TikTok is where many people discover music in 2022, so we’re sharing the ultimate guide for getting noticed there.
A guest post by James Shotwell of Haulix.
TikTok is here to stay. Within a few short years, the wildly successful video sharing platform has become one of the world’s most popular apps, surpassing Facebook and Instagram in 2021 as the most used app in the United States. TikTok has become known for its ability to take complete unknowns and catapult them in front of millions overnight, all thanks to an insanely well-tuned algorithm. For all the gripes and criticism people may have, TikTok seems to be the one place online where truly anyone can have a chance at digital success.
But let’s be honest. You’ve probably tried creating TikTok content with mediocre results, or you’ve avoided making anything because you’re unsure how to start. Either way, it’s fine!
Starting a new platform is scary, especially when you understand how beneficial that service can potentially be for your career.
First thing’s first—If you haven’t started posting to TikTok yet, now is the time.
Don’t know what you’re doing? No problem! Nobody does at first.
The only person expecting you to be a TikTok perfectionist is you!
Got it? Okay! Let’s begin.
What Counts As A View On TikTok?
Each platform counts views in different ways. TikTok keeps it simple. From the second your video plays, it’s considered a view. There is no minimum watch time beyond that initial, split-second engagement.
Watching your own video on replay 100x over does not generate 100 views. TikTok doesn’t count views from your own account.
I see a lot of accounts using #FYP and #ForYouPage hashtags. Do I need to do that?
No evidence using #FYP or #ForYouPage increases the likelihood of a video receiving widespread distribution exists. Here is a TikTok from social media guru Jack Appleby explaining the uselessness of these hashtags:
What kind of videos work best for [insert your niche here] musicians?
The answer could be anything, and that is why TikTok is beloved by millions. There is no one way to engage with users, build an audience, or promote your art. Some musicians strictly share high-quality, polished clips on their TikTok, and others post raw demos almost daily. Certain artists barely post music, such as Doja Cat, but that doesn’t mean her content isn’t helping her streams or ticket sales. Personality will get you far on the internet, and that is particularly true on TikTok.
If you’re not getting any views on your TikToks, be patient and don’t give up. TikTok is all about trial and error. Finding your groove can take time. With the following tips and a consistent posting schedule, you’ll start to see the views rise. We believe in you.
Optimizing Your Content For The ‘For You’ Page
The goal of every TikTok user is to get featured on the app’s For You page (otherwise known as FYP). The FYP is your homepage on the app, and it algorithmically curates an endless feed of content tailored to your interests.
The For You page is great because anyone can be featured, and we mean anyone. TikTok’s unique distribution system gives every video a chance at going viral, so any great piece of content may be the thing that changes your life forever.
Still, it’s best to hedge your bets by optimizing your content for FYP distribution. Some ways to do this include:
- Use relevant keywords or hashtags in your captions
- Be consistent in your niche
- Use trending audio
- Prioritize shorter videos (Although TikTok allows videos up to several minutes in length, the average watch time per user per clip is much shorter. One report found users watched between 3 and 5 seconds, on average, before moving on.)
- Post at optimal times (Our friends at Later have a fantastic guide to finding the best time for your content)
Engage With Users And Content In Your Niche
The best compliment anyone can pay TikTok is that it has cultivated a space where every niche has a place, and there is room for every niche. No matter what you make or how you sound, an audience is waiting for you on TikTok. The problem is finding them.
If you know your niche, think about what content they’d want to see and the type of creators they would likely follow. Once you have a list, start searching for and engaging with that content. Follow the creators that already exist in your niche, and be sure to comment on their clips. Start building these relationships by merely being present, and in time, you will find you’ve become part of a supportive community that is eager for your next post.
Don’t shy away from trending sounds and effects, even those with music
Someone will read this guide and scoff at the idea of using someone else’s song to promote their content. “I’m not Dua Lipa,” they’ll think, “what could “Levitate” ever do for me?
Studies have shown that one of the best ways to get more views on TikTok is by following popular trends on the platform. That includes the use of sounds and effects.
There’s a theory among some TikTokers that adding a trending sound to your video — even at a low volume — will trick the algorithm into showing your content to more people.
Whether or not that is proven to be true, it makes sense. TikTok’s algorithm wants to show users more of the content they already love, so using videos that share the same sound or effect would likely fall under that umbrella.
Always use keywords in your captions (even if it feels obvious)
TikTok has an incredible search functionality designed to quickly connect users with the content and creators they want to discover. That means writing relevant captions using descriptive keywords can greatly impact your content’s discoverability.
Let’s use heavy metal as an example. Many people may assume heavy metal has no place on TikTok, but that is not true. Heavy metal has a thriving community on TikTok, but users are not likely to stumble upon it blindly. Those hoping to see heavy metal content will need to search for it, meaning they’ll likely use terms such as “heavy metal” and “heavy metal music” to see what creators and creations exist on the app.
Andrew Baena uses TikTok to promote his band Carcosa without using their music.
For artists, this presents an opportunity for an easy win. By describing your music and style in the captions of your content, you open yourself up to discovery from users seeking out new content. It’s a match made in heaven opportunity available to anyone smart enough to describe themselves in every caption.
Here are some simple examples of how a heavy metal act might caption their TikTok content:
- “Looking for brutal heavy metal? Check out our new song, “TITLE GOES HERE”!”
- “Where are our fellow metalheads at?”
- “We wrote this song with mosh pits in mind. Any heavy metal fans coming to [insert festival performance]?”
- “We’re a heavy metal band from [insert your hometown], and this is our story.”
As you can see, each caption uses keywords and phrases that heavy metal fans are likely to search.
Short videos often perform best. Here’s why:
Watching full videos is a strong indicator of interest, especially when they loop so well that viewers watch them multiple times. That is why TikTok’s algorithm emphasizes shorter videos. The app may allow for videos up to 10 minutes in length, but most users—new accounts in particular—are more likely to see higher viewership with shorter videos.
This is a great example of a short video with a looping sound that can easily trick viewers into multiple repeat viewings.
At the bare minimum, experts say videos need at least three seconds of average viewership to get an algorithmic boost. Design your video so that viewers feel compelled to watch at least that long.
It bears repeating: Post valuable content
When considering what to post on TikTok, ask yourself the following questions:
- What do I like to watch on TikTok?
- What would make me want to listen to an artist?
- What would make me not want to listen to an artist?
- How do I sell myself to someone whose never heard my music?
- What are other artists in my niche doing? Would something similar work for me?
- Do I find this entertaining?
Independent artist Nic D found success on TikTok by posting short performances of his music in public places. His TikTok is filled with videos of him performing in nail salons, restaurants, city streets, mountain tops, and virtually anywhere else can name. For music, Nic uses specific clips from his songs repeatedly to emphasize their catchiness. Here’s an example:
The answers you come up with will serve as the basis for your initial content offerings. Finding major success may take time, but that’s okay. TikTok is a platform that encourages experimentation. If your first few videos don’t land the way you hope, pivot and try something else. If the results still don’t match expectations, try another idea. Repeat that process until something clicks, then make the most of that momentum.
Remember: Entertainment is key to TikTok success. If your video isn’t engaging, people won’t watch.
Cross-promote on other platforms
There was a time when social media gurus told us that cross-platform promotion was bad. “Tweets are for Twitter,” they would say to us, but that is no longer the case.
Today, the biggest accounts on Instagram are filled with memes utilizing Twitter screenshots for content. The biggest tweets often contain viral TikTok or noteworthy Instagram posts.
Everything worth posting on one platform is worth considering for others.
Sharing your TikTok videos to Instagram Stories or Twitter (with a clear call-to-action that encourages viewers to check out your TikTok channel) is a great tactic to get more eyes on your content. It ensures your fans are aware of your new account while also showcasing the unique content it can provide. Sharing your TikToks elsewhere may also spark unintended viral success. Who knows? Anything is possible!
James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company’s podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.