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A Beginner’s Guide to TikTok

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By now, I’m sure you’ve at least heard of TikTok. Perhaps you’ve seen a viral video reposted on another social media app, or your friends have sent you links that have taken you to strange new places where you feel you don’t belong. Well, that place is TikTok, and fear not, newbie, because although TikTok can seem like a place just for teenagers doing dances and lip-syncing to audio clips you don’t understand, it’s actually not half as scary and confusing as it may seem at first glance. 

Whether you’ve downloaded it and deleted it, or if it’s sitting untouched on the last page of your home screen, the tips in this guide will help you to expertly navigate the new and exciting world of TikTok, the fastest growing and most downloaded app of recent years!

  1. Download TikTok and make an account

Firstly, download the app from your phone’s relevant app store. It’s free, and once downloaded, you can start browsing videos straight away. You don’t need an account to simply watch TikToks, but if you want to like, share, save them or post your own, you need to get signed up. It’s quick and easy to do, and you can sign up using your email address, phone number, or a third-party app like Facebook. The app will automatically generate a generic username which can be changed by tapping the profile icon in the bottom right corner (it looks like a person’s upper body and head). This is where you go to edit your profile picture, bio, add links etc. This is also where you need to go if you want to change your profile to private, as all TikTok accounts are set to public by default. 

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  1. Navigating TikTok

So, you’re all set up with the app and an account. What’s next? Browsing, of course! This is where TikTok truly has its hold over it’s users, as the ‘endless scroll’ feature really comes into its own. You will notice there are two main feeds for you to peruse; the ‘for you’ page, and the ‘following’ page. The for you page is an algorithmically generated stream of the most popular videos, generally with a lot of views. Sometimes there is a random video plucked from a small account with next-to-no views or comments on it. This is just how TikTok’s algorithm is working to try and show you videos it thinks you want to see. The other feed, following, is pretty self-explanatory. Once you start following people, swipe on to this feed to only see posts from them. 

On the right of every TikTok video there is a series of icons down the side of the screen. The top one is used to visit the profile of the user who posted the current video, but this can also be achieved by swiping to the left. Below that is a heart icon which functions as a ‘like’ button, and below that a speech bubble which still opens up the comment window. This won’t pause the video, by the way, it will keep playing behind the comment box. Below that is the ‘share’ button, shaped like an arrow. Click this to send the video to other TikTok users, or to copy and paste the link and share it elsewhere. 

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The last icon will be a spinning record with musical notes emanating from it. This is a link to the sound page, where you can find information about the artist and song title playing in the video you clicked from, and also see other videos that have been posted with that particular sound. You can also long press on the video to reveal more options like save, report, or ‘not interested,’ which will tell TikTok to show you less videos like the current one.

  1. Filming and sharing your own videos

So now you know how to use TikTok to consume, how about filming your own videos? Simply tap the big plus button in the middle at the bottom of the screen, and the camera will open. There is a big red record button, and you can choose to add music now, before you start filming, to ensure everything is in time, or you can add music later. This is also where you can find the plethora of AR effects that TikTok has to offer, and apply them to yourself or your subjects before you film. You can do everything from changing your hair colour and adding virtual makeup, to turning the sky purple or putting googly eyes on your dog. There’s an unimaginable amount of filters to sift through, so explore and have fun, and you can save any you think you’ll want to use again to save you having to find them a second or third time. The other important feature worth noting on this screen is the timer button, which allows you to set the length of your video before you start recording.

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You may also wish to buy TikTok followers to start with some followers. This will help you grow your TikTok account in the long term.

  1. Music, hashtags, and challenges

Music is central to TikTok’s popularity. If you use the right song, even on a substandard video, it’s likely that your views will be higher than if you had used a different sound. If you tap ‘add a sound’ on the recording screen, a list of popular tracks will open so you can select one you think is fitting. There are no full-length songs, just clips, to fit with the limited video length, and these clips can’t be edited. So what’s available in the clip that TikTok presents you is all that’ll ever be available. 

Music also links into challenges, which are the heart and soul of the TikTok community. Often these are sponsored by brands in an effort to drum up publicity, and it works. Not all challenges are marketing ploys though, and a lot of the most popular ones (that spawn the most viral videos) are user created. To browse all of TikTok’s current challenges and trends, click the magnifying glass icon at the bottom of the home screen. 

So there you go, you’ll be a fully-fledged TikToker in no time! Practice your dance moves, brush up on your lip-syncing and have fun!

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