270,000 Views Later: My New Strategy for TikTok Marketing
I wrote an article nearly a year ago thinking I understood what it meant to be successful on TikTok. Last spring, TikTok was experiencing exponential growth like no other, and nothing has slowed down: users, trends, and for sure, the hours I’ve spent on the app.
Now, I’m reprising my role as TikTok insider with a new approach: the one you should follow. When it came to TikTok I never meant to be added to the next media house or pack up my things for L.A. I more so craved the overnight success that many artists have discovered using the platforms unique algorithm. No other platform out there prioritizes feeding you content from users you’ve never seen before. So, let’s crack that it.
First, let’s debunk a few things. I thought if I worked hard enough to constantly push out samples of my music, one would catch the algorithm. Maybe I’d hit a lunchtime break, peak engagement time just right, or maybe the right person would comment and suddenly I’d have to turn off phone notifications for the sake of saving battery.
That got dull. Fast. And truthfully, a bit demoralizing. When half the views are yourself, it can feel like a digital slap in the face.
But right when I was about to call it quits and leave TikTok for the “young people” who decided the ripe of age 22 was considered “elderly,” I woke up one day to a Taylor Swift trend that I could do before I even made breakfast. I shuffled her discography along with the “this is your future” guided sound. A few of them were funny, so I posted it and then logged into work.
A few hours later I looked at my phone and my TikTok had blown up. It had about 50,000 views and I had about 500 more followers than I did hours ago. I’d used some decent hashtags: #taylorswift, #swiftie, and the others TikTok recommended. The TikTok I put the least work into got me the furthest. Of course that’s how it works.
There’s more to the story here — but I’ll stop for a moment. Let’s talk about why this video fed into the algorithm.
I used a trending sound. I didn’t know this before, but a trending sound works like a hashtag. If a user likes a certain video with this trend/hashtag/sound, they’ll receive more of them. Whereas other platforms it can be almost taboo to hop onto trends, TikTok proves it to be the fastest way to discoverability. I also found the amount of comments to propel it further. Since the video was sharing-based, many people also did the challenge and commented their answers to the “this song is your relationship in a year” proposal. I spent a TON of time reading all the comments, commenting back, and engaging. I found every time I spent an hour so engaging with them, TikTok would boost my video a bit more, almost as if my comments counted as much as any other.
The video ended up receiving around 120,000 views, the vast majority amongst my other 200 views or so videos.
I have Taylor Swift to thank for me not logging off the app. And a good thing too, because I went viral again.
I told my friends who work on FRNDLY, my media group working as a launching pad for young artists facing traditional barriers to entry for young creators across industries, about how my TikTok success from a three-minute task spilled over to Instagram, Spotify, and even Twitter. My following and engagement across all these platforms increased.
I began to think of TikTok as less of unique platform, but a way to boost my actual agenda. But that wouldn’t happen by forcing said agenda. There was a clear balance somewhere. What stood out about my first video was it was tangible, exciting, and relevant to the audience. It said “hey, try this too” or “look how average I am.” I wasn’t forcing my product on their For You Page — and that resonated.
A few weeks later my team and I were working on strategizing a slate of Spotify releases we have for our clientele. I brought up the value of playlisting, and how the discoverability equivalent on Spotify is being placed on engaging playlists — and where do playlisters find their new obsessions? Other playlists.
I spent a day or so DMing the handles of some of Spotify’s coolest indie-curators and found it to have a very small success rate. My mentality has always been if something or someone proves to be an obstacle, develop for yourself what you need them for. Why don’t I become a playlister?
It was fun, too. I spent half a day listening to a ton of music and making some arguably very aesthetic playlists. I asked some of my friends to follow them just to get an audience there so any newcomer wouldn’t feel like they were the first. There’s never any shame in asking friends to help out and be the first. Think personally — if a playlist has the same content but no followers, it’s less appealing, right? One friend found them funny and it reminded them of a compilation they’d seen on TikTok. You probably know my next move.
I found a trending sound (some remix of “Somewhere Only We Know”) and added a quick intro of myself reading “My friends told me they liked my playlists… so now I made them public.” It sounded exclusive, and you know what peaks our interest? Knowing something we weren’t supposed to. It was easy from there. I came back an hour later and saw it moving a bit. I had read a ton on TikTok marketing since I last shared my insight and knew the algorithm will push content being engaged with. I texted all my friends who I knew were active on the platform and told them to like and comment right away. From there, it soared. I had to turn off my phone notifications. I could keep refreshing over and over to what felt like bottomless red alerts.
I adopted the same strategy as last time, too. I responded to as many comments as I could (I wanted future commenters to see I’d likely chat with them). I logged onto Spotify to see I went from 0 followers to literally 500. I decided to test out something else — I put my own music at the top of each playlist.
I was a bit obsessed. I refreshed all day. It moved quicker than my first video, and I ultimately gained about 2,500 followers on TikTok, about 200 on Instagram, and 2,500 on Spotify. As for my actual artist profile? Listening was up 1,200%. I hit numbers I never had in my career.
I’d also always realized that people felt they needed permission to embrace new music. Knowing someone else is listening validates our affinity. So when my numbers increased, they did exponentially. I found my music on new playlists and my old TikTok videos even doubling in analytics. I physically couldn’t keep up with how much I was gaining.
I even woke up in the middle of the night to check my phone because notifications like “500 new followers” gave me a serotonin rush that was proof of how addictive these platforms can be.
Okay, so what’s the takeaway? Not for me to flex my new TikTok fame. But — the realization that any other strategy I might have taken could’ve increased my Spotify listening. But 1,200%? Alone? That felt unheard of.
I thought of the similarities between my Taylor video and my playlist one. It wasn’t about me. It was about giving something to my followers and whoever found my face on their For You page. But still, I got (arguably better) growth.
I gained thousands across all platforms from one thirty-second video that took maybe two minutes max. This is TikTok. There is no other platform that does this. There’s no other platform that offers such cross-platform growth.
So, you’ve heard enough. Here are the actual takeaways if you’re craving a similar (and better) success:
- Focus marketing on TikTok for exposure, not the heart of your promotion. Encourage cross-platform connection for exponential growth. Having a TikTok follower also on Instagram decreases the chance you’ll lose them overall. The TikTok algorithm is great for overnight growth, but there’s some specific strategies to reach it. Think of it as an indirect promotion.
- Comment and respond as much as you can. Whereas you may want to play “hard to get” for recognition on other platforms, this isn’t the place. Your comment directly benefits you here. Be witty, too. The TikTok community will inevitably leave some good ones on your video, engage with that!
- I used my own song many times in hopes it’d help promote. If you must swallow your pride, then do it — because it’s time to use that trending sound you can’t get out of your head. If you want the numbers, go where the numbers are.
- Alternate your content: trending, your project, trending, your project. TikTok isn’t a serious platform. Whereas we think curated feeds for Instagram or consistent language for Twitter, that’s almost frowned upon in this corner of the internet. Alternating between objectives welcomes your followers and audience to your mission without feeling like they’re being sold something. Inevitably, they’ll stumble upon you through that one trending video you have. You’ll become the best friend they now want to support rather than a brand trying to sell.
- Speaking of trending, use those hashtags. They don’t have to make sense. TikTok will usually share with you the ones on top right now. Use those if you want your video to move quickly (which it’ll need to do).
- Pick a cover (the little gif-like video that previews on your profile) that is intriguing. A movement of some sort (me laughing has done particularly well) is a good choice, but don’t shy away from using a ton of text and visuals. TikTok is meant for overstimulation.
Forget everything you know about media marketing when you log onto TikTok. My new strategy is not about coming across as a creator or an expert, but as a fan. A fan of other creators, a Swiftie of course, and a music lover. The moments where that was my only mission were the ones pushed to the top of For You pages around the globe.
Switch over to a creator account as soon as you can, too. I did that a bit too late and am still learning my audience behavior. I’ve also heard going live consistently (which you’ll need 1,000 followers for) helps push your videos. I’ll keep you updated on that!
I’m no expert here, and inevitably I’ll write another piece here soon changing my whole mentality — but if that isn’t social marketing, I don’t know what it is. Don’t take it from me, though. Take it from the 270,000 views of me swallowing my pride and unbuckling my “social strategy” seatbelt.