Guest post, by David Klein. David is a NYC-based actor, producer and creator. He also works on special projects for Jay Palter Social Advisory as a digital content strategist. Find him on TikTok.
A little over one month ago, as the novel Coronavirus proved too immediately dangerous to ignore in the West, I placed my fast-paced actor/bachelor lifestyle in New York City on hold and returned to my family home in Toronto, Canada.
Newly unemployed and with a general feeling of helplessness, many of my Gen-Z and Millennial friends similarly fled to various exceedingly comfortable quarantine refuges throughout Canada and the US. In short, we all ran back home to our parents. And most of us now are immensely grateful for the luxury of being bored amidst these unusual and troubling circumstances.
Some of my friends turned to Netflix, some to X-Box. Some began obsessively baking or obsessively taking pictures of themselves baking. And some (unfortunately) began drinking themselves silly every night. In lieu of these vices, I turned to TikTok.
See my previous article: A Jam-Packed Best Practices Guide to Using TikTok
So, when I stepped back into the storied Victorian row house of my youth on that fateful Tuesday night in March (I’ve left the property for essentials only five times since then), I had a little over 100 followers on the popular short-form mobile video platform. Within thirty days, I had amassed over 10,000 followers without (practically speaking) leaving my house — nothing to write a whole article about, but here I am anyway.
So, how did I do this, and what did I learn?
1. Mindset supersedes skillset
Though I have some things for me (I am a professional actor and entertainer, after all), it is easy to become discouraged in the pursuit of social media celebrity. Internet fame is mostly fleeting and virality is entirely ephemeral. To succeed in the long term and nurture growth on any social media platform, embrace the fact that a healthy dedication to building a following is more valuable than the sum of the deliverables themselves. Begin not with what you will make, but with how you will make it (and how you will keep up the good work).
2. Consistency is key
Rather than phrase the perennial problem (yet again) as one of quantity vs. quality, consider that on TikTok, consistency is the most important thing. If you can create 2-4 highly produced videos per day, all the power to you, but it’s more important that you post and engage with your followers consistently than to ensure everything you make is a hit. Besides, no one — not even the top influencers — can truly predict which videos will “blow up” every time. Many of my low-quality, spur-of-the-moment posts have significantly outperformed my well-considered, highly-produced ones. And additionally, when it comes to trial and error on the internet, the ratio of error to success is significantly greater than you’d think. Don’t let this get you down. Keep making. Keep creating. Get it out there.
3. The home is not a vacuum
Contrary to my previously held belief as an extreme extrovert, if you seek inspiration in a confined location with the same people day in and day out, it will in fact endlessly manifest itself. As long as you’ve lived ‘enough’ years and experienced ‘enough’ adventure outside the nest (and I have), there will be no shortage of potential TikTok ideas in quarantine. As it turns out, the great indoors can be a nourishing well of creativity. Oh, and steal everything you see online (and understand it isn’t really theft). The internet, and TikTok specifically, is predominantly derivative. But even if you want to be “original,” remember that the same principles of, for example, comedy (my chosen vertical), have been working for thousands of years – first unusual thing, expectation vs. reality, rule of three, etc. Worry less about being original all the time; just do it most of the time.
4. Run your profile like a broadcast network
Why use social media at all? For me, TikTok is a means to a more fulfilling end. Though social media is a critical tool, I do not personally seek digital clout for its own sake. My ambitions lie in film, television, live performance, and every innovative form of storytelling in between. Therefore, I run my TikTok account like it’s NBC. At the time of writing this, I post three videos every single day: a daytime serial (part of a series, and with lower production value), a prime time premium video (more complex and more highly produced), and a late-night challenge (goofier, more risqué, more physical than language-based, and inspired more directly by already-existing TikTok trends). As any good network does, I carefully investigate my analytics and optimize accordingly. This affects what I post when I post it, and who I keep in mind when creating. It is important to have a strong vision for what can be, but always acknowledge what currently seems to work (and what does not).
5. Take no second for granted
We live in a world profoundly over-saturated with content — good, bad, and worst of all, mediocre. To complement that, our attention spans are shrinking with each passing day. So, this last month has taught me that when it comes to TikTok (and likely all social media), creators must generate content that demands attention every single second or else risks losing the viewer. And I do literally mean every second. The difference between a viral video and a dud on TikTok (according to the all-powerful algorithm that makes these decisions) can be whether the average viewer watches 9.5 out of 10 seconds or 10.5 out of 10 seconds. For those that do not know, videos on TikTok play in a continuous loop until the user swipes to a new screen. Every. Second. Counts. And while you’re at it, ensure each second benefits your “vertical” (or niche, if you will). Days, months, or years down the line, if the right person looks at your social media profile, will they immediately know what makes you special and how to hire you to the next level?
I must confess, it is strange to create content in this time of quarantine. And I don’t anticipate self-isolation and social-distancing measures will ease up any time soon.
In the meantime, I’m working towards my first hundred thousand followers. And after that, why not, let’s say a million?