So now that we’ve all watched Tiger King and you’ve hit the bottom of humanity, it’s time to download TikTok. You’ve been curious for a while, but covid has made you hit that ‘download’ button.
Ah TikTok. The craze that the kids have been on for at least a year, that you hear all about, but don’t really ‘get’. I get it. When the Girls in my unit started using it obsessively last spring, I got on to be ‘hip with the kids’. At first – I thought it was a joke. Now I’m addicted. I waste hours of my life scanning through the ‘for you’ page and find myself humming “TikTok” songs in public. I have favourite creators and am currently very into the Daisy vs the Hype House drama. If none of those last two sentences made any sense to you, we’re going to clear this all up.
TikTok is an app developed by a Beijing company that launched in 2017. It’s a “short form video” app. Users make videos and post them for their followers (or really, anyone) to see. Videos posted to TikTok are usually at least 15 seconds long and no more than 60 seconds.
I like to describe it as a cross between Vine and Musically. Vine in the sense that people upload short videos – mostly comedy videos; and Musically because it’s a lot of lip syncing and dancing. However – these days TikTok is very much it’s own thing.
The best way to explain TikTok is to walk you through what you can experience when you open the app.
First off – you do not need a TikTok account to use the app. I currently do not have an account. That might change… but right now I’m happy just viewing videos rather than making them.
How it works:
When you open the app, you’ll be on the ‘For You’ page. Think of this as the ‘home page’. This is a page of a seemingly unlimited stream of videos that using an algorithm the app thinks you’ll like. My ‘For You’ page will look different from your ‘For You’ page – but we’ll see a lot of the same videos because viral videos often end up on the ‘For You’ page. The app knows where you are in the world and will often recommend you local content. When I travel I’ll get different videos. For example – while at home, I’ll get a lot of ‘Toronto’ videos, but when I was in Ottawa for work recently, I got quite a few ‘Ottawa/Quebec’ videos. Somehow the app also knows that I like puppies and I get a lot of golden retrievers on my ‘For You’ page – and I’m not complaining. I’m here for that content.
For example, this is a lovely Tiger King golden retriever TikTok that recently came on my ‘For You’ page.
This is an app that’s not made for desktops – and the best way to view videos is on the app. For our purposes, I’m going to link videos here from the web version.
I took a screengrab of this lovely Tyler Cameron and his quarantine crew on TikTok to show you how this all works if you are on the app.
In the red circle – we have Tyler Cameron’s profile. Click on his profile pic, and you’ll get taken to his full profile to get lost in his many shirtless videos.
In the yellow circle – this is the classic ‘like’. We’ve got the current like count – 113.6k people have liked this video of him and his boys dancing. To add your like to the count, you can hit on the heart or double tap the video to give it a like. Note if you tap once, you’ll pause the video. So it has to be a quick double tap or else you’ll just pause and play the video.
In the green circle – we’ve got comments. 869 comments on this video. There is a space at the bottom to add your comment and give Tyler some positive feedback about his dance moves. Heads up – you do need an account to leave a comment.
In the blue circle you’ve got the share feature. This is my personal favourite thing to do. I love sending TikToks that make me laugh to friends. Normally I just grab the url and flip that to friends, but you can also share videos to all your other platforms. Using the share button, you’ll also see options to save the video to your phone and to duet the video. We’ll talk ‘duets’ in a bit. The share button also gives you the option to report videos.
The purple circle is key here – this is the sound link. If you click the sound, you’ll end up on a ‘profile’ for that sound. You’ll be able to see the original poster and all the other videos that have used that sound. For example – ‘Savage’ by Megan Thee Stallion is currently one of the most popular sounds. There are 9.8 million videos that have used that sound clip and you can scan through all 9.8 million on that page. You’ll also see a ‘use this sound’ button where you too can join the others and do your own video with this sound clip. We’ll come back to sounds shortly.
Lastly, there is a pink box. This is where you’ll see a caption, tags (like on Twitter/Instagram) and hashtags. Hashtags on this app are seemingly random. For all you King’s grads out there – #fyp is not The Foundation Year Program, #fyp is ‘for you’ page. You’ll see that one a lot, but you’ll also see very random hashtags that have nothing to do with the videos. Creators can go into the hashtag generator when they post and pick trending and popular hashtags with the hope of getting more eyes on their video.
With me so far? Great. Let’s back up.
Here’s another screen grab of what you’ll see when you open the app:
Similar to viewing a video, you’ll just have a few more features here along the top and bottom.
In the app on the top of the interface, you’ll see ‘Following’ and ‘For You’. If you create an account you can follow creators and all their content will end up here.
Along the bottom you’ll have a ‘home’ button – that takes you back to the ‘For You’ page. ‘Discover’ which opens up a whole new world of finding videos. The ‘Create’ button (looks like a big plus) – this is where you get to be the TikToker and opens up the filming and editing capacities of the app. The ‘Inbox’ button – that takes you to your DM feature. Lastly, you have your ‘Me’ button. If you have an account this is where your profile lives.
Circling back to the Discover page there is a lot of functionality here. Off the top, you can view trending hashtags. Example ‘#tigerking’ currently 1.2 billion uses. You can click on that and end up scanning through all 1.2 billion.
Back on Discover – if you type something into the search bar you’ll equally be able to find a lot. For example ,if you search ‘lizzo’ you’ll end up being able to find Lizzo the user (with a blue verified check), Lizzo videos, Lizzo sounds, and #Lizzo.
Basically, TikTok is a rabbit hole that is very easy to get sucked into. You can keep clicking on one button after and another and get deeper and deeper into the app without much effort.
K but what am I watching:
So in TikTok sounds are king.
Sounds can be songs, clips from tv shows, movies, and youtube videos, user generated, or can be original sounds. Basically – they can be anything. They key here, is the majority of these sounds have traditions or trends associated with them. You’ll hear about TikTok dances, these specific choreographed dances to specific songs. There are always trending TikTok dances so what is hot on Monday could be very different on Friday – but there are some classics.
‘Renegade’ would be an example of a classic. The ‘Renegade’ dance uses the first 15 seconds of the Lottery by K Camp. The dance was created by 14-year-old Jalaiah Harmon. The story of how it got popular is fascinating. The New York Times did a profile on her – it’s worth your time. Across TikTok everyone wanted to be apart of this trend, so legions of creators learned the dance and posted it to their own profiles. The original sound has 33.2 million videos of people doing ‘Renegade’.
Let’s put it this way – if this was the 90s the ‘Stop’ dance by the Spice Girls would have been the ‘it’ dance on TikTok. Everyone just knows it. But instead of having just one dance – there are multiple ‘it’ dances at any given time.
The more time you spend on TikTok the more you see these dances come and go. Currently, we’re seeing lots of these TikToK dances to Supalonely, Magic In The Hamptons, Something New, Savage, and Blinding Lights – but most likely, by tomorrow, these will be ‘old’ and a new dance craze will be sweeping the app. The Queen of the TikTok dance is a 15 year old named Charli D’Amelio (who is in that Renegade video). With over 45 million followers – she is the most followed creator on the platform. While she doesn’t create all the dances, if she does the dance, the dance is instantly cool. If you want to be cool there are hundreds of TikTok dance tutorials on Youtube that you can follow along with to learn the moves.
Bonus here – If you are interested in the music side of TIkTok – check out the NYT’s Popcast podcast on how TikTok is killing the Radio Songwriter. It is a great listen.
Other than dances, you’ll see memes. For example – Flip the Switch is a current fav. It’s a 15 second clip of the Drake song where two people are in a bathroom. When Drake says ‘I just flipped the switch” the person turns the lights off (to black) and on, but when the lights come back on the people have switched clothes and spots. It’s very funny. JLo and A-Rod have a great one as do Hannah B and Tyler C:
I’m also currently a big fan of the slow mo ‘glam bot’ ‘Boss Bitch’ trend that people have been doing lately. What started off as a comparing average people to celebrities has transformed into people doing their own glam bots. Here are two of my favs. One orginal and one twist on the trend:
Clips from TV shows, movies and other pop culture moments are always fantastic.
Now is a great time to introduce you to one of my favourite creators – The Washington Post’s Dave Jorgenson. Dave is the official Washington Post TikToker and I cannot even begin to explain how much I love his videos. They’re a mix of news, politics, journalism jokes and just plain stupidity. They are perfect. Dave often uses famous clips to make his videos work. Here are a few examples:
As for original sounds and user generated sounds, these are what you might consider ‘regular videos’. A creator will film themself using an original sound and if the audience connects with it, others will take that original sound and turn it into a user generated sound and make that sound go viral. One of my other favourite TikTokers is Mitchell Crawford. If you remember ‘shit girls say’ from back in 2011 (feel old?) – Mitchell does something similar. His ‘parent’ videos are fantastic. But for this purpose here’s Mitchel as a ‘frat boy’.
It’s his original video and sound. Now here are a few girls using that sound (aka user generated) and making their own video:
The more time you spend on the app, you’ll start to notice trends and how these different types of videos and sounds start to overlap.
Hopefully, I haven’t confused you too much because we’re about to get into the weeds.
For teens/the youth, I’d argue this is a way they flirt. They post ‘cute’ or ‘sexy’ videos of themselves dancing or doing silly things with the hope of attracting attention. They’d never tell you this – but just watch them meticulously craft the perfect outfit to wear, practice the dance for hours and then film it in the perfect light with the right filter… they care and want that attention.
Essentially the goal of TikTok is to create videos the most amount of people like. That could mean that all your friends like the videos, but could also mean millions. Going viral or getting TikTok famous is often a goal – and not necessarily unrealistic. I have a camper that is mildly TikTok famous and has almost 200k followers and regularly gets thousands of views.
(If you’ve ever seen a ‘like for part 2’ vid – this is just because they want the likes. They may or may not have a part 2. It’s basically clickbait.)
Brands would use TikTok in a different way from the way a 14 year old would use TikTok – but the goal here is similar – get attention. Brands like the NHL are doing a great job connecting with their audience.
So what happens when teens get famous on TikTok? If they can, they’ll leverage that into an influencer job. That means getting agents and/or managers to help work with brands. Which would make sense when TikTokers can make upwards of $25,000 per TikTok video.
Remember Charli – the dance girl with the 45 million followers. She only joined the app in June 2019. Her meteoric growth shows how fast this app is growing and how much potential young content creators can make.
Enter content houses.
The more people who can find you, the more will follow you. The ‘collab’ or collaboration has been a long standing tradition in youtube. Two creators with separate audiences do something together to expose each other to more potential fans. Tiktokers have latched on to this to help their growth and often do video collabs with each other, dancing or making other videos together. To make things easier, content creators like to be in the same spot – Los Angeles.
So these teens and young twenty somethings show up and need a place to live – why not live together. They are surrounded by like minded people, have close access for collabs, and because LA has become the mecca, closer to agents and other media types who can help continue to grow their careers.
Vine had that condo building where all the Vine stars lived at Vine and Hollywood. TikTok has the Hype House. The New York Times covered them both – I’ve linked those articles.
The Hype House seemingly had all the ‘cool’ TikTokers and had the big ‘it couple’ of the app – Lil’Huddy aka Chase Hudson and Charli. This video of them ‘finally’ kissing on tiktok has more than 27 million views. yuuuuuup:
The Hype House was the “perfect” social media group.
K but here’s the thing. Teenagers and early 20somethings have drammaaaa. And stuff is going down.
First OG founder Daisy Keech is claiming she put down the majority of the money and the boys took over control. Not cool Hype house:
Second, rumours are FLYING that Chase cheated on Charli. Details are fuzzy, but the basic rumour is that he was flirting with another tiktoker’s girlfriend (who happens to be from a rival content house). Obviously, they made a diss track... it’s not very safe for work because these guys are immature teen boys.
So basically the teens are fighting and my real question is… SHOULDN’T THEY BE SITTING AT HOME WATCHING TV LIKE THE REST OF US?! But no – content is king and they must. keep. making.
Really we should all go hang out with Jake Miller and his crew:
FINALLY – We should talk about this common question “isn’t spyware operated by the Government of China?”. Like all things China and spyware – this is quite complex and the fine folks at Vox have an awesome explainer about this.
It’s also worth noting that in February 2019 – TikTok paid the FTC a record-breaking fine of $5.7 million for collecting the data of kids under 13. You can also learn more about this on Vox.
I’d argue that this platform has the same types of concerns as other big social media companies – the difference here is that this is a platform that is the defining app for Gen Z and thus, with so many kids using it, we do need to be a bit more cautious and concerns parents might have with their kids posting on the app are valid.
But I wish any parent who wants to block their kid on this ‘good luck’ because the majority of kids I know have their own accounts where they post or have appeared in their friends TikToks. My 1st years from my pathfinder unit (grade 7 – 12/13 year olds) were actually the first kids I saw posting. So there’s that.
If you’ve made it this far – congratulations. You have now graduated TikTok 101.
In honour of that, here are a few of my favourites for your enjoyment:
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