What is TikTok?

TikTok was developed by Chinese company ByteDance, and launched in the US in 2017. You can download TikTok for free on iOS, Android or from the Amazon app store. Videos will automatically start playing on the app and you can poke around the website version, too, but if you want to actually create a TikTok video to get you your 15 seconds of fame, you’ll need to create an account.

Signing Up

Tap the profile icon in the bottom-right corner of the screen to sign up. You can sign up with Facebook, Google, Twitter, Instagram, your phone number or an email address. The app will link to the platform you choose, or you can sign up manually. If you sign up manually, you’ll need to input your birthday (TikTok says users under age 18 need a parent’s approval before joining), a phone number or email address, and set a password. TikTok will verify that you’re not a robot and you’re all set.

Navigating the App

If you used Vine (or Instagram), TikTok’s interface isn’t too difficult to pick up. When you open the app, videos automatically start playing on the front page. If you haven’t followed anyone yet, the videos in your home feed are going to be pretty random. To start personalizing your feed, start following or liking videos you see. Explore the Discover tab to find more content. The more content you like and follow, the more personalized yourFor You tab will become. Like a video by double-tapping it, or tapping the heart icon on the right of the screen. To follow a creator, tap their profile icon (above the heart). There are also options on the right side of the screen to leave comments, share a video and find out what song is playing in the video.

To save a video, add it to a favorites collection. To let the app know you’re uninterested, long-press on the screen. You can also access the creator’s profile, where you can follow then and view more of their videos, by swiping left. 

As you become more involved and engaged with the app and other users, likes and comments from your followers will populate in the Notifications tab. Your private message inbox is also in the Notifications tab. To make any adjustments to your account, like privacy settings or push notifications, tap the profile icon, then the three-dot settings in the top-right corner.

Speaking of privacy, it should be noted that TikTok was under investigation from the US government for potential security risks due to its Chinese ownership. It has since released a transparency report showing that it received no user information requests from China in the first half of 2019. However, the app has still raised a number of other red flags.

Making a Video

If you’ve uploaded videos to other social media sites or edited content in your phone’s camera app, this won’t need much explaining. But there are a lot of bells and whistles you can add to your TikTok creation, and it can get cluttered fast. 

Tap the white “+” at the bottom center of the screen and give TikTok the necessary permissions it asks for. Film something new or upload an older video. You can trim a video immediately after uploading the footage. Your sound editing options are at the top right, and the video editing controls are at the bottom left of the screen. Add a song by tapping Select Song and use the Mixter tool or Trim to get the music just right. 

From there, you can change the video’s color, or add stickers, Snapchat-style filters, GIFs, emoji and more. If you mess up, just drag the item to the top of the screen where a tiny trash can will appear. TikTok has video effects like Rainbow, Water, Snow and Feathers. In addition, you can add transitions like Scroll, Rotate and more. The cool part is, you can change filters as often as you want to, even within the same video. Just long-press on a filter to apply it, and let go to stop. Tap Select Cover to create a thumbnail that others will see of your video. 

To start the publishing process, tap Next. If you use Instagram, the publishing screen is similar. There’s a text box where you can write a bit about your video, add some hashtags or tag friends. It’s also easy to toggle choices to customize who sees your posts. No matter what privacy settings you selected for this particular video, TikTok will ask for confirmation before posting.