TL;DR – Here are six steps to grow on TikTok in 2022.
- Start posting (a lot) on TikTok.
- Follow accounts for inspiration.
- Build your brand.
- Jump on trends.
- Create content other people can interact with.
- Interact and connect with people like you’re a real person.
I’m going to admit something that I almost definitely shouldn’t: I kind of hate TikTok.
Well, I’m 29. I only have so much life left. And every time I pull up TikTok, I waste more of it than I’d like to admit looking at videos that I usually can’t remember three minutes later. The feed is endless and endlessly engaging, and I’m grumpy enough to want more intentionality in my life than TikTok seems designed to allow.
So, yeah, TikTok doesn’t always feel like a great way to spend my time.
But still… there’s just something about it. Sometimes, it’s educational. It’s pretty often hilarious. And it’s virtually always engaging.
And, for musicians, I think TikTok is currently the best platform for reaching new ears and eyes. That’s the case for two main reasons:
- Music is literally built into the foundation of the platform.
- The algorithm makes it possible to reach a lot of people even if you don’t have a ton of followers.
Long-story-short, even though I’m fairly grumpy about TikTok, I’m also a fairly big proponent of using it to build an audience, because it just freaking works.
If you’re considering growing a TikTok profile – or if you’ve already gotten started, but are looking for tips to grow faster – here’s what I’ve seen work best.
1. Start posting (a lot) on TikTok.
The first thing you should do if you want to grow on TikTok is download the app, create a profile, and start posting.
Is this basic? Maybe. But it’s also surprisingly counterintuitive.
I’ve seen a lot of people recommend that you start the other way around, by detailing your strategy, first. In other words, these folks say, you should decide what you want to do on the platform and what you want your brand to be. Once you’ve done that, then you should use the platform in a way that’ll help you meet your objectives.
There’s sense to starting with strategy. But I also think that’s it’s pretty hard to know what’ll work for you until you’re trying things out for yourself.
Start posting, and TikTok will give you instant feedback. Some videos you think might go viral will be duds, and some videos you film in a minute with no planning will be hits. Sometimes you’ll be using the app and be struck with an idea based on someone else’s content.
Don’t forget strategy, but also remember that it’s easier to steer a moving ship.
To get your ship moving, I’d recommend posting as much as you can for at least a month. I’ve had friends post three TikToks a day and get up to hundreds of thousands of followers after three months. At the very least, you should be posting multiple times each week.
If you’re thinking about growing a TikTok profile, literally the best thing you can do is stop reading how-to articles like this one and just start posting so that you can figure out the best way to make it work for you.
2. Follow accounts for inspiration.
If you’re not posting yet / you’re still reading this, I think the next thing you should do is follow a bunch of accounts for inspiration.
Look up 10 big-name artists that you like, and follow them. Look for 10 rising artists, and follow them. Look for your weird friend from high school, and follow them (well, depending on how weird they are).
As you add influencers you respect, you’ll inevitably be inspired yourself.
TikTok is a collaborative space. It’s people dancing to other people’s music. It’s people reacting to remixes being remixed. The more (good) inputs you have, the more ideas you’ll be able to generate.
3. Build your brand.
As you react to others and generate your own ideas, you’ll start generating the raw material that will become your brand on the platform. I’d recommend that, about a month into your TikTok journey, you take a step back and evaluate what you’ve been doing, what’s worked best, and where you want to go now.
Brand is a broad concept, but two key elements to consider on TikTok are what topics you’ll cover and the format you’ll use.
For instance, check out Will Paquin’s profile.
Wait 4 weird harmony
He had a few videos blow up where he was playing impressive finger-style guitar in weird / funny places – so he leaned into it, kept making that kind of content, and turned the resulting quirky brand into millions of streams on Spotify.
Your brand should include general ideas for what you’ll post on TikTok.
To make sure you don’t get stuck staring at your phone without an idea of what to do next, I’d recommend creating a list of 10 or so topics that you’ll regularly create videos about. For instance, your list could include stuff like:
- Reactions to new hit songs
- Covers of old songs
- Behind-the-scenes songwriting videos
- “You know you’re an artist when…”
- Singing in random places
- Studio session videos
- Duets with other rising artists
- End-of-day recaps
- Responding to comments / interactions
- Music industry rants
Honestly, that list ⬆️ is pretty industry-specific; ideally, you should probably tailor it more toward yourself. For instance, if you’re into tennis, post about that. If you’re into reading, post about that.
You get the idea. Build a brand that reflects who you are, and give yourself some guidelines so that you stay consistent (and can consistently create content without too much thinking).
4. Jump on trends.
For all of my spiel there on having go-to topics, it’s also true that, a lot of the time, you’ll be best served by just jumping on whatever’s happening in the moment.
As BrandMan Sean explains, jumping on a trend – like an open verse challenge or a viral reaction or whatever – can be a huge opportunity to get in front of a bunch of new faces.
Pretty simple, but again, doing this requires being consistently active on the platform.
I’d recommend taking at least one day a week to identify a trend and add your own voice to the story.
5. Create content other people can interact with.
I think maybe the coolest way to go viral is to be the one who creates the trend (as opposed to hopping on a trend from someone else). And one of the great things about TikTok is that it’s designed to make trend creation easy for almost any creator, because it’s so collaborative in nature.
One of my favorite stories of this idea was brought to my attention by Brandman Sean (he actually mentions it in that video above). Sadie Jean, a rising artist with a modest following, made an “open verse” video, encouraging other artists to add their own verses to her track.
A bunch of people did – including some pretty big names – and the track ended up going viral to the tune of my 73M streams on Spotify (and this fun video below featuring a bunch of cool collaborations from Sadie’s open verse challenge).
I’d recommend posting at least one piece of content each week that invites collaboration. This could be…
- A prompt (“Tell me your a musician without telling me you’re a musician”)
- An open verse challenge (You play your track and leave part of it open as an instrumental)
- A request for songwriting help (You strum through a chord progression and ask for input)
If you want to spend some extra cash / give yourself a boost, there are TikTok promotion services that will help you recruit creators to your cause and potentially expand your reach.
Regardless of whether you spend on promo, though, the gist is that you should create anything that opens up avenues for your audience to interact with you. Not every video you post will do well, but seeking collaboration opens up more opportunity.
6. Interact and connect with people like you’re a real person.
Finally, here’s a stupid-basic word of advice that’s actually pretty easy to forget: Be a real person.
Yeah, growth on TikTok requires some strategic thinking. You should be looking for opportunities to jump on trends, offering collaborative opportunities, and building your brand. You should be intentional.
But, also, you should be your normal human self.
I know this can kind of seem like a paradox. But the most successful creators and artists are the ones that have tapped into something genuine. Watch Tai Verdes’ early TikToks, for example, and his personality comes through in spades; he seemed like a fun-but-normal dude working at a Verizon store. People liked him because he knew how to make catchy content, sure – but he made catchy content because he was being Tai Verdes.
I finally got my own room. #stuckinthemiddle
Two thoughts on this:
- Don’t force things. Yes, there are times it’s good to push through discomfort as an artist. But if you see a trend and don’t feel like it fits your personality, don’t force a square peg into a round hole.
- Interact with people. For as long as it’s feasible, respond to the comments you get like a real person.
Connection is (ostensibly) the whole point of social media. Be yourself and connect with others, and you’ll be moving in the right direction.
Final thoughts on growing on TikTok
I’ve run through a bunch of ideas here, but to wrap things up, I want to offers two simple thoughts.
First, for real: The best way to grow on TikTok is to post a lot on TikTok.
I made this the first tip and I’m making it a final thought. Commit to posting regularly for three months. If you do that, you’ll figure the rest out, and I promise that you’ll see some growth. If you don’t post regularly, no amount of strategy will help you grow or get you more views and followers.
Second (also for real): Numbers are nice, but the whole point of being a creator is connection.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in views and followers. And sure, metrics are cool, but don’t lose sight of the fact that the most meaningful thing in art (and in life) is connection. You can get 10M views, but it’s more gratifying to hear from one person you’ve deeply impacted.
TikTok can be one avenue to connect meaningfully with other people. I hope you go viral… but, even if you don’t, I hope you build relationships that are worth it.
(Now, seriously, start posting.)