TikTok For Dummies: The Step-By-Step Guide

A TikTok for dummies guide has become an absolute necessity for brands in 2021. TikTok is one of the fastest-growing social media profiles in the world, but there are still a lot of people out there who don’t know how to leverage TikTok correctly.

The platform is not just for teens or Generation Z either. Increasingly, TikTok is finding its place as one of the most attractive social environments for people of all ages – offering authentic, funny, and immersive content to all.

If you’re one of the many social media fans who doesn’t feel confident with TikTok yet, don’t worry. This guide should set you on the right path.

The Basics: What Is TikTok?

TikTok is a social media platform seemingly intended to fill the void left by Vine – a video-sharing community. TikTok is an Android and iOS media app that users can access to create and share short videos. 

How It Started

The platform was initially launched back in September 2016 under the name “Douyin” in China. By 2017, the service had leaked outside of China, into the rest of the world.

TikTok and Douyin now exist side-by-side, using the same software, but with different networks to comply with Chinese restrictions.

Many people see TikTok as similar to Muiscal.ly. There’s a lot of audio involved, and brands can boost their image by getting involved with duets, song trends, and more. The reason for this close relationship is that the parent company responsible for pushing TikTok outside of China (ByteDance), also purchased Musical.ly. This purchase allowed TikTok access to an existing US market.

Today, TikTok aims to “capture and present” the creativity and knowledge of the world through meaningful video moments. Anyone can become a TikTok creator, and anyone can go viral.

TikTok’s Rise In Popularity

TikTok’s growth is incredible.

As of January 2021, the platform had approximately 689 million monthly active users, with experts suggesting that number is likely to have tipped 1 billion by now. To put this into perspective, the world’s most famous social media platform, Facebook, took more than four years to achieve the same number of users.

TikTok has risen to fame for a variety of reasons. During the pandemic, younger generations embraced TikTok as a way to feel connected to their peers – particularly when face-to-face interactions weren’t possible. The platform also caught the attention of countless budding  TikTok influencers. Trends and hashtag challenges gave influencers a unique way to build their image online.

The trending filters, sounds, and challenges on TikTok have even captured the attention of some of the biggest celebrities in the world.

Jimmy Fallon mentioned TikTok videos as part of a segment on NBC’s Tonight Show in 2018, and even created one of the world’s first challenges, the #tumbleweed challenge. Elsewhere, cult icons like Tony Hawk have also taken to TikTok, amounting more than 1.4 million followers.

How TikTok Works

TikTok represents a new frontier in video-focused social media marketing. It was the third-most downloaded app in the world by 2019, and demand continues to grow. The question for today’s companies isn’t whether they should be on TikTok, but how exactly they can build an effective brand position on the channel.

Length of Videos

The first thing you should know is how long your videos can be on TikTok. Initially, it was only possible to upload videos as long as 15 seconds. Now, TikTok has extended the limit, so you can have 60-second videos by stringing up to four 15-second clips together.

Features and Tools

TikTok is still relatively young as a social media platform, so it’s likely that new features are yet to come. Some of the most popular tools available right now include:


Filters are very similar to the ones that you’d expect from apps like Instagram and Snapchat. Some are designed to simply improve your confidence and “beautify” your video, whereas others are more artistic.


Sounds are a major TikTok feature that’s designed to spruce up your content. They also help you reach out to potential customers. Music and effects are excellent for bringing depth to your video. Additionally, your customers can search for content by clicking on a song when browsing TikTok, making your content more discoverable.


TikTok Effects include things like slow motion and camera mirroring, so you can do unique things with your content. Like with music, it’s possible to search through TikTok based on a specific effect. It’s worth checking what’s trending if you want to make your content discoverable.


You can tap the Timer button on the right-hand side of the camera screen to give yourself a couple of seconds before TikTok begins recording. This is generally a good idea if you need a minute to prep yourself for a video.

How To Navigate The TikTok App

Now that you’re familiar with what TikTok is, and what kind of features it offers, you can begin to explore the app. Download the TikTok app from your chosen store (that’s a pretty obvious part of this TikTok for dummies guide), then tap on the app to open it.

Home Page

The home screen will show you two main feeds, “For You” and “Following”.

The default page is “For You”. This is basically a stream of suggested videos created by TikTok’s algorithm. It’s based on things like where you’re from, the previous videos you’ve watched and interacted with, and so on. You can also swipe left to move to the “Following” page.

Following vs For You

Where the For You page “suggests” things you might want to see, similar to the Explore page on Instagram, the Following page is full of content you’ve chosen to keep track of.

In the “Following” section, you’ll see uploads from people you’ve chosen to follow. If you’re brand-new to the app, you might not have anything to see here yet. In a TikTok video, you’ll see an icon you can tap to visit the profile of the user who posted it. From here, you can decide whether you want to leave hearts or follow a user.


Discover is a more recent addition to the TikTok environment. This is where you can explore the wide selection of content available from the TikTok community. Instead of seeing just content from the people you follow, or content the algorithm suggests, you can see trending videos, creators, hashtags, and sponsored content.

The Discover page is ideal if you’re looking for TikTok inspiration that will help you grow your presence on the app. To grow your brand, you should use this page to search for tiktok users within your niche. This way, you can see popular influencers that you might be interested in partnering with.

You can use the Discover page to search for specific videos, hashtags, creators, and sounds. Just tap the Discover option located at the bottom of your screen when you’re on the app.


The icon for the TikTok inbox is located at the bottom of the app screen. It looks like a little Messenger icon. When you tap that, you’ll go to your Activity page. This is a great location for both individuals and brands alike, because it features:

1.     All Activity

Here you can see whether people have replied to your messages on TikTok, and track what’s going on with your latest posts or the people you follow.


You’ll be able to see who’s liked your content and how many likes you’ve racked up for your latest video, which is great for engagement.


The inbox also lists comments from other users, which you can respond to by simply tapping on the comment and engaging with your followers.

4.     Q&A

The Inbox also has a Q&A section where content creators can answer simple questions with video and text replies. Users can leave questions for creators to get back to whenever they have time.

5.     Mentions

In the “All Activity” section on TikTok, you can filter through your activity according to things like Mentions, Followers, Comments, and Likes. Click on Mentions to see who’s talking about you or your brand.


Here’s where you can get information about who’s started following you recently. It’s worth checking out your followers to see what kind of content they like. This could give you some useful inspiration.

7.     From TikTok

This is the information sent from TikTok to you. It might include recent updates to the platform, information about your account, and other valuable notifications.

TikTok Me (Profile Page)

The “Me” section of TikTok, otherwise known as your profile page, is one of the most important things you’ll need to learn how to use. To edit your profile, tap on the icon in the lower-right corner of the screen – it looks like the outline of a person.

How To Navigate Your TikTok Profile

Once you’re on your profile, you can hit the edit profile button to make changes. For instance, you might add a photo or video to your profile, as well as your username and bio information. It’s a good idea to add a photo or video to identify yourself for anyone who might want to follow your account.

To complete your TikTok profile, add:

  • A profile picture or video: Choose something that demonstrates the kind of personality you want to share with your followers.
  • A bio: Include something in your bio to tell your followers what this TikTok account is going to share. Even with a private account, your bio (along with your username and photo) will be visible to other people, so be sure to get this right.
  • Videos: Your videos are where you’ll showcase your content, create a personality, and attract potential followers.
Your Videos

When you click into your profile on TikTok, you’ll have the option to view your videos, and your Liked videos. In the videos tab, you can check out all the content that you’ve posted on TikTok, and track information about your videos, such as how many likes and comments they have. You’ll also be able to respond to any comments left by followers.

Users can also see your videos on your profile, alongside a Liked Videos section.

Liked Videos

The Liked Videos section on your TikTok profile lists all of the videos you’ve previously liked on TikTok. This can be an ideal way for content creators to bookmark some videos they might want to use later as inspiration.

People who visit your profile can also see which videos you’ve liked unless you’ve set this option to private. To see your own Liked videos from your Profile, tap the heart icon with the line through it when you open the Profile menu.

Private Videos

Content creators on TikTok also have the option to make videos private. Sometimes, if you’re not totally happy with a video yet, or you think it doesn’t convey the kind of personality or brand you want to showcase, you might prefer to set that video to private.

To make a video private, click on the “who can view this video” option on the video posting page, and tap “private”. If you want to go a step further, you can also switch your account to completely private, which means you need to approve who sees your videos.

How To Create And Post A Video To TikTok

Finally, you’re ready to start posting content to TikTok.

Take a moment to talk with your team to ensure you all know what kind of content is going to make the best impact on your audience, then head to your TikTok app and press the “+” icon at the bottom of the screen. You can either upload video from your camera roll by pressing the gallery icon or record your video through TikTok.


If you’re adding content from your gallery, tap the videos from your camera roll one at a time and tap the “next” button. TikTok will allow you to tap the video clip to choose which seconds you want to include in your video. You can also press and hold clips to join multiple videos together.

Adding In Sounds, Filters, And Effects

To record your video through TikTok, just tap the camera icon to start recording. You can use your timer to count yourself in or jump straight to action. While you can shoot for up to 60 seconds, it might be best to start with 15 seconds and work your way up.


  • Choose the right recording features: The recording screen comes with various features to allow you to record and edit in the TikTok app. For instance, you can flip between your front and back cameras and adjust the speed of the video.
  • Play with effects: Effects are very popular on TikTok. You can tap the Effects icon on the left of the red record button to explore things like “green screen” so you can add different backgrounds to your video.
  • Experiment with filters: Filters are a lot of fun to play around with. You can add unique landscapes or mix and match filters to create effects. There’s even the beauty filter to improve your confidence. Remember to be cautious with filters, as they can look unnatural in some lights. Try and stay consistent with your filter choices.
  • Use sounds: Sounds and audio clips are crucial to making your videos a success. At the top of the screen, you’ll see a music icon for sounds. Click this icon to add music and trending audio clips. Alternatively, record your own audio by tapping and holding the red button while you record.
  • Add text: Text overlays and stickers are an excellent way to add more context to your video. A lot of people use silent videos with music to create videos on TikTok, so a text overlay can add more flavour and insight. Tap the text icon at the bottom of the screen to add text, then pinch and drag to move the text around or resize it.

Publishing Your TikTok Video

When you’re happy with how your TikTok content looks and sounds, hit the “Next” button to move to the publishing screen. Here, you can add your all-important #hashtags, and a caption.

The captions on TikTok can be up to 150 characters long, including any hashtags. Make sure you add keywords to tell TikTok where your video should go, and make sure you proofread your text to avoid any embarrassing mistakes.

Niche hashtags are great for boosting discoverability, and adding things like #ForYou, and #ForYouPage could also make a difference to your visibility.

When you’re finished adding hashtags and captions, you can either publish the content immediately or save it as a draft to publish later. Saving your content in drafts could be ideal if you want to grow your brand by posting at the time you know your customers are online.

TikTok also makes it easy to share your video on multiple platforms. If you scroll to the bottom of the Post screen, you’ll see the option to share your posted video on other platforms like Instagram. You can also share your links via text message.

Mastering TikTok for Dummies

Understanding TikTok for dummies can be a complicated process if you’re not familiar with the platform yet. The good news is that TikTok is surprisingly easy to use and features lots of fantastic features to help boost your brand image.

Once you’re confident posting on TikTok, you can start expanding your strategy to include all kinds of new content, from challenges to influencer campaigns and more.



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