What is TikTok? TikTok is a Chinese, video-focused social media platform hosting a wide variety of short-form user-generated videos. Having experienced major growth in popularity over the past two years, the platform has become an important promotional tool for artists and musicians all over the world. In this article, we’ll guide you through how TikTok works and show you how to effectively use it as an artist to promote your craft.
Why is TikTok important for artists
With over 1.2 billion monthly active users, TikTok has become one of the most powerful social media channels of current times, ranking n°6 in popularity. What started as a platform known for dance challenges has grown into a go-to network for content development and community. Through entertainment and video creation, artists around the world, including musicians, use TikTok to showcase their work, engage with their community, and get discovered.
Rather than being a strictly social media network, TikTok is considered a creative digital space motivating users to not only watch others create but also create content themselves. As of March 2023, 83% of TikTok users are actually content creators (meaning they have posted at least one video on TikTok). TikTok is also very simple to navigate and enables its users to consume a huge amount of content in a very short period of time.
One of the biggest advantages of using TikTok as an artist is making use of its Artificial Intelligence-driven (AI) recommendation engine. The goal of the TikTok algorithm is to give every video a chance to be seen and become popular, regardless of the original audience of the creator. When a video is released on the platform, the AI engine will test it out by showing it to a small sample of viewers. Based on the success of the piece of content, considering the engagement, completion ratio, likes, shares, comments, and more, the algorithm will further suggest the video to a wider group of people. Since this cycle repeats itself multiple times, it allows any creator to gain thousands or even millions of views, thus growing their fanbase exponentially.
Having been released only 6 years ago in 2017, TikTok was originally aimed at Gen Z and it may take a while for older generations of artists to get a feel for the platform. We have therefore prepared easy steps to follow to explore TikTok better and master the art of promotion on the platform.
1. Get ready to create your videos
First things first! Before getting started with video creation, it’s important to be sufficiently prepared for it. Elements such as lightning or the quality of sound will play a key role and it can be worth investing in some gear, such as a high-quality mic, ring light, or video editing software (e. g. Davinci Resolve, Final Cut PRO, Canva, etc.).
The second most important thing is to create a TikTok account. There are two levels of accounts on TikTok, both of which are free: Personal and Business. The Business account provides users with access to analytics and insights into their performance. In the past, you could choose between two types of accounts within the Business level (previously, the pro level) — TikTok for Business and TikTok for Creators. Although nowadays you only have the option of a Business account, it has all the previous benefits for artists and musicians. Creators can access tools and features such as the Creator Portal, the library of royalty-free sounds, the Business Creative Hub, the Web Business Suite with Analytics and other features, and the question-and-answer upgrade which allows them to engage more with their followers.
The Business account also allows you to add links in your description. The only thing you should be aware of is that, as of 2020, business accounts on TikTok are only allowed to access the so-called Commercial Music Library (not the whole TikTok Music Database) consisting of royalty-free tracks available for marketing and advertising purposes. This means that any commercially popular and mainstream songs (that TikTok has not pre-cleared for commercial purposes) will become unavailable once you switch to a Business account. So, if you’re a label or an artist and you choose the Business account, you’ll be able to feature your shop link or your website URL in the description but won’t find your catalog in the TikTok music library.
Does that make it hard for you to decide what account to choose? Take what’s best for you! We’d personally recommend choosing the 'regular' Personal account as showcasing your music in videos you create is ultimately what can help you be discovered.
TikTok's library for commercial use
How to set up TikTok for Business Account
In case you decide to sign up for Business Account, follow these easy steps.
You can choose to sign up with your phone or email, or Facebook, Google, Twitter, or Apple account.
Click on ‘Manage your account’.
Here, TikTok will show you all the benefits of a Business account.
By tapping ‘Next’, you have a TikTok business account!
2. Select a particular theme and stay consistent
Staying consistent with the topic of content you create (apart from your music) is crucial for targeting the right audience. Based on your content, the TikTok algorithm will put you in a specific category and connect you with people who’d enjoy that type of content. The videos that you’ll create should also, as a whole, showcase your characteristics, artistic personality, and the music or art that you want to highlight on your account.
As an artist, you can focus on categories such as music production tips, comedy sketches and memes, choreography and dance routines, behind-the-scenes content, motivational and inspirational content, and much more. For example, electronic music composer Lune of Atlantis centers his content mostly around mysterious videos ‘from space’ while musicians such as ILBOYZZ feature entertaining content focused more on their music.
3. Use the right hashtags
Hashtags are the n. 1 indicator of the relevance of your TikTok videos. Discovering and using popular and trending hashtags may eventually increase your chance of landing on the ‘TikTok Discover’ page or ‘For You’ tabs, helping you gain more views and engagement.
TikTok's Discover page
Specifically, the ‘For You’ tab is one of the most important TikTok pages to appear on. It presents a personalized compilation of videos that the TikTok algorithm has collected and curated for you based on your past activity on the app. Generally, landing on people’s ‘For You’ page means that the platform recognizes the quality of your content over other creators' videos and allows you to increase your visibility and gain more recognition and views from a wider audience.
While many factors play an active role for a creator to appear on the ‘For You’ page — the quality and engagement of your content; making rather short videos; keeping up with trends; etc. — adding popular hashtags to your content is essential. To find out which hashtags are trending at the moment, you can explore the Discover page on TikTok. However, make sure that the hashtags you use are connected to the content you create as TikTok’s algorithm assumes that hashtags determine what the videos are about.
Hashtags may also play an important role when it comes to trends and challenges. Therefore, if you choose to aim for a particular challenge on TikTok while using your music, put some thought into it and select a clear, catchy, and memorable hashtag that will serve as a name for the challenge. If you succeed, your music may be associated with the name for a long time and, again, help you earn new viewers and followers.
A small tip from us: Try to avoid targeted hashtags, such as #foryou or #foryoupage. Although some people claim that such hashtags may help improve your chances with the algorithm, it hasn’t been proven, and these hashtags may actually take up space for other hashtags that are more relevant to your videos. Although there is no limit to the number of hashtags you can use in your video captions (as long as they fit into the caption limit of 2,200 characters), multiple sources suggest that using 3-5 hashtags per post is the best strategy.
4. Follow current trends and challenges
TikTok is the paradise of trends and challenges and because of its nature, each sort of trend or challenge can and will thrive on the platform. Each challenge that’s currently trending has the ability to attract a great number of viewers, and TikTok's algorithm tends to favor these videos. It’s therefore extremely beneficial to watch out for current trends and make use of those that you find intriguing and, at the same time, will be aligned with your chosen topic and content category.
Particularly for artists and musicians, it’s additionally beneficial to search for and follow labels, bands, and other artists that are in the same music genre and field. Not only for finding inspiration and new ideas for your content but also for finding potential collaborators for future videos and challenges.
Also, as mentioned before, don’t forget about hashtags! Each challenge has one hashtag attached to it based on which users look for videos related to it on the ‘Discover page’. Using the particular hashtag can help you appear there, too.
A small tip from us: Short content is what really drives TikTok. So, even though in 2022 the maximum length of videos on the platform was extended to 10 minutes, it's still recommended to keep your videos shorter to maximize your engagement (as an average human attention span is currently 8,25 seconds). In fact, the ideal lenght of your videos should reportedly be somewhere between 10-17 seconds.
5. Put your music on TikTok and make use of the song official page
Naturally, the most significant part of your TikTok music promotion is your music and it’s therefore important to have it featured and available on the platform — both for you and other creators. Similarly, like in the case of Apple Music or Spotify, you need to get a music distributor, like iMusician, that will officially distribute your releases — in footage of up to 1 minute — onto the platform, to the apps’ music library. A digital distributor will furthermore make sure that you maintain the ownership of your music and get credit for your streams. You can learn more about how we at iMusician, distribute your music to TikTok on our page about products and services.
Create your free iMusician account here!
Once a song is distributed to TikTok, it gets its official song page that is then linked to both your TikTok and Apple Music accounts. Any user can check out your song page, access the whole footage, and also see your content in action which may increase your engagement and visibility on the platform.
Official TikTok's song page of Gran Torino by Jamie Cullum
6. Share your TikTok videos on other social media platforms
What’s great about TikTok is that it allows you to download your content. This way you can benefit from the popularity of the TikTok videos on other platforms, such as Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest, too. Cross-sharing your videos may considerably increase your reach, views, and engagement on these platforms.
Additionally, Instagram lets you share your TikTok videos directly to your Instagram Stories and, as of recently, Instagram Reels. Instagram stories can then be quickly shared on Facebook Stories and this way you can easily interact and engage with your followers through your TikTok content on all possible social networks.
7. Make the best out of TikTok Analytics
As mentioned before, TikTok Analytics is one of the ultimate benefits of the TikTok Business account. Found under ‘Account’. 'Privacy and settings' and ‘Business Suite’, the TikTok Analytics tool provides data on four main categories: Overview, Content, Followers, and LIVE.
The Overview tab gives you information on your engagement and shows metrics such as video views, profile views, likes, comments, and shares over the period of your choice — a week, a month, 60 days, or a custom period within a 60 day range.
The Content tab then provides you with a closer look at your posts and measures their performance and popularity within the chosen period of time. You can also see the top 9 videos that have had the fastest growth in viewership over the past 7 days and gain insights into other data such as video views by region and by section, reached audience, total play time, average play time, watched full video, and more.
In the Followers tab, you can learn more about your audience — the total number of your followers, their growth rate and the number of newly gained followers over a specified period, their gender, top territories, follower activity, etc. Bear in mind that to access this section of the Analytics page, you will need more than 100 followers.
Lastly, the LIVE tab gives an overview of the live videos you have hosted in the last week or month. You can see how much time you’ve spent live; how many new followers you gained during that time; how many viewers have seen your video at least one time; or how many Diamonds (virtual gifts that you can exchange for real money) you’ve received during your live shows. To access this section, you will need over 1,000 followers on your account.
Other important TikTok analytics include hashtags views — indicating the number of times videos with a given hashtag have been viewed — and a number of total likes, which can eventually help you count your average total engagement rate.
How to get your average engagement estimate
Go to your profile to view Likes and see your total
Count the number of videos you’ve posted
Divide the total number of likes by the number of videos
Divide this number by your account’s number of followers
Multiply this number by 100
8. Select your target audience and network with relevant influencers and creators
Knowing who your target viewers are on any social media platform is instrumental in finding success. This is where you can make great use of the Followers tab within TikTok Analytics to discover your current audience, analyze who and where they are, and compare the data with your desired audience. Creating an audience persona can also help you define your niche audience. You can read more about how to create one in our social media guide.
Once you know who you’re targeting, it’s beneficial to look for influencers and creators on TikTok that target the same audience and align with your content. You can contact them to collaborate on a challenge that can eventually increase your visibility and help you gain new viewers and followers. If a collaboration doesn’t work out, you can at least have them listen to your potential ideas, and if they have more experience creating content on TikTok, you can glean some valuable advice.
9. Spend time on TikTok to get familiar
As a fairly new social media platform that centers entirely around video content, TikTok has introduced a brand new way of communication and interaction implemented by brands, companies, and artists. By actively engaging in various trends and challenges, creators no longer control the communication and conversation with their audience. Instead, they come up with a concept or an idea and leave the perception of it and the communication to the followers and viewers.
This makes TikTok stand out from other social media networks and if you are interested in utilizing TikTok as part of your marketing strategy, it’s definitely worth spending some extra time getting familiar with the platform and its users. It will enable you to gain a deeper understanding of the platform and which content is popular, helping you with your own TikTok content and campaigns.
10. Follow the rules and regulations of the platform
TikTok is considered to be very active and protective when it comes to its users’ safety. The platform will therefore block any offensive, spam-ish, or harmful content. You should also avoid using any banned hashtags, deleting a big amount of content at once, following and/or unfollowing many users in one go, or using copyrighted material. If the network notices any of the mentioned activities, your account will be banned!
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