5 Tips to Get Started On TikTok in 2020

Robert Michael Murray
12 min readDec 20, 2019

How brands, celebrities, and marketers can rock the next social frontier

“Okay, boomer!” Huh, what? What’s a boomer? “And I oop … sksksksk?!?!” What does that even mean? What’s a VSCO girl? “Peppa, what are you doing?” Wait, why is an animated pig being caught in so many awkward places?

Ever feel like you’re listening to a song and you don’t understand the lyrics? You’re not alone. For many, that’s how 2019 has felt. Terminology from a new short video-based social media platform has become some of the most searched terms in Google’s Year in Search.

Over the past 6 months, brands, celebrities, and marketers have started to flock to TikTok which has captured the imagination of more than a billion active users around the globe.


A major reason driving the adoption of TikTok by brands, celebrities, and marketers is 60% of users are under the age of 30 — consisting of both Gen-Z and Millennials they currently make up the largest generational group with an estimated buying power of $1.4 trillion in 2020.

Another reason brands, celebrities, and marketers are jumping on the platform is the algorithm can make anyone’s video can go viral regardless of the number of followers the account may have. That means it’s a great place to be discovered and grow an audience.

Now that you have some understanding as to why so many brands, celebrities, and marketers have been flocking to TikTok. Here is some background on the platform itself and 5 tips to help grow your audience on TikTok in 2020.

What the heck is TikTok?

TikTok is a social video platform that enables users to share short videos of themselves lip-syncing, dancing, pranking, or performing other comedic acts. What makes TikTok stand out over other platforms is the ease in which it can turn any and all users into a creator. This is best seen in its “Duet” feature. Think of it like remixing a song. Users can take a video from another creator and record a video that then plays alongside the original video. It’s this ability, and more, which is attracting brands, celebrities, and marketers to join.

TikTok is undergoing incredible growth, here are a few stats to consider:

These are reported, tracked, and estimated stats from TikTok and other industry observers and analysts.

As you can see by these top-level numbers the platform is interactive, collaborative, and downright addictive. In fact, one of the most exciting aspects of the platform is that it enables everyone to be a creator — 83% of TikTok users have posted a video. There are three main ways brands, celebrities, and marketers can use TikTok:

  • creating their own TikTok accounts and regularly post videos.
  • working with creators to create unique pieces of content and/or to share their content with a broader audience. This may be done by reaching out and working directly with creators or using TikTok’s Creator Marketplace.
  • leveraging TikTok’s paid advertising products to promote campaigns, drive e-commerce purchases, encourage participation, etc. Since the platform is relatively new they are constantly testing and releasing new ad-related products with brands, celebrities, and marketers willing to experiment.

Currently, most brands, celebrities, and marketers are combining these approaches and testing to see what resonates best with their audience(s) and will drive the greatest direct and indirect value for their efforts.

Five ways to rock TikTok:

1. Its culture and community is unique — embrace it

TikTok is a community. It has norms and customs. Its culture is different from other platforms. What works on Instagram, may not work on TikTok. And vice versa. Take the time to poke around. Look beyond what creators are doing to see how and why they’re doing it. Knowing the community and embracing it will help you understand where you fit in.

You’ll see goofy, quirky content from creators that will make you watch their videos more than once, all the while asking “what am I watching?” You’ll see cringe-worthy videos, which will make you embarrassingly ask “why did I just watch that?” It’s all there. From lip-synching to dancing and challenges to duets, there are so many ways to participate in the community it’ll be easy to find what works for you — this is why TikTok is addictive.

#ProTip: If you haven’t created an account yet, download the app but don’t create an account. And then spend a few days opening the app at different times and explore what’s happening inside. Watch videos in your “For You” feed, explore hashtag challenges, and search for accounts you’re interested in (and see who they’re following). TikTok allows you to experience the content without registering. You won’t be able to do things like heart or comment, but the app also won’t fully customize based on your behaviors meaning you’ll experience a wider variety of content.

And most importantly, as you poke around TikTok you’ll start to learn the dos and don’ts. Don’t turn off comments. Or restrict your videos from being downloaded. Don’t simply turn on duets, but actively ask your fans to duet your videos. If you employ an idea from another creator or use their audio, don’t ignore the original creator, credit them. Otherwise doing these things will make it seem as though as a brand, celebrity, or marketer that you’re just on TikTok to broadcast your content.

However, by opening up your content for others to engage with, showing you know and honor the norms and customs, and by participating in the various memes, trends, and hashtag challenges you’ll show not only your audience but the larger TikTok community that you’re right there with them. That you respect and know the community.

Here are a handful of examples of brands, celebrities, and marketers showing that they’re embracing the quirkiness of the platform (Note: clicking the examples will take you away from this article to the TikTok website.):

2. It’s not about perfection—jump in

The single biggest reason why many people don’t start creating videos is that they seek perfection. People think they need high-quality produced videos. They think they need great lighting or a professional-level camera to create content — which simply isn’t true.

What the popularity of TikTok has shown is that it’s the actual content of the video that matters most, not the production. Millions now see the goofy things we do when we’re in front of bathroom mirrors or driving around town alone in our cars. So while you may want your videos to look a certain way (and it’s okay if you do take the time and effort), it’s not necessary — and honestly, it’s best just to get started.

Decide what you want to post and record it whenever or wherever you can. Brands can do this by having a brand personality or group of employees show off a talent, sing a song, own the dance floor, crack a joke or two, lipsynch movie dialogue, or just anything. Participating is more important than perfection.

Here are a variety of ways brands, celebrities, and marketers are jumping in:

3. Take a chance and experiment — be fearless

If you spend enough time on TikTok you’ll see some of the weirdest and funniest things you’ve ever come across. It may even make you question if you can do that stuff? As was shared above you should absolutely participate in the community by jumping in on memes, trends, and hashtag challenges, but you should never feel constrained.

Don’t be afraid. Take chances. And do so by taking the time to observe and learn from others. Find your peer brands or popular creators and watch what they are doing — track their public metrics to see what’s working and what isn’t. Spend some time looking at not just their new content, but go back and see how their content has evolved over time. See which videos have stood out from the others; look for patterns that may help you with your efforts.

To do this, look at the number of views a post is getting. Next look at the number of hearts/likes, comments, and shares. Then ask the following questions: a) Are people watching the video?; and b) Is the video causing their audience to interact/engage? If the answer is “yes” to both then think about what is causing those results. Is it the creator? Is it the subject matter? Is it the locations or production style?

Conducting peer reviews such as these enable brands, celebrities, and marketers to discover what is working for others and why it’s working. You’ll discover memes or hashtag challenges that you can incorporate into your own content offerings. And you’ll see content that is truly unique to that brand or creator and it won’t work for you. Ultimately, you’ll start to gain a feel for what to offer your audience and what you’re open to experimenting with.

Here are some ways brands, celebrities, and marketers are being fearless and experimenting:

4. Make your content discoverable — hashtag it

As TikTok’s rapid growth continues and more and more brands, celebrities, and marketers join, finding your content will become increasingly more difficult. Hashtags are essential on any social media but hashtags are critical on TikTok. They drive challenges, memes, and even storytelling. But most importantly they drive discoverability — the ability for others to find your content.

TikTok allows limited character length for captions, so keep your text short and try to add 4–6 hashtags. Two to three hashtags should be directly related to your video, and the others should tie into more general hashtag categories like #tiktoktravel. Be careful, avoid hashtag-jacking — the practice of using unrelated popular or trending hashtags to try to gain exposure for your posts. This looks like a desperate attempt to be seen and may turn off your fans.

Additionally, TikTok looks for certain “hot words.” Think about words related to human anatomy, sexual intercourse, curse or hate words, or other words that may be deemed inappropriate for some audiences. If you use these words in your captions they may get your videos flagged and removed. If one of your videos is removed take a look at your caption to see if it includes a word that might have been flagged (e.g., we’ve seen a cooking video taken down for using the word “breast” in the caption of a chicken dish being cooked).

Instead of examples, here’s a case study by The Drum with a deeper dive into how a brand used a paid hashtag challenge, custom interactive augmented reality (AR) lens, and TikTok creators to promote a campaign.

Case Study: The Colgate-Palmolive brand launched a hashtag challenge called “Smile Challenge” to promote how optimism can be converted into action and that a smile reflects one’s optimism. The campaign covered India, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and the Philippines for over six days. Colgate introduced a customized smile sticker that can detect and virtually score the TikTok user’s smile. To seed the campaign the brand invited 100 TikTok content creators in the five countries to film and upload videos for the challenge, encouraging their followers to upload their own versions of the challenge. The “Smile Challenge” campaign produced 1.6M user-generated videos, 2.5B total video views. For the music, it said there were 53,000 videos generated by users and 26M video views in total. Learn more …

5. Your audience matters — engage them

Everything you’re doing on TikTok is about the audience. You’re trying to build a following on the platform, as well as, strengthen your interactions with them. Getting them to know you. Getting them wanting to engage with you on and off TikTok. So don’t just broadcast at them or treat them as passive fans, set time aside to engage them. To develop and nurture relationships.

Decide on an engagement strategy by setting aside time to watch the community’s videos — and not just the accounts you follow. Determine what type of things you’re looking for, what you value most, and how best to show creators that they’ve caught your attention or even moved you to comment or share. By engaging their posts you not only help to get their videos seen by more people, but you may also inspire them to action by the surprise and delight of your heart, comment, or follow.

#ProTip: don’t simply heart/like a post without watching the entire video, if you do so it could negatively impact that creator’s content by getting their content flagged by the platform as though it’s automated or inauthentic engagement behavior that may be happening to that particular video or creators. It could impact the spread of their videos or even impact the creator’s overall account.

On your own videos, try to interact with as many meaningful comments as possible and even occasionally reply to a Direct Message (DM) or two. Interact with them and talk to them about your content, ask for feedback and work to improve in those areas. When you are interacting with your audience, TikTok rewards that behavior in a variety of ways.

Here are a handful of examples of how brands, celebrities, and marketers are engaging individual creators and the larger TikTok community:

Yes, all of this can be a little overwhelming. TikTok can feel like a completely different world with its quirks and emerging terminology. But it’s just like every social platform that has come before it. It’s a community of highly-passionate creators expressing themselves and connecting with others from around the world. You’ll catch on, really quick — promise. At the very least, if you’re a brand, celebrity, or marketer get on the platform and start listening to what’s being said about you and protect your intellectual property by registering your account name(s).

Are you looking to learn more about TikTok? If you’re a brand, celebrity, or marketer interested in a briefing on TikTok or building out a strategy or campaign for the platform please don’t hesitate to contact CMPFYR.

For more than two decades, Robert Michael Murray has been a leader in digital communications, emerging + social technologies, and innovation across a variety of sectors for major brands, agencies, and public figures. Currently, he serves as a partner at CMPFYR leading their efforts to help creators, brands, and agencies deliver digital and social solutions that drive greater value and experiences audiences love. He speaks regularly around the globe on topics ranging from pervasive to persuasive technologies; the power and limitations of media; digital and transmedia storytelling; and the varied ways in which technology intersects with culture, society, and human rights.



Robert Michael Murray

4+ Billion People Engaged ⁂ Strategic Innovator, Thinker, & Storyteller ⁂ Elevating Brands & Handcrafting Experiences People Love ⁂ And I Came to Get Down