When TikTok first exploded onto the digital scene, many dismissed it as a passing trend. Though in the last few years, it’s gone on to prove itself as a phenomenon, rather than just a social media fad.
Owned by Chinese company Bytedance, TikTok is a video-sharing app where users share short (up to three-minute) video clips, and today it’s one of the fastest-growing social media apps in the world.
If you haven’t yet got on board the TikTok train, then the good news is that it’s never too late. While it may have originally been aimed at Gen Z, TikTok is now popular with people of all ages, both personally and professionally. You can use it to reach new audiences, build buzz for your brand, or simply as entertainment.
However, for new users, TikTok’s chaotic, fast-paced nature – and the fact that it combines elements of several other apps like Spotify, Snapchat, and Vine – can be a little overwhelming. So, if you want to start using TikTok, here are 11 steps to help you on your way.
1. Create your account
The first thing you need to do is download the app, which you can do via Google Play or the App Store. Once installed, you can start browsing videos immediately – but in order to record and post your own TikTok, you need to create an account.
You can set up an account by connecting to your existing accounts like Gmail, Twitter, or Facebook. Or, you can also create an account using your email or phone number.
TikTok will automatically assign you a username. If you sign up using your phone, you’ll get a generic name like user1234567. Or, if you use your email address, you’ll get a more personalised username – though, if you have concerns about privacy, you may want to change it.
3. Browsing videos
Once you’ve set up your account and profile, you can then start browsing videos. Videos will already be displayed on the home page – and if you’re not following anyone yet, you’ll just see random videos that are currently trending.
However, TikTok has a very powerful and intuitive algorithm, and the more you follow and interact with other users and accounts, the more TikTok will know the type of videos you want to watch, and your feed will become more personalised.
On your home page, the app is split into three main feeds: ‘For You’, ‘Friends’, and ‘Following’. The former is the default feed, which is TikTok’s predictions for videos you’ll find interesting. If you swipe right, you’ll see any videos which your friends (people you follow who follow you back) have created. Swiping right again you’ll see the ‘Following’ feed, which shows videos posted by accounts that you’re following.
If you like any of the videos shown in the ‘For You’ feed, you can follow the creator to get regular video updates. To do so, tap the icon on the right of the video, which contains the user’s profile picture and a plus sign. If you already know of a TikTok account you want to follow – maybe a friend, brand, or public figure – just tap the magnifying glass in the top right corner, type the name in the search bar, click ‘Search’, and then tap the ‘Users’ filter.
5. Interact with videos you like
To kickstart TikTok’s algorithm and start watching relevant videos, you’ll need to interact with the content you see. Once you see a video you like, check out the five icons to the right.
If you want to ‘Like’ the video, tap the heart icon; and if you want to leave a comment, tap the speech bubble icon. To add a video to your favourites so that you can easily re-watch later, tap the bookmark icon, and if you want to share the video, press the arrow icon. Or, the icon with a photo shows the profile picture of the video creator, and the plus sign at the bottom of the photo allows you to quickly follow them.
If a video uses music, the bottom icon shows the song or track playing in the video, and if you click it, you’ll find more videos that use the same sound. You can then also use the same music or sound in your own videos.
7. Play around with music and effects
You don’t have to add music to your videos, but it’s a good idea, especially if you’re just starting out. Music is the heart and soul of TikTok, and using a popular song in your video boosts the chances of your video going viral.
There’s a huge library of free popular royalty-free music to browse – from old-school classics to UK Top 40 chart hits – so have a look in the ‘Add Sounds’ section and see what takes your fancy. Bear in mind that, if you have a business account, you can only use royalty-free music from the Commercial Music Library that’s been cleared for commercial use.
Another thing to be mindful of is that TikTok doesn’t have full-length music – most songs are only snippets. This is largely to prevent copyright issues but also because most videos are only around 15 seconds to one minute long anyway.
Aside from sounds, you can also have fun playing around with effects. Creativity has no bounds on TikTok, and once you hit the ‘Effects’ button, you can choose from a huge array of AR filters and special effects that can augment your face, surroundings, or both. There are even special effects just for cats and dogs!
Part of the fun of TikTok is experimenting with effects, so try out some different looks and see which ones you like.
For in-depth details on how to record TikTok videos – including how to make a TikTok using multiple videos and how to make a TikTok with pictures – have a read of this guide by HootSuite. Alternatively, have a watch of the video below.
8. Edit your video
Even once you’ve recorded your video, you can still make additional edits before you publish it. If you didn’t add music, filters, or other special effects before recording, you can do now – or you can change the ones you selected before.
You can also add text, stickers and other overlays on top of the video, and adjust the length of the video clips you use. If you like, you can also add a voice-over to narrate your video or apply other voice effects to it.
For more details on how to edit your TikTok videos, as well as how to edit your videos to get more views and engagement, have a read of this guide by Backstage.
9. Publish your video
Once you’re happy with your video, it’s time to publish it! Press ‘Next’ and you’ll be taken to a page where you can add captions, the account handles of other users, and relevant hashtags.
Just like with Instagram and Twitter, adding trending hashtags increases the chances of your video being seen, so this is important if you’re hoping to reach as wide an audience as possible. Mentioning popular TikTok users is another good way to get your video noticed, and if you want to direct people to other videos you’ve made, you can link to them within the caption.
In this final section, you can also choose to turn the comments on or off, edit the video’s privacy, pick a cover photo, and share your video to your other social media platforms. If you’re not quite ready to post, just hit the ‘Drafts’ button and the video will be saved.
10. Take part in a challenge
Another great way to gain more followers or get more views is to participate in a challenge.
Challenges unite the TikTok community, and they’re open to anyone. They involve TikTok users performing a specific task or action – like showing off what they’ve got stored in a drawer, sharing something that makes them happy, or taking a photo of themselves with a certain item – and challenging other TikTok users to create a video doing the same.
Once you’ve filmed your challenge video, be sure to add a hashtag with the challenge name in your post caption. You may also want to credit the original challenge creator. For example, people who take part in dance challenges often add the letters ‘DC’ and then tag the original creator by using an @ symbol and typing their TikTok name.
There are rarely any actual winners in TikTok challenges, but it’s a good way to get the ball rolling when it comes to getting followers and accumulating views – and if you’re not sure what to post, it’s an easy way to grow your account.
Many brands and businesses use TikTok challenges to create hype over their products or services, and if you’re using TikTok professionally, it’s a good idea to take part in lots of challenges at the start. The good news is that there are so many types of challenges – some silly, some more serious – that you’re sure to find one that fits your brand.
To find out more about TikTok challenges, and how you can use them for marketing purposes, you might want to have a read of this article by Neal Schaffer.
11. Learn how to use TikTok for business
If you’re planning on using TikTok for business, you may be feeling a little confused. Because TikTok is a more hectic platform than Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, the benefits of using it for business can be more difficult to identify. The fact that TikTok is often used to share fun or silly music-based videos can also make the business benefits less obvious.
But while TikTok may have started as a music-focused video-sharing site, it’s changed a lot over the past couple of years, and there are videos about absolutely everything. The only real requirement is that the videos are short – which actually works well, as marketing videos perform better when they’re snappy and succinct.
TikTok is great for businesses because anyone can go viral on it – because virality is driven by interest and engagement, not the social status or clout of the creator. The sophisticated algorithm suggests content that’s likely to appeal to people based on their interests, so if you’re looking to reach new audiences, it can be especially effective.
Another perk is that you don’t have to come up with totally unique videos every time you post. If you’re still not sure what type of video you want to make, you can piggyback off the latest trends. With new trends going viral almost every day, you can just choose one relevant to your business, put your own spin on it, and expose your brand to new customers.
If you don’t have a marketing budget, don’t worry; short, low-budget videos actually perform best on TikTok. You can also easily repurpose content for other platforms – something that’s even more useful now other apps have their own short-form video platforms, like Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts.
To find out more about all the different ways you can use TikTok for business, and the advantages and disadvantages of doing so, you might want to read this article by Gusto.
TikTok is one of the fastest-growing social media platforms for a reason – and, if you’re a business, harnessing its power and reach just makes sense.
TikTok users spend an average of more than one-and-a-half hours on the app each day – a level of engagement that can lead to significantly increased revenues for brands. Plus, around 35% of TikTok users state they’ve bought something because they’ve seen it on the platform.
When you factor in that TikTok has over 1.5 billion monthly users, the potential is endless.
But you don’t need to be a business to enjoy TikTok, and whether you’re looking for inspiration or entertainment, TikTok will deliver. With so many videos to browse from, it’s the online gold mine for short, snappy content and while it can be a little chaotic at times, it’s rarely boring!
Do you use TikTok? Are you planning to set up an account – and if so, is it personal or professional? We’d love to hear more about your TikTok experiences, so please leave us a comment below if you’d like to share.