Opinion | How to become TikTok famous, according to the experts

Take notes, amateurs.

Maria Grenyo, Contributing Columnist

Your dance moves, your comedy or your cooking abilities might be stellar, but no matter how much effort you put into a TikTok, it still might flop. One of your videos might get thousands of likes, and the next you’ve dwindled back into a nobody. 

I’m sure you can dance, you’re funny and maybe you’ve made the best feta pasta yet, but none of that matters if no one interacts with your TikTok. The more likes, comments and shares you get, the more people will see your video. But how do you make that happen? Let’s figure out a few steps you can take to get your TikTok to catch on.

“That’s the million dollar question…’How do we go viral?” said Dr. Nick Brody, an associate professor of communication studies at The University of Puget Sound.

Well, Brody said, it’s complicated.

“That mix of it being the right trend at the right time, getting the right number of views and likes at the exact right time for the algorithm to pick it up and distribute it to everyone’s for you page, that’s almost impossible to predict,” he said. 

However, Brody added that viral TikToks “often…speak to a broader trend.” He said the feta pasta trend was popular because people are cooking at home more now due to COVID-19, so new recipes are always welcome.

Brody thinks TikTok has filled people’s need to be distracted. 

“Oftentimes technology serves as an escape,” Brody said. “We watch TV shows, we watch movies to escape the world around us. Many people are consuming TikTok and scrolling for hours and hours on TikTok as an escape.”

2020 was an awful year, which is why Brody thinks a lot of people latched onto TikTok.

“TikTok is one outlet that allows us to feel like we can get out of the world, forget about our hardships for just a little bit and be entertained,” Brody said.

Brody believes that TikTok brings people together and even strengthens relationships. “We share TikToks with each other to show we understand each other. If we send a TikTok to somebody and they think it’s funny, that’s a signal to them that we care about our relationship, that we have shared ground, that we understand each other, and that we know each other really well. It’s a way of maintaining that friendship.”

We can add a couple of things to our TikTok checklist now. Does your TikTok distract people from the world around them? Does it speak to something bigger? Is the trend still relevant? Will the algorithm pick it up? Does it make people want to share it?

One of the more confusing aspects of TikTok is how the algorithm works.

“TikTok uses AI, and once you click a video and like it, it learns something about you,” said Naresh Sehgal, vice president of cloud engineering at Novasignal. “You only have to select one movie, after that it selects for you.”

Sehgal developed an app for the company Novasignal that gives doctors data on patients that might be thousands of miles away. Novasignal technology uses ultrasound headsets to detect blood flow activity to see if people have had strokes. The app allows doctors to see the information from the headsets, diagnose patients from anywhere, and save lives. 

Even though his app is meant for doctors and TikTok is meant for entertainment, Seghal knows how to make a good app. 

According to Sehgal, the three steps to making a good app are understanding your audience, building a platform that can reach millions quickly and allowing unlimited content creation. Sehgal believes that TikTok has accomplished all of these goals, which is why it has become so popular. 

He explained that he used the same techniques when developing his app, “understanding the audience, what their needs are, what their problems are.” 

In this same way, if you’re creating videos on TikTok, you also have to understand your audience. 

Let’s add a couple more items to the checklist. Is your TikTok something that people will interact with? Will they like it, comment, and even share it to a friend, or maybe many friends? Have the people seeing your video liked similar videos in the past? Will the TikTok algorithm work properly and put your video on the for you pages of people who will actually enjoy it?

If I knew the answer to going viral, I would tell you. TikTok itself says that videos are put on people’s FYPs based on their past video interactions. 

Maybe the reason you’re not going viral yet is because you’ve made the first video of its kind—something where no one has liked something similar yet. TikTok wouldn’t know whose FYP to put it on! 

Maybe you just posted your TikTok at the wrong time, and the target audience didn’t get the chance to see it. 

Maybe you’re posting something right at the beginning or end of a trend that hasn’t caught on yet or that’s already over.

You probably will never know the exact reason, but that doesn’t mean giving up. I post on TikTok maybe once every few months, and I think they’re hilarious. I haven’t gone viral yet. It would be cool if I did, but I don’t mind if I don’t. I keep making them because I just think it’s a fun way to pass some time. Plus, I can send my TikToks to my own friends, which are the true target audience.

If you want to go viral, keep coming up with ideas and keep posting, because the algorithm seems a lot more random and unpredictable than you might think. If you think about it too much, you’ll just get caught in an endless cycle of posting and checking for likes. It’s better to see TikTok as a fun way to express yourself instead of a way to get famous.