How to use TikTok: Tips and tricks for creators

Old-fashioned metronome attached to a smartphone with the TikTok logo on the screen

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who are already on TikTok (hi, Gen Z) and those who need convincing to get there. It’s that second group we’re here for — to explain why the heck you need to put your content on TikTok in the first place, and then how exactly to make that happen. 

Because for the uninitiated, TikTok can feel like an overwhelming social media platform. While the barrier to watching TikTok videos is low, the task of actually making your own videos can seem like a huge leap. We’re here to show you how making these short videos can be fun, creative, and great for your online presence.

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But whyyy?

We know — TikTok has a reputation as a platform for dance moves and viral memes. If you’re crafting thoughtful content, it might seem like the last place you want to post. But hear us out: first, TikTok is deeper than its reputation. Unlike Twitter, where the worst news often gets the most traction, or Instagram, where the most perfectly-curated grid does well, TikTok is all about authenticity — and the TikTok algorithm rewards that authentic content with plentiful views.

After a decade of people posting their best selves on social media, TikTok seems to be the internet’s answer to false personas. And for regular content creators who don’t have private jets or huge licensing deals, that’s a good thing. 

Second, TikTok is the fastest growing social media platform ever. And with that growth in audience comes a similar growth in podcast listeners on the platform, according to Edison Research. In other words, TikTok is a vast, likely untapped market for the stuff you make, even if it isn’t Lizzo choreography

If we’ve convinced you, here’s how to get started posting great stuff on this newfangled platform.

Getting started

You wouldn’t make a podcast without listening to podcasts or a YouTube video without watching YouTube videos. Likewise, before you make your first TikTok, you need to watch some TikToks. Look up keywords in your niche in the search bar and spend some time combing through your For You Page (or, FYP, as in, your personalized video feed), then bookmark videos that you like or that speak to you. Ask yourself: what draws you to them? Is there anything from other TikTok users that you’d like to try? Once you start imagining ways you can make your own videos from your own point of view, that’s when you know you’re ready. 

Marilyn Moser, founder of the HEADS on TV Tiktok account and my colleague at Descript, says, “Post anything. Post your dog, post a vlog of your road trip, post an acoustic cover in your bedroom — but you have to start. All of the fears you have about what people will think are only there to hold you back, and needlessly.”

Keeping it fresh

Now, we know what you might be thinking: why am I making videos for TikTok? I already have my own content, so why not post what I’ve already got to the platform? While it’s smart to upload your existing podcast footage or YouTube clips to the TikTok app, it can get boring and repetitive to recycle old content. And remember — TikTok is its own platform with an algorithm that rewards different things than other platforms do. If you’re a content creator moving from a different platform to TikTok, it’s a smart idea to make exclusive content for your TikTok account in addition to the stuff you’ve already made.. 

So, what could that look like? You could show us behind-the-scenes footage, or your hosts using a fun sticker or tag. After all, some of the most popular TikToks are just celebrities goofing off on set in between filming. Giving your audience a peek behind the curtains of your other platforms will do well for TikTok’s authenticity-centered app. 

Marilyn, who makes music-industry-focused content, made a name for herself by seeking out interaction with her followers. She would use TikTok to share the ways she’s observed social media to be a revolutionary tool for independent artists and creatives, then offer tailored advice to individual users. 

“I had been posting for about six months, growing a small following of 1,000 fans or so, and I decided to start talking to them directly in videos,” she states. “And I mean that in a literal sense — I'd ask them questions, offer up targeted one-on-one advice using TikTok's video reply feature.” 

She goes on to say that many of her regular commenters will ask interesting follow-up questions, which gives her more ideas for fresh content and targeted advice. Sometimes just asking followers what they’d like to see more of is a great way to engage your community and give you more video ideas.

TikTok 101

Have some ideas for exclusive, authentic content for your future TikTok audience? Here’s how to make it happen.

Hit the record button (the “+” sign at the bottom of the screen), pick a filter (ex: greenscreen, make-up, or my favorite: corn!) choose a song (if you want!), and you’re ready to go. You can upload a storytime, make a skit, duet, stitch, work with a trending sound, or do whatever your heart desires. 

TikTok’s editing app is fairly intuitive for beginners. Choose how long you’d like your video to be (current options include 15 second, 1 minute, or 3 minute videos). By clicking the “adjust clips” icon on the right of your video draft viewer, you can tweak each video clip. There are also buttons to add filters, add sound, use special effects, and create captions. 

If you’d rather just edit in an outside video editing app (Descript is perfect for this), make sure you’re using a 9:16 aspect ratio, and upload it by granting TikTok permission to access your photos and video. 

How to make TikTok content that gets noticed

Use music to your advantage

Trending songs are a simple and easy way to ride the algorithm and let more people discover your content. If you see a lot of popular videos using the same song, embrace it. 

Keep it light

Many people come to TikTok to be entertained or learn something new. Accounts like The Washington Post, Duolingo, and Scrub Daddy do a great job of walking the line between serious and fun. If you do need to share something heavy, remember that social media platforms like Twitter may be a better fit, as their algorithms tend to boost more serious content. 

Use popular hashtags

When filling in your description box, type “#” and see which trending hashtags pop up below. You’ll know they’re trending by the blue icon to the left of the hashtag. Many brands will pay to have their own hashtags be popular in the algorithm, and users often ride that same wave to great success. Don’t forget to add the #FYP hashtag to make sure it comes up in other people’s feeds.

Keep watching

If you’re stuck, chances are all you need to do is keep watching TikTok videos to get new ideas. After all, the app is built to recycle and remix other creators’ content. 

Perhaps the most important tip Marilyn adds is, “Make sure the content you share is something you are also interested in. If you're boring yourself, there's a reason!” 

Don’t over-edit

It’s important for your video to be polished, but not too polished! Remember what we said about authenticity. With TikToks, done is always better than perfect. 

Go forth, have fun, and if you’d like the algorithm gods to smile at you, post as regularly as you can. 

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