TikTok. The world’s most popular app for Gen Z and the busiest social channel with over a billion monthly users visiting up to 21 times a day. With that much exposure to users around the world, it’s no wonder more people than ever are finding fame on the platform.
A new kind of influential personality has emerged from the short video platform and as it turns out, you don’t need to have a music career or a well-known parent to be ‘TikTok’ famous.
Unlike Instagram or YouTube where people typically subscribe or follow their favorite accounts and spend time messaging friends, TikTok has created something completely different for users.
So, what does it take to be famous on TikTok?
Instagram Influencers VS. TikTok
When Instagram first launched in 2010, filters didn’t exist for the first few years, mostly it was basic photo-sharing to friends. Only later when influencing budgets came to reality did ‘picture-perfect’, luxury posting become the reality. Then, it became the platform for people to share their picture-perfect lifestyle, posting pictures of their luxury holidays, shopping sprees, Jewellery and, of course, food. These kinds of influential accounts were hugely successful for brands looking to reach new audiences and wanting to ride the wave of this new kind of marketing approach.
As a social platform, Instagram propelled ‘everyday’ people into celebrity status for their affluent and influential lifestyle whereas TikTok is largely for entertainment and video content.
Both social media channels are visually led but user behaviors are very different:
- Instagram was mainly photo format while TikTok is video
- TikTok users are there to find exciting and engaging content whereas Instagram users typically message friends, catch up with the news or check in on their favorite celebrities.
- Between Instagram and TikTok is the age of the users. Instagram’s main users are millennials between 25-34 years old and TikTok appeals largely to Gen Z between 11-26 years old. This is important when considering the overall reach of influencers and the type of influential content users engage with most on the respective platforms.
TikTok could be considered as the home of the ‘unpolished’ influencer; the everyday person sharing a day in their life. Cleaning, cooking, life hacks or simply sharing funny moments from their life, these so-called micro-influencers rapidly go viral on the fast-moving platform. On the other hand, Instagram is the home of polished and perfected content, and great lighting with popular influencers appearing more as a brand themselves.
There is still room for spontaneity on Instagram but the general content is much more curated and has become a powerful lead-generator for brands with products or services linked to the polished posts.
With some clear differences between them as social media platforms and marketing channels, it’s no surprise that getting content to go viral is also going to have a different approach.
Was it that Instagram influencers had it easier with less competition and noise to compete with? Or is it really easier to get famous on TikTok?
Is it easy to get TikTok famous?
Yes, and no.
The most successful TikTokers to date are young, enthusiastic content creators who happened to really land with their younger audiences. The type of content that goes viral on the platform is unique compared to the kind of content that does well on other channels like YouTube and Instagram.
TikTok has become synonymous with content that users get involved with themselves. Think viral dance routines, lip syncing to songs or soundbites over silly footage, audiences love active content they can participate in.
Being a short video platform, content needs to be engaging within the first few seconds (3 to be precise) otherwise users will simply lose interest and click off the video. Videos that keep audiences watching do much better on the ‘For you’ page on TikTok, sending it viral and clocking up the views and likes.
It might seem easy to go viral on the world’s most popular social media app but there are some key ingredients to making a video that people love including being authentic, sharing something useful (think life hacks or quick tips) choosing a popular song and using popular hashtags like TikTok challenge.
Like them or loathe them, TikTok challenges have crept into real life often creating a media stir whilst confirming the power of the platform and the ability to create ‘celebrity status’ overnight.
Another surefire way to get noticed on the platform is by sharing knowledge, advice or opinions on a topic as users are eager to use TikTok just like a search engine to answer questions.
Who are the most influential TikTokers?
As more users engage, like and share the less-polished, more ‘rough and ready’ style content of TikTok, the most influential content to date has been the more ordinary.
As of 2022, the most popular TikToker was an 18-year-old schoolgirl and competitive dancer, Charli D’Amelio, who rose to fame on TikTok with a seemingly ordinary lip syncing video with her friend in 2019 that gained pace quickly. To date, her account has over 148.8 million followers across her social channels and has racked up 1.3 billion likes on TikTok alone.
Some very impressive stats for someone who came from an ordinary home in America. Since becoming the most followed person on TikTok, Charli has used her social media fame to secure her dream jobs like dancing at the Superbowl in 2020 and dancing with Bebe Rexah on stage at a Jonas Brothers gig.
Another household name that has been propelled on TikTok is Italian funny man Khaby Lame who has a huge 139.7 million followers on the social platform. That rather impressive number outperforms the number of Instagram followers global superstars like Rhianna and Drake have. Kahby has been crowned the fastest growing content creator on the app, becoming the second most followed account on there in just two years. Khaby has used his TikTok fame to work with huge brands like Boss and Amazon since becoming a popular social influencer.
One big name that has TikTok to thank for his quick rise to fame is rapper Lil Nas X, who rose to fame after a TikTok challenge video featuring Billy Ray Cyrus’s Old Town Road went viral. The 22-year-old has the social platform to thank for transforming his career almost overnight and securing him a number one in 2019.
It’s fair to say the platform has also been through its own content evolution since first launching as a short video platform. The videos have got longer, the hashtag quality has improved (although #cute is still the most used hashtag of all time) and the algorithm has strengthened to incorporate paid advertising.
It’s not only ordinary people who are now finding fame on TikTok as more brands have better visibility on the app, boosting smaller businesses and entrepreneurs in exactly the same way.
Looking to get famous, TikTok style? There are a few things to consider first.
How to be famous, TikTok style
Anyone wanting to find fame on TikTok needs to have a good strategy in place and be clear, consistent and committed to publishing regularly.
It’s clear that consistency is key for those looking to reach TikTok fame heights. Whether that’s individuals looking to go viral or brands wanting to reach new audiences on the world’s most used social platform, keeping it consistent is important.
Some micro-influencers have their own unique hand signs or sign-offs they use every time to reinforce their new TikTok brand. Others have a signature phrase or something that keeps their content ‘on brand’ and recognisable to their followers.
If you’re passionate about the content you’re making and importantly have an authenticity about you, people will resonate. This could be why so many micro influencers have done so well simply sharing a snapshot from their everyday life. People love authentic content- unstaged, unfiltered and even unplanned.
Being unique and offering users regular content that engages them and feels relevant to their life too is another key to gaining quick success on TikTok. It appears that people who share content of an everyday task like cleaning or cooking will soon gain traction as users relate to those activities.
Using the hashtags and tapping into relevant or trending themes as well as teaming up with well-known influencers on the platform will help content gain rapid reach amongst the billions of users worldwide.
Combining these elements will help a new brand get their foot in the door of one of the most powerful marketing tools to hand and if it lands right, it won’t take long before TikTokers are liking, sharing and engaging with the content.