Learn the No. 1 skill to be successful on TikTok: Storytelling

Author: Steffen Meyer, Mobile Marketing Content Specialist

What makes a successful TikTok video successful? Most of the times, it is a good story, meaning: a story that grabs the viewer’s attention, keeps people hooked and ends on a satisfying note.

So if you want to market your app on TikTok, you should know some things about storytelling. And here we are to give you a little introduction by examining one of the most famous videos on TikTok: User Jamie Big singing to Nelly Furtado in front of a bathroom mirror.

By the time of writing, this video reached 431 million views and gained 51 million likes. As a marketer, you should learn from the best, even if it means analyzing a silly, little video – especially when it actually incorporates some very basic but effective storytelling techniques:

  1. Grab attention: The first second shows a not-so-clean sink. Usually, TikTok creators rather present their nicely cleaned properties. The view irritates and hooks the viewers. They wonder: Who owns this bathroom? Why show it to us? 

    You should always think of an attention-grabbing beginning for your video. Start with a bang, present a set-up that makes people wonder what’s it for or pose a bold thesis you want to prove. There are countless ways and there’s no shame in getting inspired by ideas of other creators on TikTok.
  1. Build up tension: From second two onwards the camera moves slowly upwards, revealing more of the bathroom’s interior and part of the mirror. The viewers know that very soon it will be revealed who is standing in front of the mirror and what they are doing there. Will this be a cleaning video or some weird joke? The viewers are excited to see the reveal.

    Tension keeps the users attention, making them watch the video longer. You may implement this technique by creating a conflict (viewer wonder “who wins?”), praising features of the product before presenting it (“I wonder what it looks like?”) or talking about what emotions the story you are about tell caused (“What did rile them up so much?”). Don’t overstretch it though, otherwise you might annoy people – especially if the reveal at the end isn’t as satisfying as you promised before. 
  2. Introduce the character: At the third second, the camera reveals the user that shot the video: a guy with a moustache, glasses, and a Power Rangers shirt. The sight is quite the contrast to other creators. While professionals do their best to get across as authentic and mainstream-cool at the same time, he just seems to be authentic in his very own style.

    The character of your story matters. Alot. It’s a whole different sight if a little girl or an elderly man sits on a bench. The viewer will associate totally different backgrounds. That is why you should always think about who will stand in front of your camera to promote the product. Can people relate to them? Will they find them cute? Or will they respect them? Think about what people will associate with your chosen story character.
  3. Surprise with a plot twist: From second four onwards, Jamie Big begins to sing and dance along to Nelly Furtado. This is totally unexpected. Honestly, who would have thought, when watching this video for the first time, that this will happen? It’s a twist that no one saw coming, which means: it is a damn good twist.

    Surprising the viewer with something unexpected is a very old storytelling technique. Good jokes work like this as well: They build up expectations and then break them. You don’t have to build in plot twists into your story. They may even ruin it. For example, when you reveal at the end of a quite fantastic story that it was all just a dream, it can really disappoint the viewer because all the progress doesn’t matter. Many storytellers craft a story like this in their early career to seem clever and original – only to later realize that it was just a cheap trick. Don’t make their mistake and twist just to have a twist.
  4. Resolve everything with a satisfying end: At the fifth second, Jamie smiles a bit and now everything is clear: He ist just doing it for the fun of it. There is no deeper meaning or reason for filming it in this bathroom. This is the point most viewers will probably start smiling as well, feeling the good mood, watching the last few seconds satisfied.

    The end of the video is just as important as the beginning. Think long and hard about what mood you want users to be in after watching your video. Most probably this is what they will remember because people more easily remember things that are connected to emotions. So make your ending satisfying, tie up all loose ends and leave no questions unanswered – unless of course, you really want people to ponder about a certain question. But be careful with this idea, the next video is just one swipe away and may quickly erase the posed question from the user’s mind. Don’t try to be clever. Rather be straightforward.
  5. Keep it as short as possible: The video ends quite abruptly after eight seconds, making it very short even for TikTok. However, it doesn’t need to be longer, or better: it shouldn’t be. The story is told and reached its climax at the seventh second, when the viewer realized what’s going on, and one second later it’s over. Just enough, to re-watch and re-experience the video from the start.

    A short story isn’t the same as a shallow story. Short should be concise. A famous quote, whose original author is unknown, goes like this: “I’m sorry I wrote you such a long letter. I didn’t have time to write you a short one.” Crafting a dense story with all the drama is work. So get straight to the point, don’t wander off course and delete everything that feels unnecessary. Even if it means to kill your darlings.

How Storytelling drives installs for a Customlytic’s customer

You cannot plan such a success as Jamie Big had with this video, nor should you copy his style and film everything in front of a bathroom mirror. Our analysis of this video should only let you remember what to look out for when telling a story on TikTok.

We at Customlytics used some of these techniques to boost the install rate of an app by more than 30 percent. Have a look at the case study here.

If you want to learn more about successful marketing on TikTok, click here, and while you are at it: Grab our Marketing Master Map for free, so you keep an overview of your marketing strategy.

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