How to Go Viral on TikTok in 2023: the Complete Guide

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How to Go Viral on TikTok in 2023: the Complete Guide

It’s hard to deny the impact of TikTok in recent years. Competing with Google for the top spot of the most visited website, and sometimes winning, TikTok is one of the most popular social media platforms and has grown incredibly quickly.

Especially favored by younger audiences and Gen Z, many prefer to use TikTok rather than search engines to inform their purchasing decisions. There just seems to be something more trustworthy about a real person these days as opposed to traditional forms of advertising. In fact, 62% of TikTokers trust influencers more than they do celebrities. Therefore, the app is not only useful for entertaining and connecting with your audience but presents a lucrative opportunity for making money that many want to take advantage of. Put simply, TikTok is not just for teenagers doing lipsyncs and dances anymore. Understandably, so many people are questioning how to go viral on TikTok.

Creating a video that goes viral is often sought after because it massively expands the reach of your content and how many viewers are watching it. As time goes on, what was once arguably quite simple becomes more difficult to achieve. The nice thing about the platform is that it doesn’t recommend videos based on the follower count of the creator, so there’s a good chance for almost anybody to create viral content, no matter the size of their follower list.

If you’re among those wondering exactly how to go viral on TikTok, you’re in luck. We can’t promise it’ll happen right away, but we’re going to take a comprehensive look at all the tips and tricks you can make use of to give yourself the best chance of making viral content.

Let’s get into the best practices to go viral on Tiktok!

Understand the Algorithm

First things first, to be successful on any social media platform, you need to have at least a basic understanding of how the algorithms work. That is, the process the platform follows to calculate how and where to distribute your content.

As previously mentioned, TikTok doesn’t factor in your follower count when promoting your content, but mostly focuses on the average time spent watching instead. It also takes note of if you’ve used trends, as well as how many hashtags you’ve used and how generic they are.

Generally, using extremely popular and overused hashtags will not serve you well, so it’s better to use relevant and specific tags so the platform knows how to categorize your content. After posting, TikTok pushes your content to the For You page, giving everyone a chance to see it. Based on the initial viewing, it then decides whether to push the video to more viewers. In this way, you can essentially tell in the first few hours whether your video is going to go viral or not.

As with much of social media, trending audio, dances, content formats, and memes often rule the day. Trends don’t tend to last longer than a few days to a week, though. So, if you’re serious about trying to go viral on TikTok, it’s vital that you spend a little time each day on the For You page browsing the latest crazes (hashtags and audio are super useful for this). This can save you time instead of having to think of original content every time, and show a fun and personable side to you or your business that might be a hit with users.

tiktok dance trend
Hopping on a Tiktok trend can be a great way to go viral!


Be Original and Stand Out

This may seem contradictory to the last point, but all trends have to come from somewhere! While this may seem harder than copying the latest trends, if you do manage to create original viral content it’ll give you a massive advantage. Even though TikTok factors in the use of trends, it also looks at originality, so if your video does well it’ll get boosted even more. Plus, every time someone uses your audio, it’ll be displayed on their video, giving you even more chances to get eyes on your content. Think about what your audience wants to see from you, and what other people in your niche are doing. Then, try to put your own personal spin on it.

Take Part in Tiktok Challenges 

Similar to being inspired by a trend, participating in a TikTok challenge can increase your visibility. Challenges are usually created by popular brands, influencers, and creators to build awareness and hype, but can be very beneficial for the average creator as well. Have a look at the Discover page to see if you can find any new challenges, or search for “challenge” in the search bar. This is a simple way to take advantage of what’s current and keep your finger on the pulse.

Use Hashtags Wisely

Hashtags are often a key part of any social media strategy. Although, it’s not as simple as chucking “#foryou” or “#love” on your video and calling it a day. In fact, TikTok can penalize creators for using generic and irrelevant hashtags. As well as this, the right audience probably will never see your content as the platform will find it difficult to categorize it.

If you’re stuck on what hashtags to use, try using the Discover page to see what’s trending and if it applies to your content. You can also search for keywords within your niche, and then click the Hashtags tab to see what tags relate to this. In general, try not to use more than five hashtags, as this is considered excessive. Long-tail and specific hashtags can be very useful if you’re trying to go viral on TikTok.

Get to Grips with TikTok SEO

Search engine optimization isn’t limited strictly to Google these days. TikTok takes note of keywords that you use, be it in the text during your video, captions, in your profile bio, the sounds you use, and even your username and the words you speak during your video. The key is not to use excessive amounts of unnatural keywords.

Keep it Short, Entertaining, and Replayable

You should create your video with replayability in mind since the average watch time is one of the biggest factors in going viral. To this end, you should kick off your video with a strong hook, usually an emotional one, to grab attention right away. The first 3 seconds are crucial in keeping someone’s attention. If you make the most interesting part at the end of the video, chances are people won’t watch it.

tiktok dance video
The more replayable and engaging your video, the higher the chance that it’ll go viral.

©Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock.com

Don’t Discount Collaboration

Since so much of the younger generation trusts influencers more than advertisers or celebrities, it makes sense to consider collaborating with one. Consider if they’re relevant to your audience and type of content, though, or the result will be confusing and probably not go viral. This is easier to do when you’ve built up a following, but still a good idea to keep in mind.

Be On-Brand and On-Message

While hopping on trends can work, and you’ll likely want to try out different things as you experiment with the platform, it pays to find your specific niche and audience. Once you figure out exactly how you want to show up and the unique skills and viewpoints you can share, you must be consistent in your branding and messaging in order to grow. Otherwise, you’ll simply confuse your audience and turn them away. If nobody knows what kind of content you’re making and why they’ll find it hard to connect with it and be entertained. People often need to see something multiple times to become positively connected to it, so it’s worth it to be creatively repetitive regarding your messaging.

Have a Powerful CTA

A CTA, or call-to-action, is crucial when trying to make money from your content. This is because you need to help direct people on what to do after they’ve watched your content. This can be as simple as saying “follow for more” or “wait for the next part,” as well as including it in the caption. Be sure to give enough time for people to take action, before the video moves to the next.

Be a Part of the Community

The point of social media is, unsurprisingly, to be social. Therefore, you should be actively participating in TikTok communities that interest you and engaging with popular creators and your audience. The algorithm favors this quite a bit. You can also get more ideas for content and hashtags. Try to spend around 10 to 15 minutes a day engaging with other users if you want to grow your account.

tiktok comments audience engagement social media
Engaging with your audience and other creators is a great way to boost your visibility (and their trust in you!).


Use Humor Cautiously

Modern social media users often consider humorous content the most likable. It’s a great idea to take note of the sense of humor your audience has. It’s good to be a little controversial, but there’s a fine line between that and offending people. Generally, younger people tend to favor darker humor these days, while, with older demographics, it’s the opposite. The most important thing is to know your audience and what they appreciate.

Schedule and Time Your Posts

As well as being consistent in your messaging and branding, you need to be consistent with your posting schedule and post time. The best time to post will depend on your audience and their lifestyles. Teenagers, for instance, aren’t really going to be active in the early morning. Scheduling your posts ahead of time will also help you to post regularly, even when life gets busy. The algorithm and your audience highly favor this as they’ve expected content from you.

Relate to Your Audience

This tactic goes along with knowing your audience and their needs. Often, being relatable will rely upon taking inspiration from what’s popular in your niche and with your audience, so notice the competition and what’s trending. But don’t be afraid to show your personality, opinions, and vulnerability. People want to see the real person behind the screen nowadays, and offering your unique perspectives can greatly help people relate to you.

Cross-Promote Your Content

While this may sound like it’ll just draw people away from your account, promoting it on other platforms can help you a lot. This is because if someone on Instagram or Facebook likes your content, there’s a good chance they might go to your TikTok account to see more from you. As a rule, it’s best to promote your top-performing content on other platforms to give people more of a reason to check your TikTok out.

Be Careful Around Controversy

Like with humor, it pays to give a perhaps unpopular or hot take on current topics, either in the news or in your industry. But it’s sensible to keep this relatively lighthearted, as focusing on extremely serious and divisive topics won’t go down well with the platform and may even end up banned. If you want to go viral on TikTok, always think about how your audience will react, and don’t be controversial for no reason.

Tell a Story

Humans are natural storytellers and story-lovers. We often pay more attention to stories and are more emotionally invested in content that has a progression from beginning to middle to end. Stories can be relaxing to listen to, entertaining, and make people feel a connection to you. Just keep the story to the point and with a satisfying ending.

Be a Little Random

Oddly enough, inserting random details into your videos can actually make them a lot more popular. This is because people can pick up on these and use them as talking points, either with their friends or in the comments section. You can get creative with this. Wearing something unusual or cool can be effective, but so can throwaway phrases and opinions and even strange objects or surroundings in the background of your video.

Tiktok video
Adding in interesting components to your video — even something in the background — can add to the conversation around your video.

©Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock.com

Leave on a Cliffhanger

Since it helps to be concise with TikTok videos, a great way to do this is to leave your audience in suspense. This creates a sense of excitement and makes them wonder what’s going to happen next. Plus, it gives them something to discuss in the comments, which makes the algorithm look at your content even more positively. 

Make a Playlist of Your Best Hits

Because of the fact shorter videos often perform better, it makes sense to split them up into multiple videos. Think about how people use Netflix, for example -– watching a 4-hour film might be unbearable, but 20 episodes that are 30 minutes each is no problem. In this way, your content will be much more binge-worthy if you create a playlist of your greatest hits. Here, viewers that are currently engaged and enjoying your content can easily watch more and more of it, increasing the chance that some of your content will go viral on TikTok. 

Think About a Business Account 

Having a business account doesn’t actually have much effect on whether your content will go viral. It still may be a good idea, however, if you run a Shopify store where you sell products. If you upgrade, you can make money from your videos by linking to your products with a simple tap. Watchers can also see a Shopping tab on your profile, which gives them an easy opportunity to turn into customers. The other bonus of a business account is that you get more extensive insights into your content performance on your profile, as well as audience behavior.

Why Going Viral Isn’t the Whole Picture

We’ve discussed how going viral on TikTok can bring a lot more eyes to your content, as well as tips on making viral content. It’s important to remember, however, that simply going viral may not make or break your TikTok success. This is because viewers don’t necessarily turn into followers, clients, partnerships, or sales. You could have all the eyes in the world looking at your videos for a brief time, but without a close community of highly engaged followers, you may not reach the goals you desire. Make sure your objective is part of a bigger, longer-term marketing strategy. And if you do go viral, interact with these new viewers so that you can form a genuine and lasting connection.

For a helpful walkthrough of some of the tips covered in this article, check out this video:

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Frequently Asked Questions

What does going viral mean?

Essentially, something going viral means the content has spread extremely quickly and widely across either the internet or a social media platform in particular. You’ll often see in the first few hours after uploading whether something has gone viral or not.

What's the purpose of going viral?

Because a viral video is seen by lots of people, it has a large number of views and brings a lot of awareness to a brand or creator. Therefore, it can be very useful for making sales, if the content does a good job of converting viewers into customers. It’s also great for gaining followers, as new audiences are exposed to the content.

How do I know if I've gone viral on TikTok?

If you’ve gone viral, you’ll probably know it, since your content will be shared widely and commented on greatly within a couple of hours since you uploaded it. You’ll receive a lot of notifications, and people that don’t follow you will be watching your video.

How does TikTok decide what goes viral?

Basically, TikTok shows your new video to around 500 randomly chosen viewers, and sees how it performs. Based on the views, likes, shares and average watching time, the initial success of the video is determined. The content is then pushed out to a wider audience, depending on how successful it was originally. Following a strategy which incorporates proven tactics, like the ones in this article, will also help TikTok to greatly boost the visibility of your content.

Do you have to spend money to go viral?

No, since making content on TikTok is free. Most of the battle is in your strategy and what tactics you’re using to produce your content. Virtually anybody can go viral by being smart and consistent with their content creation.

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