I’ll be the first to admit that when I saw TikTok begin to rise in popularity last year, I wrote it off. My thoughts were, “14 years olds dancing to pop songs? I’ll pass. Teens doing funny voice overs in crop tops? Yeah, I’ll leave that to Gen Z.” I had absolutely no interest in learning these viral video trends, let alone putting effort into understanding how to get followers on TikTok. I guess I just didn't see the value at the time.
Looking back, I equate that dismissal to the naivety of the people who called Instagram a “photo editing platform” in 2012 and of the people who wrote off Facebook as a “chat app for college kids” in 2005. Because the reality is that TikTok has evolved from the social media platform it was initially created to be. And in fact, it may be the next big player in the world of social networks.
Though there are still certainly plenty of teens doing viral dances and crop-top- wearing Gen Z-ers doing voiceovers, there is now a plethora of new content on TikTok that has evolved far past that. And at the time of writing this, it's the fastest growing social media platform.
It seems like once everyone began spending more time inside, TikTok use skyrocketed. Not just for teens, but also for people in their 20s and 30s. So I thought, “Fine, let's give this a try” and opened my TikTok account.
I studied the platform for a couple of weeks.
Reading about people’s predictions on the algorithm and trying to understand what types of content did and didn’t do well on TikTok. As a lover of Instagram, it was a tricky platform to understand in terms of what type of content was being created. And what type of content does well.
I batched 10 videos in a weekend, so that on Monday 4/13, I could begin posting 2 videos per day. I really give the creation of these videos and the selection of hashtags my all. My first video quickly picked up traction and I started gaining followers fairly steadily. It was about using a VPN to find cheaper flights, and now has over 400k views.
My next couple videos did fairly well (they both have 20k+ views at time of posting), but my fourth video was what really lit the spark.
It's a video about how to fly business class using credit cards and miles. During the first hour that I posted that video, views creeped in. Every 10 minutes I would refresh and there would be just one more view. Then around the 1-hour mark after posting, things went crazy. Within 10 minutes, the video had jumped from 1,000 to 20,000 views and I was gaining followers quickly.
Long story short, I ended up gaining more than 10,000 followers in 4 days.
The majority of my videos have between 20k and 1.5M views and because of this rapid growth, I've learned very quickly what works and what doesn’t on the platform, which I'm sharing with you in this post.
But before I go through my best tips for how to get followers on TikTok, let me first explain why I think it's important that you add TikTok to your list of social media accounts, whether you are a business owner, a blogger, or have a personal brand.
- Early adopter advantage: Remember those people who started taking Instagram seriously before everyone else? The ones that have millions and millions of followers now? Yeah, they had the early adopter advantage. TikTok is still very much in the early phase, so you should get on it now.
- Growth hacking potential: TikTok followers don't just stay there; they can follow along with you on other platforms like Instagram or your blog. You can move them over creatively. For example, if you post a video tutorial on TikTok, mention at the end that you have another “trick” people can watch over on Instagram. Or if you're doing a TikTok video on editing, mention at the end that you're giving away a free editing preset over on your website. When trying to migrate your audience, you just need to make sure you're getting the right audience, which I cover in my tips below and in this episode of my podcast, Her Life By Design.
- Could be the next “big thing”: Obviously no one can tell whether TikTok is a fleeting fad or the next big platform. But because there's a chance of the second, why not get on it now and take advantage of being an early adopter?
- Opportunities for monetization: We're already seeing some brands (like Aerie) run campaigns with some of the larger influencers on TikTok. It wouldn't surprise me if we saw more and more companies get on board with utilizing TikTok in their influencer campaigns.
Now that you're convinced and going to download the app, here are my top tips for how to get followers on TikTok in an authentic and organic way.
How to Get Followers on TikTok: Make TikTok Videos Look Professional
As a new TikTok user, the first thing you need to understand is how to actually use the platform. There is definitely a learning curve to creating TikTok content, but this video does a great job of giving you an overview of the platform. You can edit TikTok videos outside of the app as well and for that, I use the app InShot.
Find your niche
A big mistake I see people make on TikTok is simply recreating trending dances and viral challenges without any specific topical focus. The goal with gaining a following on TikTok (and any platform) is to not only grow a large audience; it is to grow an audience that follows you for a specific reason and looks to you as an expert in one specific area. After all, that's how you'll monetize and begin finding relevant brands to partner with.
So, finding your niche and creating videos on TikTok that fit that niche is extremely important. If you're already a blogger or social media influencer, finding your TikTok niche will be easier. It will just be an extension of the type of content you already post on Instagram and your blog. If you're a fashion influencer, you'll post fashion content on TikTok. Travel blogger? Travel videos.
The reason you want to stick to your similar kind of content is two-fold:
- It's your zone of genius.
- A new follower does not equal a good follower. You want to be sure the audience you're growing on TikTok is super targeted and interested in the kind of content you're posting.
It's straight forward to find your niche if you already have an existing audience and platform. But how do you find it if you aren't already a blogger?
- What are you the most knowledgable about?
- What are you the most passionate about?
- What could you create content about for one year without seeing a dime?
Set up your profile
After you know your niche, set up your profile. For your profile picture, use something more up-close of you. This type of picture proves to convert people better than a photo of a landscape or a photo where you are smaller.
For the text in your bio, make your niche and value-add clear! You can also include your Instagram username and/or blog/website if you want your growing TikTok audience to check you out in other places.
Here are some examples of great TikTok bios:
Adapt to trends
Now that you know your niche and know how to make a video on TikTok, it's time to get filming. But you can't go in blind and create a video just based on how you want to make it. If you want to see growth on TikTok, it's important to keep up with and play off of trends.
There are two main trends to follow on TikTok: hashtags and sounds/songs.
To see what hashtags are trending on TikTok, press discover on the bottom menu and scroll through the hashtags that are trending. Some might not be applicable to your niche, but for the ones that are, watch a few of the videos and get the gist of it.
To see what sounds/songs are trending, press the + on the bottom menu and press “Sounds” at the top. Scroll down to “Trending” and you can see a full list of trending sounds you can use.
As I said earlier in this post, it’s important that you don’t simply copy these trending videos or use a popular song with no strategy. You have to add your own twist to them to make them fit in within your niche and make them relevant to the audience you want to attract.
Here are some examples of how you might adapt trends:
- #RetailTherapy is a trending hashtag at the time of posting. If you're a fashion blogger, you could do a quick roundup of your 5 favorite crop tops for Summer in a format similar to this. If you're a travel blogger, you could post a roundup of your favorite items related to travel.
- #MiniTutorials is also trending right now. A lot of the videos seem to be showing recipes. So as someone in the travel niche for example, you could adapt the trend by filming a TikTok showing people how to find cheap flights. That qualifies as a mini tutorial!
- A trending song right now is by DJ Yames. There's a whole dance that goes with it, but @viluong adapted that song in this video to – yes – do some of the dance, but also to provide value in her niche. Ashlee Rose Reeves does the same thing with a trending song here. Focusing less on dance and more on providing value.
- I did the same thing here by using a trending song in a value-packed video that is relevant to my niche.
Provide value or inspiration
Unless you’re a naturally hilarious and witty person that can create entertaining videos, it's a good idea to give value or inspiration in all of your videos. This shouldn't come as a surprise since you need to give value and inspiration on all platforms.
Here are some examples of videos that educate or inspire on TikTok:
- @jera.bean's tutorial on getting line breaks on IG
- @professionaltraveler's video with 5 natural landmarks in the USA
- @laxtoluxury's top 5 island resorts
- @amyseder's inspiring story of how she became a full-time content creator
- @chrisellelim's top 5 nighttime beauty products
- @laurynbosstick's smoothie for glowing skin
- @tourdelust's tutorial on adding clouds to photos
- @lindsaysilb's roundup of 4 comfortable loungewear sets
Encourage watch time
TikTok is a similar platform to YouTube in that the algorithm rewards watch time. In layman’s terms: the longer TikTok users watch your video, the better your video will perform and the more people you will reach. So how can you encourage longer watch times?
- Caption: Let people know why they want to watch until the end. Examples of this here and here.
- On-video text: Keep people engaged and give them motivation to watch to the end. Examples of this here and here.
- Tutorial or hack: Tutorials by nature encourage longer watch times because viewers want to see all the steps. Examples of this here and here.
- Round-up: By sharing the top # of [blank], you also give people motivation to watch the entire video. Examples of this here and here.
Capitalize on viral videos
The reason why I gained so many followers when my videos went viral was not just because the video was valuable. It was because people came to my TikTok profile and saw that I was posting more of the same. It's similar to Instagram: people aren't just going to follow you because you posted one high-quality image. They will follow you because you consistently post quality, valuable content in a niche they are interested in.
So the takeaways from this are two-fold:
- Post consistently on TikTok, which I dive into in the next point.
- When you start to see a video pick up speed and go viral on TikTok, make sure you have similar content already on your TikTok profile to encourage people to follow along.
Adhere to a posting schedule
Consistency really is everything on TikTok and, if you're trying to see that explosive growth on the platform, posting “every once in a while” won't fly. The more content you're pushing out, the more people are more likely to find your page and be more likely to follow you. After my video went viral, I saw massive growth for about a week. I was then focusing on a site redesign and other business stuff that took my attention away from TikTok and growth stalled. When I started posting again using the techniques I outline here, growth picked back up again.
So, how often should you share your content? I'd recommend 1-3 times per day.
I know that feels like a lot… and it is. So to stick to this posting schedule, I find that it's helpful to batch content. Keep a running list (I use a notepad) of all of your TikTok video ideas. Then, twice a week you might batch 5-7 videos to have enough content for the coming 3-4 days.
Utilize captions & hashtags
Unlike on Instagram, the caption space is limited to 100 characters and hashtags need to be put in the caption in order to be effective. There's no such thing as “putting them in the first comment.”
Because of this character limit, you can forget about the micro-blogging style captions I encourage for Instagram. In fact, your captions on TikTok really shouldn't be longer than a few words or a short phrase. I see many people on TikTok using their caption as a place to sort of “title” the video or a place to encourage longer watch time, as I explained above.
As far as hashtags go, hashtags on TikTok are kind of like hashtags on Instagram years ago. Meaning, they are what bring a ton of new eyes to your content. Also, the more videos a hashtag has under it, the higher chance you have of getting your content seen by a ton of people. Using the hashtag #fashion on Instagram, for instance, might get you shadow banned. But on TikTok, that hashtag would bring a ton of eyes to your content.
Here's how to find the best hashtags to use for your videos:
- Use trending hashtags (if they're relevant to your video)
- Dive into the TikTok app and look at other pages in a similar niche to you. See what hashtags they're using.
- Search for a hashtag you want to use, press hashtags on the right side and see all related below it. Choose the hashtags that have a very large amount of views; I would suggest 500M or more.
For example, if I posted a video with 5 tips for travel in Thailand, I might use the #travel. Searching for more hashtags using that third technique, I would also use #tiktoktravel, #travellife, #travelthrowback, #traveldiaries, and #travelbucketlist. To increase the chances of viewers that are specifically interested in Thailand travel content seeing my video, I might also use #thailand and #tiktokthailand.
One word of caution with hashtags on TikTok though: be sure you are ONLY using hashtags that are relevant to the video you're posting. Just because #AtHomeWorkout is trending with 2 billion videos does not mean you should use that hashtag on a beauty video. This will only hurt the video's performance.
to up your TikTok game:
I hope that this post was helpful in giving you the tools & tips you need to grow an audience on TikTok. For my predictions on the future of TikTok, listen in to this episode of my podcast, Her Life By Design.
How do you gain more fans on TikTok?
Any questions about TikTok or want to share what's been working for you on this social media channel? Chime in in the comments!