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How to use TikTok: Beginner’s guide to the popular video sharing app

When TikTok first emerged on the scene, many in the media overlooked it as yet another trend popular with the Millenial and Gen Z crowd. But fast forward a few years and 800 million active users later and you have a platform popular enough to rival the likes of Twitter and Snapchat.

At its core, TikTok is a video-centric social media platform. This means you’re consuming videos in your feed and sharing the content you create with followers. This makes the platform a hotbed of funny and entertaining viral videos, but also a vector for stupid challenges and dangerous stunts. Tap or click here to see a TikTok challenge that burned houses down.

But you don’t have to full-on embarrass yourself to have fun on TikTok. With the right frame of mind, the platform can provide endless hours of social entertainment at no cost. Here’s a beginner’s guide to getting the most out of your TikTok experience.

1. Setting up your account

If you’re not a teen, getting started with TikTok might seem like a bit of a tall order. But there’s more to the platform than meets the eye, and it’s not quite as confusing as it might look at first glance. Tap or click here for a quick overview of TikTok through the years.

To get started, the first thing you need to do is download the app and install it to your smartphone.

Once you’ve installed the app, you’re ready to make your account. When you boot up the app for the first time, you can do this using your email, your phone number, or another social platform like Facebook.

When your account is created, the app automatically assigns you a username. If you sign up for your account using your phone number, you’ll end up with a generic username followed by a string of numbers. Don’t worry, this is normal. If you want a more personalized username, you’ll need to sign up with an email address.

Once your account is created, you’ll have access to your feed and profile. To customize your profile, tap on the human-shaped icon in the bottom-right corner. If you wish to adjust your privacy settings, you can do this by tapping the three-dot icon in the upper-right corner.

TikTok videos are public by default, so those wanting to keep their videos private should make the change.

2. Navigating TikTok

Getting around on TikTok is easy. All you need to remember are the functions of your main feeds: For You and Following.

For You is the default feed on TikTok, which features algorithmic recommendations for videos the platform thinks you’ll enjoy. The For You feed can feel random at first, but you’ll start seeing more videos that fit your tastes after you interact with it. If you like a video tap the heart icon to Like it. This lets the algorithm know to show you more videos similar to it.

When watching a video, you’ll also see the username of the person who recorded it. Tapping this will take you to their profile, which shows you a collection of the videos they’ve posted so far. Here, you’ll have the option to follow them — which ties directly into your second feed, Following. This is where you’ll find new videos from all the accounts you follow.

Last, but not least, each TikTok features an icon shaped like a spinning record. This icon shows you which audio track is playing, which can help you discover new music you might not have heard before. In addition, tapping the icon lets you see other TikToks that use the song. This is the reason why memes and inside jokes absolutely explode on the platform.

3. Creating your own TikToks

Now that you know how to navigate the platform, it’s time to create your own TikToks. To get started, tap the Plus icon on the bottom of your screen. This takes you to the recording window, where you’ll be presented with a suite of options to enhance your content.

Just like Instagram and Snapchat, you can apply a range of filters to your videos by tapping the Effects button on the left-hand side. This includes AR filters that can change things like eye and hair color, as well as audio filters that can change the sound of your voice.

There is even a beauty setting on the right-hand side of the screen that removes unwanted dark spots and blemishes, so you can look fantastic in any video you record.

There are limits, of course

You can record up to 60 seconds of video for your post in total, and these don’t have to be one continuous shot, either. You can string together multiple 15-second clips so long as they add up to the 60-second maximum. And using the timer button, you can set your phone down and record yourself without having to hold the record button down.

Once your video is ready and looking good, the last step you can take is adding a sound. Tap Add a Sound on the right side of the recording screen to see a selection of audio clips you can use in your TikTok. This includes a range of content from short, viral clips to full-scale song numbers you can lip sync over. Try it out and see what you can discover.

Get creative

For added fun, you can also throw in some hashtags and labels to your post — just like on Instagram. This will help categorize your post so it’s easier to find, which can help others browsing the hashtags locate your account and follow you.

But followers aren’t everything on TikTok. The main point of the app is to have fun expressing yourself, and with so many options for content creation, there’s no shortage of ways to do so.

Have fun, and be sure never to share any personally-revealing details on accident in the background of your videos. Otherwise, you may have a privacy issue on your hands. Tap or click here to see how a security flaw on the platform put profiles at risk.

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