1 month TikTok growth experiment - From 0 to 4.4M views and 10.2K followers 🚀
I am fascinated by growth. There are so many great products out there, but few figure out the growth equation. In this series I am trying different traction channels out, documenting some experiments, learnings and thoughts.
This article will be about TikTok. And how I grew my account @jonathanrintala from 0 to 10.2K followers, raking in over 4.4M views, getting featured in @TikTokNordics press release, and receiving a request to be interviewed by the Swedish national radio station - Sveriges Radio P4. All within 1 month (ish).
Update: Since, publishing this article - I've now re-branded my TikTok account from @theswedishtea => @jonathanrintala
Tiktok Nordics press release [20 September 2022] - mentioning me - 1 month (ish) after publishing my first video
1. Starting from 0
Starting from scratch, nothing, zero - is something all entreprenurs have experienced. It is the core of entreprenurship. Innovation is about making something out of nothing. Labeled the "Cold Start Problem" in the world famous book by Andrew Chen @Andreessen Horowitz. Also, Zero to One by Peter Thiel is an excellent read on the topic.
Starting my TikTok channel was the same thing. I had 0 followers when I published my first video, 10th of August. Here it is (from Youtube):
🤔 What I did not know before
I had no idea what content would resonate with the audience on TikTok, since I was not a frequent user of the platform myself. I did not know what formats of videos would fly, or what subcommunities or hashtags to push my videos in.
💡 What I did know going in
I knew one thing - I like tech, entrepreneurship and reading books. So that would be my niche. I also had this blog, and <a href="/book-summary">library of book summaries</a> - which I want to push traffic to.
2. Figuring out the value of strong hooks and suspense
TikTok is extremely short format - it is based of a infinite scroll discover feed - the "For you" page. In this for you feed the users scroll through auto-playing video content, which means, a user watching one of your videos, will not actively have been clicking on a thumbnail or title of your video first.
The TikTok "For you" feed where users most of the time will discover your content
Split between people discovering my viral video in For You vs. Personal profile - 97% vs 2% (don't ask me why the fractions are not adding up to 100% - grabbed directly from TikTok's analytics dashboard)
Thus, the user's interest relies solely on the first 4 seconds of your clip where you need to catch their attention and hook them in. This first part of the video becomes your "thumbnail" or teaser, which needs to be exciting enough for people to want to stay for the rest of the video. This part of the video can also be referred to as the hook of the video.
Here is one example of a hook I tried quite successfully - and with inspiration from many similar videos:
The TikTok algorithm - make sure to play the game to your advantage
The TikTok algorithm is a science all by itself - but *watch time* 🕦 is heavily rewarded, as well as *engagement* with your content. So creating a powerful hook that makes people stay long - will be rewarded. Also, using trending audio, hashtags, etc. will allow your video to be pushed to the masses.
Building suspense is also highly effective to capture attention throughout a video, something I used successful to get my first viral video below.
3. Going viral - getting that one viral video 🚀
The other week I read "Steal Like an Artist" by Austin Kleon - a short and sweet read on creativity and how art is about taking inspiration from many different sources, copying, combining them into your own mix, and eventually starting to develop originality.
From my experience - TikTok is today not primarily about creating innovative content. Instead, you are highly rewarded following trends, adding trending audio, the right hashtags, and doing your slightly own version of a generic concept. Most trending videos that go viral seem to be copies of each other, with touches of original elements here and there.
So with this mindset I found a popular video format in the #booktok community. Essentially to create suspense by showing a book from the side, accompanied with a text that intrigues - "This book changed my life as a 27 year old", a song that builds tension for quite some time, and then finally... BOOM! Revealing the title of the book by displaying the cover. The video was also quite short, barely 10s, increasing the likelihood of a higher percentage watch time. Well - check it out for yourself below:
So, this video really started to gain some views fast. Within an hour it was up in the 1000s of views, and now within a month it has accumulated some 248K likes, 538 comments, and 4.3M views on TikTok. Trending on the #booktok hashtag, as well as in many other big sub-communities. Now flattening out on 50% in Average Time Watched when reaching outside of the original target audience, but initially with +100% watch time, meaning people re-watched it several times on average!
Watch time of almost 50% and reach statistics for the video - from TikTok Analytics
To me, it was a real thrill to follow all the comments, reaching across Sweden, then the Nordics and Europe, eventually reading comments about people in the US going to the store to buy the Atomic Habits book, and receiving video replies of people getting inspired to start reading and form better habits only because of my video.
People all over the world reading the book in all kinds of languages and commenting kept rolling in. Quite surrealistic!
Geographies reached with viral video
Comments on viral video - people across the world feeling inspired and engaged
The video trended about 5 different times, in different geographical regions - over a period of several weeks. The content was globally compatible with very little text (in English), and no local audio - which proved to be a great recipe for global growth. Also, choosing the fantastic and relevant book Atomic Habits - for this helped a ton - kickstarting discussions and engagement in the chat.
I also made a few follow on videos as video replies to comments I got, which leveraged off of this trending video and got some 28K and 20K views each. I continued publishing other content so I had a feed full of other videos to watch, when people came in via the main video, so people would get intrigued, watch the other content, and follow my account.
Leveraging video replies on viral video as growth method
This all resulted in me gaining 10.2K followers in about 1 month!
4. Leveraging and planning growth ahead
I have published quite a few videos since this viral video, and I am now working with how to continue push relevant content for my acquired target group - with the goal of increasing average views per video and watch time.
So, now exploring how to innovate with different formats, types of videos, content, etc. to push the KPI:s of views and watch time. Also, localization is something I have thought quite a bit about. It seems TikTok is pushing alot of local Swedish content here in Sweden, which means loosing a valuable relatability and power in the hook - if running everything in English instead of Swedish.
However, I like having everything universally available - being able to push the same content through Youtube shorts, and enriching my book summaries here on the blog with the videos. Also, having the videos go viral outside of Sweden requires them to be in English or have great subtitles. So - yet to see what path I go with here.
5. Thoughts on TikTok as traction channel
Except some of the learning about what content to push, how to structure viral content, etc. - read some of my conclusions about TikTok as a channel for traction below:
Huge potential in community building and short-format content through channels like TikTok
Depending on ICP it could be an excellent traction channel with massive reach in a short time
There is a great amount of relevant "professional" audience hanging out on TikTok toda- Tons of brands are already present with informal fun video content on TikTok- TikTok is excellent for employer branding - humanizing, being relatable, and removing barriers
Combine SoMe + engaging live content in traditional formats like webinars = great machinery for the B2B audience
Engagement and short-format content is not just some trend for Gen Z
This was a fun one and can't wait to explore more of TikTok!
Sign up for the newsletter below if you are interested in making stuff grow - and following these types of experiments. Looking forward to keep you posted as I dive deeper into TikTok, but also other traction channels out there.