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5 Secrets to Growing a Massive TikTok Following

Learn from my step-by-step account of growing my personal TikTok.

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Last year I made a bet with a friend.

We did a 30-day challenge to see who could get the most followers. I handily won and kept it up. Within 6 months I’d gone from zero to sixty thousand followers. Now I have over 90,000 followers.

Despite working in social media for over a decade, I’d always been "too busy" to invest in my own digital footprint. Over the years I have collaborated with countless influencers and helped some of the biggest brands build online communities. However, I never applied that knowledge to grow my social following.

People stereotype TikTok. They think it's all tweens doing dance videos. That exists, but it is far from representative of the platform as a whole. In fact, according to data from Statista, 74% of TikTok users in the U.S. are 20 or older.

TikTok has an incredibly diverse audience across all ages and interests. Whatever your passion — your community exists on TikTok. 

I was always too scared to put myself front and center. The bet was the nudge I needed to change all that.

Here are five secrets that'll help you do the same.

1. Find your niche

It can be confusing to decide what type of content you should create. My advice is to make three columns and write a list answering each of the following:

  1. What are you knowledgeable about?

  2. What do you enjoy talking about?

  3. What kinds of videos can you create consistently (without it being a burden)?

Select your favorite topic from each column. Where these items overlap is your sweet spot for .

For example, I’m knowledgeable about social media (it is my career after all.) I enjoy talking and learning about it. The format I landed upon was talking to the camera about social media news and strategies. I didn’t create a lot of extra work for myself. I stuck with what I knew best so that creating content would be sustainable.

Related: 3 Reasons TikTok Is Here To Stay

2. Nail the opener

People scroll through 500 feet of content a day. If you want people to watch your content it MUST be thumb-stopping. So, how do you do that?

Create FOMO.

Make viewers feel like they’d be missing out if they kept scrolling.

I’ve found that posing questions or teasing juicy information gets people to stop. For example, in one TikTok instead of saying, “Gucci is selling a pair of $9 digital shoes” I posed it as a question.

“Is Gucci ruining their brand? Why are they selling these shoes for $9?”

That video got over half a million views. It’s provocative and generates intrigue. You can’t help but ask yourself, "Why is Gucci doing that?"

Additionally, addressing the viewer directly increases viewership.

Almost all of my top-performing TikToks include “you” language within the first sentence. This is a lesson I picked up from a YouTube study. Using “you” in the first few lines of a video increase views by 66% (or 97% if it’s used twice).

3. Hyperbole drives engagement

The masses of the internet aren’t known for embracing nuance and subtlety.

If you want to capture people’s attention, dial-up emotion and hyperbole. Extremes make content more engaging. Power words help increase viewership dramatically.

If you’re unfamiliar, power words are words used to trigger an emotional response. Common examples include: free, surprise, greatest, immediately, exclusive and genius.

See for yourself how effective they can be. Which of the following is more engaging to you:

How to grow a TikTok audience

OR 

The shocking secrets to growing a massive TikTok following

It’s the second one, right? That’s because of power words.

Related: TikTok vs. IG Reels: 3 Reasons Why Your Brand Must Leverage Both

4. Leverage borrowed interest

TikTok is unique. Unlike other social platforms, the main content feed is not composed of who you follow. Instead, it's the "For You Page," which is made up of algorithmically recommended content. As a result, most viewers will not be familiar with you.

You must create a compelling reason for people to watch.

Accomplish this by leveraging well-known references (ex. celebrities, influencers and pop culture icons). Discuss what you know your audience already cares about. This immediately grabs people’s attention.

For example, I did a post explaining the flywheel effect. To capture the viewer's attention I referenced Charli D’Amelio, the most popular TikTok creator. I used her story to illustrate my point and capture a broader audience.

If I’d started my video explaining the principle, far fewer people would have cared.

5. Delay gratification

TikTok rewards sticky content. If your TikToks keep viewers watching to the end (or close to it) the algorithm will prioritize it over content with high drop-off.

To increase watch time, keep people waiting for the payoff. If you pose a question at the beginning of a TikTok, don’t share it until the end. This incentivizes viewers to stick around.

For example, I made a TikTok about Forbes’s list of the highest-paid YouTubers. Instead of immediately sharing the entire list of names, I left it a mystery until the very last second.

Conclusion

I'm a 38-year old man with no dance skills, who went from 0 to 60,000 TikTok followers in just six months. I’m now at well over 90,000 followers with no sign of stopping.

I’m grateful I invested in cultivating my TikTok community. I’ve made friends, grew my email list, and cultivated professional contacts. However, the greatest value has been intrinsic. I invested in myself and honed my skills as a social media marketer.

If I can do it, you can do it. See you on my For You Page.

Related: How to Use TikTok to Promote Your Business

Brendan Gahan

Written By

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Brendan Gahan is partner and chief social officer at independent creative agency Mekanism. Gahan has been at the forefront of social and influencer marketing since 2006, was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in 2012 and sits on the Vidcon Advisory Board.