Silly, easy guide to getting started on TikTok

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Back in 2006, I recall going from casual YouTube observer to obsessed consumer. It was at that point that I started creating via my own YouTube channel. And while I’ve only amassed 1,278 subscribers, most of whom joined me in the past 24 months, I have a good sense of what drives YouTube traffic.

If only I had the time. Or attention span.

These days, my eyes have wandered toward TikTok.

I’m one of those who had downloaded musical.ly a few years ago only to be bewildered by teen girls lip-synching to music I pretty much hated. That’s a recipe for me not caring about the platform at all.

And then my wife started watching TikToks. And then I started watching them while I took my daily walks on the treadmill. And then I became obsessed, which led me to starting my own TikTok channel. I’d love it if you’d follow me @ryanweltonmusic.

But how did I get started? Is it easy? What I wanted to do here is document what I’ve learned about the platform so far and detail a few things you need to know if you’d like to get started creating for TikTok.

The first thing you need to know is how to consume content on TikTok. It’s really easy. They’ll ask you for interests, and they pay attention to what you like, who you follow and what videos you comment on. That puts the algorithm to work behind the scenes. What you see out front is much more simple: They have a section for videos from creators you’re ‘Following,’ and they have a section called ‘For You.’

‘Following’ will show you content from creators you’re following. The ‘For You’ section is all about the algorithm projecting what it thinks you’ll like. There is also a ‘Discover’ section where you can add search terms or hashtags and go down a serious rabbit hole.

BTW, the TikTok rabbit hole might be more addictive than the YouTube rabbit hole.

Anyway, if you’ve got that down, let’s talk about video creation.

How to record video for TikTok
You can record video from TikTok by clicking the + symbol at the bottom of your screen. Remember, in TikTok, video is vertical so if you’re wanting to multi-purpose your content, consider using a second camera for horizontal shooting. There might be a better way to do that. Hit me up in the comments below if you have a strategy for shooting both vertical and horizontal video!

Here’s what you’ll see on the screen when you click that + symbol:

The whole .3x, .5x, 1x, 2x, 3x shows up when you click Speed.

Notice at the bottom that you have the option for 15s (seconds) and 60s. You don’t have to make your videos just 15 seconds or just 60. You don’t even have to record it in TikTok. (Notice the ‘Upload’ button to the right of the big red button! You can just upload videos already recorded on your phone.)

There’s a ‘Flip’ button atop the screen, and it’s pretty self-explanatory. Flip the camera from looking at you to looking in front of you or vice-versa. The ‘Beauty’ button is beauty mode, allowing you to use TikTok to soften your rough edges. Question: can it trim my beard or cut my hair for me?

There are lots of filters and effects, and what’s cool about the latter is that effects on TikTok can be timely. For example, there is an effect today for ‘Black Friday.’ I’ll write more about those filters and effects after I get better acclimated to creating on the app.

Editing your video on TikTok
Once you have a video recorded or uploaded, you can edit it right there in TikTok. Here are a couple of things you’ll want to know:

  1. Split. If you need to cut out a couple of seconds because of a mess-up, hit ‘Split’ right before the mess-up and then again right after the mess-up. Delete that section. By the way, if you’re new to video editing, the concept of ‘split’ is universal among editors.
  2. Adding text or stickers + set duration. Yes, add text or stickers to your video, but the trick to getting it to show up precisely where you want it to is to tap the text and select ‘Set Duration.’ The editor will come up, and you can move the start and end to match your words. In TikTok, this functionality is very finger-friendly, meaning the movements respond well to where you want your cursor to go.
  3. Hashtags. Much like with Instagram, hashtags drive viewership on TikTok. You should be as precise as possible and maybe keep it to 4-5 hashtags. You’re limited to 100 characters in your caption anyway, so be economical with what you add. FWIW, the only generic hashtag I’ve been adding to my videos thus far is #fyp, which means ‘For You’ page. My research, however, indicates that #fyp doesn’t drive TikTok to add your video to the ‘For You’ page. It appears to have been a thing once upon a time.
  4. Select cover photo. My recommendation is to pick a cover from your video where your face is showing and looking at the camera. Also, add some text to the cover photo but keep it in the middle- or upper-third of the photo. Text in the bottom-third of your photo will get clipped.

So, that’s how you get started creating content for TikTok. BTW, I totally failed to talk about whether to have a personal or a pro account. I selected the latter. When you go pro, if you will, you get the chance to select a TikTok business account or a creator account — and I selected the latter. The No. 1 reason I picked pro is for analytics.

That means once you’ve shot or uploaded your video and after you’ve edited it and gone live with it, you can track its progress.

OK, that’s all I’ve got for this first TikTok blog. My hope is that it helps you get started, moving from only a consumer to an excited content creator! Here are a few of my first TikToks below. They’re rough, sure, but I’m stoked to learn all the bells and whistles in the app — and you can bet I’ll be detailing them here.

Here’s my ‘Happy Thanksgiving’ TikTok:


Here’s a TikTok I did at work to celebrate the arrival of our new Starbucks machine:

And here’s me playing the famous intro to Chicago’s “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”

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