TikTok Videos: A Simple Guide to Creating Simple Content
Sep, 6 2021
Updated: Jul, 5 2022
15 min read

TikTok Videos: A Simple Guide to Creating Simple Content

Knowing what’s popular and trending can help you decide what kinds of TikTok videos you want to create. Just remember to be yourself and make them unique!

The video content on TikTok looks so easy to pull off. After all, the average TikTok session is about 10 seconds. Wham, bam, done. It can’t be so hard to create simple content like that, can it? 

Then you load the app, consider all of the possibilities, and…feel lost.

It’s too much. There are too many options: reaction videos, song memes, tips and how-tos, and the like. And if you want to create simple content, it seems like no one ever holds your hand and tells you how to create a TikTok video from start to finish.

Let’s change that. 

What Is a TikTok Video and How Does It Work?

A TikTok video is a short “movie” you upload directly to the app. As long as you stick to TikTok’s guidelines, it can be almost anything you want: cooking tips, funny cat memes, reaction videos, or helpful advice.

That doesn’t quite sum it up, however. If you want a better demonstration, it helps to turn to a few examples of the most popular TikTok videos that achieved viral superstardom:

  • Zach King’s “Harry Potter” illusion in 2019 demonstrated the viral appeal of visual stimulation on TikTok. It also showed how far a little humor can get you: “They rejected my application at Hogwarts,” wrote King in the caption.
  • Daexo’s video of a smiling baby won over 34 million likes—that’s likes alone—in just a few seconds of video runtime.
  • Billie Eilish’s face warp challenge video might not be quite as popular without the singer’s star power, but it highlights what TikTokers love about the medium: sharing visual memes, seeing each other’s reactions, and simply enjoying the technology of your smartphone.

You don’t get to be the most popular TikTok video by creating overly complex, long-form content. TikTok is a younger audience, looking for younger audience things: quick giggles and easy insights. If you want to create good content, start by focusing on simplicity first.

How Many TikTok Videos Are There?

How many videos are on TikTok? Given how easy it is to post to TikTok—you install the app and click a “Plus” button with your microphone and you’re off to the races—it shouldn’t surprise you that the answer is a lot

The 700 million users of TikTok viewed about one billion TikTok videos a day last year. In its first year, TikTok averaged about one million new videos per day throughout the year. 

And it’s only gotten more popular.

You’ve already seen the most popular video on TikTok—the Harry Potter illusion that garnered billions of views. But let’s zoom out. What are the most popular video types on TikTok? What sorts of videos tend to gain most users’ interest?


They rejected my application to Hogwarts but I still found a way to be a wizard. ?#illusion #magic #harrypotter

♬ Zach Kings Magic Broomstick – Zach King

We can study this by looking at the top categories of hashtags, according to Statista:

  • Entertainment: 535 billion
  • Dance: 181 billion
  • Pranks: 59 billion
  • Fitness/Sports: 57 billion
  • Home Reno/DIY: 39 billion
  • Beauty/Skincare: 33 billion
  • Fashion: 27 billion
  • Recipes/Cooking: 18 billion

Stack it all together and you’ll see it reflects TikTok’s demographics. Entertainment, pranks, and fitness/sports tend to be the domains of the young, and the stats bear it out. Almost one-third of TikTok’s user base is between 10 and 19, while about half of its total whippersnapper audience is under the age of 34.

We know what might be popular with TikTok globally. But what’s happening right now? The way to identify trends isn’t only by looking at hashtags, but also by paying attention to filters, reaction videos, and other in-app technology that people tend to use in waves.

Consider one particular filter with some recent popularity: the “VHS” filter. With the hashtag #vhstape, some users upload videos of themselves with before-and-after shots to highlight the difference that the VHS filter makes. 

You can also find plenty of trends in specific audio files that users attach to their videos. You may have already seen some hilarious videos using the song “Oh No” that show TikTokers in a variety of situations. It’s a trend that’s seen a zillion different variations. 

But you can find these all over. What else is trending? Some people are using a version of “A Hard Knock Life” from Annie to talk about some of the issues they’ve had, such as complaints about dating in your 30s. Allison Kuch reached viral popularity when she talked about the problems she’s had dating an NFL player.

Master TikTok in a Hurry!

Mastering TikTok: Stop Scrolling and Post Your First TikTok

How to Make a TikTok Video

The first thing you’ll want to do—before you ever hit “record”—is to decide what kind of TikToker you’ll be. What’s your specialty? Are you going to offer fashion tips and try-on hauls? Do you have household cooking tips that might require a tripod for your phone while you stir the risotto?

Something every successful TikToker needs is also simple: an angle. What kind of value do you plan on providing people? Is your style funny or educational? Informative or goofy? Are you going to try to hone in on the latest TikTok trends or start a few of your own?

Once you’ve settled on the answers, you’re ready to move into the nuts and bolts.

Make a TikTok Video for the First Time

The good news: TikTok wouldn’t have billions of video views every day if it was difficult to learn how to make a TikTok video. The bad news: it might take you one or two tries before you really feel like you have the hang of it. 

Here are the essential steps.

  • Start with the “+” button. As soon as you log into TikTok, you’ll notice a “+” button on the bottom center. This is your gateway to video production.
  • If using one, select a sound. Once you tap “+,” you’ll have a range of options. At the top, TikTok lets you select a sound, such as a viral piece of music making the rounds. This will open TikTok’s library of sounds, including “Trending” music, sound effects, and more. Need to get the timing right? You can then tap the “scissors” icon to adjust when the music starts playing.
  • Record. The “record” button at the bottom of the screen is your next step. You may also notice options like “.5x” and “2x,” which affect the speed of your video. For the most part, you’ll stick with 1x, but feel free to get creative with it. Slow-mo is fun!
  • Edit. Once you have a basic recording, you can view it back and check for errors. There’s also the scissors icon, which lets you trim and edit the clip you just recorded. Word to the wise: avoid as much “dead air” time as possible. Remember: the goal in creating a viral TikTok video is to capture attention as soon as possible, provide value, and then finish.
  • Click “Next.” You can move on to filters after tapping “Next.” This is also the stage at which you’ll select your hashtags (try to keep popular ones, usually with a million mentions or more). Write your captions, but keep in mind that the captions may show up when someone is watching your video for the first time—so don’t let them get in the way.

The Next Level: Make a TikTok Video With Photos and Videos

Let’s say you had an idea for a funny “meme” style TikTok. You have the perfect two-second reaction clip from your favorite movie, but you don’t know how to incorporate that into the video of yourself. You have to know how to make a TikTok with photos and videos if you want to add an extra layer of interest.

How does it work? Let’s imagine we’re creating a video right now. Our idea: we’re going to use a clip from The Princess Bride. A quick one-second cut of Andre the Giant declaring: “I only dog paddle.”

Your role in this? You’re the context for the meme. Using the steps above, take a video of yourself pretending that you’re at the side of a swimming pool. Bring up the TikTok typewriter and add a caption: “When people ask me if I know how to swim.”

Now’s the time to add the punchline:

  • Make sure the video itself is on your camera roll.
  • Tap “+” and then “Upload,” then “Next” to view the gallery.
  • You can select multiple videos—the ones you want—then select “Next.” 
  • From here, you can edit by trimming the videos, or you can simply click “Done” and start customizing the videos themselves.

Voilà. From there, you can add effects and captions just like you would for any other video.

Add a Picture to TikTok Videos

Next up: learning how to add a picture to a TikTok video. Once you’re in the “+” screen again, here’s how you can start getting creative with existing photos:

  • Once again, make sure the photo is in your gallery first before getting started. 
  • Tap “Effects” next to the record button.
  • From here, you can find all sorts of picture-in-video options, such as a “green screen” feature. For reference, the green screen lets you select the picture as your background as you record yourself in the foreground.
  • Choose a photo.
  • Returning to the video recording screen, you can record the video as you originally wanted. The video and the photo will “load” to the editing/trimming window, just the same as if you’d loaded two videos.
  • Once there, you’re able to splice in a photo in whatever way you like. For instance, you can show a photo of your dog as you talk about your dog, or show a photo of a recipe’s ingredients as you list them off. 

How to Repost Other TikTok Videos

When you use Twitter, you’ll notice a “retweet” feature that lets you publish other peoples’ tweets on your own timeline. 

Does this make you a copycat? Hardly. 

People want you to share their videos. Part of what makes TikTok fun is the community aspect: Someone makes a video, and someone else reposts and responds. Even before the days of TikTok, the viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was a fun social media trend that generated millions of dollars ($115 million, to be specific) in donations toward ALS charities. It can be a positive thing.

The question? How to repost a video on TikTok. First, let’s review the rules:

  • Reposting someone else’s content and passing it off as your own original work is against the community guidelines. You can, however, share content directly.
  • To “repost” other TikTok videos, you have to offer your own spin. That usually means offering a reaction of some sort.

Because of the latter point, you’ll find that many TikTokers will posit questions to TikTok. 

What do you do when you want to provide an answer? 

  • Start with the video you want to react to.
  • Tap Share and then React To when the Share menu pops up. 
  • Now you’ll have access to your camera, and you’re free to record your own video as an “addendum” to the original content.

Make a TikTok Video on a Computer

Of course, you can skip most of this if your video editing skills are better suited to a laptop or desktop computer.

Want to put those animation skills you learned in After Effects to work? Want to get more sophisticated with your animation than simply choosing from TikTok’s presets? If you’ve put in the work to learn desktop editing software, there’s no reason you can’t show it off on TikTok.

The secret is that it’s not difficult to learn how to make a TikTok video on a computer if you already have these skills. Just keep in mind that the TikTok-based functionality might not be as robust if you aren’t recording your videos from your phone. That means filters, TikTok effects, and maybe some other features. But if you’ve put in the work to learn video editing on the desktop, this shouldn’t be a concern.

Here’s how it works. Create your video on the desktop like you normally would. From there, it’s simply a matter of uploading the video to your phone and selecting it from your gallery.

How you do this is your own choice. Some people use cloud storage apps like Dropbox to easily save from Desktop → Cloud → Phone Gallery. Other people might hook their phone up to the computer and click and drag. 

If you’re uploading using Dropbox:

  • Create a dedicated Dropbox folder that you can easily access, and make it clear—i.e., “Videos for TikTok.” Don’t forget the TikTok dimensions of 1080×1920 as you edit. Otherwise, your video will come out looking wrong.
  • Once you’ve completed the video on your computer, export it. Keep in mind: you’ll have to export to .mp4 or .mov files for TikTok.
  • Using the Dropbox app on your phone, export the file to your gallery. You should now be ready to access it directly from TikTok. Note that you can still do some basic editing, such as trimming a long intro or clipping off the end of your video.

If you’re clicking and dragging:

  • Follow the formatting guides above, noting that you’ll need a .mp4 or .mov file with the proper dimensions.
  • Hook up your phone to your computer.
  • Make sure you can access the folder on your phone that will lead to the video gallery. For different phones (and operating systems), this may vary.
  • Once the file is directly saved to your phone’s gallery, you can upload it like you would upload any other file to TikTok.

Is there a third-party app for making TikTok videos? Sure. But now you’re getting a little too complicated. There’s no reason you can’t make perfectly viral videos within the TikTok app itself, or at least on your own computer.

Create Your First Short TikTok Video

Given what you know now, you should have more than enough to get started with your first TikTok video. 

  • Decide what kind of TikToker you want to be. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Here’s something no one will ever tell you about viral videos: you never know what video you create will be a hit. You might pour your heart into one video about risotto, and then see that it’s the five-second grilled cheese video that gets a million shares. The only way to get yourself noticed is to keep at it. Eventually, lightning will strike, especially if you pay attention to the best time to post on TikTok.
  • Plan it out. If you’re just doing a 10-second response video, you can probably expect that you don’t exactly need a script. But you may not get a lot of traction, either. Don’t be surprised if you find out that some of the most popular TikTok videos took a lot of planning and execution before they went viral.
  • Shoot it. Whether you’re using your phone or a fancy DSLR that you plan to edit in Adobe Premiere Pro, the next step is to get the raw footage. If you’re using your phone, you can use the tips above to edit it, trim it down, add some captions or effects, and publish it right away.
  • Hashtag it. Don’t forget that your captions and hashtags are important elements. Don’t overlook them. Hashtags especially will help expose your videos to audiences you might not expect. One of the unique things about TikTok is that it’s not unusual to have your first post have over 10,000 views. Be ready for it.
  • Stay consistent. Sure, it’s possible that your very first video will hit viral superstardom and you’ll become a TikTok celebrity overnight. But chances are that if you’re not willing to put in a little bit of work, you’re not going to get out of TikTok what you don’t put in. Stick with it. Trust that, despite your best efforts, some videos aren’t going to get as much traction as others. 

Try to view your efforts on TikTok not as a goal, but as a habit. Your goal might be to catch lightning in a bottle with a viral video. But if you only have that mentality, you’re not going to get very far if you see some initial discouragement.

On the other hand, if you create a habit of posting a video every day, you might be surprised when one of your videos takes off unexpectedly. You can’t very well catch lightning in a bottle if you’re indoors. 

(That’s a metaphor, kids. Always avoid lightning storms.)

Finally, let’s leave you with one last tip: stay on top of what’s happening on TikTok, because the winds are always changing there.

How to Stay Up to Date with TikTok by Monitoring the App

The “trade winds” of TikTok aren’t like the trade winds over the Atlantic. On TikTok, they’re always changing. If you want to create content that people like, you’ll have to stay up to date on what’s happening.

How do you do it? Here are a few tips:

  • Visit the “Discover” page every so often. This will keep you in touch with trending videos on TikTok if you want to stay in the loop. Don’t just rely on your “For You” page and the people you follow. Break out of that once in a while and see what other people are paying attention to. Do you notice any patterns? Any types of videos that might make sense for the type of content you want to create?
  • Try a music-first approach. Anyone who’s been on TikTok longer than two seconds will have seen some version of the “Watermelon Sugar” or “Oh No” songs, after all. Sometimes, it’s the music on TikTok that drives the memes, rather than vice versa. Scroll through the music libraries on TikTok and see if it sparks any ideas.
  • See the hashtag #trendalert when you’ve run out of ideas. Sometimes, it doesn’t hurt to look through what other people are curating, especially if you’re short on ideas on what you can do with your own videos.
  • Go live occasionally. We’ve already put together a guide on going live, and this is great because it gives you instant feedback from your audience. What do they want? What would they like to see from you next?

Creating Simple (But Breakthrough) Content on TikTok

On TikTok, simplicity is to your advantage. People on TikTok aren’t looking for long, drawn-out videos and three-hour podcasts. They don’t want to read War and Peace

Most often, they’re scrolling just for a quick giggle. After all, with an average session time of about 10 seconds, there’s simply no time for you to be too complex.

When posting on TikTok, short videos reign supreme. For that reason, focus on simple content when posting to TikTok:

  • Don’t post a recipe; post one tip about one ingredient.
  • Don’t do an entire house-cleaning video; do a before-and-after with one room.
  • Don’t show the entire movie in a meme; cut straight to the important line.

Whatever you’re posting on TikTok, you’ll likely do better if you keep it simple. And it doesn’t hurt that it makes your life easier, too.

Get Better at Knowing Your Audience

From Clueless to Content Creator: Make Engaging Videos that Attract an Audience

Written by:

Dan Kenitz

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