Blog post

What does Tik Tok want from you? A creator's guide

By Elizabete Masena - 9 June 2021

University of Derby Journalism student Elizabete Masena describes her experience of generating a popular series of videos on the world’s fastest-growing social media site. 

Growing fast

By attracting over 1.5 billion users all over the world, TikTok has become the fastest-growing social media application today. With its specific and non-standard algorithms, the app is considered the most effective and innovative platform for both small accounts with only a few followers, and the most popular ones with hundreds of millions of fans. 

The difference between TikTok and other apps is that TikTok never focuses on how many followers you’ve got, only on the content you produce - how relevant, relatable, creative, and engaging it is; therefore, the key to success is figuring out what TikTok wants exactly from you. 

Making a start

I started making content on TikTok about a year ago. At first, I had no idea how it worked, what to post, or how to engage with people, so I didn’t pay much attention; I was just recreating some trending videos, some of which reached quite a broad group of people, and others that completely flopped.  

Then,  about two months ago with no specific intentions, I came up with an idea that it would be interesting to show how some English words and phrases are being said in my native language - Latvian. So, I started my Teaching Latvian to foreigners series. 

The second episode attracted over 20,000 viewers in the first two days, and the next ones reached even more people. That’s when I understood that TikTok wanted me to show one of the few skills I’ve got, which is the ability to speak multiple languages.  

Since then, I have grown my following from 1,600 to almost 4,500, and got 440,000 views in total, received over 4,200 comments and 41,000 likes. People absolutely love these tutorials!  

Decision time

I came to the UK in 2019 to study my dream profession –journalism - at the University of Derby. Since then, of course, I’ve been keen to get to know and explore British culture.  

And so have my new friends. As I’m a foreigner who knows and speaks a different language and is used to different cultures and characteristics, a lot of people have been interested to find out more about me and my country.  

Very often I’d hear questions like “How do you say ‘hello’ in Latvian?” or “How do you say ‘Would you like a cup of tea?’ in Latvian?” Or ask me about the food Latvians like, drinks we usually have, what I love the most about my country, how are the people there, etc.  

So I thought, why not start making fun videos to show my culture and language to those interested? 

How do you understand exactly what TikTok wants from you? 

Well, it’s as simple as thinking of the things you like and can do well and how they can be valuable and entertaining for a viewer, as well as making sure it reflects your own style. You must find a way how to showcase your skills in a creative and interesting way; maybe it’s an eye-catching filming location, or a specific talking style, or how it’s edited.  

I’d say my style is zoomed-in videos where I talk very clearly, calmly, and focus on the way I pronounce every single word. And for some reason, people find it very satisfying.  

I’ve even received comments like: “Your videos are so calming... maybe you should consider making meditation-videos?”, “I don’t understand why, but I just can’t stop watching your videos. They are just calming me down,” and even “You’re Latvian, but you still watch these videos because they’re so calming and satisfying.” The good thing is you don’t need to have advanced editing skills, you just need to find the right way to approach your audience. 

The good thing is you don’t need to have advanced editing skills, you just need to find the right way to approach your audience. 

And when you start posting the videos, you’ll see whether it works or not by the number of people you reach.  

The thing that surprises me the most about TikTok is that it doesn’t matter how many followers you’ve got. You can reach millions of people when having less than 100, and sometimes see an account with millions of followers getting only a few thousand views for a single video.  

So how does it work then? 

Videos you see on TikTok, on your own For You page (FYP), have been chosen and pushed specifically for you, depending on your interests, opinions, and relevance to your life.  

And to clarify, when I post my ‘Teaching Latvian’ episodes they always reach thousands of people, while when I try to push out different content (which very often can take much longer to produce and could be valuable for a broader group of people) it very often gets only a few hundred views, even though the amount of my followers hasn’t decreased.  

The reason why that happens is that TikTok tends to find and push out the most interesting and original content from its creators individually, by making them focus on their niche, instead of recreating the same content over and over again.  

What I mean by that is that even though my videos about mental health, healthy cooking, fitness, or film recommendations are as valuable, TikTok just knows that there are millions of creators who post similar things. This means I’m not really standing out, unless again I make it in my own special way, showing a completely different perspective that hasn’t been seen much beforehand.  

TikTok knows my ‘Teaching Latvian to foreigners’ series is something original and there aren’t many who make that type of video, therefore, it’s kind of my specialty. By making those videos I share something special and unseen, and it is that which makes my content the most valuable and is my key to TikTok success. 

About the author

Elizabete standing in Markeaton Park near the river.

Elizabete Masena

Journalism student at the University of Derby, photographer, health and fitness enthusiast. Interested in travelling, environmental issues, baking, social media.