If you’d told me a year ago that I’d be writing this blog, I’d have laughed. Aside from some vague notion of dance routine videos, I didn’t even know what TikTok was, and I certainly didn’t join intending to make myself known. But as of this writing, I have 325k followers, a fun new place for sharing ideas, a bunch of people who seem to care about the same nerdy topics that I do, and from that, a dedicated stream of clients for my freelance writing, editing, and photography work. The most fascinating part of all? I hardly ever even talk about my work on the platform, and even after 17 years in the business, it never even occurred to me that this kind of social sharing could be “marketing”.
Here’s what I’ve learned from my success on the platform so far:
Being yourself matters more than anything. Influencers and polish don’t succeed here. Skip the filter, don’t bother with makeup, and plan to roll tape with real-life shown just as it is. The beauty of TikTok is that community feel, and the more you embrace the messy living room, the morning coffee, and the exasperated look on your face, the more the audience will feel like they can trust you.
Short attention spans reign supreme. And the algorithm rewards it. Keep videos as short as necessary to make your point, and get that point as fine-tuned as you can. Edit out “ums” and “ahs” and skip any unnecessary pauses. Add music and subtle changes to camera angle to give the video a tempo that’s moving.
It pays to focus on a topic of passion. This is what got me TikTok famous in the first place - a rant about dating and what it means to be a person of integrity in relationship these days. A grainy, low light, unscripted opinion recorded in the bed of my campervan and 200 followers became 24,000 real quick. The topics that flow out of you are ones you’ll show up animated discussing, that you’ll have nuanced and informed perspectives on, and importantly, are likely things you can talk about at length.
When it comes to content, more is more on TikTok. Most successful accounts start off posting videos 3-5x per day. Keep those fine points fine, pull from the wells of your deepest interests as often as possible, and strike a balance between building the conversation over time and introducing a complete opinion in each video because while your content feed will grow with each post, it’s likely most viewers will only see one.
It helps if you’re somehow swiftly recognizable. Until they learn to recognize you, to folks on TikTok, you’re just another face in a very big crowd. How big a crowd, you ask? TikTok users open their apps on average 38-55 times per day, each time to a freshly reloaded personalized feed known as the FYP (for you page). If face tattoos and stretched earlobes aren’t your thing, speed up their recognition with a familiar wardrobe, setting, intro, or prop.
Don’t worry about “marketing” your product. TikTok is all about relationships and trust. Build a rapport with your followers based on you as a person, let them know at least casually what you do for work, put a link in your bio, and before long, you’re their friend with that offering or skill set. And when it comes time that they need it, you’ll be the first on their mind.
Ready to give it a try? Follow these steps to create a TikTok post:
Prepare your profile. This is the main point of discovery which viewers will click to see if they like your video content:
Add a link to your Instagram if you have an appropriate one to share.
Add a link to a landing or business page.
Use LinkTree if you have multiple destinations.
To record a video, open the app, and click the PLUS button in the bottom center.
Select your desired interval of video (I always pick the longest, you can always go shorter, but you can’t add time once you’re recording).
Record your video (thumb down on red to record, lift up to stop).
You can record in short bursts for a “punchier” feel.
You can delete your most recently recorded clip by clicking the X back arrow icon in the lower right corner of the app.
On most recordings, you can adjust the length of clips after you record.
Once you’ve recorded all the content you want, click the red check mark in the lower right.
Here you can add text to your video if it makes sense for the content (especially for lists, or joking asides).
Click the text button at the bottom center of the screen.
Make lists more engaging by having items appear one item at a time. Once you’ve entered a piece of text, click the text on screen and select “set duration” to choose when the text appears and for how long.
Change colors and fonts to keep things interesting if you like / also consider using the same font and color combo to increase recognition of you as a creator.
Use the “sounds” button in the lower left corner to pick some background music.
Adjust the volume of background music so your original audio is clear and easy to understand.
If your account has enabled the captions option (side menu, right side), add those too.
Write a super short description (1 sentence).
Add a hashtag or two.
That’s it! Rinse and repeat till you find your niche, your audience, your style, and - if you’re lucky - a whole bunch of new friends, topic enthusiasts, and maybe some clients and customers to boot. You never know where TikTok fame will strike next or who will rise to the top of the FYP. But hopefully these tips can help. See ya out there!