Doing something because “everybody else is doing it” is usually a poor source of motivation. But when it comes to strategically choosing social media platforms to engage with, we recommend following the crowd over to TikTok. If you’re curious about how TikTok can help expand the reach of your art towards an energetic and engaged fanbase, this guide is for you.
What is TikTok?
TikTok is a mobile media app where you can create and share art in the form of short videos. It has gripped the hearts and minds of young people almost everywhere — it’s used in 155 countries and 75 languages. There are currently 500 million active users, primarily 16-24 year olds, that account for a user base that continues to grow exponentially. This means your potential audience is practically limitless.
The platform is built around content and community – making it a central hub for artists to promote their work and engage with fans. People love to see the artist behind the work, so don’t be afraid to come out from behind the brush, the pen, or whatever you’re working with to digitally connect with people in a meaningful way.
How Do I Use TikTok?
Approach TikTok like you’re visiting Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory — with an open mind and enough bandwidth to withstand a little bit of chaos. There is so much to explore, discover, and create, it can feel both exciting and overwhelming at the same time. Have some patience as you familiarize yourself with the platform, and steer clear of the Three Course Dinner Chewing Gum while you’re in there.
Creating your first post is relatively straight forward. Shoot your video, pick a song, add special effects, text, and filters, then post. To collaborate with other artists, you can do a “duet,” which splits the screen between another user’s post and your own recording, or a “reaction,” which superimposes another video over yours. These are great tools to support collaboration with fellow artists, to create challenges for your fans to participate in, and to start or respond to trends.
Trends are a big deal on TikTok. They are the socially acceptable and shameless bandwagon worth jumping on. Take some time to absorb popular content and think about how you can add to the conversation with your own creative take on it. Much like the real world, things are more interesting on TikTok when artists chime in.
We spoke with a few visual artists that use TikTok as a creative tool and learned their tricks of the trade. Here’s what they had to say:
Miranda the Hybrid
A great way to stand out on TikTok is to share your expertise. Miranda the Hybrid — an author, illustrator, and art teacher from Pittsburgh — amassed a large following through tutorials and tips for artists, critiques of other artists’ work, and of course with her own exceptional art and charm.
“As silly and raucous as TikTok is, it will attract more viewers than any other platform out there — if you know how to use it,” Miranda said. “This is something that took me a while to pin down, but it all boils down to being relatable.”
Miranda encourages artists to come to the platform in all their authentic glory. That includes your sense of humor, the things that annoy you, or how you do your hair. Although your art is certainly very interesting on its own, TikTok users want to relate with the artist on a more personal and casual level.
“I was extremely nervous to show my face, voice, or personality for the longest time. When I finally did, it was like a lightbulb flicked on. My view count increased. People began asking questions on how I did things. Suddenly, I was no longer an Apple Pencil and iPad Pro creating art to some music — I was Miranda, a person.”
Share your artistic process by posting time lapse videos on TikTok. Josh McQuary, known as McMonster, is a Portland-based artist who creates ink and watercolor paintings that are hypnotic and otherworldly. And then there are his videos.
He takes to TikTok with time lapse videos that capture the detailed 8-hour process behind his paintings. Condensed into short 60 second videos, viewers can see how he uses Japanese ink, watered down acrylic, blue tape, and a hairdryer to create these masterpieces. The whole thing really blows your hair back.
Like Miranda, McMonster noted that TikTok users keep things real when they engage with his work. And we totally understand why — McMonster keeps things real himself. We can see some of his tattoos, an occasional cigarette, and his videos are always paired with cool, moody music that you’ve never heard of.
“TikTok is great for myself and other artists because it puts our work in front of a huge group of people that otherwise would not see it,” McMonster said. “I also love the general vibe and sincerity from my followers here. Compared to other platforms, this community feels encouraging rather than judgmental. It feels good.”
Mary Clare Teller
Explore TikTok’s collaborative features to widen your reach and promote your work. Mary Clare Teller is a digital illustrator that hails from Cincinnati. She knows a thing or two about using TikTok’s special features like challenges and duets to promote her colorful and captivating portraits.
“Tiktok is one of the best platforms that an artist can use to grow their audience and get their work out there,” Mary said. It’s different from other social media platforms in that it gives the users different tools they can use to boost their post instead of just posting a photo and hoping it does well. You can use a popular sound to pair with your art, duet a trending video that inspires an art piece, or follow a trend that is going around the app and make it art related.”
It’s Your Turn to TikTok
Now that you have a general idea about how artists use TikTok to promote their work and grow their fanbase, it’s your turn to get out there. Take a look at Miranda, McMonster, and Mary Clare Teller’s profiles for inspiration and then test drive a few posts of your own. Whether you share tutorials, time lapse videos, or leverage duets and react videos, just find your thing and run with it. We can’t wait to see what you come up with. And if you’re already on TikTok, share a link with us in the comments.