How To

What is TIK TOK and how it works

Shaun M Jooste


The Chinese company ByteDance bought lip-sync app in 2017. A year later, it was rebranded as TikTok and became a worldwide sensation, being downloaded over 2.6 billion times.

There’s a bit of a learning curve to know how to work TikTok, so here are some basics on what you can do and how to do it. 

What is TIK TOK and how it works

What is TikTok?

TikTok is a social media app on which users can create and share video clips no longer than 60 seconds shot on cellphones. It also gives access to songs, audio clips, and effects. The app is highly addictive, probably because of its quirky videos that are short and fun, with music and sound effects. People engage with it and use it for many different types of video clips, including memes, challenges, comedy, and more serious content.

Getting started on Tik Tok

When you first open TikTok, you’ll land on the For You page, featuring posts aimed at individual users. The tab called  Following shows posts from people you follow. On the Trending page, you’ll find Hashtags that show you popular challenges people issue and take part in. You can also search Hashtags if there’s something specific you’re looking for or if you just want to browse.

Downloading Tik Tok and opening an account

If you want to message people on Tik Tok and make and post videos, you’ll have to be 13 and older and open an account. But you don’t need one just to browse. To set up an account, you must download TikTok from the App Store or Google Play. Once it’s downloaded, you open the app and tap on Profile on the right at the bottom.

There you choose a method to sign up: with an email, phone number through Facebook, Google, or Twitter. Use only a valid email address and phone number, as you will need them to log in and recover your password. You can look at links to TikTok videos on your desktop, although there’s no official desktop version yet.

What is Tik Tok and how it works

Understanding the panel

On every TikTok video, there’s a panel of icons on the right. The top one allows you to follow the person whose video you’re watching. You can ‘like’ the video on the heart icon and place your comments on the one below it. Tapping on the icon that says record at the bottom takes you to the audio clip the video’s creator is using.

It will also show you other videos it has been used in. You can also ‘duet’ with other users on TikTok. It does this with split screens. When you’ve posted a video, hit the ‘share’ arrow to go to Duet and choose who you want to join up with. 

TikTok tips and tricks

How to shoot a TikTok video

If you tap the plus sign icon, you’ll see the camera screen. You can add sound or shoot video. You can upload a pre-recorded video longer than 15 seconds. You can access filters, effects, and timers. You can choose how long your video should be just above the pink record button before you tape it. You can choose to make a 15 second, 60 second, or three-minute or shorter video.

Here are some sites to visit with guides that cover just about everything you need to know about Tik Tok.

TikTok challenges

TikTok users collaborate and add to other users’ videos. If you want to see how it works, look at the Yee Yee Juice challenge: a user drinks a juice and changes into a cowgirl or cowboy. There are many challenges on TikTok and the move fast.

Business via TikTok

TikTok marketing is a rapidly growing field in which advertisers reach a desirable youthful market. Old-style advertising that focuses on a product’s superior qualities doesn’t cut it. Fun campaigns set to music do. Some successful TikTok marketing campaigns include:

  • The “Boorito” coupon giveaway Chipotle restaurant chain Halloween campaign encouraged TikTok users to dress up and post their images. It gained four billion views.
  • The NBA opened an account and has gained more than 12 million followers so far. It wants to increase global awareness of the NBA, especially among the youth.

Have fun with your audience

TikTok is a wildly popular platform for making videos, communicating with people, and issuing and responding to challenges. It’s so popular that people have downloaded it billions of times. Getting on the bandwagon can be great fun.

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