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How To Use TikTok: A Quick-Start Guide (2023)


TikTok has long been more than its roots: another fun social media app for sharing content with friends. Since launch, the platform has taken hold of popular culture, inspiring global trends and catapulting everyday users into becoming household names. 

TikTok was the most downloaded app globally in 2022, surpassing Instagram and WhatsApp. And it’s expected to amass 2.25 billion users by 2027. So what’s all the fuss about? TikTok’s short video format and unpolished content makes it a favorite among creators and brands alike. The unique algorithm allows even small accounts to go viral on TikTok overnight. Best of all, it’s easy to get started.

If you’ve downloaded TikTok and don’t know where to begin, you’re in the right place. Ahead, dig into the basics of setting up a TikTok account, learn to create videos with viral potential, engage with the TikTok community, and build your brand on the platform. 

What is TikTok?

TikTok is a video-based social media platform that allows users to create videos as short as five seconds, and running up to 10 minutes in length. TikTok is built around sounds and music, with an extensive library of audio that users can add to content. Trending sounds on TikTok often dominate popular videos and the For You page.

Woman stands outside in front of a colorful wall using a mobile phoneTikTok’s extensive features include filters, livestreams, tipping, and platform-specific options like Duets and Stitches. TikTok content tends to be less produced and more raw, with users looking for authenticity from both creators and brands. 

For businesses and influencers, TikTok offers features to monetize and grow your brand. Open a TikTok Shop, integrate TikTok with your ecommerce store, or join the platform’s Creativity Program to unlock additional features. 

Connect with shoppers on TikTok

Shopify comes with powerful tools to help you tell your brand story and create TikTok in-feed ads in minutes. Make sales on TikTok and manage all your orders, returns, and payments from Shopify.

Start selling on TikTok

How to use TikTok in 6 steps

  1. Set up a TikTok account
  2. Get to know TikTok: Navigate the For You and Discover pages
  3. Like, follow, and engage with the TikTok community
  4. Create TikTok video content
  5. Explore TikTok’s unique tools and features
  6. Level up: Sell on TikTok

Setting up an account is the first step in learning how to navigate TikTok. Once you’re set up, exploring and engaging with the app are important steps (before you create videos) in helping to train the algorithm and learn about TikTok user preferences. Follow these six steps to understand what you can do on TikTok and how you can use it for your brand.

1. Set up a TikTok account

Side by side mobile screen of the TikTok UI showing the sign up flowBefore you navigate how to use TikTok, you’ll first need to set up an account. You can find the TikTok app in either the iOS App Store or on Google Play, depending on your mobile phone. Tap “Download” to install TikTok on your phone. 

Once downloaded, open the app and tap Sign up. You can sign up using a mobile number, an email address, Google, Apple, or Twitter.

At this point, the app will ask you for your birthday and your interests (this helps curate your For You Page before you actually engage with content). Next, you’ll create a customer username and update your profile with a profile photo, bio, and links to your other social media pages. 

2. Get to know TikTok: Navigate the For You and Discover pages

As soon as you’ve set up an account, the main home screen will show you the For You page. This is the central feed of the platform, which includes a curated mix of videos from users you follow, trending content, promoted videos, TikTok ads, and other content recommended for you based on your behavior on the platform. 

Side by side mobile version of the TikTok UI showing the For You page content

The more you use the app, the more the algorithm will understand your likes and interests and show you the content it knows you want to see. 

The Discover page is where you’ll find TikTok trends by category. You can also use the search bar to find trending content. Tap the search icon to explore results by hashtags, videos, users, and sounds. Follow popular users to get inspired by their content before you post your own.

Desktop version of the TikTok UI showing the Discover page

Side by side mobile screen of the TikTok UI showing Discover and search

3. Like, follow, and engage with the TikTok community

Engaging with the TikTok community will help grow your account and tailor your For You Page to your particular interests. As you scroll, like, comment, share, or watch a video all the way through to let TikTok know you’re interested. This is also a great way to build relationships, especially as a brand looking to connect with a target audience.

Side by side mobile version of the TikTok UI showing the follow and like functionsThis is also a great time to start following accounts directly. Connect TikTok with other apps or allow it to see your contacts and it will recommend friends to follow. You can also follow other brands in your industry to get inspiration or build your network. Follow creators and users who are a great fit for your brand or content.

4. Create TikTok video content 

Now that you’ve spent time understanding what content resonates with TikTok audiences, it’s time to learn how to create and post your own videos. Follow these basic steps to record and publish a TikTok video using native features in the app.

Side by side mobile version of the TikTok UI showing content creation

How to create TikTok videos

  1. Open TikTok and tap the Create button, represented by a plus (+) symbol in the bottom navigation bar.
  2. Scroll left to right to choose your video length and tap the large Record button at bottom center. Tap the Record button again to end the video recording. You can also upload photos or videos rather than recording in the app or use the template option.
  3. Hit the check mark to navigate to the edit screen and see your video in a loop. You will now be able to add filters, effects, text, captions (good for accessibility), and other features to your video before you publish. 
  4. Tap Next to add more details to your video. This is where you’ll add a caption, relevant hashtags, a video “cover” (a thumbnail to represent it in the timeline), and tags of people or locations in the video. 
  5. You will also be able to restrict privacy and publish the video to only you, only friends, or everyone on TikTok. You can also toggle certain features on or off: click More options to set restrictions for Duets, Stitches, and downloads.
  6. You’re ready to post! You can now either save your TikTok video to drafts to post later or tap Post to make it live. 

As you create content, find a cadence of posting that allows you to publish content consistently. Learn about the best times to post on TikTok for guidance.

5. Explore TikTok’s unique tools and features

TikTok has some of the most robust creation features among social media platforms. TikTok videos can become works of art thanks to plenty of sounds, filters, effects, and other features. Here’s how to use these features as you create videos for TikTok. Knowing how to use TikTok to maximize video results means learning how these features can benefit your content.

Duet and Stitch features

These allow you to reply to content from other TikTok users, creators, and brands. With these features, you add your own creative spin or commentary to existing content.

  • With the Duet feature, you record your own content while another video plays in a split screen. 
  • The Stitch feature “stitches” up to five seconds of an existing video with your video response to create a new content.

💡 How to use this feature:

To use either of these features, tap the share arrow at the bottom right of any video. You can use this to share a video on another social media platform but this is also where you will find the Stitch and Duet options. Tap your selection and record your video, repeating the steps above. 

TikTok sound library

TikTok sounds are the backbone of the app. Whether it’s a top hit on the Billboard 100, a viral song by a TikTok musician, or original sound from a TV show or TikTok user, sounds inspire trends and nurture creativity.

There are a number of ways to find audio (sounds and songs) on TikTok:

  • From other videos in your For You page. If you find a sound you like in another user’s video, simply tap on the name of the song to pull up all content using this sound. Tap Use this sound to add it to your video.
  • Within the creation screen. While creating your content, tap on Add sound at the top of the screen. You can select from recommended sounds or those you’ve previously saved to favorites. Tap the search icon to access a sound library with trending TikTok sounds, playlists, and the ability to search for a specific song or sound.

Side by side mobile version of the TikTok UI showing content creation tools

TikTok filters

If you are familiar with the basics of apps like Instagram and Snapchat, you’ll already understand the power of filters. Similar to these other social media platforms, TikTok’s preset filters enhance your content by adding a specific color, tone, or contrast profile to change the mood or feel of the TikTok video.

💡 How to use TikTok filters:

You can find these filters on the bottom right of the creation screen. Choose your desired filter and apply it either before you record your video or after in the editing step.

TikTok effects

Similar to the sounds feature, TikTok offers hundreds of Effects that you can use to create or enhance your video content. Many viral TikTok videos are based on popular effects. One example is the “my red flags” trend, based on the effect by the same name. 

Side by side mobile version of the TikTok UI showing the Effects function

💡 How to use TikTok Effects:

To access TikTok Effects, tap the Create button. You’ll see the effects option in the bottom left of the creation window. Tap this to pull up effects. You can browse effects by trending and other filters or search for a specific effect using the search tool.

You can also access effects directly from other users’ videos. Tap on it and add it to your favorites to use later in your content. To find your favorites, tap Effects in the video creation window and toggle to the ribbon icon where all your favorite effects will be waiting.

Green Screen feature

TikTok’s Green Screen feature is another type of effect that works like green screen technology used in film for CGI effects. This allows you to record a video of yourself talking with another image or video in the background. 

💡 How to use TikTok’s Green Screen feature:

To use the Green Screen effect, create a new video and tap the Effects tab on the bottom left of the screen. Scroll across the effects options to find Green Screen effects. There are a number of different green screen effects you can experiment with. 

After you tap your selection, you should see yourself against a green screen background. You will be prompted to upload a photo or video as a background. Record your video as normal.

Text to Speech on TikTok

TikTok’s text-to-speech function is a popular option for adding spoken content to your TikTok videos without using your own voice. This feature has accessibility benefits and is a great option if you’re looking to create a little anonymity. The text-to-speech feature reads aloud content you type in a voice of your choosing. 

Side by side mobile version of the TikTok UI showing the Text-to-Speech function

💡 How to use text to speech on TikTok:

To access TikTok’s text-to-speech function, open the app and start creating a video. In the edit screen, tap the Text button on the right hand panel and add it to the relevant place in the video. When you’re done, tap the text and a few options will pop up, including text-to-speech. Tap this option and choose from one of many voices to read your text aloud.

6. Level up: Sell on TikTok

For brands, TikTok is becoming a must-have. Consumers are increasingly turning to social media channels over Google for product discovery, with TikTok often cited as the best place to stumble upon your new favorite brand or a trending product

The platform also has built in shopping features, allowing brands to sell directly to fans through a shop tab, shoppable video content, and TikTok ads with embedded product links.

TikTok for Shopify app dashboard

How to set up TikTok for business

To take advantage of TikTok for ecommerce, you first need to sign up for a business account. Simply navigate to settings and toggle your personal account to a business account. This is a free service from TikTok that unlocks access to a number of business features like the Ads Manager and advanced analytics. Note that you can have separate TikTok accounts for your personal life and business.

Once you’re set up, You can apply for TikTok Shop or integrate your existing Shopify ecommerce store with TikTok using a dedicated app. Use TikTok to help reach your target audience through TikTok marketing tactics like ads and catchy organic content.

🎵 Read more: How To Use TikTok for Business: An 8-Step Guide

Connect with shoppers on TikTok

Shopify comes with powerful tools to help you tell your brand story and create TikTok in-feed ads in minutes. Make sales on TikTok and manage all your orders, returns, and payments from Shopify.

Start selling on TikTok

4 tips for using TikTok effectively

When it comes to understanding how to use TikTok for personal content or brand videos, there are a few best practices. Publishing your TikTok videos is only the first step in using the social media tool. To get video reach, gain more followers, and access your target audience, there are other actions you can take on TikTok.

Woman lounges on a sofa with a mobile phone in her hands

1. Tap into your analytics 

As you learn how to use TikTok effectively to grow your account or meet business goals, you’ll find the analytics feature helpful in determining what content works—and what doesn’t. To turn on analytics, tap on the menu in the top right corner (three horizontal lines) and choose Creator Tools. Here you’ll find several tools to help you get the most from your account.

Tap Analytics and then Turn on. Note that you need to have published at least one TikTok video to access this feature. After you turn on analytics, TikTok will start tracking all your of content and your profile. You will gain access to information about your audience demographics as well as content performance data. 

These insights are especially helpful for brands. Be sure to toggle to a business account to unlock additional analytics features.

2. Engage with similar creators

Following and engaging with your users, creators, and brands in the same industry or that share similarities can boost your content and help it land on the For You pages of your desired audience. 

For businesses trying to reach new customers, liking and commenting on similar small business content tells the app that this is the audience you want to reach. 

3. Upgrade your equipment

The beauty of TikTok is that most of the content is shot natively in the app on a mobile phone. There’s no need to purchase an expensive camera or lighting kit. However, if you’re looking to put your best foot forward, be sure your mobile phone’s camera is powerful enough to produce sharp and vibrant videos. The latest iPhone and Android phones have more than enough functionality to achieve this.

Looking to shoot makeup tutorials or other demos for your business? Invest in a few simple pieces like a ring light and portable tripod. These will level up your content and allow you to record hands-free. Video quality is not as important here as it is on other apps, but a little polish can go a long way.

4. Partner with influencers

You can gain video reach by knowing who to partner with to promote your brand. Find TikTok influencers willing to work within your budget—and who have audiences that resemble your target customer. You can use influencer marketing to create content around your brand, including promoted posts, unboxings, product demos, and reviews from creators. 

Find influencers to drive sales with Shopify Collabs

Shopify Collabs makes it easy to partner with creators, promote your products, reach new customers, grow your sales, and track affiliate campaign performance all from Shopify admin.

Discover Shopify Collabs

Reach TikTok users and grow your business

Woman holds up a yellow mobile phone in front of her faceTikTok’s simplicity is one of the reasons the platform has become so vital for both personal branding and social media marketing. Brands are flocking to the app to reach the brand’s central demographic: Gen Z users with influence and buying power.

Learning how to use TikTok is just the first step to getting the most from the platform. Download TikTok, get to know its features, and start recording your first video. After some trial and error, you’re on your way to growing your personal brand or business on TikTok.

How To Use TikTok FAQ

What is TikTok and how does it work?

TikTok is a social media app that allows users to create and post videos. It was created by the Chinese company ByteDance and is available in more than 150 countries. Users create their own short videos and share them publicly with other users. Popular formats like the Duet video feature and hashtag challenges help content spread, inspiring viral trends. TikTok users can follow other TikTok accounts, like and comment on videos, and even “stitch” together other users’ videos with their own replies. TikTok offers various filters, music, sounds, effects, and editing tools to customize videos.

What is TikTok mainly used for?

TikTok is mainly used for creating and sharing short videos, often featuring music, comedy, lip-syncing, and dance. Popular TikTok videos are frequently related to trending audio, pop culture trends, and hashtag challenges. The quick video format is now popular across other social media apps like Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts. If you’re wondering what you can do on TikTok, your imagination is the limit!

Is TikTok easy to use?

TikTok is easy to use once you learn its features. You can start by posting original video with no added effects, then work up to using the more advanced options.

How does TikTok work for beginners?

TikTok is easy to set up for beginners. Simply download the app, find topics of interest using the search bar, like and comment on your favorite videos to train the algorithm, and start posting videos of your own.

How do you use TikTok effectively?

As with any other social media channels, using TikTok effectively means understanding the audience and the type of content that resonates. You can post all the videos in the world and gain no traction if you don’t understand the landscape. Focus on authentic content designed for a target audience, pay attention to trends, and use analytics to hone your content.


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