Even if you’re not actively using it, chances are, you’ve heard of TikTok. The social media app took the world by storm during the early days of the pandemic in 2020, and it’s now the most downloaded app in the world.
Over the past few years, TikTok has become so much more than a dancing and lip-syncing app—it has transformed into a place for creators of any niche to build a community and share tips, experiences, stories, and ideas.
For actors, a TikTok account can be used as a creative outlet or even a mini portfolio. In this article, we explain what TikTok is, why actors should use it, and how to grow a following on the platform.
TikTok is a free-to-use video-based social media app. Users can share videos up to 10 minutes long, often edited with in-app creation tools like filters and sounds. And there’s a massive audience to share your videos with—in 2022, the app had 1.7 billion monthly active users worldwide.
Like Instagram, maintaining an active presence on TikTok can help you land traditional brand deals and a sizable income. But for actors, specifically, it can open a variety of doors for your career, like getting signed to an agency or booking work for prominent networks or clients. “I really like how it’s leveled the playing field so that anyone can start and create this whole brand for themselves,” says Pranav Mandavia, a talent agent at UTA.
“I think the beauty of the [digital] department,” Mandavia continues, “is that we get to scroll on social media and, as fans, figure out: ‘Hey, I really like this person who’s creating these funny TikToks. Maybe there’s something there.’ And then it gets my wheels turning, and we can reach out just directly from seeing a video on our For You Page, which is really exciting.”
Rocky Paterra, actor, comedian, and TikToker, explains, “The work that I was putting out on TikTok is what got me noticed by my now-agent, and so I have representation for commercial, literary, and TV/film endeavors.”
Paterra, who has more than 130,000 followers on the app, notes that the short videos and musical performances he’s posted to TikTok have “led to jingle commissions and making music comedy for companies like Amazon Prime Video, Adobe, and H&R Block. I’ve been asked to bring my comedy writing and impressions to various performance venues in New York. I’ve had the opportunity to develop a sketch comedy package to be submitted to a major network show. The way that I streamlined my artistic presence on social media has given potential collaborators and employers a clearer sense of what I bring to the table as an artist.”
TikTok creator and social media coach Jera Foster-Fell recommends getting started by spending some time on TikTok.
“TikTok is a very different platform from what we’re used to, especially Instagram,” she says. “The culture of short-form video content is really unlike anything we’ve experienced before in the realm of social media. Really immerse yourself in the TikTok app to understand the culture—as it is complex and nuanced and creative and really exciting—so that you can understand it as a consumer, which will then help you become a better creator once you’re ready to dive in.”
If you’re completely new to the app, follow these steps before crafting your content strategy.
1. Start watching TikTok videos
Watching TikToks will help you understand the nature of the app—such as what kinds of content people create, what formats they use, and what’s trending. You’ll also be able to see what kinds of responses videos get. That not only includes the number of a video’s likes and shares, but also the direct feedback of the comments underneath them. The more you watch, the more you’ll see how the app’s algorithm tailors its recommendations to specific tastes. Down the line, it could help you understand where groups of users’ likes and dislikes overlap, and what it means for what you’ll create. For example, makeup lovers might also get recommended fashion videos, so content you want to create in those spaces could resonate with both groups.
2. Understand your personal branding elements
“Personal branding” may sound like a fancy marketing term, but it will serve as your North Star when you’re creating your videos. Foster-Fell has identified four major personal branding elements that will help you better craft your content strategy in the long run:
- Your “why.” Why are you going to be creating content? What is going to be the main purpose of your videos and account?
- Your niche. Your niche is your area of expertise, or your guiding theme for your content. Foster-Fell says, “It doesn’t have to be confining. You don’t have to post about your niche 100% of the time, but it is an area of focus to help give you guidelines for what you are going to post about.”
- Your ideal audience. Who are you trying to speak to in your videos? Is it aspiring actors? Veteran actors? Actors who live in a certain area? Pinpoint who you’d like to be talking to.
- Your “secret sauce.” This is a fun way of saying your you-ness, or your point of view. Understanding how you can stand out from others is key to finding success on TikTok.
“It’s you. It’s your authenticity, it’s your uniqueness, it’s your humanness, your realness, your rawness,” Foster-Fell says. “It can be anything such as your past, as in, the things that have gotten you where you are today, the good, the bad, the big, the small, the mundane, the in-between, and it’s who you are today as a person. It’s your personality, your values, your quirks, your idiosyncrasies. The ‘secret sauce’ is really what is going to set you apart. There can be many other people doing what you’re doing, but it’s your secret sauce that will help you stand out from other people in a similar niche."
3. Post videos and learn as you go
Your first video is probably not going to be perfect—and that’s OK. The more you post, the more you’ll learn. “Once you understand your personal branding elements, that can help inform what your content is going to be,” says Foster-Fell. “Then, just create. The more that you create and show up, even if it’s mediocre, the more you’re going to learn. Then, you can take a more objective eye and start to optimize it.”
Actors have an advantage, Foster-Fell says, because onscreen experience lets you “understand how to embrace the dynamic nature of video, which TikTok is all about. TikTok is a video-driven platform. [Actors] are already 10 steps ahead of the game.”
Posting TikToks and growing on TikTok are two different things—and posting does not guarantee growth. You’ll need to strategize and use tools such as trends, analytics, and hashtags to your advantage. Here’s how you can get more views on TikTok.
Use trending sounds, memes, or Stitches
Since TikTok’s platform is largely trend-driven, trending sounds or meme formats are great tools to use to increase your content’s chances of being seen. In TikTok’s editing suite, click on “TikTok Viral.” There, you’ll see the top 10 viral sounds.
If you’re not interested in using viral sounds, there’s a way to take advantage of them without having to play them in your video. Simply select a viral sound when you’re editing your video and turn the volume down to zero. That way, your video will appear to use the viral sound even though it’s not playing or featured in your actual content.
Memes and Stitches are a bit harder to suss out, since there is no centralized location to view which ones are trending. This is why watching TikTok is just as important as creating content—over time, you’ll be able to see which meme formats are popular if you regularly consume content on the platform.
Make videos that are meant for TikTok and only TikTok
TikTok is its own beast—meaning videos designed for another platform or purpose might not resonate as well. While it’s OK to repurpose footage for TikTok, make sure to edit it so that it’s in the correct aspect ratio (9:16), fits within the time limit, and features TikTok-specific twists, such as integrating a trending sound, incorporating a smooth transition between scenes or looks, or Dueting with a popular account.
You can film and edit simple videos without multiple angles, complicated lighting, or transitions within the app itself. For something more complicated—such as a video filmed over multiple days or involving complex voiceover and B-roll—Foster-Fell advises shooting on your phone and using another app to edit. More on that later.
Engage with your audience and community
TikTok gives you the opportunity to comment and engage with other users as well as those who watch your videos. Write thoughtful responses to any comments you get to build trust and connection with your viewers. In a similar vein, engage with any content you find interesting, enjoyable, or insightful to foster relationships with other creators on the platform.
Post videos on a consistent schedule
Consistency is important if you intend to grow your account. When you put out more content, not only will you understand what works and what doesn’t faster, you are more likely to become a familiar face among your ideal audience.
“If your goal is to grow on TikTok, you want to consider the cadence at which you’re posting,” Foster-Fell adds. “You want to try to post at least once a day. If you can, push for two to three times a day while you’re in this goal of growth. But it’s also different for everyone, so take this with a grain of salt and mold it to you.” It’s better to stick to some sort of schedule than to not have one at all.
Use relevant hashtags
Using relevant tags to describe your video will help your content get discovered. This is especially crucial since TikTok now competes with Google as a search engine.
You can research acting-specific hashtags before you create a video or you can wait until you’re writing your video caption. In the caption space, TikTok will tell you how many views each hashtag has received (ranging from the thousands to the billions).
Amanda Buhs, actor and TikToker, shares the tags she’s found success with. “My favorite to use are #actingchallenge and #actingskills, for example. You can use any acting-related hashtags, but make sure not to forget them. They make you more likely to receive support and relevant traffic—rather than having no hashtags, and TikTok pushing your video out to people who may not care to watch acting-related videos.”
Pay attention to your analytics
Once you’ve posted a few videos, check on your TikTok analytics, which can be found under “Creator tools.” Your analytics will let you know which of your videos are performing best, as well as demographic information about your audience. Look for patterns in your analytics, for example, are there certain video topics or formats that are performing better than others?
Another key metric to pay attention to is your follower activity, or when your followers are most likely to be on the app. Use this information to post at the ideal time of day to boost your videos’ chances at being seen.
If you’re stuck on what to create on TikTok as an actor, here are some thought-starters to inspire you.
- Record a day in the life of an actor
- Break down do’s and don’ts of auditioning
- Offer demo reel tips
- Reveal where to find casting calls
- Teach an accent or dialect
- Build your dream cast
- Workshop your original songs, standup material, or most recent monologue
- Share acting advice you wish you could give your younger self
- Debunk myths and misconceptions about acting
- Document the progress you’ve made throughout your career
- Film parodies of famous scenes, songs, or musical numbers
- Create your own acting challenge and encourage others to participate
- Talk about stand-out performances or other actors who inspire you and why
- Share your opinions on popular films, TV shows, or theater productions
Research keywords and hashtags through TikTok’s search feature to better understand the existing content under a certain topic. If you search “audition advice” and find only subpar videos, that’s a strong sign that you could stand out if you created content in that area.
In order to get more eyes on your content while showcasing your creative chops, try taking advantage of any or all of these features to expand your reach.
Make your own sound
Instead of using a premade sound on your video clips, try uploading videos with your own, original soundbites. This is especially relevant if you’re sharing videos of original songs.
When you create your own sounds, other users will have the opportunity to use your sound in their videos, distributing your content to a wider audience.
Create a call-to-Duet
TikTok’s Duet feature lets you create a video that plays directly alongside someone else’s—making it great for playing music or reading lines with others. Try recording yourself delivering one half of a film or TV conversation and invite others to perform as your scene partner.
Your video and account name will show up in any videos that Duet yours, giving your account wider exposure.
Create a call-to-Stitch
Like Duets, the Stitch feature lets you respond to a video that another user posted. Unlike Duets, Stitches take more of a Q&A format, where the person who initiates the Stitch poses a question, and you use the Stitch feature to record your answer.
This is a fun way to start a discussion in the acting community. Prompt users to answer questions such as:
- What is the funniest audition story you have?
- What piece of acting advice changed your career the most?
- If you could cast and direct a remake of any movie, what would it be?
Make your own challenge
Challenges are definitely easier to participate in than to make, but if you have an enticing enough premise, you could see it take off like wildfire. Using the hashtag #actingchallenge, create a video that calls on your fellow actors to complete a specific task, such as performing a famous scene in a different acting style or nailing a certain monologue from memory.
Filming and editing TikToks within the app won’t give your content any kind of special boost, so it’s really a matter of preference.
Foster-Fell says, “Anything with multiple shots that you’re collecting over a day or multiple days, anything that involves B-roll or voiceovers or transitions, I would recommend shooting these on your phone and editing in a different app like Splice, InShot, or CapCut. Doing so will provide you more flexibility and more room for error when editing that you can easily correct.”