Maayan Gordon had only been using TikTok for a couple weeks when her videos started to blow up.
In her first video, Nicki Minaj's "Moment 4 Life" plays as a group of artists rotate and torch a glass sea turtle. A pair of gloved hands attach an arm to the shell. "NO Turtles were harmed in the making of this video," she quips in the post.
It turns out, the glass art videos were hugely popular. They were getting hundreds of thousands of plays. Music artists began asking for her to play their tracks in her videos. She was receiving thousands of comments on her videos, like "sksksksk" and "I oop" — internet slang from so-called "VSCO girls," an online subculture of teen girls obsessed with camera filters and "aesthetic."
"I'm only 28. I thought I was young and hip, but there's all this stuff I don't understand," she tells the Inlander.
In October, she was getting as many as 100,000 followers in a day. Her sea turtle video now has 10 million plays, and her page, @worldofglass, has drawn a following of more than 1.6 million since she joined TikTok in August.
Originally from Seattle, Gordon stumbled into glass art by trading her graphic design work for a glassblowing lesson a few years ago. Having acquired some dexterity through high school sports, the work came somewhat naturally to her, she says. She and her husband spent the next couple years going through the ups and downs of running a business out of their glassblowing studio, Monkey Boy Art, in northeast Spokane.
But now, Gordon, who earns about $3,000 a month through TikTok, says she's shifting away from the nuts and bolts of glassmaking and into social media marketing and consulting.
For the uninitiated (aka, anyone over the age of 30), TikTok is a place for teens to lip synch and dance to dirty pop songs and share memes. Its focus is on short-length videos similar to Vine (#rip), but in a vertical full-screen format as opposed to the traditional landscape format on Instagram and Facebook, and it supplies users with a large catalog of readily available music to accompany those videos.
There's a lot of cringe-worthy content on TikTok... but it is fun. Even better, Mom and Dad haven't caught on yet.
If you're only familiar with a handful of functions on the old guard formats of Instagram and Facebook, TikTok can seem chaotic, messy and, honestly, sort of intimidating. But there is a method to the madness, Gordon says.
"They've figured out how to use technology to tap into deeper psychological factors. When you're scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, you're making a decision in micro-milliseconds whether you want to even look at a post," she says. "With TikTok, you have to spend a full second to actually fully decide if [you] want to watch it or not. I have to focus much more with my eyeballs to understand what's going on."
TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese tech company that acquired the app for a reported $1 billion back in 2017, and boasts about 500 million users, with an emphasis on the Gen Z crowd, according to a New York Times article "How Tik Tok is Rewriting the World." The app made headlines in November for its potential ties to the authoritarian Chinese leadership and is under scrutiny from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.
The big difference between TikTok and other social media apps is its algorithm-first approach. You don't need to do anything before the app starts studying your habits and curating new content for you to watch.
And while TikTok has yet to be fully embraced by everyone, Gordon sees entrepreneurial opportunity.
"The big fish always have an advantage in resources, but any time there's an advancement in technology, it levels the playing field," she says. "Businesses need to start paying attention to technology and how it's affecting advertising. Our adult brains will change to accommodate what younger people say." ♦TikTok Suggestions from a Social Media Savant
- Be consistent. You have to post at least once every day, but ideally 3-5 times daily.
- Be efficient. Take all the videos or pictures at one time. Do all the editing in a session, then schedule your posts throughout the day or week.
- Experiment. You won’t know your audience until you test out different types of content and styles of posts. If you get a creative idea, don’t be afraid to try it out.
- Pay attention to colors. Certain colors catch people’s eyes and will make them pay more attention to your posts.
- Write a caption that drives engagement. Make sure that your caption adds some type of value to your post.
- Respond to comments. This helps drive more engagement and also lets your followers know you care.
- Try shorter videos. Ten to 15 seconds seems to be great for creating videos that people will watch in their entirety.
- Think about posting like compound interest. There will be many days where it will feel like you’re not getting anywhere, but if you continue working and posting you will see the results long-term.
- Create a hypothesis for every post. Test out different theories with your content and analyze your results.
- Follow other popular creators. Get an idea of what works and stay up on any trends happening in the app.