Hashtags Don’t Work and Other TikTok Myths to Debunk

If you’ve lived under a boulder, a “new” social media giant called TikTok has emerged on the scene. Whether you use it a lot, little, or not at all (but maybe you want it ), there are many anecdotal myths surrounding TikTok’s functioning and audience, and we’re here to debunk them.

TikTok is for Gen Z only

Although the app first caught on among young people, it is no longer just for young people. What started in 2016 as a Chinese music and dance platform for kids has grown to become one of the fastest growing social media platforms in the world. According to Statista , more than half of TikTok users are over 30, with 20% being in the 40-49 age range. In January 2018, it had 55 million users worldwide. It was the most downloaded app in 2020, and by September 2021 it had one billion active users worldwide . With such stratospheric growth, no one of any age who has something to say, create or sell should ignore.

TikTok is only for dancing and lip syncing

Nope. Of course, it started that way when its owner ByteDance teamed up with lip-syncing platform Musical.ly in 2017. But since then, it has grown to accommodate all kinds of content creation; from storytelling and ASMR to interior design and comedy scenes. You can follow (or be!) An Eighty-year-old counselor, trauma therapist, fitness expert, snack queen, soccer mom, playful married couple, or wobbly-legged fortune-teller. (Okay, you can’t be a dog. Sorry.) Can you dance and lip sync too? Certainly. But not necessarily . This is a small part of the huge and varied party on TikTok, where personality, education and vulnerability reign.

You have to be hot to be successful.

Wrong. Are there any beautiful young creatures that get incomprehensible views by flexing their facial muscles to the beat or sticking out their tongue? Yes. Are there more ordinary people who get massive followings from their comedies, cooking, choreography, cute pets, parenting / mental health / marketing / life skills advice (or just fun conversations about everyday things)? Also yes. On TikTok, appearance is not the rule; talent, experience and reliability.

You will get your first 1000 subscribers in X weeks.

Anyone who throws deadlines about how many followers the creators will get and when is wrong. There is no universal timing. Some accounts never pass by several dozen subscribers. Some stars will have hundreds of thousands of followers in a few days. Many (who constantly post solid content) will initially opt out repeatedly, and then gradually gain subscribers with bursts of virality. All this to say, don’t worry about how “slowly” your audience grows. Everyone’s pace is different.

Your first few videos determine the success of your page.

False, but with a caveat. Lots of creators whose first videos are successful. However, there may be some truth in TikTok’s preference for new accounts as the algorithm has no past (bad) performance metrics that would diminish your chances. But if those first posts get 25 views, don’t worry. Each video gives a new chance to go viral.

“TikTok blocked me with a shadow ban”

Maybe, but probably not. Highly fluctuating views are part of the TikTok trip; one day you can go viral with over a million views, and the next barely reaching a few thousand. Creators often complain about being “shadow banned”; their content is blocked or hidden from FYP (For You Page) or from their subscribers, resulting in significantly fewer views. (The “shadow” part means that the “ban” is happening without your knowledge.) Could this happen? Perhaps you are violating one of the TikTok Community Principles or the algorithm will register you as a spammer (due to the fact that you like videos too quickly and follow the creators). But a lot of people say they’ll get banned when their videos just don’t live up to their expectations. This is not a ban – this is a sign that they need to improve their content.

If you join the Contributor Foundation, your views will decrease

The Creator Fund is TikTok’s way of “honoring and supporting creators for their dedication, ingenuity and spirit.” With money. Not much, mind you, unless your videos regularly get hundreds of thousands of views. When the Foundation first launched in 2020, many creators said their views plummeted after joining. But this is purely coincidental. According to TikTok itself , “any drop in video views is caused by natural fluctuations within the application.” And I can say that after I joined the Foundation myself (rather disturbingly), my views and followers have grown. The algorithm is inconsistent and views can skyrocket or drop at any time. But the main reason for this will always be the quality of your content.

You need to shoot professional quality video

Canadian comedy creator Chris Collins ( @kallmekris ), with 38.5 million subscribers, once posted a video of her “process,” which consisted of her smartphone leaning on a nearby windowsill with good lighting and pressing the record button. While high quality video using professional editing equipment or software definitely can’t damage your content, it is by no means required. Within the TikTok app itself, creators can record, perform basic editing, add music, captions, filters, and special effects. Dark and blurry videos are not recommended, but there are thousands (millions?) Of popular creators doing magic with just $ 40 ring light and their iPhone.

Hashtags don’t do anything

Lie. They make your content more discoverable and help the algorithm determine who to show your videos to. Using three to five hashtags related to your desired niche (ex: #cleaningtok, #momlife, #inspiration, #hiking) will help TikTok figure out where to promote your video (and help your video appear in search results for that hashtag). Can you be successful with zero hashtags? Of course, if your content is exceptional and attracts a wide audience. But if you’re just starting out or looking to grow, don’t miss this opportunity to reach the people you most want. (As your fan base grows, hashtags will matter less to your success.)

Nonetheless: Use trending hashtags sparingly (if they don’t match your content). They can increase your views, but they won’t put you in front of your specific target audience. Yes, and give up #fyp (and its many iterations) forever . They are useless.

You must delete videos that are not very good

No. TikTok is a delayed release platform, which means videos can explode days, weeks, or even months after being published. Imagine my surprise when one day I noticed a video that I had forgotten a few weeks before, suddenly gaining views, likes and comments – and quickly. In a few days, it grew from 5,000 views to over two million. Why then ? I will never know. But I would be missing out on what has become a huge new follower if I gave it up. Only make videos private (you don’t need to delete them) when they no longer fit your niche or how you want to present yourself.

The ratio of views to likes determines the success of your video.

Wrong. There is a myth that if your video gets 1000 views and has already got 300 likes, it will be a sensation. But this is not necessarily true. What about comments? Stock? Are people watching all this? TikTok’s current algorithm (I say “current” because it seems to be regularly refined) prioritizes watch time and video completion rate over other metrics. High engagement also plays a role (comments and reposts). The ratio of likes to views is only one piece of the puzzle. TikTok wants viewers to finish watching videos, so it is in your best interest as a creator to keep them short (15 seconds or less) until people recognize and trust your content, and stay longer.

If you haven’t taken the plunge as a creator yet , here are some tips to get you started .

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