How did a performance marketer who never had a personal TikTok get a quarter-million followers in just three months?

If you asked Brett Turner (Director of Product at WarpDrive) that question a year ago, he’d be as confused as the rest of us. But after one video upload drew half a million views, Brett became an unexpected influencer with a six-figure following that he was able to expand, engage with, and monetize. We’ll unpack how he did it below.

1️⃣ TikTok is Relationship-Driven (in the Comments)

TikTok is no longer just an endless feed of content. It’s become a conversational, audience- and relationship-driven platform.

People are building parasocial relationships and coming back for content, and now they expect something when they see certain creators’ content. To build on that connection, you need to establish a relationship with your audience – and the best place to do that on TikTok is in the comments.

The level of engagement in TikTok comments, both generally and between you and the community, is much higher than other platforms. Posts with high engagement can generate hundreds of comments, replies, and dynamic conversations. Creators can use these conversations as a way to follow trends and as inspiration for future content, so use video comment replies as much as you can.

2️⃣ Stay in Your Niche as You Build

During the growth stage, stay in your niche, focus on performance, and create a consistent face or personality for your brand that your audience can form an attachment to as you grow.

People are building relationships with your account, and they should have a strong reaction to seeing your “mascot” in their feed. Brands like DuoLingo and Lotus Cars have leveraged this personalization to amass millions of followers:

Stay in your niche

Finally, TikTok’s massive user base and focused targeting are so effective that there are audiences for everything now, no matter how niche or weird it might seem. With that in mind, brands and creators need to find what they’re good at and attack it to build an audience.

At this stage, the only key KPIs are growth and content performance. Monetization and infrastructure are relatively easy to establish when you have an engaged audience.

3️⃣ TikTok is Leaning on Search

TikTok’s algorithm uses video transcripts and dictations to generate search results, which has made “TikTok SEO” an underreported tool that creators are using for a competitive advantage.

When you create TikTok videos, be sure to verbalize the keywords that you want to target so that those words will appear in TikTok’s search results. Similarly, if you want to see what search terms you’re appearing for, use TikTok’s auto-complete to see the keywords that your video is showing up for most frequently.

4️⃣ Content Quality > Production Quality

Another thing that Brett has learned is that the quality of the content is much more important than the production value on TikTok.

In most cases, videos with a “low” production quality that were filmed and edited in the native TikTok camera and editor performed better than videos that were created with professional equipment and uploaded later. Both the algorithm and the audiences on TikTok prefer native video, and your content performance will reflect that as you post.

5️⃣ Use Playlists

TikTok users have become accustomed to navigating creators’ videos via playlists, which make them essential to building your brand.

Use playlists

Not only do playlists guide audiences to what they want to find, but they also help you feature evergreen pieces of content that demonstrate your authority and increase exposure in a virtuous cycle.

BONUS: Top-Performing Content Types

Even though TikTok is evolving, there are still reliable categories of content that perform best on the platform.

  • Comedy
  • Influencer/Inspirational Content
  • Entertainment/“Cool Factor” Content
  • Explainer/How-To Content

Stick to these categories and try to average at least one post per day as you grow – more if your content is going viral.

As your audience grows, you can use TikTok as an organic traffic driver and monetize your audience with affiliate offers, brand deals, and other channels.