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Opinion

The Ins and Outs of How to Grow as a Creator on TikTok with @artbyaalice

With a passion for art and design, Alice began creating TikTok videos to showcase her work in September 2020. Just nine months later, Alice is close to reaching 600 thousand followers and has had the opportunity to work with big brands in the art world. Alice spoke to Talking Influence about how she grew her TikTok platform, and how others can do the same.

Alice wants to highlight the importance of education and self-reflection as an important factor to success, and how experimentation and consistency has led her to where she is now. 

Please tell us about your TikTok account. What sort of content do you share, and how has it changed since you first started your account?

I first began posting TikTok videos in September of 2020, when I was 17 years old, but only started to really focus on developing my video content in October of 2020. My videos quickly began to attract a lot of viewers, and as a result, I have gained almost 600k followers in less than nine months.

I have always posted art-related content, as this has always been my passion. When I first started, my content was more cartoon-styled. Slowly, I began to experiment with showing more of my realism drawings, which became extremely popular.

I did not previously have any other popular social platforms, nor did I have any experience being an “influencer”, so I learned everything I know right now through personal experience. For example, I noticed that though realistic artwork takes significantly more time and effort to create, the engagement rate is also significantly higher as people seem to be more “wowed” by it. The positive feedback I have received from viewers in the comments section has also encouraged me to continue to create this style of content. 

You now have almost 600k followers, would you say that you achieved this slowly and steadily, or was there a particular video that sparked a dramatic growth? 

My growth came in bursts; sometimes it was slow and steady, other times it increased dramatically. When I first began, my rate of growth was fairly consistent; I did not care at all about how many followers I had or how many likes my videos were getting. I simply posted them for fun, and it did not matter to me what others thought about them. 

I would also like to point out that it is always important to keep in mind – no matter how many followers, likes, or views you have – that these numbers do not define us or the quality of our work. Rather than purely focusing on these factors, it is much more important to reflect on what we have learnt in the process, and whether or not we are enjoying this process. To be quite honest, if you are not enjoying this process, then there is no point in creating these videos. Viewers like to see you grow, learn, and enjoy yourself. 

The first video that went somewhat viral was a video in which I drew Shrek as an Among Us character (an extremely popular online game at the time). From what I remember, this video allowed me to jump from 20k followers to 60k followers overnight, then to 80k a few days later. 

My other videos that went viral followed a similar trend, where I would gain a significant number of followers overnight, followed by a gradual decrease in growth rate over the next 3-5 days. Another example I can think of is my Iron Man drawing (which is still by far one of the videos with the highest engagement rates). Before I posted this video, I believe I was at around 200k followers. I gained around 100k over the course of 24 hours, then this very high growth rate continued as more videos went viral (including my Captain America drawing and Darth Vader drawing). 

What tips would you give to others who want to reach more people on TikTok, in terms of growing a following and getting more video views?

First of all, we want to establish the basics. For example, film the videos in a nicely lit area. There is absolutely no need for professional studio lighting, but we want to make sure that people can actually see what is going on in the videos. If a viewer can barely see anything, they’re not very likely to watch the video. 

Furthermore, make sure that the video is not shaky (unless that’s the effect you’re going for). For myself, I draw with my right hand while holding my phone with my left hand. This was definitely quite challenging at first since I had to focus on what I’m drawing, but with practice, I slowly became less shaky. A fun tip is to rest your elbow on something steady so that your arm doesn’t cramp up. I rarely use a ring stand, but I do know a few creators who do. This is honestly just based on personal preference and finding out what works for you. 

I would also advise to try out different things and styles, both in terms of what you are filming and how you are filming. For example, it’s always cool to follow the newest trends, but I would advise to also try and add a fun and exciting twist to it. This will allow viewers to feel more excitement and be more entertained, and thus increase the likelihood of this video receiving higher engagements. 

In addition, I would say that the sound you choose is quite important, as it sets the tone and mood for your video. For example, when I drew Chat Noir I used a related sound, and many people expressed in the comments section that they were even more immersed in the drawing because of the sound. When I made a joke about the contrast between the art and the process (in other words, the mess I made), the sound I chose definitely reflected this distinction, and thus helped set the mood. 

In terms of the content (in my situation, the artwork), I would definitely advise to not try and wing it just for the sake of making a video. In my opinion (both as a viewer and a creator), viewers do not nearly care as much about the amount you are posting in comparison to the quality of your videos. Personally, I post once every 2-3 days, but it’s completely ok to post once or twice every week or two. A lot of times it is useful to reflect on what you would want to see as a viewer; try and see your creation through the lens of the audience instead of the creator – give yourself feedback on how you can improve in the future, or ask a friend of family member to take a look at your video and give you feedback. It’s always a good idea to think about what we’ve done well, and what could be done better. 

If your account is set to a creator account, TikTok also gives you access to “creator tools”, so make use of the analytics they provide you. For example, you can check the analytics for each individual video to determine which “style” of video performs best on your page (this will likely be slightly different for everyone). In addition, I find it useful to check the time at which my followers are most active. Again, this is different for every account depending on the percentages of your audience based on location, but for me personally, my followers tend to be the most active between 11am and 2pm. This means that if I post between these times, my video is more likely to receive higher initial engagement rates, which likely affects its overall performance. 

Looking at sponsorships: please tell us more about how you have been approached by brands for sponsorships, who these brands are, and how the sponsorships work.

I first began to receive sponsorships around November of 2020, around two months after I first began posting TikTok videos. Because I did not have as many followers back then, I personally approached brands and asked if they would like to collaborate. (In other words, I emailed them.) As my account is growing and more videos are going viral, I am being approached by various brands more and more often. 

I have worked with various brands, including but not limited to Tooli-Art, Gelli-Arts, Art-n-Fly, and Artistro, all of which are art supply companies. I have also worked with companies such as Schleich to promote upcoming products or events. 

How these sponsorships work honestly depends on your mutual agreement and discussion based on your goals and what works best for the both of you. Personally, I have done various forms of sponsorships; when I first began, companies would send me free sample products to review and use on my TikTok page. For paid promotions, there are two common types that I am aware of. For a short term or one-time collaboration, it would likely be a flat fee per post. For affiliations of longer duration, I am aware that companies tend to offer to pay based on percentage of sales made, often identified by the creator’s personal “discount code”. 

Because I am still a student, I have only done short term or one-time collaborations as it allows me to better manage my time (balancing sponsorships with homework, tests, and extracurricular activities), especially since I want to put my best effort into both my content and my education. 

A piece of advice I would give in terms of working on sponsorships is that communication is extremely important. We want to be sure that our common goals can be met, and that both parties are being reasonable. Though I have not taken any courses in business or marketing, I believe this could be extremely helpful. If you are currently a student or a young person wanting to work with sponsors and think that school will not help you with that, you are absolutely wrong.

Education, especially in mathematics and english (language and communication), is extremely important in terms of calculating your next steps to maximise your potential growth. Another piece of advice I would give is to not be afraid to politely turn down a sponsorship if you believe that you are not the right fit. It is completely ok to state your concerns and turn down an offer as long as you are being polite. 

In terms of longevity, do you see yourself developing a career through TikTok, or do you hope that it will act as a stepping stone to other career prospects if TikTok was to decline in popularity?

I have, and so far believe that I always will, see TikTok as more of a way to share my art and hobby rather than my career. This opportunity has helped me develop significantly more real-life experience in business and marketing, all while providing me with a platform to share my passion.

As of this moment, I am planning on becoming a professor in mathematics, or going into a career path related to math or education. (I know, quite funny and somewhat odd as it is completely unrelated to my TikTok or art.) However, I do plan to continue to make TikTok videos during my free time (like I always have) and don’t plan to stop any time soon.

Addressing the question, my TikTok “career” is completely unrelated to my “desired career”, but I am and will continue to work hard on both of these careers.

Please provide our audience with any more top tips and advice you have for growing their TikTok page, and how to manage this growth when sponsorships start coming in. 

The best and most important piece of advice I can give for growing your TikTok page is to actually pay attention at school, especially in your Math and English class. Being able to calculate and maximise your potential growth, and communicate with others is an essential skill for success. In addition, being capable of reflecting on your actions is also extremely important; continue to do what worked well, and make changes and improvements to what didn’t go well. Nobody, including myself, starts off perfect, and nobody will start off perfect. 

I believe the most important part of growing your TikTok page is to truly enjoy the process. Similar to a typical career you may have, if you are not passionate about it then you will not find meaning or purpose in doing it. Don’t be afraid to reach out to brands you admire or politely decline an offer that you think would not fit you – it is completely ok to be rejected or kindly reject others. 

The best way to manage your TikTok growth is similar to how you would manage other things in your life; take a deep breath, don’t take on too many tasks at a time, make a plan, set short term and long term goals for yourself, and know that it’s ok to be rejected (or “fail”). Obviously, the specific details of each of these factors is different for everyone; this is also why there is no set “guide” to how you can become “TikTok famous” – prioritise your education, do well at school, and as a result you will become better at self-reflection, knowing your goals, and calculating what works best for you.

We hope that Alice’s journey and the advice she has given will be valuable to aspiring creators, and brands who want to gain a greater understanding of how TikTok works and how successful creator collaborations can be achieved. If you have any actionable insights that you would like to share with us that you think would be valuable to the influencer marketing community, please submit your ideas via our Typeform.

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