Once you have a product, distributing it becomes the next challenge for any entrepreneur. At TRASH (one-tap video editing), we looked to TikTok as a potential marketing channel. As early learnings started to roll in, we decided to share what’s going on inside this exploding and mysterious beast.
Part 1: Leveraging TikTok for growth
The advantage of having a deep tech company that uses AI to help speed the process of editing video is that we can do it for “free.” This is pretty cool when you consider that editing a semi-pro video will run you a minimum of $1,500 and six hours in post-production. When we started working on distribution and how to hack our CAC (customer acquisition costs), TikTok was first.
When posting to TikTok, there are three key areas to pay attention to:
• What contributes to your authority score
• The review process and making it to the For You Page
• Making better content (and what you might be doing wrong)
The most critical part of posting to TikTok is your authority ranking, which is: “how much of an influencer are you?” Your authority ranking is directly tied to your verticals (the styles you’re making videos in).
What contributes to your authority ranking
- New accounts. Like your Uber five-star passenger rating, every post you make contributes to your score.
- Multiple accounts. TikTok allows for multiple accounts, but pro tip: multiple accounts from one phone will flag you as a business account and like many platforms, they’ll de-prioritize you unless you’re a paying advertiser. If you’re giving some of these things a try, limit your account login to one device.
- The first five videos you post. TikTok wants you to create types of videos that stay in the same vertical. So if you are making meme videos in your first five, TikTok will basically say, “this is a meme account.” So, the first five are critical: you need to have a plan and focus.
- Verticality. TikTok doesn’t want you being experimental. Pick a content vertical and stay with it. Content that varies or doesn’t have a specific theme won’t weigh well. If you start to make videos that fall into a different category, it’s like starting over because you don’t have authority on that vertical yet.
- Views. If your videos get 100 or fewer views, you’re going to have a zombie account, so delete and start again. Videos that get between 1000–3000 views mean you have a mid-tier account. Videos that get 10,000+ views mean you have a "head" account.
- Viewing completion. This is one of the most important factors. Your video needs to be viewed from start to finish to count for this metric. The key things that help with this are:
- Short videos. Videos can be up to 60 seconds long, but TikTok recommends to their advertisers that they be 9–15 seconds (the internet thinks the average length of a TikTok is 30 seconds).
- Looping videos. If the video is watched repeatedly, then its Completion Ratio will be over 100% and will increase the overall performance rating of the video. A common practice is to create seamless loops in the video so that viewers are tricked into watching it multiple times.
- Format. Often there will be a challenge format with a punchline at the end. People understand this format so they’ll stick around to see the punchline.
- Matching action to music. Always more satisfying to watch.
The review process and making it to FYP
So, now that you know all the ways you can eff up your authority score, have a plan for the type of account you want to create and created five killer videos, you’re ready to start posting. Here’s what happens next, including how to get coveted FYP (For You Page).
- Authority-based automatic distribution. Based on your score, your video goes out to a geo-local network of about 300–500 viewers. At this point, there are no real checks on your content.
- Integrity-based AI review and data collection. Shortly after this initial fan-out to a few hundred people, it’s being checked frame-by-frame by an AI for inappropriate content, copyright issues, etc. It’s then given a new weighting (integrity rating) and is either de-listed or distributed again.
- Delayed explosion. This is one of the biggest differences between TikTok and other platforms and where you have a second chance of getting onto your FYP. Delayed explosion is why you should carefully consider deleting old content, regardless of how well or poorly it did before. Periodically (it’s unclear what timescale this happens on, it could be weeks or months), TikTok hides the publish date of content on the FYP. TikTok will test your older content and restart a cycle that looks something like: a small batch of content for about two hours; then a medium batch where the AI is looking at the key metrics that feed into your authority rating; finally a large batch that includes your integrity rating (no “bad” content or content they consider “bad”). At this point, it shows something like, “hey, we’re a top 5% video.”
- Human review. A human reviewer will see the video with these scores and decide if it has the potential to be a super-viral video. They’ll also double-check for copyright and “bad” content that may have slipped past the AI in step two. To be promoted to the FYP, the content must fit TikTok’s (and as a Beijing-based company, inevitably China’s) idea of what is nice and popular in the geo-local region. Common things that have been noticed are people who represent conventional beauty standards (though this may also be algorithmic bias trained on human bias), no strong political opinions (unless they’re joking or meme-y in nature in certain countries only… though probably not Winnie The Pooh) and no violations of the most reactive local social norms. There’s definitely a degree of… homogeneity going on here. This might offer some insight into why TikTok wants you to create content that’s based on copying? It makes it easier to review and stick to the format of not just what “works” (ie. is going viral) but what aligns with their opinions of what is okay.
This vid says it all.
Making better content (and what you might be doing wrong!)
Pick a format. Because verticalization is key to your authority score, you need to pick a format and work within it. If you want to have different personalities, use different accounts. This will boost your authority score as well as help with gaining followers because their expectations will be set for the type of content you make. Examples of vertices that do well are comedy, memes, dance, vlogs, creation/DIY and hacks.
Copy the format. TikTok encourages many forms of co-creation such as reactions, collaboration/remix and mimicking. This has created formats, trends and memes throughout the platform. Rather than seen as ripping off other creators, audiences enjoy trends and become inspired to create their own version. TikTokers like Charli D’amelio create unofficial choreography for pop songs and just copying those dance moves can send a song to the top of the charts. The next iconic dances like "Thriller," "Single Ladies" or "Gangam Style" will be created by someone who may have no real connection or ownership to the original song.
In general, Gen Z is known for being less “solo” in their pursuits than Millennials. We think this collaborative approach to creation is a sign of the times not just for social entertainment, but the next wave of creation tools and platforms. Know your music: songs are one of the best ways to get people to understand your meme content. A lot of viewers will already know what your content is going to be about just based on the song, so picking the right song for the format you want to copy is key — this can’t be an afterthought and might be a place you’re going wrong!
Get ready to sell. If Instagram is QVC for Millennials, TikTok is the line outside the Supreme store for Gen Z. Instead of glossy, in-your-face advertisements for fitness and beauty, the shopping is going to be more “authentic” and narrative. Shoppable video is already a major thing in Asia and it’s reportedly being tested on TikTok to come to the rest of the world soon.
We suspect Gen Z will simply treat Amazon like the Google Search of Stuff & Things and the new social platforms become the virtual mall. We also suspect TikTok will weigh shoppable content more highly in the FYP algo because money.
What’s it going to look like? We don’t know, but maybe something like this:
Mockup of what we might be in for (this is not real!)
Read the conclusion to this post, "How TikTok decides who to make famous," on Extra Crunch.