The Ultimate TikTok Guide


We’ve all heard of TikTok and the rising popularity swarming around the app. Maybe you’ve heard of the phrases “Gen Z” and “For You Page” or maybe you’ve even contributed to the 2.6 billion downloads– but do you really know the app? If you don’t want to admit that you might need to learn the basics of Tik Tok, we’re here to help anyway.

The app with over 1 billion monthly active users is home to dancing teens, tweens, those in their 90s and everyone in between. It merged with in 2018 and now, TikTok has become so much more than just a place for comedic videos to get us through the pandemic. It’s a creative way to grow businesses, share ideas, learn some new skills, educate others and more. It’s really become a safe place for many and you can share any tips or tricks you may have– baking, crafting, singing, editing– or you can just watch and customize your For You Page. Now, this brings us to the basics.

How to set up your TikTok account

1. Download the app and sign up

After downloading the app, you can immediately begin browsing and watching videos, but you can’t post any without creating an account. To create an account, you can use a phone number, email address or another platform, like Facebook. TikTok will assign you a random username, but no worries, you can change it.

2. Set up your Profile and Account Preferences

On the bottom of the app, you’ll see a bar of five icons. To edit your profile, all you have to do is click on the icon in the bottom right corner that looks like an outline of a person, Me, and then tap Edit Profile.  

You can change your username, photo, bio, profile video, as well as link your Instagram or YouTube accounts.

If you want your account to be private, you’ll have to change it. When you’re in your profile, click the three dots in the upper right corner and it’ll bring you to Settings and Privacy. 

This is where you can change all your privacy settings, including if you want people to see the videos that you’ve liked. How do you like videos? Don’t worry– we’re almost up to that.

How to navigate TikTok

3. How to view videos and customize your For You Page

After creating an account and setting up your privacy settings, it’s time to explore. Maybe you’ve seen For You branded at the top of the app when you first open it. It’s basically a customized, algorithmically-generated stream of videos. When you first download TikTok, it’ll give you the most viral videos at the moment and as you continue to scroll and like, comment, and share these videos, it’ll pick up on your interests and tailor videos to what you want to see.

4. How to interact with videos

So, you’re scrolling through videos and spot one on a topic you’re interested in, but you don’t want to lose it forever– you’re in luck because you can save it. On the right side of the video, you’ll see a few icons– the top one is the profile of the user who posted it, then a heart, similar to Instagram’s “like” feature, a speech bubble for comments, a right-pointing arrow for sharing the videos on other platforms and lastly, a spinning record. If you click the arrow, it gives you options to send it internally to another user as a message, externally as a text message or iMessage, as a post or story on any social media apps, or you can copy the link and share it via iMessage directly. If you click on the spinning record with moving music notes, you can see the artist and song title, as well as other videos that used the same music for one of their TikToks. 

This is a great way to check if the sound is trending. Now, let’s say you stumbled on a video you don’t want to see ever again, or anything remotely similar to it, then you have the option to hold down on the video and select “not interested </3” so those types of videos won’t clog up your For You page. You also have the option to add a video to your Favorites to view at a later time and sometimes, the ability to save a video directly to your camera roll (depending if the user has it enabled or not).

If you add a video to your Favorites, and you want to check it out again, you just have to head over to your profile section and click the bookmark icon. You can add more than just videos to your Favorites, including hashtags, sounds, effects and products. On your profile section, you’ll notice a heart icon and if you click on the icon, it’ll display all the videos you’ve liked while scrolling. If you choose to keep these public when setting up your account, then other users can see them. You can change this whenever you want.

5. How to follow TikTok users and content creators

Next to For You, you’ll notice another feed, Following. This is where you’ll find uploads from any users you choose to follow. The amount of talent on TikTok is truly endless so finding content creators that make you laugh, teach you some life skills, or just accounts featuring the cutest puppies, it’ll be easy to find the entertainment you want. If you’re on your FYP and vibe with an account and want to keep up with their videos, then follow them! Tap the red and white plus sign under their profile picture, or swipe to the left on the video and you’ll be brought to their account. Here, you can press “Follow” and scroll through all their videos. 

How to find and keep up with TikTok trends

6. How to find trends

Similar to Instagram’s “Explore” section, TikTok has a Discover section. Tap the magnifying glass icon on the bottom of your screen and you’ll find rows of trends, including videos with popular hashtags, sounds and effects. If you want to find just sounds, you can switch the tab on the top to “Sounds” instead of “Trends”. In Discover, you can also search for anything you want, such as an account, phrases or any topics you want to find videos on. Type in an account you want to follow, press search and then filter it to “Users”.

There’s also “TikCode” that can be great for businesses or promoting your account in-person. Just hold up your phone displaying your TikCode, which can be found in Settings and Privacy, and someone can scan it with their phone to instantly be brought to your account. If you take a screenshot of a code, you can upload and scan the code by pressing “Photos” in the top corner of the scan page and uploading it there. 

How to make a TikTok video

7. Creating your TikTok video

Now that you’ve mastered how to scroll, search and find trending videos, follow your favorite creators, and tailor your FYP, it’s time to make your own video. 

Tap the center plus sign at the bottom of your screen to start. You’ll notice the camera will pop up and a red circle, similar to Snapchat’s, at the bottom. Before filming, you can flip your camera to the other direction, turn flash on or off, and choose if you want to record for 60 seconds or 15 seconds (you can always make a video shorter by ending it early, but you can’t lengthen a 15-second video).

Now, you can play around with some of the other settings on the right side– Speed, Beauty Mode, Filters and Timer. 

Let’s break these down:

Speed can be used to record your video in slow motion or at an increased speed, up to 3x faster. Beauty Mode is a filter that smoothes out your skin to remove “blemishes.” Filters is similar to Instagram’s filter options and allows you to change the color of your video. 

Timer is a bit trickier to master and will take some practice, but ultimately, it allows you to set a timer for 3 or 10 seconds and then you can drag the red line to the point where you want to end a segment of recording time, and click “Start countdown”. This is a great tool for transitions, such as when you want to lip sync the first few lines of a song and then pause the video to switch positions, without showing the camera. It also works best if you add a sound beforehand.  

You can add a sound before or after the video– if you want to dance or lip sync to the sound, it’s best to add it beforehand so you can hear it while playing. Just tap “Add sound” on the top of the screen and then pick a musical overlay, song or sound from Discover or your Favorites. You can add a sound after recording as well, or you don’t have to include a sound at all if you want the audio of your recording to be the focal point, whether it’s you talking, singing or showing off a funny moment! 

You’ll notice on the bottom left side, “Effects” and on the right side, “Upload.” If you want to upload a video you recorded outside of the app, or pictures directly from your camera roll (uploading pictures this way turns them into a slideshow and can be tricky to edit), you can do that by tapping on “Upload.” If you want to incorporate pictures or videos into your TikTok with more freedom, then click “Effects.” 

In this section, you can find all the effects TikTok has to offer, including the ones you may have Favorited, or others, such as ones in trending, new, editing, beauty, Green Screen etc. You want to know how to use the Green Screen on TikTok? This effect is probably one of the most useful when you want to upload a picture or video, but you don’t want it to be the entire video. Tap on the photo Green Screen or video Green Screen option and then insert the picture or video you want. You can record yourself in real-time right over it or move out of the way so it doesn’t pick up on you or your surroundings. It might take some time to get used to all the effects, but that’s okay– there’s so many possibilities to be creative! 

Once you have your settings sorted out, you’re ready to start recording. You can either tap the red circle and let go, then click again to end the video, or hold down on the red circle and let go when you’re done recording. Then tap the red check when you’re done!

7. Editing your video

You can press the arrow on the top left corner if you want to re-record your video, but if you’re happy with the way your video turned out, you can now put the finishing touches on it before posting. If you didn’t want to add a song before recording, you can add it now by clicking the music note icon, “Sounds,” on the bottom left. It will automatically show some recommended songs, but you can just click the magnifying glass icon to find more. This will bring you back to the Discover and Favorites section to search for some sounds. If you don’t have a particular song in mind, it’s always a best bet to hit the “TikTok Viral” section under “Playlist,” to find trending and popular songs. This will typically help your video gain more engagement than picking a song that isn’t trending at the moment. Once you add the sound, you can adjust the volume of it, as well as the original video’s volume. 

Now, you’ll see a few new icons on the bottom of the screen, including Effects, Text and Stickers. These effects include split screen, transitions, and visual ones, like butterflies or smog on the screen. 

You can add stickers, filters and even do a voiceover. You want to learn how to add text to a TikTok? Well, you can add it as an overlay! You can use text as subtitles if you’re speaking in the video, or creatively however you want! You can change the color, font, outline, and duration of it. You can also put it as “Text-to-Speech,” which has recently been popular as a way to narrate a funny video and bring it to life. Lastly, you can adjust your clips and add voice effects.

9. How to post videos and add trending hashtags

When your video is perfected, tap “Next” at the bottom of the screen. Here, you can add a caption and hashtags, select a cover image, tag any friends, and change privacy settings for the video. You can also link it to share automatically to any other social media platforms, including Instagram and Snapchat. By typing the hashtag symbol (#), you’ll get a short list of the trending hashtags– use them! Also, make sure to type any other popular hashtags similar to your video. If you made a video on marketing, then try “#marketingtips” with 467M views, or #socialmediahacks” with 15M views. Play around with these hashtags and you can find ones in the billions, millions and thousands ranges. 

After creating a caption and setting the video’s privacy, such as turning comments on or off, and allowing duets, stitches, or comments, you can either post it or save it to your drafts for a later time. You can access all your drafts when you’re on your profile page. It’s also helpful to screen record the whole video before posting, so you can have it saved without the TikTok watermark.

10. How to duet or stitch a video

You can do more than just post your own video– you can join in by duetting or stitching the video. Duets split the screen in half and let you record yourself while watching the video. So, how do you duet on TikTok? To duet a video, click the arrow on the bottom of it, then tap “Duet,” and record! 

You can also experiment with “Stitch,” which allows you to take a portion of someone else’s video and use it in the beginning of your own video.

11. How to check views and engagement

You’ve posted your first video. Now what? You can check your engagement by heading over to your profile and seeing how many views your video has. At the bottom of your screen, you should see “Inbox,” which is where all your notifications for who has liked, commented, duetted, stitched, or followed you will be. You can also check your messages here. You can also check how many TikTok followers you have, as well as the amount of likes you’ve received in total at the top of your profile. 

12. You’ve mastered the TikTok basics

Now that you know the basics, you’re going to become a pro at making TikTok videos in no time. You can join in on a TikTok #Challenge and lip sync your favorite or trending song. You’re ready to explore all TikTok has to offer and be careful, because you might just find yourself making a dance video.