things go viral — kind of

Since TikTok is a COLLECTION of random things, this doesn’t mean much. After all, I’ve seen a blank wall go viral. The truth is, no one can say what gets someone’s video on the coveted “For You” page for the first time. Here are a couple of tricks (besides following trends) that seem to work.

Challenges and ultimatums:

Jimmy Fallon’s #tumbleweedchallenge

Some users ask for followers to get people to agree to give up bad habits.

Influencers – At the same time, exactly the people you’d expect to get TikTok famous do. Celebrities, YouTubers and ex-Viners are obvious experts in creating this kind of content. These influencers have experience marketing themselves through similar platforms. So, it’s no shock that they navigate TikTok with ease.

YouTuber James Charles and TikTok star Avani

Be careful — it’s addicting

When I started an account, I had a specific subject matter picked out based on a persona.

If you’re looking to create an account to simply watch videos, your process may go like this:

  • I’m never downloading that app EVER
  • Ok, I’ll download if but I’m never going on it
  • Let me check this out
  • This is stupid.
  • Wait, actually, that one was funny…
  • THESE ARE HILARIOUS!
  • How is it 2 am?
  • Maybe I’ll just try posting one…

Let me stop you right there. Being a lurker is one thing. Posting content is TOTALLY ANOTHER. If you think you’re ready to post on TikTok and you’re over the age of 25, make sure you’re prepared to be labeled Boomer or Karen (see glossary at the end) by some media-savvy Gen-Zers. Having a thick skin is imperative or you could end up crying in a corner.

So, will TikTok work for brands as a marketing tactic?

The app’s explosive growth is exactly what makes it appealing to brands and it’s probably no coincidence that TikTok video options are set at 15 and 60 seconds. This, after all, is the industry-standard length for TV ads — and where Vine’s 6-second videos may have missed the mark. Long enough to tell a story, short enough to hold your attention. Commercial-length videos that people scroll through endlessly on their smartphones? Seems kind of perfect for, well, marketing and advertising.

Marketing is notorious for “ruining” popular stuff. Just like any social media platform, it will only work if it fits your brand’s authentic voice. A good test would be to go back to those four categories I mentioned above. Again, does your vibe fit with any or all of these things?

  • Beautiful, young people dancing, lip-syncing and living an Instagram-worthy life
  • Funny and relatable meme-like videos
  • Inspirational stories
  • Cute and/or funny animals

Being authentic is key. Don’t try to fit into the platform if it feels wrong. So if your company sells inspirational matching clothing sets for Gen-Z and their pets, get on TikTok IMMEDIATELY (Hmm, business idea?)

Will marketing ruin TikTok? Probably. But you know those creators I mentioned earlier with no discernible talent whatsoever?

Seems to me they all have a pretty clear talent: marketing.

Glossary:

  • Clout – prestige and influence on TikTok earned by having a lot of followers and engagement
  • Vine – short-form video hosting service where users shared six-second-long, looping video clips launched on January 24, 2013 and closed in 2017
  • “For You” page – the main page controlled by TikTok’s algorithm that chooses which videos it wants to show you based on your preferences or some magical force
  • Renegade – a popular dance on TikTok
  • Woah – another popular dance on TikTok
  • Charli D’Amelio – TikTok’s female star of the moment who has all the hype
  • Hype – popularity
  • The Hype House – an LA mansion featuring TikTok stars that already make more money than they should
  • Boomer – based on the term “baby boomers”, this is a nickname for any adult who has life experience and tries to give advice in a condescending way
  • Karen – a high strung female of a certain age who always wants to speak to the manager and has an awful haircut
  • TikTok famous – just what it sounds like

Sources:
Mediakix.com
Wikipedia

Meredith Noyes
Meredith Noyes
Meredith Noyes is the Chief Creative Officer at Cookson Communications and an award-winning designer, art director and overall brand builder. In her spare time, she draws, does yoga and tries to make her hedgehog TikTok famous (@franklinhedgeworth).

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