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TikTok for fun or fashion: Two Columbia students explore the app

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Connor Clary gets his best ideas in the shower. Back in April 2020, he was mid-shampoo when the idea for his soon-to-be-viral TikTok struck him. With suds in his hair, he found himself thinking, “I will rank the Christian decor in my parents’ home.”

After he posted the video, which he set to classical music, Clary’s phone began to buzz.

“I was just sitting at home, and the video started getting thousands of likes,” he recalled. “It’s so random and personal. I didn’t think it was relatable or interesting.”



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Connor Clary, a junior at MU, first joined TikTok in March 2020

Connor Clary, a junior at MU, first joined TikTok in March 2020. Clary, who stood for a portrait April 30 in his bedroom, had a video go viral within the first month of posting.

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In the minutelong video, the crown of thorns in the guest bathroom ranks fifth. An angel figurine atop the piano is fourth. A baptism-themed plastic sign hanging in the shower is third. A painting of Jesus sitting on a mountain at twilight comes in second. Topping the list is a stained-glass Madonna and Child.

“I bought it during my pray-the-gay-away phase and hung it up to cope with unholy thoughts,” Clary says in the video. He ends with a smirk and his usual dry humor: “It didn’t work — but she sure did her best.”

The video, which has landed in Christian Facebook groups, now has 1.4 million views and more than 170,000 likes.

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His parents have yet to watch it.

TikTok is a social media platform for making and sharing short, vertical videos ideal for watching on a cellphone. The app, which first gained traction in 2017 under the name Musical.ly, has spread like an empire, changing the way we dance, pose, sing, joke, read and cook. It’s an entire world of lip-sync challenges, short films, comedy skits and life hacks.

According to a New York Times article on the TikTok phenomenon, 850 million people used the app every month as of April 2020. Some people just look at TikToks; others make names for themselves by creating video content. Clary, a junior at MU, is one of the most well-known TikTok creators in mid-Missouri.

Clary started posting videos early in the pandemic out of boredom and has since found joy in it.

‘Definitely not all of me’

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For Clary, 21, TikTok is a surreal, strange and beautiful app for goofing off even if you don’t live in influencer-rich spheres like Los Angeles or New York City.

“The app creates this weird amount of fame among people that aren’t actually famous at all,” he said. “We’re just regular people making short videos that a lot of people happen to like, but it doesn’t actually translate into any real influence or power.”



Connor Clary’s claim to fame

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LEFT: Connor Clary’s claim to fame began with a simple setup: his iPhone and earbuds. Clary, who showed his process April 30, said he doesn’t intend to use his online presence for a career. RIGHT: Clary uses the microphone on his earbuds very close to his mouth for comedic effect.


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TikTok has become an increasingly mainstream place where young talent can get noticed. But as a social work major, Clary has no plans beyond his front-facing camera. His drive to be funny started when he was growing up in Leawood, Kansas.

“I’ve never been into the realm of comedy, but I was a class clown in elementary school,” he said. “If you make fun of yourself first, then no one can bully you because you’ve already done it better than they could.”

These days, Clary, who has more than 230,000 followers, gets recognized walking around Columbia. He doesn’t see himself as an influencer, and when people call him that, he denies it vehemently.

“TikTok can be a nice, communal experience without, you know, making it your entire life, your passion or your career,” Clary said. “All of this is more supplemental to life than I think online status used to be.”

He paused. “Don’t get me wrong. It’s a big part of my life but definitely not all of me.”

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Connor Clary studies social work at MU

Set to graduate in December 2021, Connor Clary studies social work at MU. He said that TikTok inflates people’s perception of social media fame.

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TikTok feeds users microdoses of entertainment through a never-ending scroll of 15-, 30- and 60-second videos curated by an algorithm. Clary said the algorithm, which he finds fascinating, focuses content on niches.

Clary’s niche on the app, under the username @dinonuggets.jpg, is largely centered around ranking, rating and commenting on mundane things around him. Some notable critiques include clothing from Target’s 2021 Pride collection, suburban home Christmas lights and MU’s COVID-19 care package from the fall 2020 semester.

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In his most viral video, which he made two weeks ago, Clary revealed, “What your style of phone case makes me think about you.” As the critique begins, his inflection flattens and he presses the microphone of his earbuds against his chin — a staple for his videos. The video has 6.2 million views and 1.7 million likes.

Clary, who joined the app in 2019, is part of TikTok’s Creator Fund, which pays people based on views and engagement. The Beijing-based company ByteDance, which owns the app, has a list of requirements to formally become a creator, including being 18 or older, having 100,000 followers and living in the U.S., United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain or Italy. He said he’s made more than $2,000 since becoming a creator.

‘I was iconic’

Better known on the platform is Zachary Willmore, a junior at Rock Bridge High School. While Clary doesn’t see a future as an influencer, Willmore views the app as a launching pad for a career in men’s fashion.

Willmore is eager to join the Creator Fund as soon as he turns 18 in August. For Willmore, TikTok is an outlet for self-expression and a safe space for other young, LGBTQ+ people. Although you’ll never see him wearing rainbow colors, his account deconstructs gender — one dreamy outfit at a time.

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Zachary Willmore said videos made in his bedroom receive more attention

With a following of 720,000 people on TikTok, Zachary Willmore said videos made in his bedroom receive more attention on the app. Since joining the platform, he has purchased lights and light stands for his videos.

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In mid-March, Willmore, 17, strutted through the halls of Rock Bridge in his mother’s 1996 wedding dress and a silver tiara. The silk dress glimmered under the green tinge of fluorescent lighting as he filmed himself.

“I want to inspire people who might not feel comfortable wearing something to school, even just a skirt,” he says in the video. “In 10 or 20 years, you’re going to look back on this and be like, ‘I was iconic.’”

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With 9.4 million views and 3.1 million likes, this strike against fashion stereotypes is Willmore’s most popular video. He recalled the floods of notifications after posting it. His excitement about the video blowing up came from the kindness of strangers in the comment sections and around town. He said he’s been stopped by moms at Columbia Mall and at Chris McD’s restaurant.

“Not all heroes wear capes. Some wear dresses,” one comment read.



Leila Willmore’s 1996 wedding dress hangs

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Leila Willmore’s 1996 wedding dress hangs on her son Zachary Willmore’s closet doorframe May 2. In his most viral TikTok, he wore the dress to school.


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Although the video went viral, Willmore, whose following on the app went from zero to 720,000 in one year, is best known for a series he calls “dancing every time I get dress-coded.”

Willmore said that since returning to school in January for in-person classes, he is called to the office by administrators two or three times a week. On his way back to class, he makes a stop at the bathroom to make a TikTok.

With a row of urinals lining the background in most videos in the series, he dances to an upbeat song draped in a baby-blue mesh robe, sporting a hot-pink crop top or showing off his shoulders in that wedding dress.

“It’s honestly funny at this point,” Willmore said. “They tell me, ‘Don’t wear that outfit again.’ But I never wear the same outfit twice, so it’s not a problem.”

Despite being told not to dress a certain way, he has no plans to curb his outfits.

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“As I always say, do what makes you happy, and look fabulous while doing it,” he said.

His mother, Leila Willmore, said her son’s life, which she called adventurous and edgy, seems tailor-made for him and the expressive, clear vision he’s always had. In kindergarten, his teacher read a book about a boy who carries a doll just for him. After he came out as gay to his middle school classmates using a rainbow-themed PowerPoint presentation, his teacher gave out rainbow cupcakes.

“My son is a force to be reckoned with,” she said. “When he was 3 years old, he told me, ‘I’m going to change the world.’”

As a mother of two, sometimes she asks her son to remove videos, especially ones with cursing or suggestive choreography. Despite having to occasionally step in, the two have seen their relationship grow because of the app. She painted his toenails for one of his TikToks recently, and he came out to her mother — his grandmother — in another one.



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Zachary Willmore said he wants to use his TikTok account

Zachary Willmore said he wants to use his TikTok account to make a name for himself. Willmore, who stood for a portrait May 2 in his bedroom, is a junior at Rock Bridge High School.

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“I used to worry he would be bullied, but what I’ve witnessed has been the opposite: a supporting environment that has embraced him,” Leila Willmore said. “Most of his comments are loving. That first month, I literally scrolled through thousands, reading every single one.”

When he set out to make a name for himself, Zachary Willmore started his social media career mimicking his idols, notably Paris Hilton. He said that although he will never be as famous as her, he hopes to expand his app-centric stardom into more tangible avenues of fame. His next steps include finding sponsorships and brand deals.

As he tiptoes around the college application process, Willmore said he is looking to study business in Southern California, Texas or Florida. Willmore said he hopes to have his own high-end clothing brand for men.

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“I know how some people see me,” he said, “but none of their negativity can hold me back.”

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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  After Getting Bored of Making Viral Prank Videos, This Mexican American TikTok Star Raised ...

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.

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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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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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