So you’re wondering how to go viral on TikTok, huh? Well, I don’t blame you! It’s the social media platform everyone can’t stop talking about, and the app has experienced tremendous growth since quarantine started. It’s no longer a place where pre-teens do silly dances and lipsync, but a community where people of all ages share a variety of content on anything from goofy dog vids, to life as an astronaut, to how to trade a bobby pin for a house. Any type of content can succeed on the platform, which is part of what makes it so fun.
The first thing you need to know is that in its current state, TikTok is a meritocracy that gives every video a chance by showing it to a small audience on the For You Page (FYP). Yes, even if you have 0 followers. If your video performs well with this small group, TikTok will continue to push it out to more people that they think will like it. Because of this, typically you can tell in the first hour or two if you have a viral video on your hands.
While I just joined TikTok 3 months ago, I’ve personally had over 14 Million video views in the past 30 days, which is why I’m here to help you learn how to go viral on TikTok. I’ve spent the past 4 years geeking out over social media analytics and organic growth trends.
Alright, so how do you go viral on TikTok? Here are my best tips:
1. Kick your video off with a bang
Tiktok is a fast paced app where you have to grab people’s attention quickly before they swipe past your video to watch other content. If there’s no action till the end, most people won’t watch. Set the tone and topic of the video within the first few seconds so that people understand what they’re watching.
2. When deciding on video length, keep it as short as possible
Unless you’re telling a lengthy story that actually requires a full minute of video, I’d suggest keeping your clips short and to the point. Tiktok looks at the average length of watch time compared to the length of the video as a method of evaluating quality. You’re more likely to have people watch 8 seconds of a 10-second video than 48 seconds of a minute-long one.
3. Record your own audio
Listen, we all know that our phones and apps have the power to hear what we’re saying, and make decisions (ie show us ads) based on that audio. TikTok wants to show your content to the right audience, and will use all the tools you give it to learn what your video is about, and show it to the proper people. You can do this in your caption or hashtags, which I’ll address later, but by using a voiceover on your video, you’re giving them significantly more keywords and information on what your video is about for them to be able to show your content to the right audience.
4. Use trending music or sounds
Whether you decide to do a voiceover or not, it’s worth always including trending music in your videos. You can certainly choose your own songs, but TikTok is a social platform where people feed off the trends, so it’s just substantially more likely that you’ll do well if you use current trending songs. Always layer a song quietly in the background with a voiceover too.
*Pro-Tip* If you do want to use your own song, and TikTok won’t allow it, you can just upload with your own audio, select a song, and set that second song to 0 volume.
5. Tell a story
Yes, dances can go viral, but stories are more likely to. Let’s be real, unless you’re a wonderfully talented or hilariously bad dancer, your dance videos aren’t likely to go viral on TikTok. For us regular folks that weren’t blessed by the gods of rhythm, we’re more likely to go viral by telling an interesting and compelling story. The story can be anything. It can be something interesting that happened in your life, something random that happened during your day, a project you did, anything. Just tell a story, and keep the plot flowing quickly.
6. Share tips, advice, favorite things
People also love learning on TikTok, so if you have expertise in a certain subject, create informational videos to help people learn more about it. Quick bullet point videos work great for these, with text over the screen guiding the user through the mini-lesson. Likewise, people love shopping on TikTok, so sharing favorite products is also a surprisingly easy way to gain traction (and monetize).
7. Always have a strong call to action
I think this is probably one of the most important things that will not only help make a video go viral but also help you grow your following. What good are 5 Million views on a video if you only get 2000 followers from it? First of all, when TikTok sees lots of people commenting, liking, or following a video, they will naturally push it out to more people. Because of this, it’s great to have a call to action in your caption and/or at the end of your video such as “like for part 2”, “follow for more”, or “don’t let this flop”. You obviously have to have a compelling video to make this work, but adding a strong CTA on a video can be the difference between 2M views with 2K new followers and 9M views with 40k new followers. I’d suggest having your CTA be at least a few seconds long so that people have time to follow you before moving onto the next video.
8. Include random details for people to comment on
If I learned anything from my biggest viral video, it’s that people love commenting on random things in the video. The video is about crossing the US/Canadian border, but I randomly mentioned bagels at one point and got so many comments on cream cheese and the quality of my bagels and where my bagels were from. People love spotting little details, that aren’t the main focus of the video, and commenting on them. Like I mentioned earlier, the more comments you can get, the more likely you are to go viral. So the more random details you can give people to comment on, the more likely you are to get comments. An easy one is to wear something cool/weird in your video and everyone will ask where it’s from, but you could do this in so many different ways.
9. Leave some questions unanswered
This is key to get comments, which will in turn help you go viral on TikTok. If you’re posting a video and you can think of an obvious question people will have – DO NOT EXPLAIN IT. This will lead to a ton of comments and help your video perform well.
10. Do something slightly controversial
Again, commenting drives virality, so if you can have anything controversial, this will help. People honestly love to give their two cents on things on the internet. You don’t need to be doing anything wrong, but if there is a topic that people are particularly divided on, like how much cream cheese is appropriate on a bagel, is ketchup on eggs acceptable (literally small silly things!) they will jump in and comment their opinion on it. At the end of the day – EMBRACE YOUR HATERS & love them – they will make you go viral on TikTok.
11. Be relatable, aspirational, or hateable ?
If your video is one of these three things, you will inevitably get people commenting on it.
12. Make it so that some parts of the video need to be rewatched
While this might seem counterintuitive, there are benefits to having a video where some parts are too fast for someone to read, watch, or understand on the first viewing. For example, if the text is too fast to read, someone will likely rewatch the video to re-read the text, and maybe pause at that point. When they do this, they’re spending more time on your video and signaling to the algorithm that it’s a better video, which will in turn get TikTok to show it to more people.
13. Have text on the opening video frame
By starting your video with text over the first slide, viewers in the FYP will likely spend a few seconds reading this and therefore naturally and stay on the video for a few seconds longer than a video without text. Not only is this good for average watch time in the algorithm, but you also will more likely retain some of these viewers if you have a compelling story.
14. Don’t use #FYP, #foryou, or other generic hashtags
I’m not convinced that hashtags are always beneficial or not, but what I am positive about is that #FYP, #foryou, and other wildly generic hashtags will do nothing. Use niche tags, or don’t use any at all. If you have a super niche video, niche hashtags can sometimes help TikTok serve your video to the right crowd. However, if you’re posting something that would appeal to a variety of people across the platform, it’s best to not pigeonhole it with hashtags and let the algorithm serve and decide who it should be shown to.
15. Reply to all your comments
The more comments on a video, the more likely it is to go viral. This works especially well if you can engage with commenters and get them to continue commenting on your video. However, if you have a video that is going viral on TikTok and you are replying to comments, don’t go too fast or you’ll get blocked. I was blocked from commenting on any videos for more than 24 hours when I replied to comments too quickly and this became very frustrating since I love my haters and wanted to reply to them ?
16. Post frequently
At the end of the day, going viral on TikTok is a numbers game. The more often you post, the more likely you are to have a video go viral. Don’t skimp on quality, but if you push yourself to consistently push out videos, not only will your videos probably get better, but you’ll be more likely to have one of them go viral on TikTok.
17. Don’t stick to a niche right away
On TikTok, anything can go viral (even a video of cutting an avocado) and if you niche down too early, you’re pigeonholing yourself into one audience on TikTok. I’d suggest making a variety of content when you start out, playing around with different formats and topics. When you figure out what people like to see, and what you like to make, then double down on that! Even after that, you can continue to try new types of content, and see what works.
18. If you’re talking about a specific product, don’t link it right away
If you’re doing a product review and trying to monetize your video via affiliate links, I know it’s especially tempting to drop the product link in the comments right away. However, by not dropping the link, you’re more likely to get people commenting asking where it’s from, or asking for the link, which will in turn help you video gain traction and go viral on TikTok.
19. Spend at least 15-30 mins a day watching videos on the FYP
While it might be tempting to be efficient and only come into TikTok to post your video before dipping out to do other things, I think it’s important to spend a little each day watching videos on the FYP. This will help you get new ideas and keep up with the current trends, which are very relevant to stay on top of to create top-performing content.
20. KEEP AT IT!!
I think it takes most people at least a month to figure out their style on TikTok, and how to make videos work well, so if you don’t go viral right away, don’t give up and keep trying!
Alright – those are all my tips for how to go viral on TikTok for now! Thank you for coming to my TedTalk lol. I’ll share updates here as I figure out new things that work 🙂 Let me know if you agree or have other ideas in the comments!