Great TikTok videos aren't just for Gen Z: A guide for Millennials, Gen-X, and beyond

There are some pitfalls that older generations fall into when creating content on TikTok. Knowing what they are and what makes an engaging video will help you find success on the app.
April 13, 2023
Brenton Zola
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Regardless of how old you are, you’ve definitely seen those videos — the ones that drag on a little too long, use a trendy term incorrectly, or open with the dreaded “Millennial pause.” It seems like any generation older than Gen Z just can’t make TikTok videos the way the young people can. 

Gen Z is the first adult generation that had the internet since birth. Their inborn online-ness has set the tone on TikTok, and made it difficult for older generations to keep up. There are all sorts of pitfalls that Millennials, Gen X, and older generations fall into when creating content on TikTok — pitfalls that turn off not only younger viewers, but sometimes their own peers. 

I’m a content creator with 26,000 followers on TikTok who falls into the “younger Millennial” camp. I know how frustrating it is when you put hours of work into making a video that only gets 200 views. I have seen creators shed tears of frustration over their inability to get any traction on the app. I also know that there are ways for older creators to make their content more engaging. Here’s how.

Understand what’s popular on TikTok

One advantage of being born into older generations? You’ve lived through many iterations of social media — maybe all the way back to MySpace or Friendster. You likely know that every platform has its own personality and ecosystem. TikTok is no different. The biggest mistake older users make is to try to post content on TikTok that wasn’t made for TikTok, like videos they made for Youtube, Instagram, or even LinkedIn. 

TikTok requires native content. Users on TikTok love stuff that’s authentic, creative, and relatable. TikTok is definitely a place to get weird, and people who experiment often win the day. With all of TikTok’s effects, music, and remixing, there’s plenty of opportunity to do just that. But don’t just start creating blindly — it's important to spend some time on the app and get a feel for what type of content is resonating with viewers.

If you’re newer to the app, or just newer to being in front of the camera, I suggest scrolling through videos that you love and really asking yourself what about the video actually draws you in. Is it the pace? Is it the creator’s sense of humor? The punchline? The information? When you look at a video as a creator, it can help you learn to make your own videos more engaging.

Just go faster

I see so many TikTok videos where I think, “This should have been half the time." Speed is incredibly important on an app that's serving you video after video. Think about cutting down your transition time, the space between pauses, and even speaking with a bit more animation. Also, experiment with talking a bit faster than you normally might. Sometimes I practice playing back one of my videos at 1.2x or 1.5x speed to get a sense of how it might feel if the video moved faster. You can even speed it up a bit after recording if it works for your content. 

“Gen Z is really really smart — they process information quickly,” says Ryan Foo, a Millennial TikTok creator who has quickly built a following of nearly 200,000 followers on the platform. Most of Ryan’s followers are enthusiastic Gen-Z users. 

Ryan’s account, cooldadgamer, doles out fatherly advice to younger users while he casually plays online games. He admits that despite his popularity with Zoomers, even he struggles with the speed of the platform. “I think it’s something all older generations struggle with sometimes,” he says. 

But Ryan adds that sometimes you just have to figure it out. It’s essential to “kill your darlings,” as they say in the writing world. “Sometimes I’ll have a video that’s 90 seconds, and I’ll need it to be 30 seconds. It’s hard but I just have to keep cutting until it’s short,” Ryan said. 

While Ryan has found success aiming his content at younger audiences, that’s not your only option. One often-overlooked strategy for finding success on TikTok is focusing on your own generation. 

Act your age

Trying to be cool is the least cool thing you can do. When older generations try too hard to copy young trends on TikTok, it can come across as inauthentic and turn off the exact viewers they’re trying to connect with. Instead, it’s a good idea to focus on creating content that’s true to your own personality and interests. If you're not comfortable with a certain trend or challenge, don't force it. Find something that you genuinely enjoy and create content around that.

Many successful TikTok accounts from older users are leaning into the jokes, memes, and nostalgia of their own generation to find success among their peers and beyond. There’s a rich world of content that’s specifically designed for older generations, as Gen-Z TikTok-er Jordan Hart discovered when she went undercover to discover the secrets and mysteries of Gen X TikTok.

Creators like “therealslimsherri” make viral videos referencing classic Gen X songs like Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel, which nobody born after the year 2000 has likely heard of. Her contemporaries like Nick Harrison have viral hits like “When you leave your Gen X playlist on random.” 

‍These are just two of many examples of older creators who are finding success on the app by leaning into the power of their generation. Even though young kids were the first trendsetters on TikTok (and its precursor, Musical.ly), there's a lot to be said for making content directed toward older audiences. After all, every generation wants entertainment. Content shouldn’t only be focused on the youngest users (the biggest user base on TikTok is a solidly Millennial 25–34, by the way), and there’s plenty of room to grow in the niche of older TikTok-ers. 

Team up

Collaborating with creators who have a similar style or interests as you is a tried and true way to bring in new viewers who may not have discovered your content. Collaborating with younger creators can take you even further, ideally bridging the gap between generations to make the content resonate with an even wider audience. 

There's no reason why Millennials, Gen X, or even boomers can't create entertaining TikToks that all users want to watch. Spend time on the app to understand the type of content that works, stay true to your own personality (and generation), collaborate, and make your videos a little bit faster. Everyone has the ability to create engaging content, even if you’re not Gen Z.

Brenton Zola
Brenton Zola is a first-generation writer, thinker, and multidisciplinary artist fascinated by what it means to be human.
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Great TikTok videos aren't just for Gen Z: A guide for Millennials, Gen-X, and beyond

Metronome with a smartphone attached, bearing the TikTok logo

Regardless of how old you are, you’ve definitely seen those videos — the ones that drag on a little too long, use a trendy term incorrectly, or open with the dreaded “Millennial pause.” It seems like any generation older than Gen Z just can’t make TikTok videos the way the young people can. 

Gen Z is the first adult generation that had the internet since birth. Their inborn online-ness has set the tone on TikTok, and made it difficult for older generations to keep up. There are all sorts of pitfalls that Millennials, Gen X, and older generations fall into when creating content on TikTok — pitfalls that turn off not only younger viewers, but sometimes their own peers. 

I’m a content creator with 26,000 followers on TikTok who falls into the “younger Millennial” camp. I know how frustrating it is when you put hours of work into making a video that only gets 200 views. I have seen creators shed tears of frustration over their inability to get any traction on the app. I also know that there are ways for older creators to make their content more engaging. Here’s how.

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Understand what’s popular on TikTok

One advantage of being born into older generations? You’ve lived through many iterations of social media — maybe all the way back to MySpace or Friendster. You likely know that every platform has its own personality and ecosystem. TikTok is no different. The biggest mistake older users make is to try to post content on TikTok that wasn’t made for TikTok, like videos they made for Youtube, Instagram, or even LinkedIn. 

TikTok requires native content. Users on TikTok love stuff that’s authentic, creative, and relatable. TikTok is definitely a place to get weird, and people who experiment often win the day. With all of TikTok’s effects, music, and remixing, there’s plenty of opportunity to do just that. But don’t just start creating blindly — it's important to spend some time on the app and get a feel for what type of content is resonating with viewers.

If you’re newer to the app, or just newer to being in front of the camera, I suggest scrolling through videos that you love and really asking yourself what about the video actually draws you in. Is it the pace? Is it the creator’s sense of humor? The punchline? The information? When you look at a video as a creator, it can help you learn to make your own videos more engaging.

Just go faster

I see so many TikTok videos where I think, “This should have been half the time." Speed is incredibly important on an app that's serving you video after video. Think about cutting down your transition time, the space between pauses, and even speaking with a bit more animation. Also, experiment with talking a bit faster than you normally might. Sometimes I practice playing back one of my videos at 1.2x or 1.5x speed to get a sense of how it might feel if the video moved faster. You can even speed it up a bit after recording if it works for your content. 

“Gen Z is really really smart — they process information quickly,” says Ryan Foo, a Millennial TikTok creator who has quickly built a following of nearly 200,000 followers on the platform. Most of Ryan’s followers are enthusiastic Gen-Z users. 

Ryan’s account, cooldadgamer, doles out fatherly advice to younger users while he casually plays online games. He admits that despite his popularity with Zoomers, even he struggles with the speed of the platform. “I think it’s something all older generations struggle with sometimes,” he says. 

But Ryan adds that sometimes you just have to figure it out. It’s essential to “kill your darlings,” as they say in the writing world. “Sometimes I’ll have a video that’s 90 seconds, and I’ll need it to be 30 seconds. It’s hard but I just have to keep cutting until it’s short,” Ryan said. 

While Ryan has found success aiming his content at younger audiences, that’s not your only option. One often-overlooked strategy for finding success on TikTok is focusing on your own generation. 

Act your age

Trying to be cool is the least cool thing you can do. When older generations try too hard to copy young trends on TikTok, it can come across as inauthentic and turn off the exact viewers they’re trying to connect with. Instead, it’s a good idea to focus on creating content that’s true to your own personality and interests. If you're not comfortable with a certain trend or challenge, don't force it. Find something that you genuinely enjoy and create content around that.

Many successful TikTok accounts from older users are leaning into the jokes, memes, and nostalgia of their own generation to find success among their peers and beyond. There’s a rich world of content that’s specifically designed for older generations, as Gen-Z TikTok-er Jordan Hart discovered when she went undercover to discover the secrets and mysteries of Gen X TikTok.

Creators like “therealslimsherri” make viral videos referencing classic Gen X songs like Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel, which nobody born after the year 2000 has likely heard of. Her contemporaries like Nick Harrison have viral hits like “When you leave your Gen X playlist on random.” 

‍These are just two of many examples of older creators who are finding success on the app by leaning into the power of their generation. Even though young kids were the first trendsetters on TikTok (and its precursor, Musical.ly), there's a lot to be said for making content directed toward older audiences. After all, every generation wants entertainment. Content shouldn’t only be focused on the youngest users (the biggest user base on TikTok is a solidly Millennial 25–34, by the way), and there’s plenty of room to grow in the niche of older TikTok-ers. 

Team up

Collaborating with creators who have a similar style or interests as you is a tried and true way to bring in new viewers who may not have discovered your content. Collaborating with younger creators can take you even further, ideally bridging the gap between generations to make the content resonate with an even wider audience. 

There's no reason why Millennials, Gen X, or even boomers can't create entertaining TikToks that all users want to watch. Spend time on the app to understand the type of content that works, stay true to your own personality (and generation), collaborate, and make your videos a little bit faster. Everyone has the ability to create engaging content, even if you’re not Gen Z.

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