22 May 2020 Social media

TikTok: The Ultimate Guide 2020

Image of phone displaying the TikTok logo

TikTok has taken the social media world by storm with over 800 million active daily users and has been downloaded a whopping 1.5 billion times across the various app stores. The video-sharing platform is most famous for its dance challenges, lip-syncing triumphs, tutorials and hashtag challenges but there is literally a space for anything on the social media app. Plus, with users averaging 52 minutes of viewing time a day, there are lots of opportunities to get your videos seen by millions.  

What is TikTok? 

TikTok is the leading destination for short-form mobile video and their mission is to “inspire creativity and bring joy.” Users are encouraged to enter challenges, perform duets, tell jokes, do a dance, basically just unleash your creative juices. 

On TikTok, the general rule of thumb is that anything goes (within reason and law, obviously) and this is perfect for the creators of the world.  Using TikTok as a brand will mean you may have to go out of your comfort zone and be a little more creative, but trust us, the results will be worth it.  

TikTok is separated into two main sections, the ‘following page’ and the ‘for you’ page. The following page is, yeah you guessed it, all the lucky guys and gals who you are following. Whereas the for you page is based on your viewing habits and will deliver content to you that the algorithm thinks you will like. The for you page is known as the holy grail for users, if you get on enough for you pages, you could have ZERO followers and still get millions of engagements on your content. Mad. 

As mentioned before, the for you page is curated content based on your viewing habits on the app. So how does the algorithm work, not only for the content you are being shown, but for your created content to become a hit too? 

The Algorithm 

Now, unlike other social media platforms, the ins and outs of TikTok’s algorithm remains shrouded in mystery. However, luckily for you, some social savvy people have been trying, testing, swapping and testing again to come up with some theories about how the algorithm works. So, without further ado, here are the important factors in the TikTok algorithm. 

#FYP #ForYou #ForYouPage 

Using these hashtags is a surefire way to get your content on the for you page. However, this might not be the smartest move. Whacking in a load of hashtags that will get your content seen is great, but they are more than likely not going to be interested in the niche of your content. Researching relevant hashtags to your content is going to give your video traction with the right people, and if that means sacrificing a few views, then it’s definitely worth it. 

You can use the discover tab in the bottom left of the app to find the latest hashtag trends and challenges on the for you page and put your own little twist on it for your brand. Creating content to fit trends is a great way to get people watching your content and becoming more aware of your brand. Just don’t change the trend too much or it will just look out of place. 

Screenshot of the discover page on TikTok
Screenshot of the discover page on TikTok


Captions are vital to your video gaining the traction you want. Instagram is home to the long and detailed caption but again, TikTok is the direct opposite. Keep your captions simple and short. TikTok is all about the content, so your caption should be complementary to your video.  

Screenshot example of a short and descriptive caption on TikTok
Example of a short explanatory caption on TikTok

There are many ways you could caption your video but those that seem to work the best are questions, jokes or hooks. Questions and jokes are self-explanatory but hooks, not so much. Hooks are captions that are designed to get people, well … hooked. For example, “wait until the end 😂” tends to be one that is used a lot on TikTok and can make people want to know what they are waiting for.  

Another commonly used hook is creating videos and labelling them as part 1, part 2, etc. However, and this is my personal opinion, these are highly irritating, especially if the part 1 video does not have a part 2. 

Screenshot example of a hook caption on TikTok
Example of Hook text on TikTok

Trending songs and sounds.  

Formerly Music.ly, TikTok is all about the tunes. Music is a huge part of being found on the app. If you scroll through your own for you page for, say, 20 minutes, you will notice a lot of songs and sounds are used over and over. This is because they are part of a hashtag challenge or dance challenge, or simply the song or soundbite is popular and works well with a whole variety of video. Nonetheless, popular music will boost your video and help you get on other people’s for you feeds. 

Sounds can be difficult to find though, especially if you are new to the app. So, here’s how you can find them. Start by clicking the + at the bottom centre of the app, this will take you to the video creator. Once you are in the video creator you will see a ‘sounds’ tab at the top centre of the app. Here you will find the latest songs and sounds, from trending and new music to recommended sounds just for you.  

Screenshot of the trending sounds page on TikTok

Alternatively, when you are watching a video, you can select the sound from that specific video to use on your own marvellous creation. Simply click on the moving text underneath the caption. You can then add that sound to your favourites to create your video later, or create a video there and then using the sound. Plus, if you have TikTok premium, you’ll be able to access your analytics and see what songs your audience is listening to. 

Most active audience 

Again, you will need premium for this feature. Finding out when your audience is active can be a great way to know what to post and when to post it. This can be helpful to your brand as some videos are not instant viral hits, but sensational slow burners. Keep an eye on your video for days, weeks and perhaps even months, as the slow gain of engagement with your video could boost it to the for you page. 

For example, you’ve created a video with a song you like and fits with your brand, but it isn’t trending now. In a few days’ time, that very song may be the focal point of the next big viral trend and then whoosh, your video has now gone viral.  

Video content and editing 

The big one, your content. If this is wrong, I’m afraid no song in the world is going to help you get the engagement you’re after. Creativity is key here, don’t try to make your videos look perfect, be creative but not polished. As we said before, pretty much anything goes, so be brave.  

One theory on the TikTok algorithm suggests that seamless loops boost your reach. This is partly because you may not even realise you have started the video again. Before you know it, you’ve watched the looped video three times and the algorithm is now thinking, wow, that’s some great content.  

There is a plethora of filters, effects and sounds that mean you can make your TikTok just as you like it. When it comes to these filters and effects, don’t be afraid to use them, that’s what they’ are there for. 

screenshot of the effects and filter on TikTok
TikTok effects and filters


This one is a little contentious as there is no proof on the topic. Locality could be used (in the future) by the algorithm to serve content locally. This is something to keep an eye on as there may be opportunities for brands to connect with local Millennials and Gen Z folk who they previously would have left untapped.  


Keep it consistent. There are many different theories on this one and it’s pretty much down to preference. We would suggest creating content every one to two days as a minimum but, if you want to create and post multiple videos every day, go for it.  


Duets are another tool you can use inside the TikTok app. Duets take another user’s video and puts it side by side with your screen. This is a great way to engage with the TikTok community, carry on/ add to a story or completely change the context of the video for comedic effect. Duet challenges can also be an awesome way to encourage user-generated content and create a connection with your audience.  

Screenshot of a duet on TikTok
Example of a Duet on TikTok

Completion Rate 

Completing a video is showing the algorithm that the video is a good piece of content. The more complete watches of a video, the better perceived by the algorithm. So, videos of 10-15 seconds tend to perform the best.  

Now we’ve gone through some of the factors that affect how your organic video is displayed, it’s time to dive into your paid advertising options.  

TikTok Advertising 

The TikTok ads manager is similar to that of Facebook. You can target via many different criteria such as age, gender, location, interests and many more. Also, like Facebook, there are different types of ads for you to choose from.  

Brand Takeovers 

Brand takeover videos are the very first video that pops up when a user opens their TikTok app. However, these are exclusive and TikTok will only display one brand per day to a single user, but this could be served more than once. As you’ve probably guessed by now, that exclusivity comes with a hefty price tag, but it also means you will get lots of eyes on your content without much competition. 

Screenshot of a brand takeover advert by Rita Ora on TikTok
Brand Takeover TikTok Ad by Rita Ora

Similar to brand takeovers are Top View ads, just somewhat less intrusive. Top view ads will be the first post in feed after three seconds, seeming a little more natural and native to the platform.  

Native video ads 

The native video ads will again seem more native and natural in the platform feed than our first advertising option. Your video ad will be served at various points between user-generated content. They last anywhere from nine to 15 seconds and can be skipped or scrolled past. Bit of a bummer.  

Screenshot of a native video advert for a game on TikTok.
Native Video TikTok advert by Knock’em All game

Branded AR Filters and Lenses 

Much like Snapchat, you can create your own filter and lens for your audience to use during a challenge. These will remain live for up to 10 days. 

Sponsored hashtag challenges 

Creating a hashtag challenge for your TikTok community can be an incredible way to gain brand recognition and awareness while encouraging user-generated content, meaning sought- after collaboration and integration between your brand and the community. Creating a branded hashtag challenge will mean users can click on the hashtag and be taken to your branded page. 

TikTok will also help to promote your branded hashtag for the small price of £150,000. If you shed a tear at that figure, never fear, there are other ways to promote your hashtag. Working with influencers offers a much cheaper alternative and can sometimes yield an even better response to your challenge if you select the right people. Furthermore, if you want to take your challenge a step further and get even more engagement, incentivise that baby and turn it into a competition. A user-generated video in exchange for a competition entry seems like a fair swap. Finally, a hashtag challenge plus, will allow users to click on the hashtag and shop products directly from the TikTok app. 

So, there you have it. Your TikTok advertising options.  

Whether you are creating some insanely good organic content or advertising on the platform, here are our top tips for creating your content for the best results on TikTok. 

TikTok Top Tips 

  • The video must always be vertical. This way you are using the whole screen. 
  • Keep it short and snappy. You want your audience to watch the entire video. 
  • Be you, don’t try to make your video aesthetically perfect. If you do, well, go back to Instagram. 
  • Have a strong hook at the start of the video. Intrigue your audience. 
  • Make sure the caption is short and relevant. We aren’t after a storytime. 
  • Don’t be afraid to use new features. That’s why TikTok make them. 
  • Find and use relevant hashtags. Or risk reaching the wrong audience. 
  • Think outside the box. Because boxes can be boring. 
  • Keep text in images away from the bottom and right-hand side of your video, this is where the comments, likes, follow etc are displayed. 
  • Have fun. 

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