You’re probably reading this article because you saw TikTok in the title and you’ve secretly been wondering what the heck that is. Last you checked, it was a song by Kesha.
Or maybe you, like me and millions of Americans, downloaded TikTok in 2020 as a last-ditch effort to overcome lockdown boredom.
I joined TikTok expecting viral dance moves and lip-sync skits—and those things definitely exist on the platform—but TikTok is so much more. It’s DIY home decor tutorials and financial advice. It’s a real-time news source for journalists on the front lines and an invaluable marketing tool for small businesses. It’s a powerful engagement tool for writers, authors, and editors. And yeah, sometimes it’s really silly.
Despite its reputation as a teenage wasteland, TikTok has amassed more than 689 million users worldwide in the span of just a few years. It’s the most downloaded app in the Apple App Store, and it’s currently beating veteran social media apps like Pinterest and Twitter in terms of popularity. It’s changing the way we think about social media. And if you’ve tried and failed to figure TikTok out before, it might be time to try, try again.
Here are three reasons for writers and editors to fall in love with TikTok.
There’s a reason TikTok exploded in popularity, seemingly overnight. Namely, it shows users what they don’t even know they want to see. The almighty algorithm builds a “For You” page filled with curated video content from the moment you start using the app. The more you watch and interact with that content, the more the algorithm learns—and it's scary accurate.
It took all of two days for me to start seeing videos from authors, editors, and bibliophiles in my feed—and they weren’t dancing. (Well, some of them were.) They were building brand awareness, creating human connection, and generating sales. They were recommending their favorite books, sharing their top writing and editing tips, and going viral because of it.
That’s the great thing about TikTok. Anyone with a smartphone has the power to be a TikTok creator, and every video has the potential to generate millions of views. Even if you don’t have many followers, large audiences are well within reach.
TikTok makes it incredibly easy to create and post bite-sized video content. Creators have an arsenal of filters and sounds to elevate their videos. The app will even create the video for you if you’re feeling less than confident in your video editing prowess.
But here’s the best part: TikTok eliminates the challenge of wondering what to post. Users are inundated with viral prompts and challenges from the get-go. Posting a viral video can be as easy as using a trending sound or filter. Or responding to an already viral video. Or recreating an already viral video. In the editing world, repurposed content is just a fancy way of saying “copied.” But TikTok encourages this type of repetition.
In the same way TikTok solves “What should I watch?” for viewers by inundating them with content, it solves “What should I post?” for creators by inundating them with prompts.
Here’s the coolest part. TikTok can drive major traffic to your book, your website, or wherever you make money. I’ve seen TikTok sell out Etsy shops, drive recommended books to the top of the charts, and fill virtual workshops. In the past three months, I’ve signed up for business classes, ordered a “smart” hula hoop, and purchased a very expensive sun catcher—all because I saw it on TikTok.
Romance author Jennifer Millikin posted a TikTok detailing a one-night stand that had millions of viewers begging to know the outcome. It turned out to be the plot of her most recent book, which shot to the top of Amazon Charts shortly thereafter.
TikTok encourages creators to be raw and authentic in their posts, to engage with viewers on a human level. And it seems to work. TikTok users are abundantly willing to trust and support the creators they follow.
All you have to do is include a link to your store or website in your TikTok profile. If you’re using a creator account, you’ll need 1,000 followers before you can add the link. Switch to a business account to add the link right away. But be warned, business accounts are restricted to commercially licensed sounds, so you might not be able to jump on every trend.
As a creative, there’s pressure to show up on social media in a big way. If you’ve struggled with gaining traction on Facebook, Instagram, or other platforms, TikTok might just be your big break. Not only does TikTok make it incredibly easy to create content, but it shares your content with new audiences all the time, and has the power to drive more people to your site. Ready to dive in? Here are a few tips:
Header image by Franck on Unsplash.