I posted a new video on TikTok a few days ago and it is already about to pass 2 million views. I had a pretty good hunch that this video would do well, but it was still exciting to see that it actually worked! I have a new process I’ve put together for creating TikTok content every week, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you.
This week I also got a chance to sit down with Ryan Beard and learn how he grew his TikTok account @ryanbeardofficial to over 480k followers. Ryan posts original content and regularly gets 100k likes per video (and he was on America’s Got Talent!). He shared invaluable knowledge that I hope you can apply to your own TikTok strategies. Thank you Ryan for taking the time!
Also! Thank you to everyone who shared my article “The Complete Beginner’s Guide to TikTok”! I spent 30 days on TikTok while writing it and I’m so glad that so many of you found it valuable.
So how’s my TikTok account doing? Why did I have a hunch my new video would do well? What did I do to grow my account when I first started? What am I doing now to continue to grow it? What insights did today’s guest & viral TikTok creator have for us?
Let’s jump into today’s update from theforyoupage.
p.s. There are some questions for you at the end! Reply back to me with your answers, I would love to hear from you!
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Followers: 63,898 (I was at 30k less than a week ago!)
Video Views (Past 28 Days): 4,134,699
Profile Views (Past 28 Days): 96,465
Days on TikTok: 48
My account was created on August 7th, 2019
What I Did On TikTok During My First Month
When I first started creating videos for TikTok I had no idea what I was doing. Like some of you reading this, I didn’t even really fully understand TikTok.
My first couple of videos I didn’t share publicly. I just recorded videos, tried different sounds, and played with the filters. They are still on my account, but set to private, so I can still see them and they are pretty bad. They didn’t follow any sort of format, they weren’t interesting, and they didn’t follow any trends.
I left one of these random videos up for the sake of posterity. You can even see in the username overlay on the video that I hadn’t even customized my account name yet.
I quickly moved on to trying some TikTok trends (and picked a username, which took way longer than I expected). I couldn’t dance (and still can’t…at least not yet…) so my first stop was to try making some jokes. They didn’t do that great either, but definitely an improvement on my original random videos which had no strategy at all.
This was my first tiny taste of success. Some people, somewhere, were hitting the like button on my videos. It wasn’t enough though, I needed to try something new.
In a blatant attempt at increasing engagement I started creating video puzzles where my viewers were shown 1 frame clues throughout my video. The first person to solve the puzzle would find a URL where they could redeem a $5 Amazon gift card.
My first attempt worked better than anything I had ever done before (you can see in the bottom right it has 1.2k likes) and I chased this virality for the next week, posting a new puzzle video every day.
Why were these videos getting likes? Well…the strategy I was employing here, and I’m not exactly proud of this, was that in order to find the clues people would either have to pause the videos at exactly the right time which would result in them accidentally liking the video (tapping your screen on TikTok once pauses the video, but double tapping likes the video) or downloading the video (so that they could go though it frame by fame). I had seen other TikTok creators use this strategy in different ways, not usually with gift cards, and I created my own twist on it.
I enjoyed making these since there really was a real prize for whoever could figure out the puzzle first and I’d never seen anyone on TikTok create videos like this before. I also just really liked (and still like) the concept of a video being a puzzle, almost like its a little mini game TikTok viewers get to play in between scrolling through dance and joke videos.
Here’s an example of how one of my puzzles worked:
You would have to find the pieces of a URL in the video.
This URL would take you to an image on the web that had another URL hidden inside of it.
This second image would give you the URL to redeem the Amazon card.
See if you can solve this one.
These videos were getting a lot more likes than I was getting when I first started, and I felt like I was on fire! Almost every video would hit 100 likes, and to me… that was amazing. But I wasn’t getting any followers!
So, I started a new strategy. I started following everyone who liked any of my videos. If I followed too fast, which happened often, TikTok would show me a warning and would block me from following anyone for sometimes hours and hours. When I followed someone, they would get a notification that I followed them and a certain percentage would follow back.
Puzzle videos and following everyone who liked my videos was how I got to my first 1,000 followers on TikTok. It was a grind, but it was working.
But now I had a problem. Other people on TikTok were going viral every day, and they weren’t giving away $5 per video! This had to stop, I had to figure out a better way.
So I stopped relying on my puzzle videos and I tried to make content about my life or jokes. Now that I had a solid base of 1,000 followers, these did a lot better than I expected.
It was also during this time that I experimented with posting an animated drawing of a candle. It didn’t get a lot of of likes, but people in the comments were so supportive and told me I should post more drawings. This type of positive feedback stuck with me and came into play in my later videos.
As part of my brainstorming process I look through the for you page. There are always new trends that pick up and everyone starts doing them. One trend can make a lot of people “TikTok Famous”. I had to try and do something.
I started simple, I did a duet with a popular video to a remix of Hank Hill singing that he doesn’t know what a JPEG is and he just wants a picture of a “dang hotdog”. I literally just posted a video of a gummy worm. 400+ likes.
Then, and this was a big step, I created my own version where I drew Hank Hill as a dancing hotdog. 389 likes. Not as good as the duet with the super popular video, but a really great sign that I could get engagement with original content that didn’t involve a giveaway or piggy backing on someone else’s video!
This video was a big realization for me. If I looked through the for you page for popular content and then recreated popular content with my own spin on it, I could get solid engagement.
I spent some time searching and found a new piece of content I could do. I could do magic tricks where I would guess what shape or card you were looking at. I could then ask the viewer to double tap the screen to lock in their guess, and then I would reveal which card they had chosen.
This brought me an entirely new level of engagement. Now, instead of getting you to like the video on accident, I was asking you to like it on purpose.
On my first attempt I got 25.5k likes.
This was an insane jump in engagement for me, and just like with the puzzles… I chased the virality for a week.
But there was a problem. This type of content was getting likes, but it was really boring. Maybe I would be able to guess what 70% of people would choose, but there was no fun in it, there wasn’t anything special. I also had concerns that nobody would want to follow an account that didn’t provide anything special… I needed to figure out a way to take things to the next level.
I needed to figure out how to create a video that delivered a “wow” moment.
So I made a video where people could play rock paper scissors with me. I’d seen someone else do it and I thought it was cool. It got likes, and I still think it’s cool, but I can’t just post rock paper scissors videos every day.
Then I copied someone else’s video. This also worked… and it stuck with the magic theme… but I really didn’t want to create an account around copying other people’s videos. I had to think of something different. Something more original.
I really wanted to figure out how I could take my magic videos to the next level.
So I looked up the #magic hashtag on TikTok and started going through the top videos. What I discovered was that there were a lot of top videos from mind reading mentalists. They would ask you a series of questions and then reveal what you were thinking. It was like my pick a card magic but with the “wow” factor I was looking for.
So how could I put my own spin on it? I thought back to the positive comments viewers had left on my videos that included my drawings and decided I would create a comic book style character that could read minds and do magic tricks.
My first attempt got 10.7k likes. Huge! I shot a new version and made it even cleaner and this one got 244.1k likes and broke 2 million views! Not only that, but since my first video (with the banana) got a lot of likes but I didn’t get any followers, in my second video, which happened to go super viral, I asked people to like the video and follow me before I read their mind.
This worked and I got 10k new followers overnight and another 20k over the following week.
30 days into TikTok and I had found my new thing.
Not subscribed to theforyoupage newsletter yet? Follow along as I grow my TikTok account.
What I Did on TikTok Last Week
Over the past week I have continued to experiment with the comic mentalist theme with pretty consistent success.
Here are some things I have tried and learned this week:
Creating different mentalist videos where I ask the viewer a series of questions while showing different pieces of paper with different pieces of information.
Some of my videos didn’t do go super viral and stuck around the 5k - 10k like range. It’s hard to tell exactly why they didn’t go as viral, but I think it may be because I made the videos too complicated or I talked too fast. People still like them, but they didn’t go super viral.
I spent a LOT of time deleting every open conversation I had in my TikTok inbox. When you follow someone on TikTok, and they follow you back, it automatically opens a new thread in your inbox. Because following was part of my strategy during my first month I had almost 1,000 open conversations in my inbox. Since my account is starting to grow I am hoping I can soon connect with more viral TikTok creators, so I needed to delete every conversation so that I could reach TikTok inbox zero so I would have a clean way to manage conversations moving forward.
I recreated a slightly different version of my super viral video and, guess what? It went viral too! This video has over 200k likes and is on it’s way to hitting 2 million views in just the past couple of days.
So here’s where my head is at right now:
I have reached a new level where I know I can consistently get 10k to 50k views with a chance of having a viral hit that gets 1mil to 2mil views. Wooo! This is exciting!
My comic character is in each of these new videos and I feel like that is the beginning of a brand. Also wooo! This is good!
I am wondering if it’s bad that I am not personally appearing in my videos. Is this hurting the brand of my TikTok? Will people not remember me? Can it really just be a comic character? Ryan Beard, our viral TikTok interview of the day, believes I should be on camera more (you can read more from Ryan in the next section).
I don’t want to just be doing mentalist style videos. I am interested in figuring out other types of videos I could work my comic character into. I have been spending some time looking up these hashtags to see if I can find some inspiration: #cartoons #drawing #animated.
I’ve had a couple people ask about me doing another Amazon gift card giveaway. Now that I have over 60k followers I’m a little curious how this type of video would do. I might try it out this week and see.
I am trying to think if there is a viral TikTok video I could create talking about this newsletter. Figuring out how to move people from TikTok to something like an email newsletter, or other forms of social media, is something I am still trying to figure out a strategy for.
I’ve had a few brands reach out to me about TikTok and I’ve been thinking through what the best strategy for ecommerce brands is. Not sure yet. More on this later.
Overall, my plan is to experiment with at least one video a week and also do one video a week that I know will do well. Hopefully I will soon discover the next tier of content I can create that is even more original, unique, and entertaining.
Interview with TikTok Creator Ryan Beard
@ryanbeardofficial | 480k+ TikTok Followers
Matt: When did you first start posting videos on TikTok? What convinced you to start using TikTok?
Ryan: I started posting TikToks in May of this year (2019), so I've been at it for about 5 months now and have already grown to nearly 500k followers. I had been watching TikToks ironically at the start. Back when TikTok first started, it was mostly still lip syncing videos like Musical.ly which I personally found very cringey. What really convinced me to start using TikTok was seeing how the app had brought major success to artists like Lil Nas X and mxmtoon. These artists wouldn't have their careers if it weren't for TikTok, and as a musician myself, I saw a lot of potential for building a following and eventually promoting my own music and YouTube channel.
Matt: What kind of content did you start creating in the beginning and how has that changed over time?
Ryan: From the get go, I wanted to create content that was different than the majority of content on the app. I decided to use my Nikon camera to shoot my videos rather than shooting in the app on my phone like the majority of people do. At first I definitely followed the trends more than I do now. I would take whatever trend is popular at the time and then put an unexpectedly dark or gross twist at the end. Over time, I've steered into doing almost completely original content. Now, instead of using the popular audios for example, I'll write a parody song using my own audio, or write a completely original comedy song commenting on something I think is wrong with the app. People on TikTok really do appreciate when they can see that you put a lot more effort into your video than most of the other videos they see on their "For You" page.
Matt: When was the first time you went viral on TikTok? Did it come as a surprise?
Ryan: My first video that went viral was a video called "How God Made My Girlfriend". It was already a popular trend where people would say that God made their girlfriend "pretty" or "smart" or "funny" etc...But instead my video said "stinky" "slimy" and "covered in scales", and at the end I revealed that my girlfriend is a fish, and I made out with the fish. It obviously became popular because of the gross out factor and the shareability of the video. I was definitely surprised with how quickly it shot up to over 300k likes, but with TikTok, if you have a video that their algorithm sees is doing exceptionally well, your video can go viral very quickly. Right now at least, shares are king with the TikTok algorithm. They want their videos to be shared to other social medias or having people sending the videos to their friends, so if you can get a high share rate on your video, that's the best way to get it in front of as many eyes as possible.
Matt: Have you used TikTok to grow other accounts like Instagram or YouTube?
Ryan: I have promoted my Instagram, YouTube, and Spotify through TikTok. One of my friends "cregtok" made a video using my song worshiping Danny Devito, and the song went viral on TikTok with many other people using that audio for their own videos showing how much they loved Danny Devito. Because of this, the video of the song on my YouTube channel went from 1000 views to over 800k.
TikTok really does have the power to make a song go viral if they legitimately enjoy it, but it's not easy to force. Since then I've also promoted my first single on TikTok which is now over 10k streams on Spotify.
I tried to turn the audio from the song into a trend where the punch line would be "I Scared All My Friends Away" which is the title of the song, and people would give examples of how they're scared their friends away, but this didn't work terribly well. Again, it's hard to force a trend.
Matt: What advice do you have for creators and brands trying to grow an audience on TikTok?
Ryan: My advice to brands trying to grow on TikTok is to show people something they haven't seen before. Their "For You" pages are flooded with millions of videos of people lip syncing to the exact same audios. I notice that most brands just tell their sponsored creators to hold their product and lip sync to whatever song the brand chooses, and while this will certainly show your product to people on that creator's account, it probably won't go viral on the "For You" page because the shareability is incredibly low.
The real way for brands to find success it to have a more original creator make a video that is unique and doesn't seem like it's pandering. If you can have a comment section filled with comments like "now this is how you do an ad", and you're getting a lot of shares on the video, you're doing it right. My friend cregtok made a video promoting the board game "What Do You Meme" by showing a video of him and his friends playing the game and one of his friends struggling to figure out the answer to a funny question. This video got over a million views and was shared thousands of times because he showed an authentic, shareable experience of him playing the game, rather than a video where he looks at the camera and says "Wow! I love this new game, What Do You Meme! It's so much fun!" which probably would have been shared almost not at all.
For creators that want to grow on TikTok, I have very similar advice. Rather than put out videos that are just following the trends, try to find a way to put your twist on the trend in a way that only you can. You have to stay current with what's happening on the app while finding a way to make yourself stand out. For example there is a rap song on TikTok that is extremely popular that goes "Bitch, I look like I'm fresh off the runway". I decided to make an operatic acapella version of the song that sounds like a choir from a horror movie. I titled it, "This is what you hear right before you die". People enjoyed the video because of the dichotomy of the silly lyrics paired against the very serious delivery of the song. That video got over 250k likes and the audio has been used in other people's videos over 10 thousand times. People love when you put together two different things that don't belong or have an unexpected twist at the end of your video.
Matt: What are you trying to figure out on TikTok right now?
Ryan: Right now, I'm trying to figure out how to get more of my audience to follow me on YouTube and Instagram. Many creators have a very difficult time getting their followings to come to other platforms. Especially because TikTok as an app is so focused around the "For You" page. Most people spend the majority if their time scrolling down that page which means they aren't as likely to come on to your account, and they're even less likely to take the time to follow your other social medias. There are of course ways to game this like saying "Read what my bio says" in the description of a video, but I personally prioritize authenticity above all else, so I try to stay away from tactics like that unless there's a good reason for it. I also get really annoyed when people say "watch until the end of the video!" because they're trying to game the algorithm, and then nothing interesting happens at the end of the video. If you're gonna tell people to watch until the end, put something interesting at the end! I have done things like saying "I'll comment on every video that uses this audio" or "I'll reply to every comment people leave on my YouTube video" as ways to get people to use my audios or follow my YouTube, and I do think this has been somewhat successful.
Matt: What TikTok creators do you like watching?
Ryan: I really enjoy watching comedy sketch based content and musical content. Some creators I would recommend checking out who have a really hilarious, ironic comedic style are @wahony, @hunynut, @jaycote, @nolanroseborough, and @calebwfrancis. All of them are making really smart, ironic humor that is different than what we've all seen before.
Matt: What questions should we ask other TikTok creators and brands when we interview them?
Ryan: The questions you've asked so far are really good! I would be interested to hear how brands' strategies differ from how everyone else is promoting on TikTok, and I would be interested to hear the more personal side of how TikTok affects creators mentally because there's definitely a big dopamine rush when you see that a video is going viral, and it can be really discouraging when a video doesn't do as well as you'd hoped. I don't think we fully understand the repercussions apps like these have on the mental health of young people, and I think the seeking of constant validation and always hoping for that next viral video can be really unhealthy if you don't have a good perspective on all of it. I'm still trying to find that healthy perspective myself.
Matt: What TikTok creator do you nominate for our next theforyoupage interview? :)
Ryan: Some creators I would love to see interviewed: @nolanroseborough (comedy sketches), @yeahimcaroline (cosplay and vloging), @tootymcnooty (animation), @charlescornellstudios (musical comedy), @minecrafter2011 (dance). I tried to choose a diverse list of creators who are all doing very unique things to push the platform forward.
Matt: What's one piece of advice you have for how I can make my TikTok account and content better? (@mattcatbat) Be as harsh as you want!
Ryan: I enjoyed your content! I like that your style stands out because you use the drawings on paper which is something I haven't seen much before, but if you don't show your face, you're not going to gain a following that really cares about you as a creator. If you're just making these videos for fun, then it's fine, but if you were to ever live stream for example, people probably wouldn't want to give you any donations because they haven't made a personal connection with you. I'm not a big fan of "mind reading" videos because they're really just math equations, but I know they're very popular. I thought that video where you had people solve a puzzle to get a gift card was super unique and something I'd never seen before. I think my main advice is you need to show your face is you want your audience to really care about you, but I really like how original a lot of your stuff is.
Thank you Ryan for taking the time to share your TikTok journey with myself and theforyoupage readers! I will take your advice to heart and see how I can use it to improve my TikTok account!
Interesting TikTok Links:
Questions for theforyoupage Readers
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p.s. When I’m not posting TikTok videos at midnight, or pretending I know how to do the “woah”, I am CEO of Octane AI where we power Messenger and SMS marketing automation for over 1,000 fast growing DTC brands on Shopify. Check out the recent 250+ page playbook we put together to learn more.