When it comes to social media, your follower count often means everything. You can use social platforms without a following, but at a certain point, it starts to feel like you’re yelling into the void. Whether it’s your friends list on Facebook, your followers on Twitter, or the friends you add through Instagram, the value of social media comes not just from who you follow, but from the people who follow you back. Creating content, whether it’s photos, videos, or posts, that gets you noticed online can be an incredibly fulfilling quest, but it also takes a lot of hard work, talent, and some pure luck to make it big on any social media platform. Having a previously established audience can help—it’s why almost every top Instagram account is owned by a celebrity, not some random photographer who puts out good work—but in general, you can reach some modest level of success if you try your hand hard enough.
One of the newer, more popular social networks online today—especially among younger users—is TikTok. This video-based social network allows users to create and broadcast short video clips ranging from 15 seconds to a full minute to their fans and followers, racking up an audience as they publish to the platform. Since merging with former (and quite similar) social network Musical.ly, TikTok has become incredibly popular, surpassing apps like Facebook and Instagram in terms of total monthly downloads for the month of October 2018, and continues to grow. This popularity is, in large part, thanks to the teenagers and twenty-somethings have been attracted to the site thanks to its younger demographic, the ability to create content based around or set to popular media (including music, stand-up, television clips, and more), and the service’s replacement as a video-sharing network that exists in the void created by the death of Vine.
Unlike Instagram or Twitter, the users with the most followers on TikTok have been made up of self-starters. While some celebrities, including Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande, and Demi Lovato have joined the site, it turns out that the users who can claim the most followers are unique to TikTok itself. Some of the site’s more prominent users, including folks like Baby Ariel (with more than 25 million followers) and Jacob Sartorius (more than 14 million followers) have managed to grow large accounts on the site, which has paved the way towards scoring record deals of their own.
Thanks to the nature and the young age of TikTok, it’s possible to gain a large following of fans and followers on the site as long as you’re willing to put in some work along the way. Like many things in life, creating excellent, popular videos on TikTok is something that is easy to start, but difficult to master. Looking through the site’s most popular videos at any given time may give you the impression that mastering TikTok is impossible, but never fear: we’re here to help. We’ve come up with the definitive list of ways to master your fan count on TikTok, racking up the highest numbers possible while simultaneously expanding your talent, skill, and scope for your videos. If you’re ready to enter the big leagues on TikTok, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s jump in.
Learn the App—and Learn the Techniques
Some readers may have spent months learning the best ways to use the TikTok app, but other users may need to learn as they go. If you’re new to TikTok, it’s important that you get a strong grasp on how the application works before you start trying to build up an audience. TikTok isn’t nearly as complicated of an application as something like Snapchat, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to study up on how the application works. If you have any prior experience working with video production, you’ll know it’s a complex art for that requires some serious study.
While you can absolutely get famous on TikTok while ignoring the basic rules of videography, you’ll be setting yourself off on the wrong foot. By learning some basic concepts about basic video composition, you can make your videos look great while also using the app’s tools to add effects and other stylistic options.
The App’s Tools
First, let’s look at the app’s own video tools, because there are a lot of them. Once you’ve selected a song for your video, you gain access to the app’s viewfinder. For this exercise, you can really select any of the songs in TikTok. If you’re looking to practice your skills, try to select an audio clip you know well enough to not have to look up. It’s not a requirement, but knowing your content ahead of time will make recording much less stressful. Once you’ve selected a song, you can enter the viewfinder to start getting a grasp on the controls offered by the app. Let’s quickly summarize the controls inside the app:
- Along the top of the display, you’ll find a back button (which allows you to go back to the song selection screen), an icon to toggle your phone’s flash on and off, and a button that allows you to switch between the camera on the back of your phone and the camera on the front of your phone. It’s worth noting that the flash toggle will disappear if you switch to your front-facing camera. Finally, there’s a “Next” button that leads you to the editing stages of your clip before you post it; it’s greyed out until you’ve recorded enough content to start the editing process.
- On the right side of your phone screen, you’ll see tools you can use when creating your video. First, there’s a cutting tool that allows you to trim your clip before you start recording. You’ll need to use this prior to actually recording, however, because it will become inaccessible once you begin collecting footage. Below that is a magic wand tool, which toggles Beauty Mode on and off. By default, it’s enabled. Below this is the stopwatch tool, and that happens to be one of the most important tools in the entire app. By using the stopwatch, you can set TikTok to record a specific amount of music automatically before it pauses recording. This is perfect if you don’t have someone to help you record, because it means you can get exactly the length of footage you want as you record. We’ll talk a little more about this tool later on in our guide. Finally, below that is the filter tool.
- At the bottom of the display, you have your time manipulation tools which allow you to slow down or speed up your video content. We have a full guide that will help you use those speed settings to your advantage, which you can check out here.
- Finally, at the very bottom of the display, we have three icons. The first is an effects tool, which allows you to add cool filters or “augmented reality content” into your videos, similar to Snapchat or Instagram. The second is your record button, which works just like the record button in Snapchat—you hold down the icon to record, and release to pause recording. Unlike Snapchat, you can use the record button to create different clips and takes, which you can identify by looking at the top of the screen at the yellow progress bar. The white lines on that bar will display where and when the app is starting and stopping your new clips. And if you mess up a take, don’t worry. TikTok makes it easy to start a small section of the song over without having to redo the entire project. Click on the backspace button to the right of the record icon to erase the last thing you recorded and start over.
Those are the main tools you’re dealing with when creating a video in TikTok, and it’s important to be familiar with them before making the plunge into gathering an audience. Practicing and playing around with the tools is a great way to test out your new skills, and since you don’t necessarily have to publish the video you create within the app there us no downside to trial and error. It’s important to remember that you can erase your progress as much as you want. There are a few additional effects you can add to your video after you’ve recorded your content, but the best videos come from users who focus most of their time on the actual video itself, not the effects you add in post-production.
Now that you have a basic understanding of how each feature on TikTok’s display screen allows you to record and manipulate your footage, it’s important to also have a strong sense of how composition works within videography. Don’t worry if you didn’t go to film school—we’re only talking the basic “Dos and Don’ts” here. Just like in photography, your videos come out better when you have a strong sense of framing within your work. That isn’t to say you can’t make quality content without knowing how composition works when shooting videos, but you can enhance your content with a little basic knowledge of what makes a video look really good. Plus, if you’re trying to get the most followers on TikTok, you’ll want to understand how framing works so your viewers enjoy watching your videos. Here are four simple composition tips to follow when creating videos in TikTok:
- The Rule of Thirds: Anyone who has spent any time in film school can tell you that there’s nothing more important to study up on than the rule of thirds. Just like in photography, the rule of thirds is a basic idea of composition that is identified by two vertical and two horizontal lines placed on the image, creating nine equal-sized boxes. Often referred to as the golden rule of shot composition, the rule of thirds asks that you place the interesting parts of your shot on the lines of the grid, rather than the center. For newcomers to video and shot composition, this might seem like an odd tool, but anyone who’s spent time creating video or studying film will tell you this: shots are far more interesting when following the rule of thirds rather than centering everything in a shot. Now, that said, TikTok’s vertical video orientation makes it a bit harder to follow the rule of thirds than a traditional video style. Still, you should keep the grid in mind when creating your content—it can go a long way in helping your video have a sense of style and professionalism.
- Balance and Symmetry: The next most important step in creating your videos is one your fifth-grade math teacher will likely thank you for remembering. While following the rule of thirds is the best bet for creating interesting, successful videos, the next-best step is to focus on shooting your videos with a focus on symmetry and balance in your shot. Try getting a friend to mirror you in the video, or shoot a dining room table so that it shows up as though the shot was mirrored. Balance is incredibly pleasing to the eye, and using it to your advantage will have more people looking at your videos for longer.
- Using Lines: Just like with symmetry, using natural or unnatural lines in your video’s layout can trick the viewer’s eye into looking at specific parts of a shot. In cinematography, these are called leading lines, which allows your viewer’s eyes to fall through the frame while simultaneously creating a sense of depth in a 2D image. If you want to shoot like the pros, using lines to create your content is a must-do.
- Check Your Backdrop: All too often, TikTok videos are created with someone laying in bed, or in front of a mirror in their room. While it’s acceptable for a social video network, if you want to hit some major success creating your content on TikTok, you need to put in the work. Find somewhere to shoot that features a diverse setting, an area where it’s easy to create content, or somewhere with a plain, nondescript background. At best, clean up the room you’re about to shoot in—make your bed, pick up your dishes, throw your clothes in a laundry basket, etc. No one wants to see a gross-looking room when they’re flipping through TikTok.
These four tips won’t perfect your videos, but they’re a great way to start thinking about how your composition will affect the viewer, and an entryway into creating classic videos that any viewer will enjoy.
Connect Your Social Accounts
It sounds simple, but the act of connecting your social accounts can make it easy for users to find your TikTok profiles on other accounts online. Whether it’s sharing your content to your Facebook feed for your friends from high school or college to see, sharing to Twitter for your followers to take note of, or sharing to Instagram in order to display your best work among your various photos and videos, connecting your social accounts is the obvious trick to getting additional views on your account.
Study the Pros
Grab your phone and open TikTok. Instead of jumping to the camera display or choosing a song to shoot with, pause for a moment on the main “For You” feed. Scroll through it a bit, refresh the feed a few times, and focus on what you’re seeing from the videos. Check out how popular the videos are; you’re likely see anywhere from 100,000 favorites to over 3 or 4 million, with thousands of comments and shares. Pay attention to how the videos in this feed are framed, how they’re shot, and how the creator acts in the video. Are they holding the camera in their hand, or is the video steady and still? How much work (seemingly) went into this video? Note the background, foreground, any props used in the creation of the shot, and everything else you can see in the frame.
One of the best ways to learn how to film exceptional TikTok content is to watch those who are already successful. When studying films, you can note the actors, the direction, and the editing all from the visual aspects on the screen while listening to director’s commentaries for notes on the set, and read the screenplay to get a feel for how a traditional script is formatted and published. Put the same amount of inspection into looking at hundreds of successful, popular TikTok videos. Study the content of the most popular videos and determine how they’re made. Think about each individual piece and how it works or doesn’t work. Don’t just watch good ones either; watch any successful TikTok, no matter whether you think the content on the video is any good.
Focus Your Energy
At this point, putting in the time and effort to do the research and learn the app, you’re on the right path. The next step is simple: focus your passion on making your TikTok videos the best they can be. If that sounds simple, that’s a good sign—it means you’re likely dedicated to the craft and are willing to put in the work to achieve your goal. Like any art form, creating top-tier TikTok videos requires you to be focused on your art form, with a sense of dedication and pride in your work. We aren’t saying you should quit your job or drop out of school to become an artist on TikTok, but plan on devoting a good chunk of your (possibly limited) free time to practicing or creating your own TikTok content.
Equipping Yourself with the Right Gear
Take a look at some of the top TikTok users on the platform right now and focus on how they film their videos. You’ll notice that a large percentage of TikTok videos on the platform aren’t shot handheld, either by the person in the content or by a friend. Instead, you’ll probably notice that the app’s videos are often created by using a tripod to hold the camera steady during filming. While it might seem unexpected, plenty of TikTok’s most famous and most successful creators use tripods or monopods with their smartphones in order to get the shot. If you’re curious to try it yourself, here are some tripods you can get for your smartphone, which range in price.
- Acuvar 50″ Inch Aluminum Camera Tripod and Universal Smartphone Mount, $13.95 at Amazon
- Acuvar 50″ Inch Aluminum Camera Tripod with Universal Smartphone Mount and Bluetooth Wireless Remote Control Camera Shutter for Smartphones, $15.95 at Amazon
- UBeesize Portable Tripod and Adjustable Camera Stand Holder with Remote and Universal Clip for iPhone and Android, $13.98 at Amazon
- SMILEPOWO Lightweight Mini Tripod And Universal Smartphone Tripod Adapter, $9.99 at Amazon
- Nomadic Gear Universal Smartphone Holder Mount Monopod Tripod Adapter for Selfie Stick with Double Screw Head (mount only), $9.00 at Amazon
If you’re interested, you might want to invest in some other smartphone gear, including removable lens mounts for your phone. If you have the means to do it, you can even go in and buy some inexpensive light kits to help brighten your area, but for the most part, anyone looking to create videos for a smartphone audience can skip this. The most important part is getting a tripod to hold your phone, which can really help with the stability of your shot and greatly improve the professionalism of the shot.
When using a tripod, it’s important to use the timer setting on your phone within TikTok, which will auto-record a specific part of the song once you hit start. It’s a great way to auto-record on your own, especially if you don’t have someone around to help out.
Choose the Right Songs
You might have a specific sense of what music you love, but TikTok is a trend-based service, which means more than you might think it does. You don’t just want to make sure you’re making your videos well, but you want to make sure you’re looking through the content on the service, seeing what’s trendy and popular, and using that to your advantage. Sure, you might love Led Zeppelin or Prince more than any of the meme-based songs that often appear in the top feed on TikTok, but those songs aren’t always what’s popular among users. The more willing you are to work towards songs that are popular or have made a huge splash on the service, the more likely you are to hit TikTok gold.
If you’re looking for suggestions, flip through the top listing of videos a few times to notice what tracks keep repeating. When you notice a song being used often by creators on the platform, you can tap on an icon in the lower-right corner of the display to automatically use that song. And don’t worry if the clip is an original song—you can use original clips straight from their source to create your own magic.
A Follow for a Follow
Once you’ve built up a collection of TikTok videos, it’s time to start marketing yourself and your collection. TikTok has a fairly large community, but in the world of larger apps like Facebook and Instagram, it’s a relatively young, small group of people. This means most users aren’t just hungry for their own followers and fans—they’re also looking for new people to follow all the time. So, what’s the best way to gain some quick followers? Start following people! You’ll be surprised how quickly people will begin to follow you back within the app, and your follower collection will increase faster than you can believe.
But who do you follow exactly? Here are some things we recommend keeping in mind:
- From the trending TikTok clips on your account, you can find some popular pieces to choose from. Refresh the feed if you need to in order to get some fresh TikTok videos.
- Look through the comments on popular videos to find accounts of people who are really enjoying the content posted from that user.
- Select a profile from a recent comment (try to find one posted within a few hours; the fresher the better) and follow their profile.
- Do this repeatedly, and watch the follow-backs come faster than you could ever believe.
The key here is to have an account with a fair amount of content already loaded; we recommend not using this method until you have around 10-12 TikTok videos on your profile that you are proud to share with the world. The idea here is that your account isn’t just a blank account, but something that people will want to take a look at, and perhaps continue watching. You need content that looks, feels, and breathes professionalism in order to make a good impression. If someone sees your account and takes a look at your videos, they’ll likely find that you’re putting a lot of effort into what you’re making and follow you right back.
At this stage you’re reaping the rewards of your hard work with those well-won follows. That doesn’t mean you should stop or slow down that momentum, though…
Practice, Practice, Practice
This is it: you’ve studied, you’ve researched, and you’ve got all the equipment and the know-how necessary to succeed on TikTok. You’ve practiced adding new fans and you’ve promoted yourself on social media. All you need to do now to finish your quest to gain more fans is simple: practice, practice, practice. Like with any art form, the key to gaining popularity and success is to always work towards perfection, and to continue to push yourself and your art. Try new sounds and new clips, work with your friends to add new ideas and new people into your shots, and practice using the effects available within the editor before you upload your clip.
If it sounds like a lot of work, it is. But, with that work comes the obvious benefit: the more effort you put into your TikTok videos, the more you learn. TikTok is not just a great way to make fans and followers—similar to something like Guitar Hero or Rock Band, creating and editing the simple video clips that TikTok can help you learn video skills that translate into large scale film work. Even if your hobby never becomes more than that, it’s still worth gaining an additional skill (and some additional attention) from the content you create.
TikTok is a great platform for naturally creative people to express their talent, sampling content and pulling inspiration from one clip and transforming it into something else entirely. Using the tips we outlined above, you too can gain a massive fan following, with all the attention and adoration that comes with online sensations. That said, you’ll also want to make sure you keep practicing your video skills over time. That’s the true key to gaining new fans on TikTok: practice, practice, practice.
So, did our guide help improve your TikTok follower count? Have you put the tips to good use yet? Let us know in the comments below!