10 Need-To-Knows of TikTok: Your Guide To The Social Media

tiktok, a relatively young social media platform, has apparently divided the world into two main camps:

  1. the world’s tiktok users, scrolling, dancing and laughing along with the rest of the platform community (and it’s big: the number of monthly active users currently stands at 800 million).
  2. people who find themselves asking: “what the hell is tiktok?”
  3. in case you lean towards the latter group, we’ve compiled a list to help you understand the basics of tiktok before you start posting.

    tiktok is a highly scrollable video sharing platform

    you’ve never seen an infinite scroll like this before.

    When you first download the tiktok app and create an account, the first place you’ll end up is the for you page (fyp). Here, the tiktok algorithm will give you an unlimited number of posts, all curated to try to make you happy (or at least interact with the content). the more you interact and watch, the more personalized the algorithm’s options will be.

    so as you keep scrolling and engaging, ideally the videos you watch will increasingly match your interests or sense of humor (more on that later). it’s part of the recipe that makes tiktok so addictive to its millions of users: as you scroll, the content from your perspective gets better and better (at least from your perspective).

    Another way tiktok keeps people engaged is the full screen experience it offers. most posts will occupy your screen.

    To go to the next video, just swipe up. Unlike YouTube, there are no related videos to browse in a visible sidebar or search bar. Sure, there are other pages to use if you want to try and find a more specific piece of content. but the easiest way to stay entertained is to stay in the fyp tab and scroll, scroll, scroll, scroll…

    get this: not even your mobile clock will be visible on the screen, so you can spend hours continuously scrolling without even knowing it.

    Not exactly great news in your eyes, but it definitely bodes well for content creators and brands interested in capturing the attention of a fully engaged audience.

    there are a lot of people on tiktok, especially gen z members

    800 million active users is a considerable number, especially when compared to the number of users on instagram (approximately 112.5 million) and twitter (330 million monthly active users). impressive for an app that was officially released in 2016.

    just like the app itself, its audience is also young. about half of tiktok’s audience is under 34 years old. just over 40% of the total are users aged 16-24, also known as the older half of gen z.

    the myth that gen z make up the majority of tiktok’s audience is just that: a myth. However, compared to other older social media platforms, tiktok boasts a much higher percentage of Gen Z users. On both Facebook and Instagram, the most represented age group is 25 to 34 years old. To target a younger audience, tiktok can be one of the best social media platforms to start with.

    tiktok is a (almost) purely mobile platform

    with varying degrees of success, facebook, instagram and twitter can all be used on the desktop. Instagram has even made moves to increase the number of features available to desktop users. but tiktok’s true home is on mobile.

    The desktop site doesn’t offer the same full-screen, easy-scrolling experience as the app, nor does it allow you to post your own content (which 83% of tiktok users have done at least once).

    Keep this in mind when developing your tiktok strategy. If you ever consider linking to your website through your tiktok profile or ad, your mobile optimization better be on point.

    the fyp is where it’s at

    the for you page on tiktok is like your facebook news feed and your instagram feed: it’s the place where users typically choose to spend their time while on the app.

    in other words, anyone seeking success on tiktok must bow to the power of the almighty tiktok algorithm, which is responsible for delivering content in each user’s personalized fyp.

    your main conclusions from this fact should be…

    • tiktok is not a seo game. its content does not necessarily have to be easily searchable by users. you just have to follow the rules of the algorithm (see the next tip for more information).
      • The content of your video will have to speak for itself. On Instagram, an attractive image or video thumbnail is what entices users to engage with your content. on twitter, maybe the copy of the post will get your attention first. but on tiktok fyp users don’t have to click on your content to see it. however, they will need to be interested enough in what they see when your video starts autoplaying to avoid scrolling to the next post.
      • your tiktok profile won’t do much of the heavy lifting. Sure, an interested user may occasionally click on your username and scroll through your content from your profile. Thanks to fyp, most users will see your content first & profile second if they see it), and their priorities should be in that order as well.
      • the algorithm gradually releases new videos to users

        in order to introduce new content to users’ feeds, the tiktok algorithm releases each new content in a kind of tournament.

        Let’s say you post your first video to the platform. tiktok algorithm says “great, thanks for the post! we’re going to show it to about 100 people and see how it works.”

        from there, the video ends up in the fyps of 100 different users. depending on how many people interact with your video, the algorithm might say “whoops, better luck next time!” or “great job, let’s share this with 500 more people!”

        this process goes on and on. As long as the algorithm likes what it sees with your participation in the post, it will continue to show the video to more and more users.

        the more videos you like, the more personalized your fyp will be

        if you paid attention before, you know that tiktok doesn’t exactly show these videos to random users.

        instead, it will select users to show it based on what they’ve liked, commented, and shared in the past. so the more you interact with the posts, the more the algorithm knows about you and the more similar to your apparent interests your fyp will be.

        For example, when I started my personal tiktok, I had very few posts saved in my likes collection. I guess I ended up liking a bunch of posts in a row that were somehow star wars related, because before I knew it, it seemed like every other post on my fyp was about star wars.

        It’s an interesting mechanism to see in action and definitely fun to experiment with. but before trying to manipulate the algorithm, it might be useful to distinguish the different ways it uses to figure out what each post is really about…

        trends are the key to achieving success (or at least going viral)

        We know, we know… we’ve had a lot to say about jumping on the bandwagon in the past, but those rules don’t really apply here. on tiktok, jumping on the latest trends is pretty much the way of this virtual world.

        tiktok trends have a lot to do with three content characteristics that tiktok uses to categorize each post:

        • sounds. audio plays a huge role in tiktok (did you know it started in the usa as an app called when users find a video with audio they like they can save it to a collection to use in their own content later. You can also easily find all videos that use the same track by clicking on the bottom right corner of each post. many tiktok trends consist of using a specific track (like the one used below).
          • effects. tiktok has a lot of visual and sound effects for users to edit their videos. When users post a video with a certain effect, the effects used are often displayed in the post, right above the title (as in these examples below that use the “distorted” effect.
            • labels. they work the same way on tiktok as they do on most other platforms. but we will say that in tiktok, hashtags are less of a seo strategy and more of a way that the algorithm uses to determine what type of content you like.
            • Going back to my star wars example, the reason the algorithm knew I liked star wars content is because I liked a lot of posts tagged #starwars or using star wars related audio tracks. posts that were marked with those boxes were essentially dumped in a star wars box (and later served to me when I came out as a star wars fan).

              if you get my drift… this means you can jump on certain trendy sounds, effects and hashtags in hopes of expanding the reach of your post.

              When a large portion of users like videos that use certain attributes, they are all telling the algorithm that they really enjoy content with those attributes. therefore, by creating content using those attributes, you increase your chances of being seen by that large portion of users.

              content about aesthetics

              on tiktok, the most important thing about each post is whether or not it’s entertaining, not whether it’s perfectly polished or fits the overall aesthetic of your profile.

              just take a look at the popular content featured on your fyp. You may notice that not all of them are shot in high definition with high quality graphics or special effects. These are videos taken by people using their phone’s camera and edited directly in the app. in some cases, the whimsical sights or sounds are part of its charm.

              the popular green screen effect on tiktok shows this perfectly. the effect is rarely executed perfectly. but most of the time, it doesn’t matter if the content itself is still funny or entertaining.

              needing to be entertained is a different kind of pressure, but at least you can be sure you don’t need a full camera crew and editing team to capture tiktok’s attention.

              having followers is not a requirement for success

              Having followers on social networks never hurts. but on tiktok you don’t need to have a lot of followers for your posts to reach a large number of people or gain a large amount of engagement.

              just talk to tiktok user @ryanpalmergolf who posted a video that hit nearly 10 million views. Prior to posting that winner, Ryan only had 3 other videos that got a couple thousand views each. since then, he has amassed up to 105.9k followers and counting!

              This is all due to the phasing in of the repost algorithm and has a lot to do with how engaging the posts turn out to be, not necessarily how many followers the original poster had to begin with.

              ugc could be the recipe for success for hopeful advertisers

              tiktok’s advertising opportunities are even newer than the app itself. marketers are still playing a game of trial and error to see what works.

              but one strategy in particular has already been very successful: user-generated content. Because tiktok is all about testing sounds, effects, and challenges for yourself, it’s a great place for brands to seed and popularize their own content formats to see if they ignite a spark within the community.

              earlier this year, softsoap took advantage of this opportunistic playing field for ugc and started the #soapbop challenge. Reminiscent of the popular 2013 Cup Song Challenge, the campaign encouraged TikTok users to sing a tune meant to inspire people to stay clean. Now, all posts tagged with the softsoap brand hashtag collectively garnered over 2 billion views!

              so if there’s any platform to run a ugc campaign on, it’s tiktok. To echo a previous statistic: 83% of users have posted at least one video. the majority of active users, then, are creating, not just consuming. By pushing ugc, you are supporting this drive to create, helping to emphasize an important tiktok philosophy: anyone can be a creator.

              we’ve talked the tok, now walk the walk

              in conclusion: that’s what tiktok is. is a popular mobile app powered by a large number of audio tracks and video editing options, the creativity of its users, and the do-it-yourself attitude of its engaged community.

              here’s an even shorter answer: tiktok could be a valuable new ground for brands interested in playing the ugc game.

              It’s also important to remember that tiktok is still relatively unknown territory, with a lot of potential but not much history yet. That being said, we’ll be sure to keep an eye on tiktok, its advertising capabilities, and the types of content that seem most valuable to its 800 million monthly active users as it continues to grow.

              Interested in exploring the app with us? get in touch!

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