In February 2019, we created Merci Handy's TikTok account ; 6 months later, 120,000 people follow us and we have millions of views on our videos every month. After exploring this new generational social network that is becoming essential, here are our tips for creating the best videos and growing your community quickly, illustrated by a selection of inspiring TikTok videos.
Why TikTok is super addictive
TikTok is a mobile-only app. You can certainly access all the content from a computer, even without having an account on the platform. But the application is designed for mobile use and almost all traffic on the platform is made from mobile.
When you first explore TikTok, you feel like you're dealing with a social network from the future straight out of an episode of Black Mirror. The main tab (the #foryou tab) of the application is based on a powerful algorithm that analyzes in a very thorough way our behavior when we watch videos that the application suggests to us (How many seconds do I watch each video before swiping and moving on to the next? What types of videos grab my attention enough to watch until the end and/or like them? What mechanics or types of content particularly move me? ?) to personalize everyone's feed in a very thorough way according to what makes us laugh, what touches us, the mental mechanisms to which we are sensitive. On this tab, the videos scroll continuously one after the other, without us even having to scroll like on Instagram or Facebook: A content is barely consumed (or swiped) and now the next one has already started, which makes all very addictive.
By taking your first steps on the application, you can be scared because you come across a lot of videos that won't touch you, even that will make you feel uncomfortable. It's that the application does not yet know us, does not yet know our tastes and does not yet know the content that affects us; and on TikTok, there is something for everyone. But very quickly, as we scroll through the videos, the application learns and very quickly our feed is more and more personalized and more and more relevant. The first videos to which we are subjected are in fact a first “test panel” of content to which the application asks us to react in order to get to know each other better and then offer us the best content. To personalize their feed, the majority of other social networks are based on our centers of interest or our preferences, such as a waiter who, in a restaurant, would recommend a dish on the menu to us after asking us for our tastes; TikTok mechanics are different: the application makes you taste lots of different dishes and gradually refines its knowledge of your tastes and your mind by watching you eat, to offer you the best possible feast, in a continuous learning mechanism. It's a virtuous circle (or vicious, depending on your point of view): the algorithm gives us what makes us happy, and in exchange we give it the data it needs to get to know us even better and offer us content. even more relevant.
Another important point to understand TikTok is that it is the reign of useless content , of pure entertainment : You don't go to TikTok for a good reason, to follow the news, to see your friends' vacation photos or to follow the news of an influencer or an artist. Unlike other big social networks, TikTok doesn't have to give you a good reason to go on the app because it knows how to grab your attention and hold it for 30 minutes or more without you really realizing it. account ; simply because it's addictive and what you're shown is so personalized, because the algorithm gets to know you so well, that you almost feel like this content was created just for you.
Example of brilliantly useless TikTok content:
A huge “meme factory”
TikTok is the world of the meme , the video meme made all-powerful. A simple idea or concept, diverting an image, a music, a character, a situation and turning them into derision, taken up, declined and diverted ad infinitum by a large number of individuals. But it's not simple mimicry: in the same way as for the classic memes, everyone declines in their own way the meme brings an original personal idea, everyone “creates” something in their own way.
A very simple example is the meme, very popular on TikTok at the time of this writing, around the song “I kissed a girl” by Katy Perry, consisting of appearing on the screen by falling on her bed as Katy Perry sings “I kissed a girl” by kissing an object/character/etc. unexpected and funny (and often someone walks into the room and overhears the strange act at the time). Some are thus surprised by their mother packing her childhood blanket, others kissing the photo of their maths teacher, others in full romance with a 4-cheese pizza. A very simple idea, easily duplicated to infinity by all the teenagers in the world in their room.
This is how the TikTok community works: memes emerge (often from a particularly viral and funny video), and the whole community lends itself to the game, brings its stone to the building, adapts it to its personal situation or to his imagination. TikTok takes Instagram (where everyone becomes a “photographer”) even further in making us believe that everyone can be an artist, that everyone can create something unique. Everyone has a talent and everyone has something to create. And there's something for everyone: humor, dance, lipsing, DIY, drawing, video editing, etc.
Beyond these “trends” that emerge naturally, the best memes that are most picked up are identified by TikTok algorithms and submitted to the editorial teams of the social network, who choose some of them to highlight them, in the “discover” tab: every day, in every country, a meme is chosen by TikTok and is featured on this tab and submitted to the whole community via a notification. This is called “challenges” : the great TikTok machine, for example, informs its entire community that the theme of the day is to make fun of the Wikihow site, and everyone is invited to use their creativity. and imagine the best possible content on this theme.
Where Instagram, the world of ultra-polished photos and lifestyle / beauty influencers, is a generally very serious and first-degree social network, TikTok is quite the opposite: TikTok is the world of the second degree, of diversion, of derision. , ... Where, on Instagram, users show the best of themselves, embellished by filters in photographic scenes, on TikTok users prefer self-mockery, making fun of everything and staging their imperfections, their failings, etc. Which makes it a social network definitely more in line with the imagination of Generation Z than all other social networks. That's why TikTok's tagline is “Real People. Real Videos.” : On TikTok, we do not project an idealized, scripted, dreamed version of ourselves; everyone creates something, in their own way, with the means at hand (i.e. an iPhone and their creativity, that's all; no filters to improve the image or hide imperfections, no staging of his lifestyle - or else to make fun of it, never in the first degree).
The TikTok spirit
Even more than its predecessors, TikTok is a deeply generational social network, by its demographics but above all by its spirit. The first advice we can give you is to immerse yourself as much as possible in this “TikTok spirit” to understand it intimately. Watch videos on the channel, immerse yourself in the videos that touch you the most. Gradually, you will understand the mechanics behind TikTok, the community's imagination and the implicit best practices that govern this social network.
Through challenges and memes, TikTok users themselves create strong codes and a common imagination that is found in all the content published on the platform. For example, there is a very precise and coded way for a boy to "disguise" himself as a girl to play the role of a girl in a TikTok video: put a mop, a piece of clothing, a dishcloth on his head (to ironically and summarily reproduce long hair). Whenever you see a boy roleplaying a girl in a TikTok, he will follow this code. They also create a general spirit, a common imagination, the "TikTok spirit" : be crazy, be funny, don't take yourself seriously, make fun of EVERYTHING (including you), be creative, be weird and different (between TikTokeurs , we understand each other), everything is allowed.
Our 20 tips for creating the best videos on TikTok:
Like on other social networks, there is no universal magic recipe for making viral content on TikTok. However, a number of rules make it possible to optimize your content so that it is favored by the platform's algorithm, so that it fits in with the spirit intended by it, and on the other hand so that they match with the “TikTok spirit” and generate engagement.
The question of "how to appear in For You" (in other words: how to make TikTok make my video viral and be seen by a large number of people) obsesses TikTok users and, the algorithm being relatively complex, many theories more or less eccentric flourish on the application and elsewhere on the Internet to explain how to find yourself in the “For you”. The following advice is based on the analysis of our own performance, on tests carried out on our content and on conversations with the TikTok teams.
The TikTok algorithm is based on the “ batch ” principle: When you publish a video, TikTok will submit it to a panel of users and observe their behavior when they watch the video, by studying two indicators in particular key performance indicators: completion (the average watch time of the video divided by the total duration of the video) and engagement (the number of likes - and other minor reactions - divided by the number of people who have seen the video ). Depending on the score of your video on these two performance indicators with the test panel, TikTok will assign a score to your content and push or not your video depending: The more you have succeeded in keeping the attention of users, the more you will have fact that they like your video, the more your content will be deemed relevant by TikTok and the more it will be seen by a large audience. The rest of the life of your video works in the same way by increasingly large audience levels.
The first level seems to be located at 3000 views: If your video is performing well on the first 3000 people who have seen it, then TikTok will start pushing your content. Naturally, the more your video will be pushed to a large audience, the more its performance will decrease (because you are getting more and more out of your core target, TikTok suggesting your video in priority to the people to whom it has the most chances to please, then expands the audience more and more), the videos that will be able to exceed hundreds of thousands of views or even millions of views are those that manage to degrade their performance as little as possible with the expansion of their audience. All the following tips aim to maximize your performance on these two axes (completion and engagement), this is how your video will be pushed by the TikTok algorithm:
1 - First obvious but important advice: TikTok is an almost exclusively mobile platform, which means that all your videos must be in vertical format . Think of all videos vertically, from writing to editing and filming. Think of the composition so that it is optimized for this format and that the important information is clearly visible and evolves naturally within this framework.
2 - Create original content specifically for TikTok : On TikTok, a classic Instagram story type post or video ad will not work. (We give you, in the following paragraph, the keys to create an effective video on TikTok.)
3 - Scroll through the videos in the "For you", and, as soon as a video touches you, makes you laugh or otherwise, ask yourself the following questions : could I decline this meme for my brand / according to my world ? And try to find the right twist that will allow you to create original and engaging content, linked to your brand (directly, by showing the products; or indirectly, by linking it to the identity of the brand, to its universe) or to your universe.
4 - You can post as many as you want , the algorithms will not restrict your videos if you post several per day (as may be the case on Instagram for example), each video is considered independently by the TikTok algorithm. A good pace to start is to post 2-3 videos per week, then work towards one video per day depending on your productivity in imagining and creating content. Some accounts go further and post multiple videos per day, there is no limit.
5 - Stick to current meme trends , those you'll see repeatedly in your “For you” feed, or the official challenges highlighted on the “Discovery” tab by the editorial teams.
6 - The growth of your community will be done by the performance of your videos (unlike other platforms like Instagram where other mechanisms - influencers, UGCs, contests - are often more interesting to grow the number of followers than publications themselves): The better a video performs, the more it will be pushed by TikTok algorithms in the “For you” tab and reach people who are not yet subscribed to your account (unlike Instagram or Facebook for example, where the vast majority of people who see your publications are already subscribed to your account, here it is the opposite) and therefore you will be able to recruit some of these people whom you will seduce with your video. A video that gets 1M views will allow you to recruit several thousand new subscribers; with 100,000 views you can go up to around 1000 new subscribers, depending on the conversion driven by the video.
7 - Test, analyze, test, analyze, test, analyze... Not all your videos are going to work, but the more you test new things, the more you post and analyze performance and the more you will gradually understand what works and how optimize your videos against the TikTok algorithm and against the spirit of the social network.
8 - The image must be of good quality and the object of the video must be easily visible without effort; a backlit or blurred video will be swiped quickly by users and you will not have their attention, film with a good smartphone. However, the image must not be too “professional” or too sophisticated either, it must be homemade, unlike Instagram content for example which must be more sophisticated (hence the slogan of TikTok “Real People. Real Video).
9 - Edit your videos directly on TikTok , the application offers complete and relatively intuitive integrated editing software, which is quite easy to use. You can use simple edits outside the app of course, but don't add text, filters or effects from another app (Instagram or otherwise), otherwise TikTok will block your video.
10 - The tone should not be too marketing / advertising or too serious / first degree. Even more than on other social networks, content on TikTok should entertain rather than sell. This does not mean that you cannot stage your products, quite the contrary, but you have to do it in the TikTok spirit: divert them, make fun of them, or use them as a medium for a even. Don't take yourself seriously, make fun of everything, including yourself, your brand, your products.
11 - Be careful that your video is not blocked by TikTok (otherwise it will not be pushed in the "For you"): no nudity (even very partial, for example a naked torso is considered by TikTok as nudity), no swear words (including in the lyrics of the music you use!), no scenes that TikTok might deem “too childish”, etc.
12 - Make it short. TikTok is a platform where videos are consumed in sequence; if your video is too long or if you lose the attention of viewers, they will skip to the next one and this will penalize your video in the algorithm. 15 seconds is a classic good time for a TikTok video. Or even better (but it's more difficult), make it a little longer (or even much longer, if you're good), if you manage to imagine a real mechanism to hold attention along the video. The first big KPI taken into account by the TikTok algorithm is completion : the average time your video is watched. The closer it is to 100%, the higher TikTok will rate your content and push it to a lot of people. Your completion rate may even exceed 100%: certain mechanics encourage users to watch the video several times (to understand a second reading, check a detail, etc.) and thus the average number of seconds viewed may be greater than the duration of the video. It would seem that TikTok takes into account both the completion rate (= the average number of seconds watched of your video divided by the number of total seconds of your video) and the completion in absolute value: If your video is very long (up to 'at 1 minute) and you manage to hold people's attention for 40 seconds on average, even if your completion rate (67%) is not huge, holding people's attention for 40 seconds is considered a great achievement by TikTok and your video will also be valued.
13 - Your video must have a crescendo effect: you need something strong to catch the attention from the start, but then you have to manage to keep the attention until the end, you don't have to interest in video is going down. If there are several funny things in your video, each one must be funnier than the previous one and there must be an overkill each time. At the very end of the video, a fall or a WTF / unexpected detail will allow you to encourage as many people as possible to like the video. Because beyond completion, the other big KPIs you need to work on is engagement and, first of all, the number of likes.
Example of a good fall:
14 - Be weird, WTF, unexpected. TikTok has, more than other social networks, a crazy and bizarre side. Don't cross the "yellow line of unease", but TikTok users are giving a premium to weird and WTF.
15 - Text of the video: You can add text on the video and hashtags. The number of characters is limited and is superimposed on the video so you have to think about the text so that it is as effective as possible in a few words. You can add popular hashtags related to your video (the meme related hashtag if you follow a meme trend) to attract traffic from that hashtag. If you add text, it shouldn't be simple “filler”, but it should encourage watching the video until the end (for example: “wait for the end of the video 😂” / “ the end of the video was not planned” / etc.), to like (example: “1 like = 1 vote for it to be like this in real life” / “I went to great lengths to make this video, go me famous!” / “don't let this video fail!” etc.).
16 - Music : Music is important on TikTok, much more than on any other platform. The majority of memes are associated with a specific music and the meme must be synchronized with the rhythm of this one, the majority of users watch videos with sound, contrary to what can be observed on other platforms. If you are creating a video that does not respond to a particular meme trend, choose music that supports the purpose of the video well, makes it even more impactful. Moreover, the more popular music you choose (you can search for the most popular music on TikTok when selecting music) and the more the algorithm will push your video.
Example of a video that makes fun of the Disney credits:
17 - Be reactive : on TikTok, challenges (official or not) do not last very long, and there is a bonus for the first most viral videos on the same trend. If you take too long to add yourself to a meme, you risk coming across users who are tired of having already seen hundreds of videos on the same theme, who are tired of seeing the same type of content and who will not watch. your video. A good example is the Wikihow challenge (the principle of which is to make fun of the life advice given by the Wikihow site by really carrying them out, in a caricatural way) which was very powerful when it was launched, but the videos which are published today Today (at the time of writing this article there are still many of them) struggling to find their audience and to achieve the same performance as when it was launched because the TikTok community seems to have started to have the rounds of this trend.
18 - Put yourself in the place of the person who will watch the video and ask yourself the following questions : “is my video funny / touching / effective”? “Did I optimize everything to grab attention from the start? To hold attention until the end? To encourage the like?” And optimize your video for that, putting yourself in the shoes of the person watching it.
19 - The videos that work the best are often those that give the impression that the person has “worked hard” . A tedious staging, long to prepare, a brilliantly absurd way of shooting, etc. This is the meaning of the baseline “Make my day” that TikTok uses in its advertisements: “I like this video because he went to great lengths to make me laugh, he made my day with this video".
20 - A meme is all the more shareable / likable if it speaks to everyone, do not make references that are too pointed or too specific, the strongest memes are often those highlighting a situation that everyone has already lived , that everyone can understand intimately because he has already made the way in his mind.
Here is our feedback on TikTok, after a year spent on the platform. These tips are not exhaustive, they are based on our experience. And TikTok's algorithms are evolving. The best advice we can give you is to test again and again and constantly analyze the performance of your content, this is how you will understand the mechanics of TikTok more and more intimately and find your own original model to meet. to the constraints of the algorithm and the imagination of the TikTok community. Because it accomplishes the "all creators" initiative initiated by Instagram, because it creates a strong generational imagination and because it is based on an algorithm that values, more than all other social networks, pure organic, TikTok is revolutionizing our relationship to social networks.
There are still few brands to be present on TikTok, but the first brands to create communities on this incredible new (but already very big) social network seem to be developing, like those who were present from the first months on Instagram, a “first mover advantage”. Don't worry about whether or not your brand should go on TikTok: download the app, explore it, start posting and you should be convinced of the need to be present on this exciting new social network.