How to Become a TikTok Star

Beloved by some, befuddling to others, TikTok is responsible for a mobile content creator boom. The video-sharing app has more than one billion active users and has launched the careers of actors, comedians, and social media influencers looking for success outside the confines of a mobile screen.

TikTok isn’t just a congregation center for dancing teens. Creators young and old are finding a community on the app, and from there they’re getting brand deals, cash, and fame. A diverse collection of people now know they don’t have to be highly skilled video editors to hold someone’s attention (though having high-level production quality can help). By combining subject matter expertise or enthusiasm with an entertaining method of delivery, online fame can be yours.

Chefs, doctors, journalists, meteorologists, politicians, and tech types have all found their audience and created their personal and professional brands on TikTok. What’s stopping you?


A Worthy Adversary for YouTube Emerges

Since YouTube’s birth in 2005, platforms aiming to compete with the video-sharing juggernaut appeared and disappeared from the social media landscape. Some services, such as Twitch, grew a loyal following by offering exclusive partnership deals for entertainers on their platforms. Others, such as DailyMotion and Vimeonever experienced YouTube’s prolific success with creator-driven content and tweaked their business strategies over the years. Vine, the original short media sharing platform, was Twitter’s entry into the viral video market. That service folded in 2017.

Posting vertical video (that is, video shot in portrait rather than landscape mode) was once the mark of the clueless and tech-averse, who were filming their grandkids’ soccer games using iPads held inches from their beaming faces. Thanks to TikTok, shooting video upright is now expected and encouraged across various social platforms.

The changing video strategy put traditional social media giants on alert. With TikTok’s recent rise in popularity, YouTube rolled out its own copycat vertical video service, YouTube Shorts. Meta offers InstagramReels, which are also short, vertical videos. In response, TikTok took aim at the competition and announced creators could produce longer videos, up to ten minuteswhich is just under the average length of a YouTube video.


Become a Content Creator

EllasStudy is a college student and TikTok creator with nearly 100,000 followers. She uses her platform to teach others tips and tricks related to programming, and she delivers it all with wholesome energy.

She said she got into content creating on TikTok to make a difference in her field. Ella explained, “There’s a ton of ways that you can help people, whether it’s getting them into tech or just making them laugh. You really can impact someone’s day. Tech is really hard. No matter where you’re getting into it, there are so many challenges regardless of your personal background. It’s a challenging field.”

Ella said she uses the TikTok app’s own video recording and editing controls to produce all of her content. She said, “Honestly? I literally do everything in TikTok. I record in TikTok and edit in TikTok. Just find what you’re passionate about and just be honest with it.”

@ellasstudy Okay but you can throw it a ball #vscode #codetok #techtok #dog #vs #fyp ♬ original sound – Adam

While many users use the free in-app controls to create their videos, some of the most successful creators spend money on equipment and software, especially video editing apps and mobile video editing appsto make their bite-sized content offerings.

MattyKay is a tech TikTok creator with more than one million followers on the platform. He started creating videos, more or less on a whim, “and it instantly blew up,” he said. “It wasn’t what I was expecting at all. It was like a hundred thousand followers in a day.”

@.mattykay Reply to @grey.hyena how much is my power bill??👀 (just this room) #pc #gaming #pcsetup #gamingsetup ♬ Aglow (Intro) – Slowed Down Version – Karamel Kel

MattyKay says he wants content creation to be his full-time job one day and he’s putting in the effort to attract more eyes to his videos. He started out using a mobile phone to record, then upgraded to a vlogging camera, and now he uses a mirrorless Canon M50 Mark IIwhich sells for upwards of $600, for his video shoots.

MattyKay edits his videos using Adobe Premiere Pro and uploads the finished products to the TikTok app. He said about the editing process, “Right now it’s pretty quick. I try not to overthink it. I think with YouTube and stuff like that you want it to be really, really polished. I try to, but not to the extent where I’m spending two or three hours editing a 22-second video. I try not to overdo it, so it’s about 30 to 45 minutes.”


Post About Things You Love

There’s TikTok content for just about everyone. Wherever your interests lie, you can find your audience.

As I’ve learned from hours of scrolling through videos on topics ranging from interest in decades-old recipes to show off gadgets for household tasks, you needn’t be an expert in any given subject to make a TikTok video. Just having some genuine enthusiasm and an engaging personality will do when it comes to producing videos for your potential followers.

Ella believes it’s important to find the subject matter you want to highlight, but creators should also maintain their personal happiness too. “I wanted to be that person who made the wholesome tech content,” she said. “I kind of feel like it’s started to get away from me. So I need to take a break and figure out again what my goals are.” Her advice to others is to check in with yourself from time to time, “and don’t put any expectations on it. It’s supposed to be a fun platform. It’s supposed to be a fun space. This isn’t life or death.”


Get Paid to Post on TikTok

TonyTechBytes is a tech product review hub on TikTok with more than 344,000 followers. Tony told me that he’s been able to help pay for his education by making short gadget and peripheral review videos. “I create videos for brands and whenever they have sponsored campaigns they reach out to me and then we negotiate a deal,” he said. “It definitely is a huge part of my income because it does help pay for college tuition as well as my other expenses.”

@tonytechbytes Reply to @mf392.b5.srt RTX 3080 for $1600?!? #rtx3080 #rtx3070 #3080 #gpu #graphicscard #pcbuild #custompc #egpu #tonytechbytes ♬ Material Girl (Bass Boosted) – Saucy Santana

In addition to brand sponsorships, creators based in certain countries can earn money on the platform via the TikTok Creator Fund, which pays an undisclosed sum to participants who have at least 10,000 followers and receive at least 100,000 authentic views in a 30-day period. TikTok states there is no cap for earning potential for creators, but also does not specify the kind of video content supported by the fund.


Dealing With Negativity on TikTok

Tony said that though he’s found success with TikTok, there can be a downside to engaging on the platform.

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“I’m constantly thinking about work,” he said. “It’s hard to draw a line between work and rest because I’m on TikTok just casually watching content. I’m always thinking about how I can use ideas on my page and incorporate them into my own content.”

Aside from fixing on video production, he also deals with the negative effects of criticism and online nastiness. “Since I’m reaching large numbers of people, it also opens me up to negativity. Even though I make content around consumer technology, which you might think isn’t very negative, there are a lot of enthusiasts who are really critical about my happy,” Tony said.

He continued, “That is a negative part of creating content, but it also could be seen as a positive part because I do learn to develop a thicker skin. We’re all going to die someday. So I might as well just do whatever I want, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone.”


How to Gain an Audience on TikTok

For TikTok creators, the goal is for people to find and watch their videos after they’ve shared them. Experienced social media users know that creators are often at the mercy of a platform’s content display algorithm. Coming up with strategies for putting content in front of as many people as possible is tricky.

For EllasStudy and TonyTechBytes, the key is to never stop posting. “I just post three times a day and really focus on what type of content I want to create,” Ella said. “If I’m just posting little 7-second videos, it literally takes me 15 seconds to record a video and then add the text.”

Tony echoed this strategy, adding that being consistent when posting frequently is also important. “Make as many videos as possible every day as well. I generally recommend at least two videos a day.”

Other creators have a different approach. MattyKay said his secret to gaining more than a million followers is to value quality over quantity. “I don’t want it to feel like I’m just making a video to make a video. I want there to be a reason behind it,” he said. “I’m taking the extra 30 minutes to edit in Premiere instead of on TikTok or I’m using a camera instead of my iPhone. I think little things, when you add them together, just stack on top of each other for that quality aspect in a video.”


TikTok Is the Short King of Social Video

TikTok is the “it” platform for now. Another kind of video content creation, be it horizontal or longer form, could take its place at any time, but there’s no denying the service has made its mark on the social landscape. Everyone from politicians to heads of industry recognizes that TikTok gives creators the power to influence and inform, and in recent weeks they’ve harnessed that social reach.

TikTok has free, powerful video recording and editing tools that are easy for anyone to use, and it offers you a way to share your views with an audience of more than one billion viewers. Maybe it’s time to give TikTok a try. You never know who or what you might discover.

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