How TikTok Works: A Practical Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners

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Lluis Enric Mayans
@lluisenricmayans
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All the best content on digital strategy How TikTok works: a practical guide for beginners

Probably, hearing all the buzz about this new social network you might have wondered "How does TikTok work?". "Is this a social network reserved for kids only?"

"Is it for making exclusively funny videos?"

"How do some accounts get millions of views and followers?"

Who wins, how do you do it?

Professional activities, companies, freelancers, what do they have to do with this reality?


I wanted to create this guide to answer your questions; so sit back and enjoy the reading.


My invitation is to make you reflect on the opportunities that TikTok currently has to offer you, also because this is the right time to be part of it, given that it is evolving rapidly, as well as worldwide, also in Italy.

There are many entrepreneurial realities that have already started advertising and many others that are eager to try their luck, but are already close.

And not only! Celebrities, global brands, leading companies have already taken their way inside TikTok, achieving an explosive rise.

Let's see how TikTok works together!



HOW DOES TIK TOK WORK?


Practical guide to MARKETING 2.0

If in traditional marketing the content must attract the attention of as many users as possible, here it is the user himself who personally "creates" the campaign through the video.

From a passive procedure we move on to active marketing, which is "done" in the first person and is not suffered. What we are facing is also a revolution in the concept of advertising.


A positive climate that has given rise to trends such as the two-tone neon hair also worn by Billie Eilish or the phenomenon of e-girls and e-boys.



Who I am and what I do

I'm Alessio Natale Atria, I live in Milan, I'm 30 years old and I deal with strategies for those who aspire to become Influencers, taking care of their Personal Brand, companies and artists.


My goal is to help to achieve the goals set in an organic way, without automatism, making the most of content creation, also through sponsorships.

Besides having written the first book that deals with all the hacks (tricks) on the subject: "Discover the secrets of TikTok".

I am co-founder and moderator of the Facebook group "TikTok Hacks Italia": the first and largest group in Italian (1200 members) with in-depth video content and written content on how TikTok works.


HOW DOES TIK TOK WORK? PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR BEGINNERS:


How the algorithm works, how to deal with it and make friends with it.

Does "befriending" an algorithm sound like a funny expression for a computer system? Instead, that's what you should do!

Why is that?

I'll explain in a moment.

I carefully analyzed the actions in TikTok according to the algorithm and came to the conclusion that it is very important to understand it in order to understand how TikTok works.


It is the system with which the platform manages all the content on it (profiles, videos, Hashtags, etc...) and decides which ones to show and who to show them to.


And that's exactly why you need to understand how it works! To make friends with it, because otherwise your reputation and especially your virality will be threatened.

One of the goals of this platform is to be the first in the world in interactions and average time spent by users.

To achieve this, it shows the right content to the right people, so that users remain within the application as long as possible.

Unlike other social networks, it doesn't matter if you have millions of followers and likes on your profile to go viral: if a piece of content is viewed by the right audience, it can still generate thousands, if not millions, of views and interactions.

That's why you need to create consistently consistent videos always aiming at the same target.

The niche of reference you have to decide, in fact, even before you start on the platform.

Why videos from 300k views to 0

Many times, for the sake of having many views and the eagerness to stand out, they make missteps and don't really focus on how the algorithm works.

During my endless rehearsals it happened to me that for example some videos had 300,000 views and others barely 100.

Sometimes they ended up in "For you" - the home page where the videos with the most interactions and the most interesting ones according to the algorithm are, which have thousands and millions of views - sometimes not even a hint of a comment.


I often wondered "But why is this happening, why is it happening, is there a factor to consider? How does TikTok work?

It can't all be so random, otherwise it wouldn't explain the success of some influencers and the failure of others."

And so I discovered that the algorithm, exploiting artificial intelligence, has its own guidelines, that if on the one hand it allows you to become "famous", on the other hand it is rigid in its rules.

As a first step to understand how TikTok works, you should immediately tune in to the objective of this social network:

"Show target people the right content, so that they stay as long as possible within it. A video is viral if it is shared. Sharing is when people are interacting.

How to avoid the drop in video views?

Consequently, you should try to understand your purpose and be faithful to it, always, in all the content you are going to create.

Surely what you have to do is focus on who you want to watch your videos: you have to intrigue, educate, tell, generate the famous "Wow Effect!", excite in any way... in short, unleash something in your audience. Without even repeating, reference.

And this may not be enough. In fact, many times it happened to me to analyze accounts with excellent content, but that had few visualizations, because simply the audience to which it was shown was wrong.

So now ask yourself these 4 questions.

  • What are my medium/long term goals in TikTok?
  • What positioning do I want to have?
  • Who do I want to follow me?
  • What is my specific niche market?

Try to be as honest and detailed as possible, only after that you can start thinking about how to use it.

But until you have realized these answers, your presence on TikTok becomes useless, unless you want to use it just for pleasure without a specific commercial purpose.


How does the TikTok algorithm work?

The algorithm always takes 24 hours to analyze your data, as well as your audience and interactions.

We have to teach the algorithm the type of content we want to show, so that little by little it shows it to your target audience: in short, you have to "teach" it who you are, what you want to do, who you want. direction with one step after another,

brick by brick, using the fateful logic of content.

What you should do right away is switch from a normal account to a PRO account so you can "read" what's going on as you post.

For the first 2/3 weeks, limit yourself to only two posts a day, don't upload too many in the same period, but only one in the morning and one in the evening, depending on the peak hours of your followers.

This is not to confuse the algorithm, so that it understands who you are, what you will do, what content you create and your niche. After you have the first data, check the reaction of your audience (analytics data): if it is really the right one or not and if it shows interest in what you are producing.

Even if you understand how TikTok works and have a specific editorial plan, videos don't always get the desired effect.

And that's why you should monitor all statistical data, not just views and likes.

They are critical to keep track of comments, shares, average viewing time and how many times each video has been viewed, by whom, at what time, country of origin.

This will give you a warning of what types of content to create and if the audience is aligned with your objective. You can experiment and introduce the new formats little by little: one new one every two, three old ones.


PRACTICAL GUIDE TO TIKTOK FOR BEGINNERS:


Facts and figures:



Now, let's look specifically one by one at what the numbers represent for each fact: views, in the "For you/For you.", average video duration, likes (hearts), comments, shares, audience / retention rate, content completeness.


Views:

If you want to understand how TikTok works, right away I will tell you that getting a large number of views is important, but it is not the only thing to take into account.

It can often happen that you have made thousands of views, but after analyzing the data further, you may have been viewed for an average of 3 seconds out of 50 and only once. So views are not enough.

The algorithm rewards content with:

  • an average and high view rate;
  • the number of times the user has watched it.

At first it loads content up to 25 seconds long, because you're not famous yet, so the chance of them seeing a video that's too long is low.

By "long" I mean 60-second ones.

As mentioned, in TikTok the contents are "eaten" at the speed of light and continuously.

Already 30 seconds for a video on this platform is considered a lot.


Nei "for you".

In "For you/For you": in this section, the one that appears as soon as you enter the App, there are the videos with the most interactions and the most interesting ones according to the algorithm, which receive thousands and millions of views.

As has been repeated several times, the goal of the algorithm is to make users stay within the platform as long as possible, to keep them glued to the monitor. Consequently, you should also try to reach this section using the same logic of the algorithm.

For example, if you have chosen the gym niche you should be able to end up in the "For You" of people interested in fitness, training or similar, not among those who, for example, follow animals, travel or comedy.


Famous hastags like #FORYOU and the like, never use them in the first period, even if you see that everyone does it. As I already explained, 80% of people make mistakes and one of them is using random hashtags.

Changing them constantly and even worse without consistency would wreak a lot of havoc on the algorithm, never really profiling your audience. While they are trendy, don't use them for now, just stick to the ones in your niche. Famous influencers do it, they can afford it, you don't profile them because they already have an audience, you don't yet.

In the long run, your videos would lose view, because you don't have your audience really interested in your content yet and therefore people will easily dodge (i.e. move on to the next video) or worse, put you on the "I don't want to. I don't care anymore".


What should be the average length of videos?

As mentioned before, it is counterproductive to make long videos at the beginning. Better 20/30 seconds with an average of 50/60% shown (good performance), than a long video with 20/30% (bad performance). TikTok promotes and promotes videos with good performance because it only wants to get high stats worldwide.




How do the likes work?

For you to leave as many "likes" as possible, you can use several ways: insert an invitation to click (CTA) in the description, visual arrows and finally add a caption during the video in which you call the user to like you.

You could also think about double calls to action, both in the caption and within the content itself, adding some writing.


How do comments work?

It goes without saying that the more the merrier.

In fact, it should become one of your goals in every video.

Interaction is key for TikTok: if a video receives the "do something" from the user, the algorithm will start showing it to as many people as possible.

So ask yourself if, for example, your content could be commentable: in a response, in an emotional reaction, in a dialogue, etc.... These are the videos that will arouse interest in sharing.

If you have a lot of comments, you will not only have social proof, but you will capture the user's attention, which will lead them to browse the other comments and, consequently, spend more time on your video.

Here are some commenting rules:

Always reply, both because the number increases and because the system also notifies users who have made them, thus generating more numbers by entering a kind of virtuous circle.

Like the most sensible comments with profiles similar to yours.

Always thank them and with different answers. Be proactive: do not use simply "thank you" or "thank you" for all comments, they may seem BOT to the algorithm.

Respond with open-ended questions, in a way that prompts the user to come back in. For example, "How did you do, did you like it, have you seen the other videos?"

Create a discussion between users, even tagging them if necessary.

I know, this all takes some time, but it's very helpful, especially when you're on your way out.


Share:

This is another important purpose to keep in mind in your learning journey to understand how TikTok works.

After viewing the content, do users share or start following you?

Is your video easily shareable? Keep track of everything that happens and if your response is positive, it's likely to go viral.

If it's negative, ask yourself what you can do differently.


Audience / Retention Rate:

This is one of the most fundamental pieces of data of all.

Thanks to this you can understand if your content is in line with your audience and vice versa.

You should track how long and how many times your video has been viewed and the higher the number, the more likely you are to grow your account. Constantly monitor users how they behave.

After watching do they start following you? Are they targeting your niche?

For a long-term goal and to monetize you need to create a community with followers interested in what you have to say and show.


Video Integrity:

This point is often underestimated by everyone, making a big mistake. Your videos may have suffered a limitation and therefore not even organically increase views.

Audio and video copyright: be careful with the forwarding and audio tracks you use. It is better to use the ones proposed by the App.

Violence: absolutely avoid creating content of this type.

Minors: minors under 13 years of age "theoretically" cannot use the App. In theory, many have already found the tricks, but I can tell you that TikTok is trying to solve this problem.

Dangerous activities: do not create videos with actions that, if replicated, could endanger the safety of the viewer.

Brightness: don't shoot if you can't clearly see faces and subjects in the videos. It seems that the algorithm senses this and banishes dark videos.


PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR TIKTOK BEGINNERS: WHAT TO DO AND WHAT NOT TO DO WHEN STARTING WITH TIKTOK?


What to give away in the initial phase of TikTok?

"Smanetta" within TikTok without an account: try to understand how you can best set up your content and if, in fact, this platform might interest you and is right for you.

Search for videos in your niche or similar: look for Hastags, the keywords that popular creators use to model them. If they don't exist, retarget your content to the most similar ones.

Create an editorial plan: before creating any profile, think and plan what to publish.

Interact with the videos and profiles that interest you and are right for you: the goal is to make it look like you are already an active user.

Search for your own Hastags, songs and keywords. You have to help the algorithm understand what content interests you.

Switch to the Pro account: to get detailed statistics you need to do it as soon as possible.

Post videos frequently: the first weeks maximum 2 times a day, so as not to confuse the system. If you do not have time, better even one, but well done. Failure duration of at least 10 seconds, better use the 15 seconds, do not go beyond 25.

Create videos with good video quality and above all excellent lighting.

Use the TikTok camera directly: externally uploaded content is more controlled and restricted.


What do you do in the initial phase of TikTok?

Avoid the Follow/Unfollow technique: following others to make change and then removing them is the best way to get Shadowban.

Following random people makes no sense, because the algorithm shows content to those who really want to see it. I'll tell you about Shadowban in detail later.

Never post randomly: this rule applies to all social networks, especially TikTok. If you also want to make money you have to be very careful.

Do not post videos with watermarks.

When reposting, do not use the same audio as the publisher, but mute and use the ones proposed by TikTok.

Never, never SPAM: the platform deletes anything that looks like a BOT.

Do not send messages to users to exchange likes or followers.

Do not comment on every video you watch to gain followers.

Use simple and easy to remember account names.

Don't use forbidden words in video captions.


TikTok's practical guide: How to best use Hashtags?


Hashtags make it easy to categorize content and make it easier to search.

Taking advantage of them is very useful, but not essential. Don't abuse it and don't put them randomly.

Change them in each video and use a maximum of 3 or 4 very specific ones so as not to confuse the algorithm: you only have to hit the audience inherent to the niche you choose.


HOW DOES TIK TOK WORK? HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR NICHE?


As with other social networks, you must identify the niche to show your content to.

Now that you are trying to understand how TikTok works, you should always keep in mind what your goals are and stay consistent over time.

Getting seduced by videos with many views and better profiles than yours and using the same Hastags, thus confusing the algorithm, is not a valid strategy.

Rather, focus on continuing to create good ones and keep track of the stats.

Here's an example of a sensational mistake made by a client of mine.

He deals with animals. He often uses the hashtags #pets, #tiktokpets, #petsoftiktok, etc. One day he made a video with a dog eating pizza at the table, and also added the #food Hastag #pizza.

This was a big mistake, because he had a lot of followers and views from food lovers, but they were not on target: he was showing his content to the wrong people.

How did we recover?

I forced him to put that video on "private", I didn't force him to delete it, and I advised myself to always stay focused.

Or rather, I could have kept it, but on the condition that he only used the right hashtags, deleting those that are not useful to his audience.

Even if you don't have many views at first, continue on the same path, never change direction.

It will take days to go viral, reach millions of views and thousands of followers, especially when you have no history.

You have to be patient: scaling your niche requires consistency in creating the right content.

The important thing is not to get carried away by Ego and focus only on virality, but to keep faith in the choice you make and make sure you have followers interested in what you do.

If you create targeted content, your videos will keep showing up to interested parties, who will gradually make them viral.


PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR TIKTOK BEGINNERS: HOW DOES TIKTOK WORK? WHEN TO POST?


The truth is that finding the perfect time to post is not as easy as on any other social network.

These platforms have created a constant need to consume content (GIFs, photos, videos, news articles), so in addition to thinking about how to produce them, you must also find the best way to connect with your audience.

Sure, there's a lot of statistical data available, but trends form and change rapidly every day.

If a post gets a lot of followers and likes with one type of content, replicating it won't necessarily achieve the same result after a while.

Timing is everything: if you notice a certain trend, take advantage of it right away.

However, asking yourself these three questions can help you tremendously: Who is my audience? What time are they awake? When do you watch the most videos?

TikTok has a worldwide user base and it's important to know who you're targeting and their habits.

When you know where they are from, you can retrieve time zones and decide when and at what time to post.

If you are in Italy use the Italian language because TikTok distributes content in the same geographic area where you are.

It seems that only by using foreign hashtags you can reach foreign audiences.

If this is not your goal, use Italian times and Hashtags.

These are many of the secrets to keep in mind to use the algorithm to your advantage; now I want to give you some "Tricks" on how to make your videos go viral.

Using all these tricks you have many possibilities. They are all proven, don't waste your time trying to reinvent the wheel.


TIKTOK BEGINNER'S GUIDE: CREATE "SUSPENDED" VIDEOS.


What is that? Suspend is the time the user stays on the posted video.

If a high percentage of people view the content even beyond its duration, which triggers a cycle of views, the platform will consider the content worthy of going viral and place it in the feed of related users.

It is therefore composed of two factors: the average time the video is viewed and the number of times it is viewed by the same user.

To increase the suspension you can use the loop, riddles, videos with magic tricks, etc., in short, all those contents that on average make you watch the video more than once.

Loop.

The loop is a clever method to exploit the algorithm: it means "forcing" users to watch it over and over again, before realizing that the video would actually go no further.

To create a perfect loop, it is essential to use music that has no end, then the middle part and make sure that the end connects perfectly back to the beginning.

Riddles.

Introduce riddles and do it in a maximum of 20/30 seconds, they work because it leads the user to review the video, making a lot of interactions.

I want to show you a case study: this video got 102k views, 8000 likes, 1200 comments, 172 shares in only 24 hours. Here is the link.

The riddle style question was: "What do you see first?" put in the preview.

The other features.

The catch: it's a self-commenting video that invites you to watch it again and again, easy to use and easy to share. It entered the organic audience that was genuinely interested in the content.

The added value: interacting, interacting, interacting and I didn't insert random hashtags.

Audio: I've been using a follower favorite for the past 7 days. I've tried this technique on several videos and it works.

Another factor that led to its huge virality was the attention to comments.

  • Reply last to the responses with the most Likes to make sure they are seen above all else, to entice new users to interact.
  • Ask open-ended questions in some comments so you can get them to respond again.
  • Try to create a conversation between users.
  • Invite to view other videos on the profile.
  • Occasionally say thank you to everyone.
  • Tell him to tag hypothetical interested friends.
  • Be careful if they ask you, how to create other similar or reveal the mystery or help of any other kind. Of course, always be there.

I know, it's a little hard to respond to all the comments, but that's what creates community and a sense of belonging.

The videos with magic tricks are the ones that go a lot right now and respond fully to the suspension: users to try to understand the trick watch it and watch it dozens of times. I came across 1.2 BILLION videos (not millions, but billions!) of views - a disproportionate number! I can tell you that I myself have let them go over and over again precisely because I wanted to catch their secret.

Aspiring illusionists or those who already do it by profession are "smart" and know it's that eagerness to grow their profile and viralize videos. Sometimes they create, for some, even tutorials on how they made them: "coincidentally" they are shared hundreds of times!

So, if they fall within your target and, I repeat, only if they are useful for your account, you can consider this type of videos.


PRACTICAL GUIDE TO TIKTOK FOR BEGINNERS: AUDIO

Does the audio have to be there or not?

I've tested with and without and can confirm that it's always better to use it, if nothing else, as background.

Why?

First of all, people can also find us through the song and the algorithm recognizes the audio, which could be easily reused by other users to make their own content, thus increasing the famous permanence.

Replicating already viral content:

It consists of "reproducing" a video that is already viral inherent to your niche. Just take it as an example, make some small changes to improve it according to your audience and then publish it.

Here are some questions to ask yourself before creating content:

  • What topic is it about?
  • Why should it go viral?
  • Is it of interest to my audience?
  • Who is the main character?
  • What is the message of the video?
  • Why should it be commented on?
  • Is it shareable?

Pay attention to the caption and keywords:

Many underestimate the description to include in videos, especially relating it to both TikTok and Google keywords.

The description is used as a comment on the video you are posting. Always use it short to entice users to watch and, above all, to interact. Do not describe everything that happens in the video, just use the keywords, that is, with the content. They are essential because they will be shown to the audience.

To understand which ones to use, start typing the words related to your video in the search bar and enter the ones suggested by TikTok.

Words from a Google Seo research perspective are also critical. When you search for a word in Google, it will show you the best TikTok videos that contain that keyword in the description and hashtags.

HOW DOES TIK TOK WORK? BEWARE OF SHADOW BANNING .


What is shadow banning?

It is the invisible limitation of your content. It can be temporary or permanent on the account.

The factor to keep in mind is that it does not limit the content upload functions.

It is an automatic process performed by the system to protect against spam, copyright issues and nudity. We cannot appeal to remove this ban because there is no option on this platform.

On other Social Networking platforms you can have the ban through the loss of access to the account for a short period of time or indefinitely, or with another ban.

In contrast, on TikTok, with Shadow Ban, your videos will not be displayed on the "For You" page in search results and will have a much lower view, if anything, and you will only notice it if you notice it, because it doesn't reach you, there is no communication.


HOW DOES TIK TOK WORK? HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU ARE IN SHADOW BAN?


If your videos have these characteristics:

  • they only have 0 to 80 views or in any case a very low average compared to other videos.
  • You can't get statistical data from analytics.
  • Your followers don't watch your videos either. Maybe ask some of them to help you with this.

Then most likely the profile or content is in Shadow Ban. I say "most likely", because I know from experience that this is not always the case. On some profiles I thought it was, but in reality by stopping posting and reducing videos for 6/7 days, resuming format changes, Hastag, etc... everything goes back to normal. Maybe you made a mistake with some of the actions seen so far. In any case, you can also rely on double-checking.

What is it about? Create a similar profile on another mobile, upload the same videos to both profiles at the same time and if you notice that the difference in viewing is very significant, it means that you are on Shadow Ban on the first account.


How do you get in there? There are a few factors, here they are:

  • reports from other users.
  • Copyright infringement, especially music.
  • Content not suitable for your niche.
  • Sharing watermarked video.
  • Repost content that is already very viral or that others advertise.
  • Illegal content, i.e. videos containing knives, guns, drugs and other illicit materials.
  • Videos that do not contain human faces, body movements and voices (TikTok collaborates with companies in "3D/4D sensing").
  • This platform aims to publish videos in first person, real life actions.

How can you avoid it? By being careful not to create videos that are included in the list mentioned above.

Always be very careful not to post nude scenes: it is very important for TikTok and it is absolutely intolerant about it.


How to get out of the Shadow Ban?


Unfortunately, as of today there is nothing official about it, but as soon as I have more information I will take care to update this guide on how TikTok works.

However you can take these actions that I did myself, when this happened to me:

  • delete the banned videos, then the ones with few views, because these may have been flagged that created the ban.
  • Clear the cache, close the app, turn off the phone and turn it back on after 5 minutes.
  • Check if you have entered the age +18 in the profile.
  • Make sure the app has been updated.
  • Improve content.
  • Post constantly.
  • Let other accounts in the same niche help you grow by sharing and commenting.
  • Interact with other users, to become a regular user of the platform.
  • Inform the TikTok support by email: feedback@tiktok.com or Creators@tiktok.com

The timing is not known a priori, for sure you will not get out of this situation fast, at least 2 or 3 weeks, and it is not even said that the problem will be solved.

If your profile is below 30,000 followers, consider if it's worth deleting it and starting over. If your niche is ultra-specific and if the brand is already established, first try several attempts.


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