Originally published July 2020, updated May 2022.
These past couple of years, we’ve seen a shift in the social media landscape. Users are craving community and turning to trusted influencers to find solutions to their everyday challenges, such as cooking on a budget or answering the ever-looming question “what’s for dinner?”. The popularity of relatable, behind-the-scenes content is up, while tolerance for highly curated, too-perfect content is down. Enter TikTok, the platform that answered the call for less-curated content and saved many of us from quarantine boredom in the process.
TikTok has streamlined and democratized the process of video creation and sharing, allowing users to record short-form content, edit, and post all within the app. This gives influencers a chance to connect with their audience in a more immediate and casual way. Early adopter of the platform Yumna Jawad (@feelgoodfoodie) notes that, it’s “less about the aesthetics and more about the [value] of that content.” Many other social platforms have tried to copy TikTok’s success with short-form videos by rolling out their own versions of the platform, like Instagram Reels and Youtube Shorts.
As we enter a post-pandemic world, TikTok’s user base, which has surpassed 1 billion monthly active users, shows that it continues to resonate with people. And this growth hasn’t just been among the teen and tween audience the platform is known for. Adults in the US are downloading TikTok at a rapid rate, with 25-44-year-olds now making up about a quarter of its user base.
@feelgoodfoodie Microwave Mac N Cheese in a Mug! #tiktokpartner #learnontiktok #FavoriteRecipe #LittleBitFancy #macncheese ♬ original sound - Feel Good Foodie
4 Secrets To a Successful TikTok (and what they mean)
TikTok’s continued growth can tell us a lot about the types of content users want to see at this moment. Here are four ways that Yumna and other early adopters of the platform, like My Nguyen of @myhealthydish, have found success—and what they indicate about what types of content will resonate in today’s market.
1. Accessible content
Creating accessible content is not only valuable to TikTok’s algorithm, but it’s a great way to attract a wider audience. Adding on-screen text or turning on auto captions is an easy solution to make your content more inclusive.
2. Relatable content
The connection between the “everyday” feel of TikTok videos and the platform’s growth isn’t an accident. “When browsing TikTok, you mostly feel as if you’re around ordinary people with ordinary everyday content that doesn’t feel too highly polished,” says Yumna. And that’s a good thing—“it shows that people are more interested in behind-the-scenes, raw, unedited content that gives them some type of value.”
@feelgoodfoodie Learned this hack from @natashaskitchen for sealing bread without clips, twisties or other contraptions! 🙌 #kitchenhacks #foodblogger #foodtips #tips ♬ original sound - Feel Good Foodie
3. Highly-engaging content
TikTok has been branded as a highly addictive platform, and it’s easy to see why. The format allows users to scroll seamlessly between videos, making it harder to capture attention. But TikTok has a solve for this: The platform “rewards completion of a video more than likes and comments,” says Yumna. Successful content will hook your audience within three seconds, “providing entertainment and value while keeping things concise.”
4. Community-building content
TikTok has the highest engagement reach per post out of any social platform. In addition to encouraging hashtag use, TikTok inspires people to come together in a number of creative ways. Creators can participate in challenges using a specific hashtag, or respond to each other’s videos through duets, like this video by @feelgoodfoodie and @myhealthydish. Responding to comments with a new video is also a great way to foster a sense of community on the platform.
@feelgoodfoodie #duet with @myhealthydish if you haven’t tried kale chips in the air fryer, you are missing out!! #airfryerrecipes #airfryer #kale #foodbloggers ♬ original sound - My Nguyen
As TikTok skyrockets in popularity among giants like Instagram and Facebook, these growth areas indicate that the trend toward social media as a place for accessible, relatable, and less curated content is here to stay.