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Is This Viral Band Really Who They Say They Are?

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TikTok has taken aim at Tramp Stamps, a pop-punk band that represents the genre’s many problems.

A screengrab from YouTube of the Tramp Stamps’

Photo illustration by Slate. Screengrab from YouTube; logo from TikTok.

Over the past week, an up-and-coming pop-punk band has consumed TikTok—but not for a viral song or trend. The trio, a group of young women called Tramp Stamps, has more than 385,000 followers on TikTok and more than 27,000 Instagram followers, gaining fans on social media with only three songs out to date. But they’ve also attracted a lot of critics. The band has faced numerous allegations about whether their claims of being “indie” or “feminist punks” are legitimate—and whether they’re just industry plants.

The outcry across social media grew loud enough that the band finally addressed it in an Instagram post on April 18. But instead of acquiescing to their detractors, they used their platform to defend their backgrounds, speak out against “cancel culture,” and criticize mainstream coverage of them and the drama for fanning the flames. While Tramp Stamps’ response did little to satisfy the haters, it did highlight an ongoing problem with the music industry: the persistence of damning labels attached to, and accusations of illegitimacy facing, artists who are nonwhite and/or nonmale.

The Nashville, Tennessee–based band—composed of twentysomethings Marisa Maino, Caroline Baker, and Paige Blue—started posting to TikTok in November. The band, with colorfully dyed hair and a Hot Topic aesthetic, posted covers of Avril Lavigne, Paramore, and Blink-182, doing TikTok trends as a way to promote their music to some positive responses. Their songs are pop-rock, emphasis on the pop, featuring Auto-Tuned vocals, palm-muted guitars, and quick melodies. Tramp Stamps now have nearly 400,000 followers on TikTok, and the band’s clips on the platform have amassed more than 5 million likes. (By comparison, they’ve only got 6,000 YouTube subscribers and 27,000 Instagram followers; TikTok is where they’ve found their most success so far.)

The backlash started during the promotion for their latest single “I’d Rather Die.” A clip from the song was released to TikTok (it has since been taken down) before the full song came out on April 14. TikTokers started digging into the band’s history and called them out for it, and TikTok sure does love explainer videos. The user @furbyrights also pointed out the problematic nature of some of the song’s lyrics in a TikTok that now has more than 287,000 likes. (More on that in a bit.) TikTok user @hard_cope found that the band had a professional-looking webpage and a robust social media presence, and used animation in their posts—all quite advanced things for a supposedly DIY band to do on their own. And a TikTok uploaded by @seapunkhistorian claiming that “everything about this group is so calculated, almost insidiously” now has more than 62,000 likes.

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All three members had worked in the music industry prior to forming the band: Blue is a producer and songwriter whose music has appeared in advertising for brands like Apple and Sephora, along with movies and TV shows from networks like Disney and MTV. She has deals with major publishing house Downtown Music Publishing and its partner publishing company Pray for My Haters. Baker and Maino have released solo pop music in the past; Baker’s debut EP came out in 2019, and her most recent solo EP came out in March of this year. Baker signed a publishing deal with Prescription Songs in 2019, and Maino also joined Prescription as a writer last year.

Despite this background, the members of Tramp Stamps pride themselves on the organic origin story they lay claim to. According to them, they’re just three women coming together to make music—although even this has been called into question. They’re not hiding their industry history, however, nor that their music is distributed by the company Artists Without a Label, which is also home to Finneas and Kim Petras—both artists with big followings. And Sony Music bought AWAL from the independent label Kobalt in February, meaning that Tramp Stamps are one degree of separation away from one of the most powerful entities in music distribution.

It’s hard out here for musicians trying to make it full time, and it seems unfair to criticize individuals for their career paths, when so many others have come into music using industry connections. The connection to Prescription Songs and AWAL in particular, though, is what music fans online are taking issue with. Lukasz Gottwald, aka Dr. Luke, is the owner and founder of Prescription Songs and is also part owner of Kobalt Music Group, an affiliation that doesn’t look good for a supposedly feminist group. Gottwald is known for producing huge pop hits for female stars, as well as for facing sexual and emotional abuse accusations from the artist Kesha—accusations that have led many artists to cut ties with him.

This background has earned Tramp Stamps the badge of “industry plant.” The term is a pejorative aimed at artists who are found to have major label ties, despite presenting themselves as DIY or independent. In many cases, an industry plant is also considered to be someone who’s found popularity in another creative medium first, like acting, and is looking to convert that fandom elsewhere, regardless of their own musical interests. The term has been in circulation since at least the early 2010s; a 2015 Urban Dictionary entry accuses Justin Bieber of being one, for example. The allegation in this case is that Tramp Stamps don’t have the grassroots following that an independent act typically does but instead have industry backing. To an extent, it comes down to marketing, inauthentic or authentic, whether it’s obscuring major label ties, or whether it’s simply just ineffective.

An “industry plant” can also be used to mean a more extreme case: an artist thought to be “constructed” by label or music industry executives and whose entire career was focus-tested and engineered to be popular. Many musicians receive a great deal of creative input from their teams and financial support from their label—but at what point does it go too far and become an industry plant? Helping a band stay solvent or hopefully even turn a profit is what a label is supposed to do, idealistically. And even if an artist has found success through seemingly organic, viral means, they may often be considered fakers too. Juice WRLD, Billie Eilish, Clairo, Khalid, and Cardi B have all been called industry plants—and they’re all women or people of color, the groups that are most often targeted by music fandom gatekeepers.

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The “industry plant” label and other criticisms prompted a heated response from Tramp Stamps. “The misinformation and lies that feed this cancel culture are so fucking toxic,” Tramp Stamps said in their Instagram post. They used ageism and sexism as a defense, when the accusations leveled against them did not involve their age or gender, but rather their lack of transparency about their industry ties: “Fuck you if you are so fucking sexist that you cannot believe this band was built up from the ground by 3 women,” the post read. They went on to say that they set up their own label Make Tampons Free and spelled out their publishing deals. The lengthy statement, while addressing their industry connections, did not address any of the criticisms of their lyrics being problematic or their punk image being inauthentic, nor did it discuss their possible affiliation to Dr. Luke. As of publication, Tramp Stamps, AWAL, and Prescription Songs have not responded to our requests for comment.

It’s time for bands like Tramp Stamps to be honest about what industrial privilege they hold, what systemic problems they’re playing into.

But it’s not just that Tramp Stamps are misleading their followers about their origins or connections in the music industry that’s riled TikTok up in particular—it’s that the band’s feminist punk image might also be disingenuous. The resurging popularity of pop-punk means that it’s ripe for artists and labels to start dabbling in social media, especially TikTok. That, combined with the fact that the genre and its fans were often criticized for being uncool, outdated, or melodramatic, has led many longtime pop-punk fans to be skeptical of people jumping on the bandwagon, sometimes even gatekeeping the genre from people they don’t deem worthy. (This line of thinking is rife with its own, often sexist or racist issues, and it is important to note that pop-punk has had its own history with misogyny.) This is why pop-punk fans on TikTok were shocked to see that, while doing an emo song challenge, two of Tramp Stamps’ members didn’t recognize My Chemical Romance’s “I’m Not Okay (I Promise).” Not only is that an affront to pop-punk and one of the genre’s biggest artists, but it’s also hard to imagine that a pop-punk fan their age wouldn’t recognize that seminal song.

Protective fans deeming Tramp Stamps as inauthentic is damning, but there are other complaints that hold even more water. The band has positioned itself as feminist (“What does a tramp stamp stand for? Women’s rights,” Baker said in a TikTok), but TikTok users claim that they’re co-opting a riot grrrl aesthetic, a punk music movement that failed to be intersectional and was exclusionary, centering white women’s experiences and essentially ignoring people of color. Despite riot grrrl’s feminist roots, the dissonance of its reality seems emblematic of Tramp Stamps’ own issues: Tramp Stamps are a band made up of three white, cis women, who refuse to own any of the privilege they obviously have. (Many fans were under the impression that the entire band was queer, leading the band to deny this and Maino to confirm, both on TikTok and on Instagram, that she alone is queer.) Championing this aesthetic without recognizing its limitations is another failure on Tramp Stamps’ part to do justice to its message of inclusivity.

And then there are the band’s lyrics, which come across as uncomfortable and unnatural, playing into the man-hating trope often used to deride feminists. Tramp Stamps’ track “I’d Rather Die” features the line, “I’d rather die/ than hook up with another straight white guy.” This is despite the fact that, as TikTokers pointed out, one of the members, Blue, is married to a white man. Many also noted that lyrics like this fetishize people who are not straight white men, rendering marginalized groups like women, nonbinary people, queer people, and people of color into a perfect, desirable monolith. Tramp Stamps’ music thus far isn’t dissecting or interrogating male privilege, nor is it calling attention to sexism or uplifting women; their songs are instead upholding tired tropes and encasing them in a popular aesthetic, and potentially even reinforcing the objectification and sexualization of women, as some TikTok users have alleged. (Not to mention that the rest of “I’d Rather Die” appears to be about … wanting to hook up with a guy?) The “About” section on the song’s Genius page contains a notice asking contributors to “please post your critiques in the comments section, rather than as an annotation,” due to the large volume of criticisms posted on the page.

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Tramp Stamps’ members did address this dissonance between their image and their music in a TikTok where they said their intent was not to fetishize people of color, nor were they trying to distance themselves from their whiteness, before ending with, “It’s basically just a dramatic way to tell men to be better in bed,” which is still not a feminist message, nor is it a satisfying response. Much of this boils down to intersectionality: It’s become easier for white women to gain visibility in alternative spaces, making it seem like the genre is becoming more inclusive while still upholding whiteness’s dominance and continuing to exclude people of color.

There are plenty of punk bands with women, people of color, nonbinary, and queer people. But they may not get access to the same kind of label resources and social privileges that have benefited Tramp Stamps, nor do they often find anywhere near the same level of success. A similar dynamic is at play on TikTok, where marginalized groups generate the majority of the most popular and viral content. Yet while acts like Tramp Stamps, along with scores of cis white influencers backed by hefty content and sponsorship deals, continue to gain fame and popularity, marginalized TikTok creators continue to see wealthy, white, cis people take credit for their work in increasingly public ways—without the original creators reaping any of the benefits. If Tramp Stamps stood for the issues the band professes to—a traditionally punk ethos of elevating marginalized experiences—they wouldn’t be seeking to benefit from the same problematic systems that perpetuate those issues. Music fans on TikTok are no longer going to be silent about that problem, even if the platform is often complicit in it: It’s time for bands like Tramp Stamps to be honest about what industrial privilege they hold and what systemic problems they’re playing into.

A message from Slate culture editor Forrest Wickman: In my decade at Slate, I’ve worked on everything from investigating how wearing your backpack with two straps became cooler than wearing it with one strap to adapting The Great Gatsby as a video game to inventing a highly scientific systemic for determining whether new movies are too scary for you. The support of Slate Plus members has allowed us to continue to do the kind of ambitious, irreverent, and service-y cultural coverage you won’t find anywhere else. Thank you! 

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TIKTOK

TikTok Expands Creator Tipping and Video Gifts, Providing More Monetization and Marketing Options

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TikTok continues to expand its creator monetization tools with the addition of video tipping and virtual gifts for regular uploads, in addition to live-streams in the app.

To be clear, live tipping and digital gifts have been available for selected live-stream creators via its Creator Next program since last year. This new expansion brings the same functionality to regular TikTok videos, which will add another way for users to generate direct income from their TikTok videos.

TikTok Creator Next

As you can see in these screenshots, shared by social media expert Matt Navarra (via Dan Schenker), to be eligible for the new Creator Next program, users will need to have at least 1,000 followers, and will need to have generated more than 1,000 video views in the previous 30 days.

Though TikTok does note that these requirements vary by region – TechCrunch has reported that creators need to have at least 100k followers to qualify in some cases.

As explained by TikTok:

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The new Tips feature allows people to directly show gratitude to creators for their content, much like recognizing exceptional service or giving a standing ovation. As is standard for tipping in person, with Tips creators will receive 100% of the tip value.”

Tip payments will be processed by Stripe, with creators required to sign up to manage their earnings in the app.

“With Video Gifts, also available today, creators can now collect Diamonds not only by going LIVE but also by posting videos. This also gives people an all-new way to interact and engage with content they love.”

TikTok live gifts

That will provide expanded capacity to generate real money from posting, without having to go live, which will open new doors to many TikTok creators.

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In addition to this, TikTok’s also lowering the threshold for those who can list their profiles in its Creator Marketplace brand collaboration platform, which enables businesses to find TikTok influencers to partner with on in-app campaigns.

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TikTok Creator marketplace

Up till now, creators have required 100k followers to qualify for these listings, but now, TikTok is reducing that number to 10k, which will further expand available opportunities for both users and brands.

That could make it much easier to find relevant creators to partner with, in a lot more niches, which will add more considerations into your TikTok posting and engagement process.

As noted, these are the latest in TikTok’s broader efforts to provide comparable monetization opportunities, in order to keep its top stars posting to the platform, as opposed to drifting off to YouTube or Instagram instead, which have more established monetization systems.

The advantage that other apps have in this respect is that longer videos can include pre-roll and mid-roll ads, facilitating direct monetization, which TikTok can’t utilize given the shorter nature of its clips. As such, it needs to look to alternate funding methods, which will also include eCommerce listings, with direct product displays now the primary source of income for the Chinese version of the app.

The platform’s continued growth facilitates even more opportunities in this respect, with more brands looking to tap into the various opportunities of the platform, and partner with creators to maximize their presence.

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How popular, and valuable, direct tipping and gifting can be is more variable, as some dedicated fan bases will pay, while others will see no reason to donate for what they can already access for free.

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But even so, it adds more opportunity, and the lower thresholds for monetization will see many more opportunities across the board in the app.

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Shorter Videos Are In Demand. Here’s How Different Social Media Platforms Are Reacting.

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

With TikTok and Instagram Reels slowly conquering social media marketing, there’s no mistake: Short videos are in demand.

The average length for most, if not all, business videos is only six minutes long. And that number is set to decrease as consumers look for shorter videos.

With that in mind, why are short videos in demand? What platforms are implementing short-form videos the best? And most importantly, how can they benefit your business?

TikTok – Changing consumerism, one video at a time

Where shorter videos are concerned, TikTok has always led the industry. What started as a merger with Musical.ly quickly became one of the world’s most powerful social media platforms. And what made it so famous? The same concept that made Vine viral short videos.

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TikTok has over 1 billion active users, twice as many as Snapchat and Pinterest. For reference, Twitter only has 397 million users. With such a massive user-base, the only thing keeping the platform alive are the 15-second-long videos.

But why are short videos so popular? Simple – people don’t have time on their hands. When they open apps like TikTok and Instagram, they’re more likely to spend time watching shorter videos.  And businesses are already catching up.

The impact of Instagram Reels

With the invention of Stories by Snapchat, other platforms like Instagram caught up on short videos. Instagram Reels presents adults and young users with a more straightforward way to tell others about their day. It employs quick photos and videos that are only available for 24 hours instead of being permanently posted. Now engagement is encouraged, especially after Instagram included the “Swipe” option. This has allowed e-commerce sites to both advertise their products and make instant messaging easier.

See also  'Weirdest I've ever seen': TikTok user shares video of bizarre apartment building

Youtube has joined the bandwagon

While YouTube is more or less a platform for long-form videos, its recent update offers shorter vertical videos. Known as YouTube Shorts, the feature allows creators to engage with their audience in under 60 seconds.

But YouTube has another trick up its sleeve, and this one is mainly towards advertisers. It is “YouTube TrueView” and is the primary advertising technology for YouTube. Through this, advertisers can promote long or short videos, with some being skippable after five seconds.

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However, since most people are unlikely to click on longer ads, YouTube now offers 6-second non-skippable ads. The clickthrough rate for shorter 15 and 30-second ads is around 70%, a whopping number for any business.

It’s time to say goodbye to IGTV

With Instagram’s IGTV coming off as less captivating than its Reels and video posts, it has decided to remove IGTV. Instead, it has a separate section for videos. These videos will appear on a person’s profile and can be viewed from the Instagram app.

The change they made here is that videos posted to the Instagram feed can be up to 60 minutes long. The exact reason for doing this is not confirmed. But it seems like Instagram wants a seamless platform where short and long videos co-exist.

This makes long videos more accessible to users using the Instagram app. And it helps promote video tutorials that people typically do not consume on social media apps.

Another significant change is that Instagram videos that are longer can be monetized, a feature not available on Reels. This significantly shifts the focus towards creators who don’t sell a service and want to gain cash through Instagram.

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Does this mean long-form videos are out of the picture?

With short-form videos becoming more popular among consumers, will long-form videos die out? While it’s highly recommended for any business to create videos as short as possible, the answer isn’t that black and white.

See also  Ma'Khia Bryant TikTok Video Viewed Over 1 Million Times Following Her Death

While short-form videos will drive traffic from new users, long-form videos are better for brand loyalty. Shorter videos will get more engagement and show up on new users’ feeds. But longer videos will be the backbone of your business.

Of course, that depends on what service you’re offering. Ecommerce companies will want to direct their attention towards short-form videos and ads. However, long-form videos are better suited for when you want to go in-depth about product details. That is, of course, only after you’ve grabbed the user’s attention with a short-form video.

Companies that offer webinars will benefit from longer videos. And so will companies that post interviews. However, promos and how-to videos should remain under a minute or two, depending on how long the tutorial needs to be.

Essentially, ask yourself two questions:

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  • First, can the video content be summarized in a short-form video?
  • Do you want to merely catch the attention of the consumer or develop brand loyalty?

The correct formula is neither short nor long, but a mix of both.

What this all means for an entrepreneur

Short-form videos hold substantial market value, especially for new businesses. Take the example of the Dollar Shave Club. What started as a viral video on YouTube grew to become a behemoth of a brand.

And that’s not where the examples end. There are countless success stories like this one that prove the value of short videos.

Short videos have a higher clickthrough rate, and for entrepreneurs, that’s all you need. Short videos are of particular interest to people with ecommerce businesses. For example, 84% of people say they are more compelled to buy a product by watching a video. And the statistics keep on showing a friendlier short-video market.

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There is no doubt that short-form videos are gradually creeping up the graph. And while long-form videos are great for information and brand loyalty, shorter videos are better for PR.

This begs one last question: Are videos beneficial for you? The answer is – yes!

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TIKTOK

How to Make a TikTok Video: Beginners Start Here

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Let’s face it, TikTok is the moment.

And with 1 billion monthly active users, it’s time to join the action and get your brand out there to a wider audience!

Want to learn how to make a TikTok Video but don’t know where to start? Don’t sweat it! We broke down all the steps and tools you’ll need to make a viral-worthy first video and make sure your debut is anything but cringe.

Download the full Social Trends report to get an in-depth analysis of the data you need to prioritize and plan your social strategy in 2022.

How to create a TikTok account

First things first, you’ll need to create a TikTok account.

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There are different ways to sign up for one: you can use your phone number, email address or social media account. Here’s how to do it using your phone number.

1. Download TikTok from Google Play or the App Store.

2. Open the TikTok App on your iPhone or Android.

3. Click the “Me” or “Profile” icon at the bottom-right of your screen.

profile icon on TikTok

4. Choose a method to sign up (we’re choosing “use phone or email”)

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sign up for TikTok using phone or email

5. Enter your birth date and phone number (make sure this is accurate because it’s how you’ll retrieve passwords and confirm your account).

enter birthday when signing up on TikTok

6. Enter the 6-digit code sent to that phone number (see, told ya!)

7. You did it! Celebrate by scrolling TikTok for too many hours.

How to make a TikTok video

Here’s how to get started on your very first TikTok video. Luckily for you, it’s way easier than learning this TikTok Shuffle dance.

1. Hit the + sign at the bottom of your screen.

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2. You can upload photos and videos from your phone’s library or make a video directly using the TikTok camera.

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3. If recording directly, hit the Record button at the bottom of the screen. Hit it again when you’re done recording. The default video mode is “Quick” which is for 15 second videos but you can switch it to “Camera” for more editing options and longer videos (15s, 60s and 3 mins), or “Templates” to create a specific style of video.

record button on the bottom of TikTok screen

4. Tap the check mark when you’re done shooting all your footage.

tap checkmark after shooting footage

5. Make any edits or changes on the post page. All your edits are on the right sidebar of the screen. Also, add music or sounds by hitting “Add sound” at the top of the screen.

add sound on TikTok

6. Post that video and share it everywhere! Make sure to include a description with some hashtags so it finds its way to your audience.

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post video on TikTok with description

How to make a TikTok with multiple videos

Instead of taking one long video, why not capture shorter videos and edit them together to make your TikTok video? Here’s how to do that (and you don’t need a film degree).

1. Hit that “+” sign to start your video

2. You can either shoot multiple videos directly by hitting that record button after each clip, building up your video with different shots. Or, you can hit the “Upload” button next to the record button and add multiple videos and photos you have stored on your phone.

3. Select all your media and tap Next.

4. You can now sync sound across your videos and make adjustments (or try “Auto sync” which will do the syncing up for you.)

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sync sound on TikTok

automatically sync clips

5. Hit Next when done. You’ll be brought to a preview screen where you can further add sounds, more effects, text, and stickers.

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hit next and add suggested sounds

6. Tap Next when you’re done editing your video and proceed to the Post screen.

7. Remember to throw in a description and some hashtags and bingo-bango-bongo you’re the Steven Spielberg of TikTok!

5 things to know before creating your first TikTok

TikTok style is less polished than other types of video

Don’t worry about being too precious with your videos. On TikTok, videos are meant to be candid, and natural—and they should show off your personality. Things like perfect edits, smooth transitions or flawless lighting shouldn’t get in the way of your idea and your own charisma.

Sure, there are lots of editing options, effects and filters to choose from (what the heck is the difference between B3 and G4 filters anyways?) but the real star is you —or, at least all 6 of these friends belting out Lady Gaga for the #caughtinabadromance challenge at this bachelorette. If that’s not candid, I don’t know what is.

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@ariellehartford

That finger stole the show! 😂😂😂 #bachelorettetrip #gatlinburg #caughtinabadromamce

♬ original sound – Arielle Hartford

You don’t have to dance

Good news! You don’t have to spend 2 hours trying to perfect the LaLisa dance tutorial to make sure your video stands out (unless you want to, then no judgment over here!).

There are so many different ways to engage your followers that don’t involve you popping and locking in your living room in front of a ring light (but again, no judgement if you do, except maybe from your pet and their adorable judging eyes).

You also don’t have to attempt whatever this is.

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@sdavidrodriguez

♬ Grab Da Wall & Rock Da Boat – 504 Boyz & Weebie

Hashtags can help more people see your post

It’s no secret a good hashtag can go a long way on TikTok. Strategic use of hashtags will help people find your videos who don’t already follow you, and maybe even see it on their For You Page (FYP).

Find the best hashtags to grow your views and help get your content recognized by the algorithm. You worked so hard on it, might as well show it off to as many people as possible.

The right song can go a long way

Attaching a trending song to your video or audio from a popular TikTok video can help it get seen by more people. This app has a big music following (lots of new songs are intentionally promoted through the app to help them climb the music charts) so lassoing your video to one of these shooting stars is only going to help you get on more FYP and in front of new audiences.

@suzyjonesmusic

♬ original sound – Suzy Jones

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Your greatest asset is you

Don’t overthink it, just come up with a simple idea and let your personality shine through. The sense of intimacy and community that TikTok brings is why people love this app—it feels personal.

Even if you’re doing a TikTok challenge or trend that’s popular, the thing that will make you stand out is your unique take on it. It’s not about gimmicks but about putting your best self out there. Nothing should feel too staged or self-aware (that’s cringe territory). Pretend your audience are your good friends and approach it with that energy!

@janikon_No, I can’t re-record this, I’m laughing too hard #fyp♬ original sound – Stu (he/him)

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