These days, a lot of people are bored in the house, in the house bored. And many of them have found the best way to entertain themselves, procrastinate, and perhaps go viral: TikTok. As the pandemic forced many people to shelter in place, the social video app gained 12 million new unique visitors in March, reaching 52.2 million in total. From January to the start of April, that’s a 48% increase.
If you’ve been sent a link to a funny clip up to 60 seconds, and you chuckled to yourself, it may be time to try your own performance skills, or at least dip your toe in the app’s culture. TikTok influencers call themselves “creators,” and they do just that: strategize, prepare, execute and share. Whether the subject matter is important cultural trends and topics, pranks on family members, monologues from a pet’s perspective, step-by-step beauty tutorials, impressive dance routines, or something else entirely, anything goes on this platform. After all, this is where both e-girls and VSCO girls were born.
Before you try your hand at TikTok, it’s essential to set up your space for success. From the best lighting to the right gear and products, heed this advice from TikTokers who have managed to make it to the coveted “For you” feed.
Anyone who has taken a selfie knows the considerable difference killer light can make. If you’re lucky, your home has built-in streams of sunlight that add a flattering, ambient glow to your face. For a flawless look, though, TikToker Jake Goodman (@jakegoodman.med) suggests investing in a ring light that highlights your natural looks, without bringing attention to shadows or other environmental factors that could create a bad or blurry video. Considering he’s gained an impressive 140,000 (and counting) following since February, it’s clear he’s found his best angles.
Try this: Neewer Ring Light ($108.99, originally $118.99; amazon.com)
This is Goodman’s at-home kit and comes complete with everything you need to become a TikTok star: LED bulbs with various options, a smartphone holder, a carrying bag, a universal power adapter and more.
TikTok gives followers a glimpse into the lives of the creators they follow, which provides both a challenge and an opportunity. You want to create your own brand, but you need to be consistent with your surroundings, so those who like your videos instantly recognize you on their feeds.
That’s why TikToker Madysyn (@madysynr) suggests playing around with various fun backgrounds and backdrops. She’s been active on the platform since May 2019 and has collected 398,500 followers to date. “Make sure your space is more aesthetically pleasing to the eye,” she says. “It can be by using different colors, presenting a clean home, or even LED-colored lights that are very popular on TikTok, it should stand out.”
Try this: ELlight LED Strip Lights ($42.99, originally $45.99; amazon.com)
You use an app on your phone to control the colors of these strip lights, which would look gorgeous along your ceiling or even around your headboard. You can customize everything to your liking, from the hues to the brightness and the speed that the lights flash.
It’s no easy task creating TikTok magic. It’s a time-consuming process that includes cleaning, designing the “stage,” shooting video, editing and so on. That’s why it’s essential to keep all your devices charged, so they’re ready for action when creativity strikes. This is how your videos can pop, according to TikToker Leonardo Martinez (@_justcallmeleo), who has 34,000 followers.
“Make your content stand out somehow,” he says. “Whether it be the editing, the song, the comedy, a PSA, storytelling, make your content something that pops and separates you from the natural material you see.”
Try this: Vogek Charging Station (starting at $33.99; amazon.com)
Instead of dealing with one cord after another, why not charge all of your techs at once? With this nifty product, you can charge everything from your AirPods and iPhone to your Apple Watch simultaneously.
In April, celebrity tarot card reader HeyJune (@pheydrus_tarot) joined TikTok, and when one post received 1.5 million views, she went viral. Now her follower count is past 61,000, with no end in sight. What she’s found to be relevant to building a following is staying true to her brand and image.
“It doesn’t matter how big/small your home is, you need to space to create your theme. The goal is to consistently and creatively convey your world to the audience,” she explains. “Is your world cozy? Zen? Or just chill/every day? Once you have a theme, then work from there.”
Try these: Sweese Porcelain Bowls, Set of 6 ($22.99; amazon.com)
For instance, if you’re a foodie like Tabitha Brown (@iamtabithabrown), colorful plates and bowls that let your food shine and match your style are essential. This helps to build an audience, according to HeyJune, as they always know what to look for when they stumble across your video shares.
Jarden Ball 16-Ounce Mason Jar ($5, originally $9.99; amazon.com)
Brody Alvey (@brodyalvey) has been a TikToker since February 2019 and has attracted a 1.4 million following to date. He abides by a quality-over-quantity strategy, and only posts his best work.
Another significant aspect of TikTok fame is fashion. Alvey says people love watching and following those with a fresh and different sense of style. The good news about this nugget of wisdom is that you can take it however you’d like: via matching tie-dye sets, white sneaks or something else altogether.
Try this: Fila Disruptor II Tie Dye ($75; fila.com)
With a chunky silhouette and many bright hues throughout the shoe, these are ideal for summer. And of course, eye-catching when you perform “Savage” in front of the neighborhood (or your cat).
AxeAndCo Spiral Bleach Tie-Dye Sweat Set (starting at $40; etsy.com)
If you’re gonna go all in on tie-dye sweats, this Etsy shop allows you to customize yours.
Though it may be a new concept to wrap your mind around, HeyJune reminds aspiring TikTokers that they are the main actor and the brand. “From what you wear, to how you do your hair, to what you speak about — try to convey who you are as a person and what you stand for, consistently,” she explains.
If you have big dreams of going viral, it’s worth the investment to buy top-tier gear. This appropriately titled “video creator” kit from Canon provides every tool you need: a sleek, portable camera with various effects, a mic, a memory card and more. It’s also compatible with social networks and can send the finished product directly to the platforms.
There’s no denying that makeup and beauty tutorials are popular on TikTok. Sometimes it’s watching someone transform into a recognizable Disney character. Other times it’s about contouring hacks, or a #glowup video that takes “I woke up like this” and turns it into camera-ready glam. By finding the right shades and styles that match your aesthetic, you can also play with these trends.
Psst: It’s OK if you don’t know how to pull off a sculpted makeup look quite yet. This set from the highly rated Charlotte Tilbury brand provides step-by-step contouring instructions to take the guesswork out of the equation.
Fenty Beauty By Rihanna Killawatt Freestyle Highlighter ($36; sephora.com)
If you’ve seen any makeup tutorials on TikTok, you know highlighter is a must. This gorgeous one from Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty is available in nine shades ranging from deep gold to iridescent white. The brand’s Gloss Bomb lip gloss is also a mainstay.
Juno & Co. Microfiber Velvet Sponge ($5.99; target.com)
Blend baby, blend! For a flawless look that’ll gain forwards and likes from the TikTok audience, these microfiber velvet makeup sponges are a must. They’re supersoft and provide a natural-looking finish.
Many TikTokers have a message they want to send. For some, it’s raising awareness about an issue that hits close to home. For others, it’s bestowing the knowledge they’ve learned in their profession, like Goodman. There are many ways to say it, but you can also write it, creating a dynamic video.
Try this: Viz-Pro Magnetic Whiteboard/Dry Erase Board ($57.90; amazon.com)
Sleek and multipurpose, this will work for your video shoots — and your grocery shopping list. Win-win!
King Min Su (@king_min_su) has been on TikTok for 18 months, and so far, has gained a staggering 5 million followers. Of all of the necessities for fame, he says a tripod or selfie stick is a game-changer. Even if you have a friend, partner or sibling who is willing to film you, these can be beneficial for keeping the frame steady and consistent.
Try this: UBeesize Selfie Stick Tripod ($25.99; amazon.com)
This gear doubles as a selfie stick and a tripod, providing many options for your shoots. It also comes with a Bluetooth-enabled remote, so you can start the video whenever you need, without worrying about a timer.
Note: The prices above reflect the retailers’ listed prices at the time of publication.