31 TikTok Tips for Beginners and Aspiring Influencers

Can one billion active monthly users be wrong? Well, if social media has taught us anything, the answer is “probably.” But that doesn’t negate the fact that video-sharing app TikTok is growing fast, thanks to its addictive feed of neverending short clips.

Though TikTok’s future was thrown into question in the US last year, that threat appears to be over, so it’s full steam ahead for the app from China-based ByteDance. The app is pretty intuitive; a carousel of videos are presented for your enjoyment. Swipe up for the next one (and the next one and the next one); like, favorite, or follow to customize the experience. But there are some quirks to be aware of. Get in while it’s hot, using the tricks below to stay influential.


Tips for Viewers/Lurkers


Master the Fast Forward

fast forward scrub bar on TikTok

This is key when you come across a TikTok that promises a big pay-off in the end, but starts off with far too much chatter (TikTok now allows videos up to three minutes long). Don’t wait or sit through the whole thing again. The white progress bar at the bottom of a longer TikTok video is also a slider. Place a fingertip on the moving white dot, then drag it back and forth to scrub to the spot you want. It appears to only be available for videos that are at least 30 seconds long.


What’s In the Inbox?

The inbox houses your account activity—who’s seen or liked your content, who’s following you, and who wants to follow you. It’s also where you’ll get direct messages from other TikTokers.


Know the Difference: Following vs. For You vs. Live

Following vs For You vs Live

If you follow someone’s account on TikTok, their videos will be in the feed called Following. But the For You page (some call it the FYP) is where TikTok’s magic happens. The FYP is a personalized feed created directly for you by the algorithm, which takes into consideration the videos you watch, those you skip, who you follow, what you favorite, etc. No one knows exactly how it works, but many will try to guess, because it’s exposure in the For You feed that can sometimes lead to full-on viral celebrity. TikTok always opens anew in For You, hoping to suck you into watching new creators you may also want to follow, all with the goal of keeping you entranced by the app longer and longer.

Live, accessed on the top left, take you directly to a feed of people who are literally broadcasting live to TikTok in the moment. This gives you the opportunity to interact with the video’s host.


Why are there two magnifying glass icons on the TikTok interface? Because the metaphor for search can apparently only be represented by that one item. The difference here is that the mag-glass at the upper right is for a straight-up search of content. Tap into a search term and you’ll see you can narrow it down to the top results, users’ names, videos, sounds, and the all-important hashtags.

screenshots of tiktok's two separate discovery options

The mag-glass in the lower toolbar isn’t that. It’s called Discover and is meant to expose you to plenty of new content you didn’t know you wanted. However, using the search box on the Discover page still brings up the same search results you’d get above, so it seems like a waste of a second magnifying glass.


Keep Your Video ‘Likes’ Private

Keep Your Video 'Likes' Private

If you don’t want the whole world knowing your likes, make them private. Go to Profile > hamburger menu > Privacy and scroll to Liked Videos. Set it to Who can watch your liked videos: Only Me.


Like, Fav, Share, and Save

Like, Fav, Share, and Save

Use the icons: Like it (tap the heart; tap again to unlike), comment on it (tap the word balloon icon), or share it (via SMS, internal TikTok message, Instagram, Twitter, and a lot more) with the Share arrow. Find liked videos again in your profile. Hold down a finger to bring up a menu to report it, send to friends, favorite it, or save the video to your camera roll (if the creator allows it).

What’s the difference between a Like and a Favorite? Likes are the same thing you’ve come to view on social media like Facebook—it increases the chances of a video being seen and gives the creator a boost. A Favorite is for you to access again later without giving the creator the same traffic boost—if you don’t like the creator but want to keep tabs on them, for example.


Where Are My Favorites?

Where Are My Favorites?

You access Favorites from the profile page, by tapping the bookmark icon next to Edit Profile. You’ll see a menu that also provides access to favorite hashtags, sounds, video effects, and even products, if you have any. (TikTok and some influencers sure hope you do.)


Be Multiple People

It’s easy to set up multiple accounts under the Profile button at the lower right. Once you’re on the page, tap the name of your existing profile at the top and then Add Account. When you create an account, you either need a unique phone, email, or username, or you can log in via an existing Facebook, Apple, or Google account. Tap the name at the top later to switch between accounts easily. You can have up to five per app. Mashable has a full tutorial on the topic.

Note, however, that if you set up multiple accounts in one app, your account could be marked as a business account. That means the account is meant more to drive traffic to a business with real-time analytics and metrics than to entertain or influence (though you can get analytics and metrics on a Creator account as well). Business accounts get access to a lot more music via TikTok’s Commercial Music Library. You can always switch a regular Creator account to a Business account in the Profile menu under Manage Account.


Turn on Data Saver for Cellular

Data saver

Find it in Profile > hamburger menu > Data Saver. It does exactly what it says. If you’re on a cellular connection with a data plan, the videos download at a lower resolution and take a lot longer, all in the name of preserving data. Once you’re back on Wi-Fi, everything goes back to full quality and speed.


Search via Sound

Search via Sound

A LOT of TikTok videos use the same audio. That harkens back to its earlier incarnation as Musical.ly, which was all about people doing lip-dubs to songs. That’s still a huge part of the fun of TikTok—watching people do creative videos (or recreate videos) to classic audio, be it songs or dialog or comedy bits, etc. When people do that on TikTok, the audio gets a separate credit at the bottom of the screen so you know the true origin.

You can search for that audio’s use in other videos. Tap the icon of a spinning record on the right. You’ll get a page showing the original (if it’s still available) and all the videos that used it subsequently, even if it was in a Duet. Share or favorite the audio to find or use it in the future. There’s an icon to tap to use it yourself in a new video. More on that below.


Save Your TikCode

Subscribe to ECGriffith!

This is the QR Code that leads to your TikTok account. You can share it with others to scan and they get instant access to your content. Find it via Profile > hamburger menu > QR Code. You can download it, send or share it, post it to other social media, you name it. Even get it tattooed on your arm if your tat-artiste can handle precision pointillism. Anyone with the TikTok app can then scan it by going to Discover and tapping the scan tool at the upper right.


Turn Off Captions

Maybe you don’t want to read what people are saying. If the closed captions were created via the TikTok app itself (see below), you can make it so. Tap the captions as they play to see the Hide captions option; they’re reduced to a small icon above the TikToker’s name. Tap it again to bring captions back. If the person used different software for the captions, or painstakingly typed them in manually, you can’t unsee them (that technically makes them open captions).


Ask Your Fav Creators a Question

PDQ on the Q&A

Got a question for a video creator? Comments abound across TikTok, but you can designate a comment as a direct question for those with public Creator accounts (vs. Business Accounts), in a bid to catch their eye. Tap the word balloon icon with a question mark in it when commenting. The creator could even use it as a springboard to do a whole new video response to your question. To turn on Q&As, go to Profile > hamburger menu > Creator Tools. This option is also available when you’re watching a Live video; the broadcasting creator will see the question in real-time on their chat feed.


Try the Desktop

You can access TikTok on a desktop computer at tiktok.com. It will send you a four-digit sign-in code to the phone number of the phone where you use the mobile version, or you can opt for the password login. It gives you access to all the videos you’d find in For You and Following and Live, plus messages and inbox for contacting people.


Tips for Creators/Influencers


Limited Options With Desktop Video Creation

While the desktop browser version of TikTok isn’t really geared toward creating video—the TikTok.com website lacks any video capture or editing tools—it does offer an Upload Video option. That way, if you prefer to make pro-level vids on the computer using high-end tools like Adobe Premiere, it’s extra easy to get them on the service. Mark them if you want people to be able to Duet, Stitch, or Comment. Another option is to make the videos on your PC, save them to a storage site like Google Drive or Dropbox, then save them to your phone for upload. Remember—you can’t edit a video after it’s published. Other limits: the video has to be in MP4 or WebM format and higher than 720-by-1,280 resolution.

Limited Desktop Creation Tools


How Long Can a TikTok Be?

Videos used to be limited to 15 seconds, which is about the length of time most people can pay attention. If you record natively on the app, you can now go as long as three minutes. But unless you’re doing a step-by-step video, or you’re the funniest standup comic alive, don’t.


Try CapCut for External Editing

If you think the TikTok app itself is extremely limiting when it comes to video-editing features, the next step up before you go to Adobe Premiere or the like is CapCut. What’s more, the app (for iOS and Android) is made by ByteDance, the creator of TikTok itself. But, you don’t need a TikTok account to use it. It does however have support for direct export to TikTok, plus many more options, such as a 15-minute video limit (of course it would have to be three minutes or less to go on TikTok’s service). Read our full review.


Set Account to Private or Public

Set an Account to Public/Private

Make an account Private so only the followers you allow can see your posts. Or go Public so the world can see your content. If you do, you have no control over who follows you. Go back and forth by going to Profile > hamburger menu > Privacy and toggling it on or off.


Turn on Auto Transcription

Auto Transcription

Closed captions make a world of difference for the hearing impaired and help anyone watching a TikTok video with the volume down (a must when viewing in the bathroom to avoid judgment). The app can automatically generate a transcription of your audio and make captions on the fly. Simply tap Captions at the bottom after you record. You see a preview, which you can edit line by line if you see errors. Editing provides the option to get rid of transcribed words that can sometimes flag content, be they full-blown curses or simply something suggestive. That’s why sometimes people refer to “seggsuality” on the service. It’s fun to replace words with emoji. Note, the transcription doesn’t seem to work well with singing.


Fancy Up Your Captions

You can drag the auto-generated captions to the top or bottom of your video, but you can’t format them in any way. You can, however, use the Text tool to type in your own open captions (they can’t be hidden, they’re “burned” into the video) with various fonts, colors, and alignments. Simply set a different duration for each slice of text, so it corresponds with the voices in the video. It’s a lot of work but looks nicer.

Fancy Captions

There are many easier third-party apps that handle both transcription and fancier captions on the fly, like Captions (iOS) and AutoCap (iOS and Android). Make a video with their pretty captions, then upload it to TikTok. You’re stuck with TikTok’s more boring-appearing captions, however, if you want to use any of the TikTok effects on video or audio.


Set Some Talking Text

The text-to-speech option puts that female robotic voice on your videos, so it does the speaking for you. Create a video, tap Text, and type something. Then tap the text again and select Text-to-Speech. Now, when the text appears on the screen, the robot voice handles the voice-over. Set a duration for the text, so you can have robo-lady describe different parts of the video as they come up. Tap the text again if you want to turn off the talking.


Delete!

If you get sick of any extra element you placed on a video, like a sticker or some text, all you have to do is drag it up toward the top of the screen. A trash can appears labeled Delete. Just drop the element on the can to be rid of it.


What’s a Stitch?

You see the Stitch a lot on TikTok—it’s when a creator takes a clip from someone else’s video, then adds their own video on the end, usually as a reaction to what was done or said. To do it, click the Share arrow icon on a video, select Stitch, select the five seconds of the other person’s video you want to use via the bottom sliders, tap Next at the top, and you’ll see the recording screen but with the other creator’s video time already allotted in the bar at the top. Record as normal, tap the Checkmark, add effects and filters if you want, click Next, add the titles and tags, and post it. You can also mark your video to allow stitching if you want. Keep them Stitches rollin’. (Stitch and Duet are only available if your account is public, not private.)


What’s a Duet?

@ecgriffith

##duet with @failarmy  anothe reason to avoid golf ##golf ##duet ##closeup ##beardo

♬ original sound – FailArmy

Another staple of TikTok’s collaborative spirit is the Duet, where you record a video that runs right alongside another person’s video, so you can react or maybe even fake an “interaction” with them. It works much the same way as a Stitch—pick a video, click Share > Duet, record a video with all the usual tools, add some filters, text, stickers, whatever, and click Next to post it. You can even allow a Duet with your Duet. Click Layout before you record to re-orient the Duet so it’s oriented top and bottom instead of left and right, among other options.


Record With Different Speeds

Different Speeds

When you go to record a video, tap the Speed icon on the right. You’ll see choices on the screen to record at 0.3x, 0.5x, 1x (normal speed), 2x, and 3x speeds. If you pick the first two, you are actually recording in slow-mo. The latter two go double or triple fast. Why would you do this? Depends on your video, but a super-speed burst is fun to show a hyperlapse of a long, drawn-out project (though for really long things you might be better with an app like Hyperlapse from Instagram, where you can adjust speed, then upload it later to TikTok). It’s fun to record a Duet reaction with people at a different speed, for example.

Even more fun is that with any pre-recorded video off your phone, you can upload it to TikTok and assign it a new slower or faster speed, depending on how you want to use it.


Effects vs… Effects

When you record a video on TikTok, you see the colorful Effects icon of a leaf in two colors at the lower left. You use this to access lots of filter effects that are used in real-time as you record, everything from Green Screen and Stop Motion (see below for more) and well beyond.

EFFECTS: colorful icon vs b&w icon

However, there are also after-the-recording Effects you can add. After you’re done recording, but before you click Next to finalize it, on the screen where you can insert text, captions, and stickers, there is a second Effects icon in black and white (on the bottom below). Tap this and you have a whole slew of possibilities, from visual effects (add smog, fireworks, snow, etc.), to transitions, split cameras, and time effects, like reversing or repeating a section of video.

Time Reverse

Try all the secondary effects you want; you can always click cancel to discard the effects and go back to your original recording.


Stick With Stickers

Stickers are another after-the-recording effect you can apply, and they are exactly what they sound like—images and emoji, all supplied by TikTok, that you can stick right on a video for any duration you like. There are few of interest.

  • Poll: Lets you insert a two-answer poll on a video

  • Magnifier: Inserts a floating magnifying glass on the video to highlight something.

  • Remove Background: It takes a photo of yours that features something in the foreground and strips off the background, so the foreground image stands alone as your sticker.

  • Giphy GIFs: The search at the very top of the Sticker page literally says Search GIFs so you can find appropriate animations from Giphy to insert in your video.

Many stickers are animated, some are editable, and you can usually set the duration for how long one appears on the video. That way, the sticker doesn’t compete with things like captions.


How Do I Green Screen?

Green Screen—where you put an image or an entire video “behind” you in a video—can be found under Effects, on the standard video-recording screen accessed via the + button. You’ll see Effects that are trending, some specific to the time of year; scroll left, and you’ll get to Green Screen. There are a LOT of variations and it’s hard to tell them apart without trying them all, but the most basic has this icon.

Green Screen icon


(Image: Mashable)

Pick an image from your photo library. You’ll see yourself then superimposed over the pic. It works a lot better if the wall behind you is blank (but it doesn’t have to be green).

The variations on what and how you green screen are legion. There’s even a combo Green Screen/Duet feature now, so you can superimpose yourself on other videos. To do that, start a Duet as described above, but click the Layout icon to select Green Scene. Mashable has a full Green Screen tutorial.


Stop for Stop Motion Video

Another fun effect is to make a frame-by-frame stop-motion animation. When you make a new video, go into Effects. Look for the icon that says Stop Motion. (You probably won’t be able to find it. TikTok does a terrible job at making Effects icons easy to find. Instead, go to Search, type “Stop Motion Effect,” and it should appear at top. Click it, then bookmark it to use later.)

You’ll want to make sure your phone is as stable as possible, maybe on a tripod. Click to create a video and then select Stop Motion, or from Profile > Favorites > Effects > Stop Motion, click Try This Effect. You’ll get a new start screen for the animation spelling out that you tap for each new frame, then tap record again at the bottom when you’re done to see the finished animation.


How Do I Measure Traffic?

You have to turn on Analytics—it’s not automatically on for a personal Creator account. Go to Profile > hamburger menu > Creator Tools > Analytics and toggle it on. Any video you uploaded before that point won’t have much more than a count of views. After the fact, you’ll get more details, including the ability to go to the Content tab, click a specific video that’s over 24 hours old, and see if it ever landed on the For You page to really boost your presence. (Don’t hold your breath, Chester.)


How Do I Make Money???

Well, that’s the million-dollar question we can’t entirely answer, as the alchemy of the algorithm, talent, hard work, and pure luck can’t be quantified here. Though lots of other articles on the internet will try.

You can always hope that viewers give you TikTok coins, the app’s virtual currency that users can buy and give to you as a gift during a live stream. They cost $1.29 for 100 coins with discounts if you buy more (up to $134.99 for 10,000 coins). Check your balance in Profile > hamburger menu > Balance. But that’s not going to get you rich, especially if you never go live.

What we can tell you is that there is a TikTok creator fund that the service uses to dole out money to the video creators who bring in lots of views. But to be in it, you’ve got to have a pretty constant count of 10,000 followers and at least 100,000 video views in the previous month. And you have to be at least 18. Otherwise, you best look elsewhere for your influencer cash.

Do you have a favorite TikTok tip that we missed? Share your influence in the comments below.

Tips & Tricks newsletter for expert advice to get the most out of your technology.”,”first_published_at”:”2021-09-30T21:23:24.000000Z”,”published_at”:”2021-09-30T21:23:24.000000Z”,”last_published_at”:”2021-09-30T21:23:13.000000Z”,”created_at”:null,”updated_at”:”2021-09-30T21:23:24.000000Z”})” x-show=”showEmailSignUp()” class=”rounded bg-gray-lightest text-center md:px-32 md:py-8 p-4 font-brand mt-8 container-xs” readability=”30.860215053763″>

Like What You’re Reading?

Sign up for Tips & Tricks newsletter for expert advice to get the most out of your technology.

This newsletter may contain advertising, deals, or affiliate links. Subscribing to a newsletter indicates your consent to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. You may unsubscribe from the newsletters at any time.