The Unwritten Rules of Creating for TikTok
Let me play out a scenario for you: it’s 5:24pm and someone’s phone accidentally blasts a half second of audio. A normal person would probably not be able to place the song immediately, but if you are on the ever-trending app, TikTok, you know that that blast of music was the intro to Absolutely Anything by CG5 ft. OR3O. This is not an isolated occurrence; I’m seeing an increasing amount of TikTok trends bleed into real life.
For the past eight weeks, TikTok has taken over my life as a creative. It all started as an initial curiosity when my coworker showed me a video of his that went viral on the platform. At first I was a fly on the wall, digesting this new form of content. After a few days of binging, I decided to take the plunge and create my first video. Within 24 hours it had nearly 300K views, and I was fully hooked.
To date, I’ve made 11 videos with nearly 500K likes, amassed a following of over 10K, and over 4 million total views. While there is still a lot of mystery to what resonates with the masses and what will “flop”, I’ve come up with 10 rules of the road to be used as a guide for creating content for this crazy new world.
- Spot the trend: TikTok is very much a trend-based platform, if you can catch a trend early and hop on the train, your video will skyrocket in popularity.
2. Effort, effort and more effort: As a whole, TikTok is very supportive and the more time you invest into making a video, the more likely people are to appreciate it and give it a like. Even if they don’t necessarily like the content itself, they’ll support the effort.
3. Repackage jokes: It’s ok to copy as long as you add your personal twist to it. Copying is what makes it so fun — everyone is chiming in on the same conversation, everyone is part of the joke.
4. Surprise ending: Viewers expect to see something outrageous at the last second. That’s what keeps you watching the videos until the end, and adds a level of humor.
5. When in doubt, go funny: For the most part, people come to TikTok to laugh. If you are having trouble locking down a topic for a video, aim for something comedic.
6. Hashtags: While TikTok does have hashtags, they are used differently than the tags on Instagram and Twitter. At the max you should use three; two is ideal with one of the hashtags being #fyp. #fyp referring to the for you page where most users spend their time discovering new videos.
7. Keep an eye on the time: Most videos are 15 seconds. You can go over, but make sure that it grabs the viewer’s attention right away. There should not be a long build up unless the payoff is extreme.
8. Sound is key: Unlike Instagram, TikTok users watch the videos with sound on. Keep this in mind when you pick a song to use in your video. Picking a new song can also help trend your video.
9. Compelling video: While sound is important, your video should be able to standalone without audio. The best case scenario is for your video to be shared on other apps and you must take into account that a lot of Instagram, Twitter and Reddit users view without sound.
10. Have fun with it: TikTok is a place to laugh and be creative. If you find yourself taking it too seriously, it will translate into your videos.
TikTok is still evolving as it grows in popularity, so things are bound to change. As we’ve seen with Instagram and other social platforms, if something works one week there’s no guarantee it will work again. That being said, I don’t see TikTok fading away anytime soon. Both brands and creators alike should take a good hard look into TikTok — not only to join the conversation but to know what is being said.