If you ‘dve told me back in March that I’d be Tik Tok’s #1 fan by June, I would have rolled my eyes and cackled like the Wicked Witch of the West herself. Oh, that app for Gen-Z’ers? Nah, I’m content with Instagram.
But then one fateful day, I downloaded it solely to claim my username so that I could be @sarahkleist across all platforms (spoiler alert: it was TAKEN. Hateful!).
And then I stumbled down the rabbit hole.
Friends… if you consider yourself a storyteller and/or activist in any medium, get yourself an account right now.
Here’s why I think Tik Tok is the greatest social media platform yet.
1.) The App Itself is Discovery-Driven
Unlike Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, Tik Tok is discovery-driven. In other words, the app is built in such a way where the whole point is to discover people and video content you wouldn’t normally interact with.
When you open the app, you are taken directly to the main page, called the For You Page. Lovingly referred to by Tik Tok users as the FYP, this page is filled with both viral and non-viral videos that you might like.
Sure, you can follow specific users — and when you do, their videos will show up in your For You Page as well as your Following page — but you aren’t limited to seeing the content created by the people you follow. What does this mean for up-and-coming performers, writers, directors, comedians, singers, filmmakers, musicians, and even activists? It means that your audience reach will increase by thousands, if not millions of people.
I’ve been turning showtunes into EDM hits and pop-punk anthems for years now with the help of my boyfriend Lloyd. Before I got Tik Tok, I would post my videos to instagram and Facebook, and tap out at around 3,000 views and 300 likes per video. I started posting that same content to Tik Tok, and my Pop Punk Defying Gravity video now has 128,000 views, 23,000 likes, and 600 comments (and counting!) from people who feel seen and now want a download of the song.
But this is hardly about creating a fan base. There are people out there, trapped in quarantine, who want the song, sketch, short-film, or other content that you create. Tik Tok is an excellent way to get that content to the people who want to see and hear it most.
Share your mothafuckin’ gifts, people!
2.) Perfect Conditions for Changemaking Ideas
You may have heard in the news recently that Tik Tok users tanked Trump’s Tulsa rally. This is absolutely true. A few kids figured out that all you need to register for two free tickets to Trump’s rally was a nearby zip code and an email address. When they posted videos about it, the discovery-driven algorithm sent the video out to millions of users, who then followed suit, and then purposefully left their seats empty.
Tik Tok creates the perfect conditions for change to spread. Whether it’s the Black Lives Matter Movement, the 2020 election, Pride, or anything else, people from all over are able to share their innovative ideas and actually have a platform. Tik Tok makes it so that people are no longer limited to their inner and outer circles. The world is your stage, and your changemaking ideas come with it.
3.) Collaboration Station
Another fascinating element of Tik Tok is its inherently collaborative spirit. When you post to the app, the sound of your video gets stored in a database that can be used by other Tik Tok-ers. If this seems weird to you, don’t worry, I thought so too at first. But it’s actually really cool.
The sound from the aforementioned Defying Gravity video that I posted has been used by 17 other users so far. Although they are all mostly lipsync-ing, my music has now been blasted out to their followers and networks as well. This gets even funnier when the sounds aren’t music-based. People think of incredibly creative ways to utilize other people’s sounds. (It reminds me a lot of acting school, when we would assign different actions and tactics to the same song or line.)
The app also lets you do “duets”, where you can react to another person’s video in real time using a split-screen format. For example, theatre people will often make Tik Tok videos with the intention of being duetted — someone will say “I need an Elphaba!” and then start singing the Glinda verses of What is This Feeling. This allows thousands of different Elphabas to take their shot at duetting with the original user who posted.
4.) A Storyteller Dreamland
If you’re thinking, “But Sarah, I was never good at Vine!” Honestly, me neither. But there are tons of regular, everyday people on this app creating hilarious, inspiring, thought-provoking, and absolutely brilliant short-form videos on this app every single day.
Regular, everyday people may not know to call it storytelling, but that’s what they’re doing. Because of this app, millions of users across the world are learning in real time how to create captivating video content. And for the first time ever on social media, it’s not all about gorgeous, high-quality resolution or impeccable sound quality. So if you’re a storyteller yourself, you gotta get on board. (I will also say — I think I’ve learned more about compelling storytelling from this app in a few weeks than I ever did in any film class.)
Oh and also, people who go consistently viral on this app are now being signed by top tier acting agencies. Don’t say I didn’t tell you.
Tik Tok is the new frontier. My biggest suggestion is to download the app and get lost on the For You Page for a week or two before you create any content yourself — it’ll give you an opportunity to soak up all the different creative contributions you can make. And while you’re at it, follow me (@skleist) and let’s be friends!
I'm a New York City based web designer, brand builder, performing artist, and Tik Toker. I'm on a mission to help you realize your potential through the power of great online storytelling.
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Everyone talks about how to grow your business, but no one actually tells you how to start. After accidentally going from unemployed actor to booked-out web designer, I realized: not only did I follow a repeatable formula, but others can do this too! Let's make 2021 your year.