A few seconds is all it takes to captivate an audience. A two-hour film, thirty-minute sitcom, and minute-long commercial may deliver, but the popular social media app TikTok thrives in the short-form video space.
When TikTok’s Chinese parent company ByteDance acquired the rival app Musical.ly in November 2017, everything changed. The merge between TikTok and Musical.ly users allowed ByteDance to enter the US market—and eventually the world—with a new take on video content.
Every day, users worldwide engage with the app by creating short-form videos involving dance challenges, comedy, social justice, or simply “slice-of-life” montages of everyday people. The application’s interface allows users of all levels to produce videos—without years and years of extensive film school training or expensive camera equipment. The frequency of creation and the storytelling innovation has garnered somewhere around 689 million monthly TikTok users.
What happens to these everyday people when their content is viewed by an audience of 100 million people daily? Overnight celebrity. Creators are thrust into a professional world, constantly creating content to keep up with their international audiences. They perform on a world stage behind cameras on their smartphones, and they’ve permanently altered the video landscape.
Let’s see what we can learn about video marketing from TikTok’s top creators.
The Rules of Engagement
Almost all of the traditional rules that apply to long-form video content and standard online video don’t apply to TikTok creators. Big budgets, professional productions teams, and screenplays play little to no part in the success of content on TikTok. Based on the top content creators of social media, we can see that all you need is a reliable smartphone, good lighting, and basic communication skills.
Trends drive TikTok’s algorithm and popularity. Hashtags, keywords, effects, transitions, and sounds decide what the next popular craze is, and to remain relevant or build an audience, you must interact with these trends in some way. Dance challenges, tutorials, short-form comedy, and bite-sized testimonies are ways that TikTok’s top creators are driving the ship.
TikTok is aware that without its creators, the app’s popularity would instantly decline. The TikTok Creator Marketplace and other incentives promote collaboration between brands and influencers, focusing on creators over corporations—unlike many other social media outlets.
Learn more about the Best Practices for Video Content on TikTok here.
What We Can Learn From TikTok’s Top Creators
Since the evolution of TikTok’s popularity in the US and other major countries, several TikTok creators have managed to rise to the top and remain there. Regular kids became household names, gaining spots on popular prime-time talk shows, earning brand partnerships, and establishing professional music and acting careers.
The app’s top creators are still primarily Generation Z or Millennials. Most of them didn’t obtain celebrity status before TikTok in other apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat—their status was built on TikTok alone.
There’s a lot to learn from TikTok’s successful accounts. By understanding what’s working and how they respond to trends, you have an opportunity to create similar success. With that in mind, here are four takeaways from some of the app’s top content creators.
Takeaway #1: A Little Song & Dance Goes A Long Way
Charli D’Amelio; Followers: 119,900,000; Likes: 9,600,000,000
Addison Rae; Followers: 81,900,000; Likes: 5,300,000,000
American TikTok creators Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae are two of the most popular TikTok users in the world. Taking a closer look at the TikTok accounts, there are few key takeaways on why they sustained popularity.
Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae have dance backgrounds, and dance challenges are one of the most popular trends on TikTok. Using new releases, classic mash-ups, or unconventional remixes to create 5-second dance videos propelled them to the top. Incorporating popular music trends into your videos is one of the most common ways of gaining the attention of TikTok users.
@charlidameliodc @ajeyalanai♬ Hot Girl Talk – sound remixes
Takeaway #2: You Don’t Always Have to Use Your Words
It’s not all dance and music on TikTok. The application allows for easy-to-use video editing techniques, including some of its most popular features, including duets (creating a side-by-side video with previously created content) or stitching (editing your video into previously created content).
Khabanae Lame; Followers: 88,900,000; Likes: 1,300,000,000
Senegalese TikTok creator Khabane “Khaby” Lame recently skyrocketed to the second most-followed account by using this method of creating video content. He capitalizes on bringing comedic attention to absurd videos already established on the internet as viral content using the duet and stitching features.
Khaby incorporates another successful technique of using creative on-screen text or no sound at all. TikTok videos don’t necessarily rely on sound. Many top creators use captions/text for video content or simple, silent gestures like in Khaby’s videos with over 40 million views per video.
@khaby.lame🤦🏿♂️I wanna see you flags under this video, mine are 🇮🇹 🇸🇳 And yours? Where are you from? 🇮🇹 🇸🇳 🇵🇹🇲🇽🇧🇷 🇺🇸 #learnfromkhaby♬ suono originale – Khabane lame
Takeaway #3: Share A Slice of Life
Internet bloggers have been around for a few decades, but the presentation continues to adapt to the next generation of social media and video content applications. A simple text on a webpage became digital scrapbooks, collages, audio podcasts, and consistent video series. These types of influencers had no choice but to crossover into the world of TikTok, but creating short-form content on multiple platforms can be tricky—especially if your primary audience resides in another space altogether.
Savannah LaBrant; Followers: 28,200,000; Likes: 1,400,000,000
Take a look at Savannah Labrant of The LaBrant Family. Savannah is a famous fashion blogger and social media influencer who documents her entire family life on social media. Everyone in her family has social media accounts with videos, pictures, and short-form content on most major platforms. Since the three children are still young, she runs all the accounts herself, including her own.
@savv.labrantI love you, @thesupercole ✨ Thanks for choosing this single mama and her 3.5 year old & for loving us so well. I’ll never stop falling in love with you♬ Taylor Songs Mashup – .lastkisswiftie/alisonswifts
Reformatting similar content from her successful YouTube and Instagram pages into TikTok content is an easy way to build a successful application. Her numbers don’t compare to Charli D’Amelio, Addison Rae, and other top creators who focus primarily on TikTok. However, her frequency of creation and engagement numbers are higher due to the cross-platform audiences and the blogger’s “slice-of-life” content style.
Takeaway #4: Comedy For All Ages
Will Smith; Followers: 58,600,000; Likes: 367,300,000
While millennials are primary users of most social media on the internet, Generation Z is the majority of TikTok’s users. 60% are between the ages of 16-24. 26% are between the ages 25-44. Does this mean that there’s no place for older generations on TikTok? No—and here’s why.
52-year-old famous actor Will Smith is an excellent example of how using comedy can reach audiences of all ages. Brief comedic sketches, stunts, and “hot takes” are among the most popular trends on the application aside from music and dance-related content. Unlike other TikTok celebrities, his use of comedy is a potential key factor in his success. Despite his low number of videos, age demographic, and infrequent engagement, he manages to be in the top 10 of TikTok creators.
@willsmithI’m a triple threat: I’m an actor, rapper, and whatever this is.♬ original sound – Amir Yass
If you’re asking yourself if his celebrity status attributes to his success on TikTok, here’s an example that proves that it takes more than star power to be ultra successful on TikTok. Award-winning singer and actress Ariana Grande is one of the most popular stars globally, including one of the most popular accounts on Instagram with over 250 million followers. However, that popularity doesn’t necessarily translate into the TikTok algorithm.
Unlike Will Smith, Ariana’s content is just commercial advertisements for content posted on other sites and lacks any personally created content. Although she still has a significant following, it pales in comparison to the success Will Smith has achieved on the app.
There you have it! As you explore your own TikTok style, adapting to follow the lead of popular creators is a great way to start. Then, over time, you can create unique content that takes these trends to the next level. Here’s hoping you’re the next viral TikTok creator to learn from!