Somehow, a lot of marketers still scoff at TikTok and dismiss it as “just a platform for kids to dance and lip-sync.”
While entertainment is still prevalent, there’s so much more to TikTok. Over the past 18 months or so, more mature audiences have taken to the platform and populated it with their interests, making TikTok a tool for personal branding and thought leadership.
I’ll admit I too had my reservations at first.
I envied users much younger than me using TikTok’s native video editing tools so creatively that I didn’t think I would ever get to the same level. I would need to put myself on the line and perform to a bunch of strangers. And too many other 30-year-olds deemed it necessary to justify being active on TikTok despite their age as if we didn’t belong.
Yes, perhaps the actual barrier was nothing more than the looming realization: I’m almost middle-aged. Nevertheless, I knew the possibilities, I’d seen what people did – and still felt I didn’t fully understand it.
So, the 2020 lockdown became an opportunity to adopt this new creative method. I decided to take the plunge and become a TikTok creator. I challenged myself to publish one video/day for 30 days and see what happens.
A few months later, I reached the glorified milestone of one thousand followers on TikTok, and have kept growing ever since.
Here’s how I grew my audience.
How to get followers on TikTok?
1. Focus on one concept
I started by experimenting with all kinds of stuff, mostly hopping on the few trends I was comfortable with. However, I needed an original concept I would be able to sustain for 30 days. I chose a topic that didn’t require that much production: tell one dad joke a day.
While comedy isn’t for all (I don’t even consider myself a good comedian), the main point is to establish a throughline in all your posts so the audience understands what you’re all about.
This could be a specific topic (especially if you want to become a thought leader), a character or persona, or a specific style you’re known for. For example, Emily King is known for both her signature slide in front of a mirror and her topic: relationship advice.
2. Publish daily
On the one hand, TikTok’s algorithm is democratic. On the other, it might seem arbitrary. You could have a million followers and reach a hundred of them, or you might have zero followers and reach 1 million people.
Still, TikTok clearly rewards consistency. That’s why I posted once a day, and usually at the same time of day – also on weekends. My first post reached about 200 users each, and in a couple of weeks, I averaged 1000 views per post.
Sometimes a post might fall through the cracks and other times a post goes viral in a matter of hours. Just keep at it, and the platform will get you trending again.
3. Use hashtags consistently
I’ve been researching if there’s a best practice for using hashtags on TikTok but didn’t find one clear answer.
While some load their video descriptions with ten hashtags, I’ve found that choosing a couple of keywords is more helpful. I’ve been using four that are all related and use the same language so that the algorithm can better determine to whom they should show my content.
Go for hashtags that aren’t too popular – it’ll be easier to stand out with a hashtag with 10 000 posts than one with a billion. Test which combo works and use it consistently to become a top creator in your niche.
And definitely stay away from the hacky and tacky hashtags like #foryou or #xyzbca – they won’t help you.
4. Use your native language
This tip might help if you live in a non-English-speaking country.
Anyone can start trending on TikTok but usually, the English-speaking creators get more traction. At least my For You feed is filled with Americans although I live in Finland.
That’s why I also posted in English until I noticed how much more engagement my Finnish videos generated. This trend is clearly aligned with the hashtag approach: target the less saturated niche.
5. React to comments
Engagement of any kind makes your content appear more appealing to the algorithm. That’s why I make sure to like or respond to each comment on videos unless it’s completely unrelated or spam.
6. The value of repurposing content
Marketers spend a lot of time and money on their content – so why not re-post some of your favorites every now and then?
Repurposing content is especially OK on a platform where the algorithm might bury your post without a proper reason and the audience is scattered across a billion variations of the For You feed.
Keep the momentum going with recycled content, as is or with some tweaks to the copy, hashtags, or other variables.
Why do I need 1000 followers on TikTok?
Reaching certain milestones on social media platforms can unlock new opportunities for creativity and growth.
On YouTube, 1000 subscribers enable new posting options and monetization. On TikTok, 1000 followers enables livestreaming possibilities.
And while the algorithm doesn’t favor top influencers as much as Instagram does, having more followers does make you more attractive to follow.
The real payoff of my experiment
The most valuable lesson I learned is painfully obvious: these tactics apply to ALL major social media platforms.
Whether it’s TikTok, YouTube, or Instagram, you need to
- Be active & post consistently
- Define a target audience and speak to your niche
- Engage with the community
- Focus on one concept that makes you stand out
- Repurpose your top content
It took me five months to reach 1000 followers – slow compared to the top influencers in Finland, perhaps, but not bad for telling bad jokes. The results have kept me inspired and, a year later, I’ve racked up about four million views, with close to 3000 followers.
While these numbers make me feel good, there is another positive takeaway: getting more used to performing on camera. Sure, I’ve been a TV host and YouTuber (remember to subscribe), but having a camera right in your face is a lot more intimate. I’ve even built up the courage to record videos in public.
TikTok potential for brands
It’s almost 2022, and you’re still contemplating if TikTok is relevant for your brand? To me, the potential is obvious.
- 1 billion users globally – it’s not just a niche platform for kids
- Instagram is on the decline – people are tired of how commercial it is and TikTok is more vibrant and less fake
- TikTok offers a more positive culture, making people more open to new ideas (products)
- TikTok is perfect for brand to build thought leadership
- There’s plenty of advertising opportunities already, and social commerce on the way.
If you’re looking for inspirational brands on TikTok, check out Nike, Chipotle, Ryanair, Samsung, or Too Faced.
I hope to see you embrace TikTok and put these tips to good use. Don’t forget to follow me on TikTok.
Easter Egg: This article was originally published in Finnish, read “miten saada seuraajia TikTokissa.”