Tik Tok is the latest social media app to take the world by storm. And I love it. Even before I got into creating travel content for Tik Tok, I would find myself sucked in by the app. Anyone can succeed on Tik Tok, regardless of niche, audience, or talent. I found myself following anyone from hula hoopers to musicians to dancers to chefs to that little boy that says “thank you Mama” every time he gets food. Literally anything goes on this app and it is fantastic.
There is room for anyone on this app, including those of us in the travel space. As a travel blogger and influencer, I’ve written a handful of guides on growing your blog, Instagram, or brand as a whole. However, it took me forever to figure out Tik Tok. I hopped on board the Tik Tok train back in fall of 2019, posting random videos from South America and growing my following to about 4,000. Then, I stopped posting content for almost six months.
When I got back on the app, everything had changed. Everyone was stuck in quarantine or lockdowns, and Tik Tok emerged as the go-to platform for entertainment and content creation. I started posting again, only to find that my content flopped. I couldn’t break the barrier of 200 views. I only continued doing it for fun, with no worries about the algorithm or views.
The thing about doing things for fun is this. You eventually get good at it. You gradually get an understanding for a skill or a talent or in this case a platform, and you don’t even notice it. Through months of watching Tik Toks, I subconsciously started figuring out what works and have grown my following to over 43,000 since the summer. Sure, it’s not much considering that creators who’ve been around since Tik Tok’s inception have millions of followers. But if you’ve read any of my guides before, you know I’m not about follower count but about finding your niche, fostering engagement and building a community.
I love TikTok, and I’ve never had more fun growing an audience and earning a living. Hitting the 10,000 follower mark and getting accepted into Tik Tok’s creator fund has led to a steady income that I would have never thought possible at the beginning of the pandemic. I mean, I just liked watching the funny videos that people made. Tik Tok has changed lives, and I’m excited to let you know some of the methods I’ve picked up on my own Tik Tok travel blogger journey.
Create Engaging Content
From my experience with the Tik Tok algorithm, the type of content that does well are the videos with high watch time. Videos that get watched all the way through are the ones that get rewarded by Tik Tok’s algorithm. Make it engaging. Make it hard for people to simply scroll past. Capture their attention right away and hold it until the end.
My best tip for capturing your audience right away is not through video, but by text. If there’s text over the video, the viewer will naturally start reading that first. For this reason, I usually don’t post my best clips at the beginning. I’ll give a teaser or an introduction to the video, giving context or setting up exposition for a story that I’m about to tell.
Tell A Story
The main thing that all social media has in common is that people love hearing stories. The ones that succeed the most on social media are the ones that tell a captivating story. Okay, actually, it’s good-looking people showing off how good-looking they are. After that, storytellers are the ones that succeed the most.
In terms of equipment, I am sorely lacking. I see people on Tik Tok and Instagram capturing epic footage with their drones, thousand-dollar cameras, and other gear that is financially unattainable for me. That doesn’t mean that I can’t succeed. It’s never just about gear, although admittedly, it helps. Most of my videos on Tik Tok are captured straight from my iPhone, and aren’t always the best quality either. My most popular video has over five million views and was a video taken at Zion National Park through my dirty windshield.
Frankly, I didn’t put too much effort into telling a story there, but the visuals combined with the audio struck a chord with viewers. The music brought them back to their childhoods, inspired a sense of wonder, and the visuals delivered. Like I mentioned in the first part, you have to capture their attentions right away and keep them intrigued throughout. The first four seconds or so of the video are in a dark tunnel where you can’t see anything. The introductory text “When I tell you my jaw dropped at the end…” kept people sticking around because they wanted to see what happened at the end.
That being said, don’t just clickbait people into sticking around. If you promise a big payoff and it doesn’t deliver, then sure, you’ll get views but you won’t get engagement. Likes, comments, and shares are crucial to succeeding in Tik Tok’s algorithm. Watch time alone won’t get you to blow up.
Encourage Engagement in the Comment Section
Another way to increase both watch time and engagement is by taking advantage of the comments section. I’ve noticed that in my most successful videos, the comment sections were poppin’. The comments are honestly mostly up to your audience. Sometimes they do all the work for you. My most successful video had a huge argument in the comments about creationism, but hey, that kept people around on my video for much longer. As they take time to read the comments, the watch time goes up and if they feel like saying something, that adds to the engagement.
Now I’m not saying that you should start arguments and fights in the comment section, but try to spark a discussion. If I post a video of a trek in Peru, I’ll find that many people have questions to ask. I’ll do a little pre-emptive strike before the video starts gaining traction, so that there’s already something there when people start watching it. That’ll encourage them to ask me more questions or say something about the video. A video with an empty comments section is likely to die before it ever takes off.
Link to your other socials in your bio
If you live in the United States, you know that we live in constant fear of Tik Tok being taken away from us. Trump has constantly played with the idea of shutting down Tik Tok, which makes it hard for creators to devote their time fully to the platform. Knowing that it can be taken away at any time doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in TikTokers to keep using the platform. Regardless of whether Tik Tok does get shut down, one should have links to their other social media pages in their bio. Tik Tok allows you to link directly to Instagram and YouTube, and then allows for another website link in your bio. I’m connected to my Instagram, and then have my Linktree page in my bio. I don’t know how well the Linktree page does, because sometimes I think having a direct link to thepartyingtraveler.com might capture people’s attentions better.
You never know who’s going to notice your content and take interest in your social media pages and life. I mean, the famous DJ Dillon Francis randomly dueted one of my California hiking videos. I’ve been re-posted by several pages with millions of followers who reached out to me on Instagram because of a video they saw on TikTok. That led to me gaining over two thousand followers on Instagram and picking up more features. Being contacted on TikTok is very unreliable, so make sure there’s an alternative outlet to be reached at.
Linking to your socials encourages multi-platform growth and gives people a more direct outlet to reach you at.
Post often, you never know what’s going to go viral
I’ll be honest, Tik Tok is a crapshoot when it comes to content. My most-viewed video took me less than a minute to put together. Other content that I’ll spend an hour on will flop hard. Even if you don’t think something’s worth posting, post it anyway. Trust the algorithm and let the app do the work.
Stay on top of the trends
One of the top things that I’ve learned as a writer, photographer, and content creator in general is that you have to learn. I’m constantly learning and adapting my style and work based on how trends change and how my idols and mentors do their thing. This goes for Tik Tok as well. The more videos you watch, the more you learn what succeeds. I watch Tik Toks not only for entertainment, but also to pick up ideas for my own content. If I hear a sound that I think has even a 1% chance of working with my content, I’ll add it to my favorites.
As a travel blogger on Tik Tok, the popular dances aren’t necessarily relevant to me. However, those sounds definitely can be. One of my latest viral videos involved me struggling on a hike, followed by my fellow hikers having a dance party at a mountain pass. Using the right audio really helped the video take off, even if it wasn’t what the audio was intended for. Keep an eye and an ear out for things that work, and try to incorporate your own style and content into it.
Let your posts run their course before creating competing content
It’s important to create a steady stream of engaging content. However, don’t create so much content that your page becomes a jumbled mess. Keep your best content at the forefront of your page. Most people will only give you a few videos before deciding whether to follow you or not. If you’ve currently got videos going viral, try not to let them drop below the third or fourth row of your feed. When looking through your page, people will naturally look for the videos with the highest number of views.
The higher the view count, the more likely people are to click on it when scrolling through your page. High view counts basically suggest that that particular content is your highlight reel. If you are proud of that content, don’t make it difficult to find. The longer someone has to scroll to find a video that they want to watch, the more likely they are to leave your page without following you. It sucks, but growing on Tik Tok really is just a giant snowball effect. It’s a grind at first, but once you start taking off, the easier it is to grow. When you already have a decent number of followers and your videos get thousands of views, it adds a sense of legitimacy to your page. It suggests that you’re not just a one-hit-wonder, but someone who delivers quality content consistently. Clicking on someone’s profile and seeing a stream of videos with a few hundred views unfortunately makes it unlikely for them to be converted into a follower.
That being said, let your viral content run its course. If one video goes viral, the rest of your videos will benefit as well. Before my video of Zion National Park went viral, most of my content hovered around 1,000-2,000 views. For every video that pulled 100,000 views or more, I’d have 10 that’d fail to break 2,000. When my video went viral, all of my videos started getting views as a result. Now, there’s nothing on my profile with less than 5,000 views. While it’s not a great number, it does display a likelihood to produce consistent quality content.
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Again, consistency is a major key. I am a travel blogger, so I tend to stick almost entirely to travel content. After I finished my latest road trip, I posted a few funny videos of my dog, but once my travel content started taking off, I deleted them to maintain a clean feed with a unifying theme. As much as I would love to show off my dog, I wouldn’t do it on my travel Instagram page outside of my stories. Treat Tik Tok the same way. Even as a travel blogger, I’ve found that my content struggles to take off if it falls outside of a specific niche or location.
Content from the United States seems to take off regardless of how much effort I actually put into creating the video. Meanwhile, my videos from places like Peru or Sri Lanka often fail to break the viral barrier because they aren’t relevant to my Tik Tok following which is about 85% from the United States. Like I said, it’s a big crapshoot sometimes. If one of your videos goes viral and covers a specific location, continue producing content for that location for the duration of your video going viral. I stuck to Utah content for a few days following my Zion video taking off, and it definitely helped me grow a following from the Western U.S. Like I said, consistency is key. Once the video views started slowing down, I went back to the drawing board to create new content.
Create Engaging Content. Invoke Emotion. Be Consistent.
Happy Tik-Toking, y’all! Make sure to follow me on there @elisolidum.