How to use TikTok: Your ultimate guide

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Statistics show that half the world’s population is active on social media. Almost everyone you know, right this very second, could be on their smartphone, browsing their feed on Facebook, liking photos on Instagram, ranting on Twitter, or watching music videos on YouTube. These apps are such a ubiquitous part of our daily lives that it’s hard to imagine that there could still be any uncharted social media territory that they somehow haven’t tapped.

And yet, here’s this new app called TikTok, dominating everyone’s feed with vertical videos that run the gamut from relaxing daily routine videos to riotous stand-up skits filmed with a green screen background and seemingly anything and everything in between.

So, you’re probably wondering, what is this app? Is this just some passing fad or the next firm social media fixture on everyone’s smartphone?

What is TikTok?

TikTok, for the uninitiated, is a short-form video community app created by a Chinese tech firm called ByteDance in 2015. In 2017, it acquired the lip-syncing app, Musical.ly and in 2018, relaunched TikTok into the app that we know today.

What’s impressive about this app is its tremendous and almost instantaneous growth. At the end of September 2021, the app passed the 1 billion monthly users mark. All within two years of its current iteration. To put that in perspective, it took Facebook, arguably the world’s biggest social networking site, eight years to exceed a billion active users.

So yeah, it’s a pretty big deal.

But why use TikTok?

Now, you may say, “Sure, the numbers are impressive, but why should I care as an aspiring content creator or a small brand proprietor?”

The answer is simple: over on TikTok, it’s all about the content.

This is evident once you open the app. It doesn’t ask you to follow anyone; it simply starts showing you one random video after another. Unlike other platforms that require the building of a following, over on TikTok, you only need to start posting and people will find you, no matter how niche your content is. In fact, the more niche, the better.

At first glance, it may seem a little too chaotic. But this seemingly chaotic user interface is designed “to encourage interaction and creation”, with editing tools and filters that empower any content creator to just have fun creating and finding an audience.

In short, TikTok is a creative playground where anyone can experiment with their content and possibly go viral.

But before we can talk about going viral, let’s walk through the steps on how to set up your own TikTok account. Then we’ll show you how to play around with its features, and finally, how you can grow as a content creator using the app.

How to use TikTok

How to set up a TikTok account:

1. Get the app and sign up

Download TikTok on the App Store or on Google Play. Open the app, and once you’re there, tap the Profile icon on the bottom right of the page. To sign up, you have the option to use your phone number or email address or sign up with your Gmail, Facebook, or Twitter accounts.

2. Edit your profile

Once you’ve signed up, the app will instantly take you to the video feed. You can either start going down the TikTok rabbit hole or finish setting up your profile. Do the latter by clicking on the profile icon once again and editing your profile.

3. Go personal or switch to a business account

By default, anyone who signs up on TikTok will have a personal account. But if you want to set up an account for your business, click on the icon at the upper right corner on your profile page then click on Manage Account. Under Account Control, you can click on Switch to Business Account.

What do you get with a business account?

  1. Access to data and insight on the performance and engagement of your videos
  2. First in line to try to new business features on TikTok
  3. Access to an exclusive library of royalty-free sounds to make your videos more engaging
  4. Creative inspiration found in TikTok’s Business Creative Hub

4. Start engaging

Browse the home page and start watching videos. To switch videos, swipe up. Tap on the For You button at the top center of the screen to find trending creators. If you want to follow a creator, tap the pink plus button right below the creator’s icon on the left side of the video. The creators will then show up when you tap the Following button at the top of the screen.

As you begin following other creators, the algorithm will become more personalized to your interests.

How to like, comment, or share videos

For every video you watch on TikTok, there’s the option to like the video (by tapping on the heart) or comment on the video (via the speech bubble). To share the video, press the forward sign underneath the comment symbol to see your sharing options. All these symbols are located on the right side of the video. If you want to learn more about the creator of a video you like, you can swipe left to see their profile.

How to search for TikTok videos

Chances are you may have heard or seen a TikToker that you like, and you would like to follow them. To search for TikTok videos, simply select the Discover button at the bottom of your screen. On this tab, you can either search out accounts or videos, or you can look below the search bar to see videos by trending topics.

How to film/record a TikTok video

1. Click the center icon.

This will take you to the app’s camera mode. On the right side of the screen, you will find the following icons:

  • Flip - lets you switch your camera direction
  • Speed - lets you record in slow or fast motion
  • Filters - allows you to adjust the filter on your camera, similar to the ones on Instagram
  • Beauty - wide variety of AR filters to edit out basically any facial feature
  • Timer - for guided hands-free shooting

2. Select Effects, Filters, and Sound.

You can start filming after making adjustments on any of the features above. But to make your videos more unique and attention-grabbing, use the Effects and Add Sound features.

Effects

Found on the bottom left of the screen. Tap this button to browse TikTok’s massive library of special effects and AR filters.

Add Sound

Found at the top center of the screen. Tap this button and choose from a wide variety of songs and sound effects, organized by categories such as K-pop, hip-hop, and even funny or seasonal sounds.

3. Now, you’re ready to record. Just press and hold the red button.

You can record all at once, or in bits and pieces. To do the latter, press and hold the record button, let go, then press and hold the button once your next shot is ready.

Alternatively, you can use the timer for hands-free recording.

4. Preview your clip.

To preview your work, just tap on the red check button. If your footage is not enough, click the arrow at the upper left side of the screen, record a bit more, then tap the red check button.

In the preview screen, you can add re-order the clips, add voice effects, voiceover, text, and stickers to your video.

5. Add your caption or hashtags and post.

Once you’re done, click next. Before posting, you can add a caption, insert hashtags to make your video easier to find, and tag friends. Other settings you can adjust here:

  • The cover of your video
  • Who gets to watch your video
  • If you will allow comments, duets, and stitching

If you want to simply save your video on your device, click More Options and tap Save to Device. You can also automatically share on Viber, Messenger, Facebook, or Instagram.

How to use Text-to-Speech, Green Screen, and Duets on your TikTok video

Text-to-Speech, Green Screen, and Duets are three of the signature effects on TikTok’s video editor. As with any feature on the app, you can use them for their intended purpose or play around with them, depending on the effect you’re going for, of course.

1. Text-to-Speech

If you want to narrate your video but don’t want to record your own voiceover, use the Text-to-Speech feature.

Here's a quick demo of how this feature works.

  • Record your video
  • Tap on the Text feature at the bottom of the screen
  • Type in your narration and tap elsewhere on the screen to finish
  • Press and hold the text and choose “Text-to-Speech”

This feature makes creating and watching videos on TikTok more accessible. A lot of TikTok creators are able to use it to humorous effect, though, like this one.

2. Green Screen

The green screen feature is the easiest way to add a little oomph to your video. To use this feature:

  • Before recording, tap the Effects button
  • Scroll through the categories and you will find a green screen in the menu
  • Choose your green screen effect

If you want to use your own photos and videos as background, give TikTok access to your photo library.

Here’s a quick clip of the many green-screen effects TikTok offers.

Many comedy skits on TikTok use a straightforward green screen effect to aid in their storytelling. Take a cue from Scott Seiss and Khabane Lame.

3. Duets

Duets are a type of collaborative tool on TikTok that allows you to build on another creator’s video. To do this, you have to make sure that the original TikTok video you want to duet with has its Duets feature enabled.

To enable Duets on your own account, do the following:

  • Open the app
  • Click on your profile
  • Tap the horizontal line icon at the upper right of the screen.
  • Click on Privacy
  • Under Duet, choose who can Duet with your videos (open to everyone, friends, or no one)

You can also opt to adjust the Duet feature per video as you post.

To duet with another video:

  • Open the app.
  • Choose the video you wish to Duet.
  • Tap the share button on the right side of the screen.
  • Click on the Duet button.
  • Start recording your video.
  • Click Next.
  • Add a unique caption, tag the original account, or use hashtags
  • And you’re ready to post.

While the most common use of the Duet feature is for the #singingduetchallenge, many creators use it to create comedy skits or even as a lip-syncing homage to films like this one.

How to elevate your TikTok videos

TikTok has a massive library of effects and filters that you can use, but if you can’t find a specific overlay or background in its library, the good news is that you can source them from elsewhere and upload them on the app for further editing.

Canva, for one, has TikTok templates that you can edit on our free video editing platform. These templates follow the standard TikTok video size and vertical dimensions at 1080×1920 so your video will automatically look good on the app.

To edit TikTok videos, backgrounds, and overlays on Canva:

  1. Go to canva.com/tiktok-videos/templates/ or search “TikTok templates”.
  2. Choose and click on a template to go to the Canva Video dashboard.
  3. Add graphic elements, text, or audio to the template. Add animations and effects.
  4. Crop the video or add another clip on the video timeline editor.
  5. Download as an mp4 and upload on TikTok.

Fun TikTok video ideas to try

1. Demo your passion

Whatever it is you’re passionate about, people love to see it—whether it’s art, books, dance or make-up, or even your funny take on outdated fashion trends.

To establish your personal branding, insert outros to your videos.

Make your dance videos more unique and eye-catching with fun overlays.

Add a spooky green screen background for your storytelling video or skit.

You can easily personalize these templates to suit your particular style or need with Canva’s drag-and-drop design tools.

2. Share your expertise in bite-sized videos

If you’re a teacher, a doctor, a STEM professional, or an environmental advocate, reach out to the younger audience by creating relevant and easily digestible content on TikTok.

Create a polished title cover for your videos.

Creating a talking heads video? Use eye-catching captions to highlight your important points.

With Canva’s video timeline editor, you can easily crop and split your videos to make them snappier and more concise.

3. Post life hacks, how-to’s, tips, and tricks

One of the best ways for brands to reach out to their audience is not just by showcasing their products but by sharing content that’s useful in daily life. So if you want your brand to be #relatable, create relevant how-to’s or tips and tricks that your target audience will resonate with.

Make your fashion tips and tricks more stylish with trendy overlays and backgrounds.

Use animated stickers and typography to add more personality to your food shots.

Incorporate your branding into your in-depth tutorials.

Make your background or overlay more unique by inserting icons, stickers, and other graphic elements.

4. Share your daily life

Tell a story, film a vlog, show your morning routine, or create a quick travel video. True, TikTok is filled with snappy and fast-paced content, but it also has room for slow and relaxing slice-of-life videos.

Want to give your travel videos that nostalgic feel? Give it a subtle VHS-type overlay.

Insert minimalist captions on your daily routine videos.

Add to the healing and relaxing vibe of your daily routine video by inserting calming video inserts and relaxing audio tracks from Canva’s stock audio-video library.

5. Collaborate with other creators

Whether it’s through a duet or an account takeover, collaborating with other creators is one of the best ways to push your creativity on the app while also getting a crossover audience.

Introduce your collaborator with a fun intro video like this one.

With Canva, you can collaborate or edit on a single platform to keep branding consistent among collaborators. Just click Share, copy the link to your draft, and send it over to your creator-collaborator.

Best practices as a TikTok Creator

TikTok provides a great opportunity for content creators and small brands to reach their intended audience. However, if you’re serious about growing your account, go beyond creating content and leaving your account in the hands of fate (or the app’s algorithm). Learn how you can make your TikTok account the best and most engaging it can be with these best practices.

1. Set the optimal TikTok video size/dimensions

To make sure your video looks good on the app, film vertically and make sure the dimensions are at 1080x1920.

2. Choose the best video posting time

When’s the best hour to post? Ideally, when your target audience is awake and using the app! If you have a TikTok Pro account, you can access data on your target audience, including the time that they are most active on the app. Similarly, you can use your other social media metrics to find out your audience’s active hours online.

3. Maintain consistency

To keep your audience engaged with your content, you should be posting on your TikTok at least once a day. But what if you’re not feeling inspired?

That’s where your content pillars come in.

Content pillars are, in essence, your go-to topics or themes. Having them on hand makes content planning easier and more strategic, so you won’t have to resort to last-minute posts when you run out of ideas. So, for example, if your TikTok niche is beauty, your account can focus on product reviews, skincare hacks, and make-up tutorials. If you’re on #BookTok, focus on #TBRs, book hauls, and book reviews.

4. Tips on how to go viral

There are no cut-and-dry ways to go viral on any platform, but here are a few tips:

Be funny and/or relatable

You don’t need to tell jokes. Sometimes, even a funny anecdote or a weird but relatable question can get people engaging with your video and talking.

Keep it snappy

There’s no aggregated data on which videos on TikTok tend to perform best in terms of video length, but based on this informal 2020 study, the top videos of 2019 tend to be around 16 seconds. However, TikTok has now expanded video length up to 3 minutes, after seeing the rise of videos with multiple parts.

Stick to a niche and maximize the use of hashtags

There’s a lot of content on TikTok — millions. You can easily get lost in the fray. So what’s the best way to stand out? Focus on what you love. People tend to gravitate towards content that’s authentic and passionate, so if you post content that truly speaks to you, then viewers will see that.

But — there’s the algorithm to contend with. So, if you want to be found by your people, know the hashtags followed by your intended audience and use them wisely.

Cross-promote on other social media platforms

Whether or not you’ve already got a following on your other social media platforms, just getting your content outside the app will help more people find you.

How to grow and earn as a content creator on TikTok

TikTok Creator Fund

To empower its creators to turn their creativity into a viable income source, TikTok has started offering the TikTok Creator Fund.

According to TikTok, the Creator Fund is not a grant or an ad revenue-sharing program. Rather, “Creators receive funds based on a variety of factors from their videos, and creators will know that performance on TikTok is dynamic—it changes naturally—so your funds will ebb and flow in the same way.”

Are you eligible to apply for the Creator Fund?

Creators must meet the following criteria:

  • based in the US, UK, France, Germany, Spain, or Italy.
  • at least 18 years old
  • With at least 10,000 followers
  • Have at least 100,000 authentic video views in the last 30 days
  • Have an account that fits with our TikTok Community Guidelines and terms of service

TikTok Creator Marketplace

Alternatively, for creators who don’t meet the criteria for the Creator Fund, there’s the Creator Marketplace. Here, brands can connect with TikTok creators to collaborate with them and come up with fun and engaging branded TikTok videos.

Key takeaways

As young as the app is, it’s obvious that TikTok is here to stay as an important content platform, as it keeps on finding new ways to keep its viewers engaged and its creators empowered.

Therefore, if you’re a content creator, a creative individual, a small brand proprietor, or a social media brand manager, you should look into how the app can help you showcase your creativity and products to your intended audience.

Any type of content can go viral on TikTok—as long as you’re consistently and strategically creating, posting, and engaging with your viewers.

And once you’re ready to level up, you can give your content a little polish—with or without video editing skills—with the help of Canva’s online video editor and TikTok video templates.


To create your first viral content for TikTok, use our TikTok video templates and edit them for free using our online video editing platform.

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