So, you want to go viral on TikTok? Well, so does everybody else.
“This is where consumers are,” Movers+Shakers cofounder and CEO Evan Horowitz says of the platform. “All of Gen Z, pretty much all millennials—this is becoming their dominant social app. If you want to reach them, they’re here.”
Along with cofounder and chief creative officer Geoffrey Goldberg, Horowitz and his team have helped brands like e.l.f. Cosmetics go viral on TikTok, racking up 200 billion views for their various campaigns and becoming the go-to agency for marketing on the platform.
What’s the agency’s secret? Horowitz gave us a crash course in what brands need to know to go viral on TikTok.
Surrender to the TikTok aesthetic.
According to Horowitz, this is probably the most difficult thing for brands to do, especially bigger, well-established ones.
“It’s not just counterintuitive, it can be terrifying,” he says. But on a platform like TikTok, authenticity is key. So that style guide that has worked so well for establishing your brand’s look and identity in TV commercials or on the glossier Instagram feed? Set that aside. High production values will look out of place and awkward on TikTok, Horowitz says, noting, “They’re going to look like a brand doesn’t get it.”
TikTok videos should have a lo-fi, DIY quality.
“A lot of the best TikTok content, most of it is shot on a phone. It should look unpolished,” Horowitz insists. “Maybe you have some bad lighting! And you have some not-dressed-up sets; it’s actually somebody’s living room. Those are important, specific ingredients to make something feel like it was made for TikTok.”
Ride the wave.
Aficionados, like the ones you’re trying to reach, know that TikTok is a trend-driven platform. Different songs, audio tracks, memes, and even dances that are unique to TikTok are constantly going viral.
“You’ll get 10,000 people—or 100 thousand, or a million—making videos with the same audio and it’s a moment,” Horowitz explains. “So for a week or a month, everybody’s doing that, and then it’s gone and people are on to the next thing.”
The trick, he says, is to catch that wave as it’s forming. “What you want to do as a brand is get on that wave, just like a surfer. You see it coming, you make content, and you put it out there.”
TikTok’s algorithm recognizes and preferences what is trending, so if your content is in line with that, the algorithm will put it in front of more eyeballs.
“That’s what makes people or brands look cool,” Horowitz says. “You get the trends and you’re doing it right. If you want to go viral, hop on the wave that’s already there versus trying to create your own.”
Partner with creators who share your sensibility.
One effective and relatively affordable way to ensure that your brand is putting out authentic and on-trend content is to partner with established TikTok creators.
“What we do with all of our clients and what we’d recommend to anybody is find creators who have a relevant audience, who kind of have your vibe as a brand and hire them,” Horowitz advises.
If you partner with them on traditional sponsored content—in which they feature and recommend your products on their own channel—you benefit from their established relationship with their audience. Additionally, Horowitz says that many TikTokers will produce commissioned content for a brand’s channel. Again, you’re getting the benefit of their knowledge of the platform and its trends.
Stay consistent and be patient.
And now for some hard truth: There’s no surefire way to go viral—even for experts like those at Movers+Shakers.
“Everybody wants that one-hit wonder,” Horowitz says. “‘How do I go viral this week?’ You don’t! You can’t control that.”
Rather than looking for some secret hack, Horowitz recommends patience and consistency. Build your channel, and post regularly—three to four times each week. Keep experimenting.
“You’ve got to create a lot of great content over time. Work with amazing talent to help you promote it and keep turning the crank,” Horowitz says. “And over time, you’re gonna have a lot of mini viral hits. Maybe you’ll have a mega viral hit. But if you do it consistently, if you make great content, you work with great talent, then you can really build a lot of love for your brand.”