Is TikTok a Good Fit for Independent Talent?

If you’ve spent any time online, you probably know that TikTok steamrolled into the social game with high levels of success. You may even be tired of hearing about TikTok if you haven’t given it a try yourself. What started as Musical.ly, a platform predominantly comprised of lip syncing, dancing, skits, and more, has blossomed into a rapidly growing visual platform with a wide focus on everything from trending topics to niche interests.

The wealth of industries and interests is what makes TikTok a unique platform for independent talent. Although using it for this purpose is relatively new and not fully tested, it may be a good addition to your marketing mix once you nail down the table stakes, such as LinkedIn, blogging, and networking. Investing the time to really learn what works and what doesn’t while establishing yourself on the platform could pay off as TikTok continues to develop and the audience grows.

TikTok put a spin on traditional social media

With its focus on bite-size content, memeable videos, and collaborative user interactions, TikTok was developed specifically to meet the appetites of today’s social media audience. It’s particularly intriguing as a marketing channel for several reasons.

Starting with the basics, every user on the platform has a personalized feed known as the For You Page (FYP) that, according to TikTok, “recommends content by ranking videos based on a combination of factors — starting from interests you express as a new user and adjusting for things you indicate you’re not interested in, too”.

The TikTok FYP algorithm relies on a number of factors, including:

  1. User interactions, such as the videos you like or share, accounts you follow, comments you post, and content you create
  2. Video information, including details like captions, sounds, and hashtags
  3. Device and account settings, such as your language preference, country setting, and device type.

Once your FYP gets a sense of the content you’re most likely to interact with, the algorithm becomes tailored to you. The TikTok algorithm uses these indicators of interest to craft a personalized user experience, so no two FYPs are alike, and bypassing things that don’t interest you is as easy as a swipe (or tapping a button if you really dislike something and never want to see it again).

As of September 2021, many creators and social media gurus have been discussing recent changes to the TikTok algorithm that specifically favor a creator’s following first. If those viewers engage with a piece of content, it's more likely to be pushed to a wider audience (the FYP at large). This change could be beneficial for small creators who are likely to have fewer, but more engaged, followers. With this change, it's even more important to know your target audience and their interests, as you will need their early engagement to signal to TikTok that your content is worth a broader push.

However, content produced on and for TikTok is highly shareable across other social platforms. Video, especially short-form video, is a highly rewarded medium—and that’s exactly where TikTok excels. You will often see TikTok videos shared on other platforms, whereas content produced for other platforms tends not to travel as well. In that way, content originating on TikTok can end up being seen by a much broader audience beyond the app users.

Plus, TikTok isn’t trying to avoid cross-platform usage or growth. In fact, it facilitates it with easy linking to Instagram and YouTube as well as a general link you could use for your portfolio, LinkedIn page, or website—allowing you to drive traffic further into your marketing funnel.

TikTok facilitates leads through its broad, candid audience

The age demographics of TikTok users are split fairly evenly. At the end of 2020, the following were the published user stats:

TikTok Users by Age

TikTok Users By Age Chart

So what keeps users coming back? Authenticity and vulnerability. The users, the content, the algorithm, the communities—everything that makes up TikTok comes from real people doing real things. While brands, businesses, celebrities, and influencers use the platform too, the nature of the platform is different by default. There are still some formulaic aspects to the platform (e.g. proper hashtag use, the best times to post, understanding trends, and ad transparency) but the consensus is that people feel like they’re connecting with people, not just feeding into the consumer supernova.

The breadth of the TikTok demographic and the nature of the algorithm are where professional use comes into play. The global app caters to every interest, industry, and specialty, including content that is informational, entertaining, or a bit of both. This applies to both creators and users.

4 Tips for Grabbing Attention on TikTok as an Independent Talent

TikTok is entirely dedicated to short, shareable clips. While many social platforms rely on regularity and audience engagement—e.g. likes, shares, and saves—to determine if content is worth being pushed, these factors are especially important on TikTok.

Be creative

Right now, having a TikTok portfolio can make you stand out in the crowded digital landscape. The platform provides a unique forum for showcasing skills. For instance:

  • Posting tutorials or professional life hacks on new ways of completing tasks in your field
  • Sharing your opinions on hot topics within your area of expertise
  • Presenting interesting facts or trivia about a subject you’re passionate about
  • Showcasing the culture or inside jokes of your field to encourage interest
  • Detailing the reality of day-to-day life on the job (emotional targeting!)
  • Facilitating conversations about a job, project, or career
  • Answering viewer asks from your Q&A section, which highlights comments with questions for more direct engagement

As an independent talent, these are just a few of the ways can use TikTok to showcase your skills, expertise, and passion for your field. Overall, the key is to be creative, give credit to others who inspire you, and think outside the box.

Be concise

Online attention spans are short, as are most TikTok videos—though users now can create up to 3 minutes of content, which can seem long compared to the mere minute allowed before. Content posted on TikTok needs to grab viewers’ attention immediately or be doomed to the ‘not interested’ void. Even if you plan to utilize the 3-minute allowance, be deliberate in how you use it so people don’t scroll on by.

Be consistent

Since posts aren't expressly chronological thanks to the algorithm, another user could see your content anywhere from seconds after you posted to weeks later. TikTok tends to reward regular publishing of posts, so consistency is key. By generating a consistent stream of new uploads, you’ll have more opportunities for your content to spread around over time, rather than relying on viewers to be online at the time you post.

Be calculated

Users are unwilling to waste time on TikTok content that doesn’t interest them. Everything should have a purpose, from the content to the editing, to the filters, to the hashtags, to the caption, to the text. Doing a little bit of research on applicable hashtags, current trends, and other best practices can help you find and reach your specific audience on TikTok.

TikTok has the potential to be a great tool for independent talent

While there isn’t much dedicated research yet on the concept of using TikTok as an independent talent, the data suggests that it’s worth the time to check out due to the worldwide and inclusive scope of the TikTok app. Define your brand, stand out as an influencer in your space, learn and hone new niche skills, and compete in a new way by offering advice, expertise, tricks, and more on the most downloaded and used social media platform to date.

And be sure to keep learning and growing with Business Talent Group. We’re dedicated to linking independent talent with the world’s best companies and consistently providing you with interesting and innovative project opportunities.

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