One of the biggest hurdles in getting people on-board and excited by TikTok is helping them understand, what it is and why it’s important. With so much fast paced action and buzz surrounding TikTok, I wanted to get a first-hand understanding from people who have been successful on the platform. Before jumping in, don’t forget to check out my Emerging Artist’s Guide To TikTok containing actionable tips and tricks for artists and creators.

@minorfauna — Julia Gillard (AU Prime Minister) Speech TikTok

I decided to speak with two people — my good friend Abbey (aka @minorfauna on TikTok) who went viral for her Julia Gillard Misogyny Speech video (1.2M views + ABC/Ch 9/Ch 10 coverage) and Tom Maynard from Amplify, an agency who manage some of Australia’s biggest TikTok stars.

The first question alot of people might ask themselves is, why TikTok? What can I get even get from it?

As Abbey explains, “I’ve always had a thing for comedy skits, so when I was sent a Tiktok by an old friend and started to scroll, I quickly discovered that the platform was mostly made up of memes in skit form.”

This reflects an exciting new prospect for creators given the ability to showcase themselves in bitesize chunks to a mass audience (not just their inner circle). Digital-native generations (Y, Z, Alpha) love short form video, authenticity and mobile-centric content which is a big reason Amplify have focussed heavily on the platform over the last couple of years (since it was operating as Musical.ly),

“Our whole business is built off being relevant to teens and trying to keep up with their tastes. Your experiences whilst you’re a teenager affect the rest of your life so drastically. The energy and passion that teenagers have, from discovering that one artist that you are completely absorbed by or meeting that first crush for the first time, all of these moments make being a teenager so unique compared to the rest ages throughout your life.” — Tom (Amplify)

Which leads to the golden question: What’s the secret sauce to being successful on TikTok?

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Attention is hard to get. TikTok’s algorithm gives all tiers of creators a fair shot, but real success requires consistency, relatability and providing value to users.

Abbey suggests posting “2–3 times a day…This might seem like an obscene amount of content, but once you get the ball rolling and your audience starts to respond, you can then go on to create more video content by replying to their comments” Put simply by Tom, a successful career requires “Work ethic + talent + fandom”.

Tips/Tricks?

Abbey says having some quality control will help you decide on making the right moves, “Don’t post unless you’re willing to keep your TikTok on the internet forever!”

This is a reminder that whilst content is being created and consumed at all time highs, creators should be proud and confident in what they’re releasing into the world. Deleting or removing content is also a big no-no,

“This will hinder your content’s exposure to your followers. You’re less likely to hit the ‘For You Page’ and your views will plummet… also the chances are, someone has already downloaded it, screen recorded it, screenshot it, shared it, or posted it to their own meme account. TikTok works quickly. Even if you’re a new or small account, you never know when you might go viral — I posted my Julia Gillard TikTok and within 20 minutes it had over 50K views and I had a tiny following.”

Some quick tips from Abbey are:

  • The more niche your TikTok brand is, the more likely you are to grow a huge following.
  • Interact, interact, interact! It’s actually really uncool to not respond to your audience! Plus TikTok will boost your content the more human you are.
  • Find trends early and jump on them early. Once a trend goes big, your idea is more likely to get lost in the TikTok ether.
  • With all that in mind it’s hard to ever really keep your finger on the algorithms pulse. I truly believe that TikTok likes to keep it evolving to ensure the app keeps its viral magic alive. I love that every user has the potential to be an overnight worldwide sensation.

Tom:

  • Focus on a niche and don’t try and be everything to everyone. It is far better to have a 1000 loyal followers that turn up to your gig and buy your merch than a million followers who don’t care about you.

These ideas are not new. Quality content and consistency are the key to success across all platforms.

The question is, what’s so special about TikTok?

There’s been a huge uptake of users creating and consuming content on TikTok in 2019/20. The last 10 years, bouncing from Myspace, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Twitter, Vine and everything in-between has culminated to this point of preparedness and understanding of how we navigate the world of memes, trends and viral moments. Paired with more accessible mobile internet and now a stay-at-home pandemic, TikTok is the the perfect online destination.

TikTok’s algorithm is a major factor in the platform’s success. It personalises content to each user based on their interests, watch-rates, actions and much more.

Tom says, “the recommendation engine is so clever and can just send you into a rabbit hole for days on content. People are jumping to 1 million+ followers within weeks on TikTok, something YouTubers and Instagramers work on for years”.

TikTok has also become a springboard for musicians, playing a major role in propelling songs and artists into worldwide stardom.

“You can see that music is part of its DNA whether it is through using a sound or dance routines, artists can build incredible followings and listeners by having virality.” This is echoed by Abbeya musician herself, who emphasises that TikTok will continue to impact the music industry,

“The bigger TikTok gets, the more of a role it’ll play in small/independent musicians having their careers and lives changed… the only concern I have is that big labels will try dominate TikTok, leaving no room for artists like ‘Avenue Beat’ with their hit ‘F2020’ to go viral and top charts. Then again, it comes down to the people at TikTok to protect that culture they’ve created by keeping that algorithm uncrackable.”

With so much social impact, TikTok is now the the place to go for brands. The mixture of entertaining, user generated content (UGC) fuelled by cutting edge music trends and meme culture allows brands to be relatable and convert at scale. The opportunity to tap into content pillars such as music, cooking, beauty, fitness (plus whatever else you can think of) means any brand can partake and find an audience. Brands are becoming more savvy as well,

Tom says “We used to see a lot of brands go after vanity metrics such as follower count but now they’re getting more clever as to what they want, including:

  • Brand Alignment — Does the creator seem like a good fit with the brand, do they hold the same values, does the campaign make seem natural to the creators audience.
  • Engagement & Community — There are a huge amount of ‘influencers’ out there with large followings, but the real test for us is can they move the needle. This doesn’t have to be about just about selling products, it can be around aligning and elevating your brand to a community of people that are obsessed with that creator.

Abbey says that “since becoming a TikTok user, my time spent on other social media platforms has gone down significantly. I feel TikTok leaves less for users to hide behind and rewards openness, rawness, building community and being personable”.

Fundamentally, TikTok isn’t just ‘another social platform’. Looking back as recently as 2019, people were watching Instagram Stories with sound-off, fenced in to their close circles and getting served the same-old content day to day. The incentive for creators rarely leaned on innovation or creativity, and this is where TikTok has forged a new path. Creators like Abbey can express themselves and find huge audiences born from a basic idea. TikTok is a springboard for all types of creatives, providing huge opportunities to build careers.

With 15–60 seconds and a plethora of editing tools, the friction between idea and creation is lower than ever. The gatekeepers of old have been removed and now the users decide, what’s hot and what’s not. The democratisation of content will continue to shift society and confirm that things really do start on TikTok.

This article originally appeared on Medium.