One Millennial's Quest To Understand TikTok

TikTok: the video app that’s confusing as sh*t and makes me feel old.

When I first noticed TikTok videos seeping into my Instagram feed here and there, I was like, “why is anyone using any social media platform other than Instagram? These people clearly have some extra free time on their hands. What losers!” But then I kept seeing the videos pop up and kept hearing people rave about how addictive the app is, and I thought, “okay, I guess I have some free time, too.”

Upon downloading TikTok, I felt utterly confused. My first observations were as follows:

☆There are more teens in braces than not
☆I’m hearing lots of music (mostly pop and rap) that will forever be stuck in my head
☆I’m seeing lots of dumbass dances (sorry) set to said pop and rap music
☆These weird voice filters are making these teenagers sound like robots

gI simply did not understand the point of this childish app! Gen-Z has really lost it. But then, I stumbled upon fashion influencer Brittany Xavier’s TikTok and was like, “this is some sh*t I can get behind!” She posts fashion and beauty videos, but they always have a cool and unexpected twist, like in these posts here and here, that makes me question if she is the next Steven Spielberg.

I chatted with Brittany to get the inside scoop on how the hell she makes these videos and any tips she has on using the app in general. So if you’re a millennial who feels ancient trying to understand TikTok, this one’s for you. 

Actually Spend Time On The App 

“The most important thing to do is to spend time on TikTok to understand the culture and what’s trending,” explains Brittany. “If you post a video just as you would on Instagram stories, it won’t do well.” 

VERY true. The second you open TikTok you will know v well that you are not on Instagram. You barely have to put any effort into IG Stories (well, who am I kidding, we all have f*ckboys to secretly impress, but you know what I mean), whereas on TikTok, you better have your self-timer set up and that dance routine mastered. (So much work…)

You also better be familiar with the “for you” page—the place where all the trending videos are posted. “I follow the ‘fashion’ and ‘beauty’ hashtags as well as the ‘for you’ page to check out what’s trending and if I like any of those,” says Brittany. Which leads us to her next tip… 

Use The Trending Songs 

“The trending songs will help your videos spread more,” Brittany explains. This, here, is the key to TikTok and a totally new concept for my useless, IG-programmed brain! Certain songs have gained popularity on TikTok—for what reason, I’m not totally sure, but it’s usually because one of those stupid (again, sorry) dances went viral using the song. So, if you use a trending song, you are way more likely to get a spot on the coveted “for you” page. Unless you’re not even posting and are merely using the app to stalk your ex and his new girlfriend, in which case you might benefit from an article with a different set of tips.

Take The Time To Plan Your Videos 

“If you want to perform well on TikTok, you really have to set aside time and commit. It really needs to be a priority,” explains Brittany. “Some of my videos take two hours to make—I want to make sure I have all the right clothes and lighting set up. And if I’m trying to do a smooth transition, that means I have to exit at the exact right second, which takes time.” 

This was comforting for my overly competitive, narcissistic and social media-obsessed heart to hear. Why am I not able to make my TikToks as entertaining as hers? OH, because I’m too busy watching Bravo. Brittany makes it look so easy, but there’s a ton of thought and a huge time commitment required from her to make these videos so damn good. She said she even goes so far as to mark the spot where she was standing to make her transitions seamless. “People don’t want to spend time on the app, but that’s why their videos don’t perform,” Brittany says. And THAT’S why you aren’t a TikTok influencer, Sydney Becky!!! 

Make Sure Your Videos Always Have A Takeaway

“I don’t even look at TikTok as social media. I look at it as entertainment,” Brittany explains. “You can’t just post selfies of your makeup; there has to be a big reveal at the end or some kind of value-added takeaway.” It’s true—I personally don’t love watching videos that don’t have some kind of punch or surprise to them. 

“I’m still trying to obtain followers that are into fashion and beauty, while also incorporating whatever trends I’m seeing.” I think this is where popular fashion/beauty influencers are having trouble translating onto TikTok—they just repost whatever videos they’d normally post on Instagram, without putting any emphasis on a solid takeaway, or, tbh, trying to appeal to teenage monsters with zero attention span. 

Don’t Make Your Videos Too Long 

As just mentioned, attention spans are basically—wait, what was I saying? oh, right—a thing of the past. So, “keep it simple, don’t overthink it, and maybe only showcase 3 outfits vs. the 10,” says Brittany. 

While Brittany is really only using the app for fun and to fit in with her 12-year-old daughter, Tommy Hilfiger (whom she was already in talks with) has already asked her to include their brand in two of her videos, so I think we all know where this app is going: $$$$$!!! 

I’m super interested to see what the next wave of TikTok influencers will look like. Musicians are even using the app in hopes of having their songs blow up, so maybe the next Lil Wayne is really just one weird-ass, robotic dance away! Come to think of it, will underground rappers be the next Flat Tummy Tea influencers? Only time will tell!

Images: brittanyxavier / Instagram

Sydney Kaplan
Sydney Kaplan
Sydney Kaplan is a fashion creative and copywriter, and most importantly super relieved she doesn't have to write an annoying, corporate bio for her freelance writing gig at Betches. She's based in NYC and previously lived in San Francisco, and through her travels has learned she prefers finance bros to tech nerds. You can follow her on all social media at @sydneyrekaps.