Over the course of the past month I’ve developed a love/hate relationship with TikTok. Yes, I too was one of those people who swore they would NEVER EVER get TikTok, but as a Communications major and full-time creative I eventually dove headfirst down the rabbit hole and for anyone who has TikTok you know exactly what I mean.
I first downloaded the app in early January of this year. At first I didn’t really understand it, but after posting my first video doing the ‘Wasian check’ (a trend to show off those of mixed race) and catching the attention of over 500 viewers in the matter of a couple hours made me understand how powerful this app really was.
As some of you already know, it’s always been my dream to entertain others through YouTube videos and that’s honestly why I’m even here writing to you in the form of a blog. After scrolling through TikTok and watching 15-60 second videos that had acquired hundreds of thousands of views, likes and comments in the matter of hours I was slightly annoyed. I started comparing YouTube to TikTok and asking myself why the algorithm preferred me on an app that I didn’t even want to use.
When it comes to YouTube, I find myself working around the clock to create content on the platform every week. First, you have to develop a concept, then film the content, edit the content, and lastly, promote the content on all of your social platforms to ensure it gets as much exposure as it possibly can. Since I started posting videos in September, I haven’t gained that much traction. My most viewed video is of me doing a bikini photoshoot in the snow (which got flagged, and is now ranked as 18+ content on the platform) which doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. As much as I love YouTube, I’ve found it an incredibly difficult process to get my videos viewed no matter how many times I share them on my other social platforms.
I’ve found myself questioning if this is really what I want to do with my life. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE YouTube and it’s always been my dream but when I’m scrolling through TikTok and see a video of someone pouring glitter into a can of paint and getting over 2 Million likes, sometimes it’s hard to keep pushing forward, especially as I get older. So, I decided to expand my brand by logging onto TikTok and posting content on the app as an experiment and to say that my short time on the platform has been like a rollercoaster ride is an understatement.
From late January to late March I had been posting random videos on TikTok, since I don’t have a specific niche or type of content I create specifically for that app I decided to just post a bunch of different content. I hopped on a couple of trends, posted some content from some of my creative shoots, and even did a couple of dancing videos.
I posted a video on March 14th of me and one of my closest friends, Gary Mo doing a trend that failed. But to my surprise, that was my most liked and viewed video that I had posted- gaining the attention of over 2000 people.
- I experimented further and thought I’d start doing a series of “forcing my brother to do TikTok’s” which would just be me dressed as a boy. I found that the videos weren’t gaining much traction, they were funny, don’t get me wrong, but they still weren’t catching the attention of others.
- The very last test I did was a cooking video. I cut together clips showing how to make ‘Healthy Fudgy Avocado Brownies.’ Again, the video didn’t do well, only catching the attention of about 500 people.
At this point I wasn’t sure what kind of content I wanted to pursue on TikTok, I didn’t feel super inspired with what I was producing up to this point, as most of the content I was posting was testing to see what content would do the best on the platform.
On April 8th, I went out to an island with my brother and his girlfriend for the afternoon. I decided that I would film a couple of TikTok’s on the beach and see how they fared. And just like that, I posted a video at 4:40 pm that day and by the time I had checked in that night the video had over 10,000 views. When I woke up the next morning, the video had over 15,000 views, I didn’t think it would continue to grow but to my surprise, it did. Exponentially increasing, the video shot to over 100,000 views in the matter of days, now resting at 162.8K. From that video alone, I gained over 1,100 followers on the app in just two days.
I’ll be honest when I say that I was completely riding on a high after that point. On April 10th I spent seven hours in my bedroom filming different TikTok’s which haven’t done nearly as well as my first big video. I’m not going to lie to you, I felt defeated. This is what happens when you care more about your views than your content. Don’t get me wrong, I was working hard to produce content for my new audience, but I was doing it primarily for the exposure I was getting, not because I wanted to. After posting a couple of hard hitting videos on TikTok, I saw my Instagram following skyrocket, as well gaining more traction on YouTube.
I didn’t know this when I first started using the app, but TikTok doesn’t allow creators to message each other unless they’re directly following each other. So as I gained more followers on TikTok, they would look at my bio and click the link that brought them to my Instagram page in order to get in contact with me. And at that point, I realized that if that many people were actively searching for more of my content on other platforms then TikTok was ultimately the best way to grow my brand.
However, I got a little ahead of myself. After doing more research on the app, I found that the videos of people dancing get quite a lot of traction so just like that every night I was forcing myself to learn anywhere between 5-10 viral dances. Mind you, I’m NOT a dancer, I took a couple of classes when I was a kid, but it never went any further than that. I don’t feel creative copying others, but at the time I didn’t care. I was hungry for the exposure and likes, it took me three months to raise my Instagram following from 2,000 followers to 3,000, but in just three short weeks of using TikTok, my Instagram following went from 3,000 followers to 4,000.
But here’s where the story comes to a screeching halt.
I started experiencing every TikToker’s fear of shadowbanning. Unfortunately, TikTok is well known for filtering out content from creators simply if they don’t like it. This means that less people see your videos, which means that you aren’t getting much or any exposure.
Although they have an extensive community guideline list, I wasn’t violating any of their terms. I was able to post videos on my account, but they weren’t getting any views which I thought was weird. Even if the videos didn’t land on the ‘For Your Page’ they would at least land on the pages of those who followed me. When the videos didn’t gain any views, I started deleting them and I began getting really frustrated. I made a second account as a backup and after looking at my main account, I realized that my content wasn’t showing up.
So not only were my videos not getting any views, but TikTok wasn’t even posting them to the public. And from here on out, it’s basically a downwards spiral.
Since then, I’ve had two videos removed as violations on their community guidelines, without any comments on why they were removed. I’ve found that there are days that they will let me post content and there are days where they won’t depending on what I’m wearing generally. Mind you, I’ve been fully clothed in every since video. Yes, I’ll admit there has been a lot of skin shown, but that isn’t a violation according to their guidelines.
So here I was, sweating my ass off every night practicing these dances (that I didn’t even like), taking hours out every couple of days to film the dances over and over again in different outfits, only to have them not be posted to the app. My account is still active and I post on it every couple of days, but what I’ve realized is that it’s extremely easy to get sucked into the number of views, likes and comments.
A lot of what I was posting didn’t even make me happy, but I was doing it for exposure for my other platforms. I still don’t know my niche for Tiktok, but I’ve relaxed a bit. I don’t force myself to post anymore, or make content for the platform every couple of days. I’ve realized that I don’t want to just be a one hit wonder, I want to be remembered for my content, which is a reflection of who I am when I create. When I was on TikTok I started feeling like a puppet, tiptoeing around what the algorithm allowed me to post. I also found that I started comparing myself to other creators and getting extremely competitive about the numbers my videos were raking in which isn’t like me at all.
I’ve learnt a lot using the app, but a lot still remains a complete mystery to me. I don’t want to use an app that makes me unhappy, so I took a break and got back to working on content for YouTube and I felt better. I always promote being one’s truest self online, and I realized that I was going completely against what I was saying because I got too wrapped up in what the app was doing for me. I started being really hard on myself when my views dropped on my other platforms and blaming myself for my lack of content on TikTok, I felt like my hands were tied as posting became harder with my shadowban.
To wrap this all up, I will definitely continue using TikTok. I think there is a way for me to use the app and still be an original creator, mixing in a couple of dances here and there because some of them were actually a lot of fun and if you’ve ever learnt a TikTok dance you know it’s some of the best cardio you’ll ever do.
It’s best not to count the likes, but rather post for yourself and not others.