10 Lessons I Learned Going Viral on TikTok.

I have been on TikTok for exactly one year and three months. I started using the platform to learn its quirks, considering I work in marketing and noticed how popular it was becoming (meaning I was going to have to use it at work). Plus, I am slightly addicted to watching videos all day.

I decided to use my outdoor adventure footage as my content focus and create a brand that showcases a woman’s ability to be outdoors, alone, very capable, and unapologetic. I’ve since gone viral three separate times (over 7 million views between three videos) and have built a following of 143,000.

My account name (@that.outdoorsy.bitch) has earned me a reputation as an edgy, solo adventurer who could care less about what type of gear you’re using or if you have visited the same trail, which is what you’ll find in most outdoors-related accounts. My character is not someone who wishes to influence you at all, in fact.

I film in the woods, Crown Land mostly, but you can spot me in the random conservation area from time to time. I take videos of myself doing pretty typical outdoorsy things like hiking along a scenic trail, kayaking in crystal clear water, swimming, fishing. I happened to go viral when I posted a video of myself lying on my stand-up paddleboard in the middle of a lake. I don’t speak in my videos. I don’t try to educate or instruct. I guess I set myself apart from other female outdoor creators constantly battling to prove their skills by not trying to do any of that.

Here are 10 lessons I learned during that time:

  1. You need to find your niche. I mean, really find your niche. TikTok has a corner for just about any hobby, topic, activity, sport, political viewpoint — the list goes on. In my opinion, this is a good thing. If your goal is to go viral, build a brand, and a following, TikTok is the fastest way to do it but you have to stick to your niche.
  2. Unlike Instagram, TikTok doesn’t necessarily care how your content looks. If you have something to show or say, and there are people who want to see or hear it, you’re golden.
  3. Don’t post photos. Videos are the only way to go. Okay, if you have amazing photography (like wildlife shots) that you can animate and add music to that works.
  4. TikTok has strict community guidelines that are meant to maintain a “family friendly” environment. In my professional opinion, this is just a PR move to distance themselves from Instagram. In reality, there is some racy content that blows up and TikTok doesn’t do much about it.
  5. The longer you watch a video, the more frequently you can expect TikTok to show you similar videos. The algorithm is insanely specific. You may stumble upon some interesting podcast footage about investing, for example. This video happens to catch your attention, and you watch it in full. Suddenly, you find yourself on the investor side of TikTok and cannot escape! With every swipe, you’re being told to buy NFTs. So be warned. With that said, the longer you can keep people on your video, the better. Add text and keep the video itself short. It forces the viewer to watch multiple times, which helps your analytics.
  6. As a marketer, you may notice that TikTok is dominated by fashion and beauty influencers, and it’s starting to get old. I can only watch so many videos about the same skin serum and high waisted jeans from Abercrombie. I am confident that the TikTok community is getting tired of seeing the same. My advice to anyone trying to break into the lifestyle/beauty/fashion side of TikTok: find a way to be different. For example, I follow a Canadian lifestyle/beauty/fashion creator named Alicia Mitchell. She is plus-sized and absolutely unapologetic about it. While most female TikTok creators in lifestyle/beauty/fashion tend to match standard sizing, Alicia does not. She has become wildly popular for her body confidence and for her videos encouraging other to take control of their health, whatever that looks like for each individual.
  7. Unfortunately, you can lose followers when you’re not regularly publishing content. Some of the most successful TikTok personalities publish every day, multiple times per day.
  8. If you want to make money, you will need sponsorships and paid content. It is tough to make decent money on live feeds, likes, or views, so most TikTok creators will partner with brands that fit their niche. This can be good or bad if you’re a creative. By accepting paid partnerships, you’re tied to the brand you built, and it will be very tough to change course down the line.
  9. You will have to deal with occasional online trolls. TikTok is notorious for bullying and “cancel” culture. Putting yourself out there is daunting (hence why I created a character of sorts). Don’t share where you live, what you do for a living, or when/where you’re travelling. I think the mystery makes it more enticing anyway!
  10. Last, but perhaps most importantly: TikTok can open doors for your career. Companies in your field or those looking for brand ambassadors are always perusing TikTok for relatable and popular individuals. Once you find your niche and start to appeal to that community, you will get noticed.

— Alyssia Tieri