How To

What Is TikTok? A Beginner’s Guide

Photograph of the blog post author, Cristian Poow

Cristian Poow

10.6.2020

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So, everybody is talking about how TikTok has “taken the world by storm”. Artists these days are both the product and act at the same time. The fact that social media is currently thriving as an entertaining video-sharing game is making businesses adapt to the constant changes in social media interaction. One might say, sharing videos is more exciting than ever, but who remembers how exciting was uploading their first YouTube video in 2008? Excitement is always attached to ‘newness’. Reports show that video is now the most engaging type of content, especially during the current pandemic. In this article, we will look at TikTok, how it came about, how its algorithms work and our tips for success!

Tik Tok logo 3D

What Is TikTok?

So, firstly… What is the TikTok app and what is TikTok used for? 

TikTok was formerly known as Musical.ly before it was bought by Bytedance Technology Co. The first prototype of Musical.ly made in 2014 was intended to host video creation with music chosen by the users, with some filters and video editing options like speed, slow-motion and visual effects. It fitted perfectly for teenagers playing around in their spare time, manipulating videos. TikTok went from a karaoke style platform to a highly competitive land that can make any influencer look like a newbie in comparison to those creating popular, interesting or funny videos. The creativity is endless, with the in-app tools and so there are new variations and trends popping up every single day.

The effect of TikTok is causing a worldwide desire to become the next admired person on the platform (and even on social media, in general). Even if your videos are for sheer entertainment i.e. hitting a wall with your head, as long as the edited video and the music inspire users to engage with you, the algorithm just might go crazy for it.

TikTok Layout

TikTok app on phone logo

When you enter the app, there are two playable panels or ‘Pages’  – ‘Following’ and ‘For You’. TikTok is smart, and takes video-counting to a whole new level. It isn’t just about seeing what your friends post, but discovering new challenges, new trends and new people every single time you hit the Home button. These two screens are Home and + (Record/Upload video). 

When you are in ‘Home’, you are one step away from being an active user, since videos will show one after another as you swipe. The UI is pretty friendly, so there aren’t many buttons here. On the right, you have the profile picture (with the Follow button) plus the Like, Comment and Share buttons.  Down below, there is the Username, Caption etc, and you will notice that there isn’t space for 30 hashtags like you have on Instagram. The last element is the Music or Sound that is playing – either being an official sound (released music), or sounds made by people.

The + button takes you to the screen that allows you to start putting your material into the network. It comes with many features such as filters, video editing tools, speed, timer, templates, green screen, and more. You can also access the main 15-sec video feature, or go straight to a 60-sec-limit video. 

How Does TikTok’s Algorithm Work?

TikTok algorithm chart what is TikTok

Unlike its competitors, TikTok shows you more relevant and personalised videos made by people you probably don’t know yet. 

At first, when you upload a video, it is randomly shown to a number of people (let’s say 10). In order to pass on to the next stage, you must reach at least 1 like per every 10 views.  That means that you will certainly open up to a range from 500-5,000 new viewers, as long as that condition is kept. By getting into the 3rd stage (maybe a range from 10,000 – 100,000 new viewers), things do not get easier. In fact, users are more likely to get stuck in the 2nd stage than to persuade bigger audiences. However, when TikTok eventually recognises your content, it will be shown firstly to a number of people that will probably expect to watch something like what you are offering. Then, the new audiences will begin to come up as a challenge to go viral. That is why TikTok relies on trends. 

As long as you cannot keep the record, TikTok will start showing the video to less viewers. But hold on, why is there a new opportunity? There is common advice on every tutorial on how to use TikTok. They all say that you should never remove your videos for two reasons: 

  1. TikTok will recognise that you are deleting content that is not appropriate, so you may be shown to less people in the future. 
  2. As trends come and go, you never know when an old video can start ranking again. This is why TikTok pros recommend thinking it through before posting something with a clear lack of interest or creativity, so that you don’t have to delete it later on.

What Does The Algorithm Take Into Account?

algorithm coding

Even when you follow the trends, that does not mean you will get famous overnight. It is a question of posting the right content at the right time, and remembering that TikTok is a fast moving platform on which you could go viral with your very next post.

The algorithm takes into account the following on every stage:

  • Watch-time (video completion). This is why they suggest uploading videos that are a max of 17 seconds long.
  • Likes per amount of views.
  • Comments per amount of views.
  • Shares per amount of views.
  • Replays. TikTok works with autoplay, so you may find yourself viewing something several times.
  • People coming from profile, hashtags, sounds, links. 

Going Viral On TikTok

A lot of people want to go viral on TikTok – so here is my advice.

The main key is consistency. Every time you are not uploading new content, lots of other people are and so they may eventually become viral over you if you have lower platform usage. My suggestion would be to upload as much as possible. As you get used to the features, you will feel more creative watching others videos, so do your research and get inspired.

When it comes to music, it is a good idea to search hashtags, and look among sounds and profiles. Watch as many videos as possible before making a decision. Every time you post a video, TikTok will narrow down elements including location, so that is something to factor into your plans.

The secret to ethically ‘hack’ the algorithm is to generate impact within the first 3 seconds. People will not wait much longer to see if anything good will happen. Also, you can edit your videos outside of the platform and then upload them, causing interest, as people may comment to ask you how you achieved this.

Is Shadowban A Real Thing?

Wondering what is shadow banning on TikTok and if it is real? In short, yes it is – and top users can confirm this. 

Basically, TikTok automatically stops pushing accounts that do not follow the rules properly. This may be caused by copyright infringement, sexual content, spam or clickbait. You can always check your own data by looking over your videos, tapping the three-dot option below ‘Comments’, and choosing ‘Analytics’. If you happen to see that the “For You” percentage is lower than usual, or lower than it is from the “Profile” source, you might be shadowbanned. 

TikTok has never spoken about this particular effect that has the ability to affect any user. Pros say that by deleting the uninteresting videos, the algorithm would know that the user is aware of the behaviour – but it is up to you. A lot of users have been shadowbanned for unknown reasons, so it is something to bear in mind.

Tips & Tricks

man producing music

I have compiled a list of recommendations for every person who wants to use their TikTok profile to highlight the music as most important (theirs or otherwise) more so than trending sounds:

Research

Research your music across the whole platform, including videos that used your sounds and hashtags. If people are using your music, engage rapidly with them, as it may drive new followers in a blink of an eye.

Keep Your Finger On The Pulse, But Be Individual

Prepare videos using trending sounds, but apply changes to it. People will engage when they notice the difference, and there is always somebody asking how to access the new version that you have made. You may get likes and comments, which can push you to a new stage of viewers. Don’t forget to look at trends to see what people are doing and why. You never know, you could find something out that could tell you it is exactly the right moment to upload a video.

Use as many effects as possible, especially when they are trending. Younger people spend a lot of time comparing themselves with others before trying a new feature out. If they start copying you and your creativity, you may get a massive upstage.

React And Engage

React to viral videos that are linked to your niche. People are more likely to read comments for a long period of time. Also, when you get your videos pushed, people commenting may spend several times re-viewing, so everybody wins.

React to educational videos in order to spice them up or show interest, not to criticise. Be sympathetic or helpful, as people like to see people engaging in other’s activity.

Hashtags

tag

Never write more than 4 hashtags in your caption: 2 related to the niche, and 2 related to the video itself, or a crowd you want to reach. TikTok algorithms don’t like tons of hashtags as it is perceived as spam.

Remix Sounds

This was partially covered, but it is a great idea to remix existing sounds. It is not all about the visuals, but also what your audience is listening to. Many producers are breaking through by changing trending sounds and having people start to use them.

#LearnOnTikTok

Take advantage of the new #LearnOnTikTok feature. This is an initiative carried out by educational influencers and companies during the current pandemic. TikTok is not just about lip-syncing any more, it is becoming more educational, so bear that in mind.

Algorithm 

Teach the algorithm what you like and dislike. For example, press your finger on a video that isn’t your vibe and hit “Not Interested”. 

Collaboration

Duet with other producers, musicians, dancers etc. This is an easy way to get your videos shared out to new people. Be humble, engage, be yourself and get creative with others, and eventually bigger things will knock on your door. Also, invite your viewers and followers to comment and suggest material, or people for you to collaborate with. 

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Your Music On TikTok

Many users ask whether they can make or upload sounds on TikTok. Yes they can, but let us clarify one important thing. Every user is allowed to perform videos with any sound, and put a name as they wish. But, there is an official library of sounds which compiles official music releases. 

If you are an artist wanting to promote your music on TikTok, you can put out an official release via a distributor, and then find it on the platform for you and others to use in your videos.

Learn more about making money from your music on TikTok with this article: Does TikTok Pay You For Your Music?

Success Stories & How It Worked

man recording mixing music

LLusion is a hip-hop music producer from Los Angeles, California. He blew up on TikTok and YouTube by using lo-fi elements to showcase his production skills. 

People tend to use the original trending sounds, and that’s it. But what did Llusion do instead? He did not perform dances or challenges, but instead started remixing TikTok sounds that he found interesting, which gathered massive traction within the next few weeks. Most of the new followers were chasing the remixed sounds use in their videos, and so Llusion’s work began trending.

What Is Tik Tok: Final Words

TikTok is impacting and changing the way in which we use apps, the way we engage, and the way we spend our time. It is being said that monetisation can be the next big thing for TikTok, and so competition between TikTok and platforms like Instagram will make companies pay more. In terms of video content, it could even be competing with YouTube, which means that if TikTok continues to grow, it may become the ultimate go-to platform for sharing music and video. This is why it is important to get your own music onto TikTok, pay attention to trends and utilise the platform in the ways discussed in this article.

Music Gateway are always looking to help creatives, including promoting your music and improving your streaming presence! Also, check out our Sync opportunities page to get your music in TV and Film! Try it out for free today by signing up or clicking the button below.

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