I recently hit 100k followers on my TikTok account. A bunch of my friends started asking me how I did it, so I figured it’d be more helpful to write out my methods in one post.
While my method worked for stand-up comedy, I’ve tried keeping my advice general where possible so you can apply my ideas to whatever your talent/interest is.
I started focusing on TikTok on May 13. I had about 200 followers. By June 3rd I had 1,000 followers.
By July 3, it was over 100,000.
I’ve been on the other social media platforms for 10+ years and never got much traction: My twitter has 3,700 followers, Instagram 1,300 followers and Facebook page 750 followers.
I made a TikTok account and posted about 15 videos in Jan/Feb for my album release. One clip got 10,000 views which was great by my standards, the rest got a couple of hundred, so I stopped.
In retrospect, my square format of the videos with a large ad up top was not the proper way to create TikTok specific videos. I was trying to be efficient and reuse content that I’d created for Instagram, but it didn’t make sense here.
I’d heard of TikTok for at least a year but didn’t understand it and didn’t really use it or play with it although I should’ve because:
My college agent kept mentioning I needed to figure out TikTok because all the college kids were using it.
My friend Chris James kept bugging me to get on TikTok.
The final inspiring catalyst was when my friend Dave Nihill wrote a very helpful post “TikToking From 0 to 300k Followers in 60 Days.” In fact, before you read this further, read Dave’s article. It’s super helpful and better than this post of mine.
My main takeaways from Dave’s article were
- Create in the 1080×1920 native vertical format
- Have text titles on your video for the first 2-3 seconds
- At a minimum, reply to all comments for the first 30-60 minutes after posting
(which I now batch by checking 10 minutes after posting, then 45 minutes after posting)
- Enable and use TikTok Analytics to see what times of day your followers are most likely to be online.
For me it was in the 2pm to 10pm range – so I posted like 3pm and 6pm, but sometimes 5pm and 9pm, etc. Depending on my day. I didn’t stress about the exact timing, I just used the heuristic of “morning bad, late afternoon and early evening good.”
- It helps the algorithm if people watch your whole video – aka it’s better to have two shorter videos that people might get through rather than one “long” 58 second video
- Don’t put important information in the top , bottom and right edges of the video frame because TikTok specific icons take up those parts of the screen
After reading Dave’s article, to make myself accountable, I told Chris, “Okay, I’ll post for 30 straight days and text you every time I post since you’ve been annoying me about getting on TikTok. At least now you’ll be annoyed back.” (This is my Russian Jewish way of saying, “Thanks Chris James!”)
30 days in, I was at about 5k followers. Which was more followers than in all my years of Twitter/Instagram/Facebook usage. I was happy that I was getting interaction and that some videos were getting 50k-100k views, so I decided I’d keep posting every day for at least another month.
I subscribe to Scott Adam’s theory of focusing on process, not goals.
If I was gonna do this every day for a month, I wanted to think of something I could
- Easily do twice a day, that would take a half-hour total per day or less
- Repeat constantly without stressing out about ideas
Also I was sick of video editing my last comedy special into small clips, so I didn’t want to do anything that involved a real time commitment for editing.
So I decided to film myself doing some of my stand up jokes with a white wall behind me.
And I knew TikTok skewed to a younger audience, so I started with the jokes I’d do when performing at colleges. I made the first few jokes in the shorter 8-12 second range on purpose, to increase the odds of people watching the whole thing as I was told that helps the discovery algorithm.
I paid attention to the videos that did best. It quickly became obvious that when I was doing my parents’ Russian accent, people enjoyed that most. So I started putting out those jokes more often. But not exclusively. Because I don’t want to be pigeon-holed as “the Russian voice guy”
My Tactics (That Will Be Quickly Outdated)
- Captions. From having been doing a lot of video editing for my special, I was used to captioning all my jokes. So in addition to having a 3-second title, I decided to caption the rest of my jokes, 2-3 lines at a time. It’s a little more work, but it made my video look unique compared to others I’d seen
- Different text colors. On a lark, I decided to use a different text color for every video post. It was accidentally quite useful, for when you go to my profile page, it looks fun and you can easily tell that each video is different.
A lot of comedians have all their posts look very similar visually in the profile grid, and that might confuse people. My different colors may have made people more likely to follow me because it’s visually pleasing and easier to understand exactly what to expect from my account.
- Respond Funny In Comments. I tried to be funny when responding to comments since I’m a comedian.
- Tag users that comment in a related video. At the start, if someone asked something that was related to a different video, I’d tag them in the comments for that other video. I don’t know if this actually helped, but I liked that early followers would feel more of a connection
- Weird face. Without overthinking it, I’d often add a weird facial expression at the end of my clip as an additional silly thing.
- Avoid perfection. I’d mostly do one take of the joke, unless I flubbed words, then I’d try again. My key was not obsessing about any of this.
- 6-8 hashtags. 7 seemed to be the sweet spot for me. #fyp and #tiktokcomedy were the 2 I always used. I have not found that #jokes #standup or #standupcomedy help me at all
- Filmed it the same day as posting. For the first 40 or so days, I was filming it new each day – so if you go through my page, you can see my hair and beard lengths changing each day, as well as a different colored t-shirt. I think that helps the profile view look fresh and interesting
Although now I film a few days of content at a time, changing t-shirts every 3-4 clips, just because it’s easier to track what jokes I’ve done and faster to film in one chunk. Plus I have to spend more time replying to comments after posting than before and still want to limit my TikTok use to 30-60 minutes a day.
- Don’t obsess. The most important tactic – I didn’t obsess about the numbers or spend too much time on this. I did jokes that I thought were tested, replied to comments for a little, then went about my life.
- Track what you post. Knowing I was gonna do at least 60 posts in 30 days, I started a simple text document tracking the title of my bit, how long it was, day/time posted, and how many views it had in the first day – this was mostly to make sure I didn’t repeat any material and to see that sometimes, a clip that doesn’t do great views-wise right away picks up steam a week or a month later.
- Don’t delete clips. Once you start, keep all your clips up for at least a month. The second video of mine that got over 100k views barely had 5k views for the first two weeks.
- Delete/private old content that doesn’t match. I deleted or set to private my 15-20 pre-May-experiment TikTok videos except for the one video that had 10k views.
- Good grammar and spelling. I made sure to use correct spelling and punctuation for all the text captions, as not doing so personally bothers me. I also would hit enter in places so it was easier to read. Not sure this makes any difference.
- Text timing. I made sure the text captions sync up decently with the words I’m saying.
Why My Method May Not Work For You
At the time I started to focus on TikTok, I’d been writing and performing jokes in front of live audiences for nearly 12 years. I’d recorded four comedy albums. In other words, I had 4+ hours of tested and edited material that I could turn into 15-25 second bits at a time. I could not write a new joke for at least a year and have enough in the backlog to put out two new jokes per day. If you haven’t done the work and you’re doing brand new, untested jokes every day, the odds that enough of them are funny enough to build a following are lower.
I posted usually 2 and sometimes 3 videos, every day for 50 straight days. I did not take a single day off. Allegedly algorithms like consistency.
- Post at twice a day, at least an hour apart, preferably three or fours hours
- Respond to comments for the first 30-60 minutes
- Use 6-8 hashtags but also have normal words in the description
- Post a couple of shorter (8 to 15 second) videos that you know will be well received by college-age kids first as your first 5 videos are most important
- Figure out a format you can post easily and often, then do it twice a day for a month without focusing on results