I have been experimenting with Tiktok and a couple of other short-form video channels. The reason? I wanted to get a taste of my own medicine that I dish out to founders about finding growth through these fast-growing short-form video channels.
Tiktok has over a billion users and has an algorithm that enables creators, startups, and brands to reach audiences who are not necessarily their followers.
What use is an experiment without metrics and hypotheses, right?
Metrics: Views, Follower count, Engagement rate. Because I figure that is what every new brand, startup, or creator would want, at least in the initial stage.
Hypothesis: If I post videos with the same content on multiple platforms, I should get similar results. Seems fair?
I decided to test out Instagram Reels. Reels is Instagram's knockoff version of short-form videos and their response to Tiktok.
Youtube has launched its shorts version, which is the vertical short-form version of its product—again launched in response to the rising popularity of Tiktok.
I also put Moj to the test. When India banned Tiktok as its response to Chinese aggression on its borders, Moj was launched by an enterprising Indian startup.
And it starts:
I created a new channel on Tiktok and uploaded videos. Now on Tiktok, the trick is to post multiple videos and to have captions. People read more than they listen! Also, the use of hashtags is not as strategic as on, say, Instagram. Use music that is trending as a background score to increase discoverability but reduce the volume down. The videos that are less studio generated and more authentic get more views. I posted 31 videos over six months, generated 26 followers, and generated more than 6000 views and engagement in comments and likes. This is from a cold start, and I am not doing eye-catching dances to ear-popping music; I am talking about startups, founders, and advice.
So a startup with relatively low awareness could take hold of TikTok and get visibility. As Gary Vee says, the platform has not yet been taken over by the forces of the Advertising industrial complex, and organic reach is still possible.
Moj App: This is a clear knockoff of the Tiktok interface but is slightly slow and has a few kinks to iron out (video upload is not intuitive). I uploaded 11 highest-performing videos (as per my Tiktok account, not as per any critical review!) and generated 20 followers, 94 likes, and 3000+ views in just a week. That is more views per video than on TikTok. So the algorithm here is still promoting posts organically much more aggressively than on Tiktok. For Startups and brands that are early adopters and are targetting Indian consumers, this is an excellent platform to test out.
Youtube shorts: Youtube shorts generated less than ten views overall and no followers. Here I understand that the video length has to be less than or equal to 15 seconds for the algorithm to kick in. Since I had created a new channel to post the videos, there was no organic reach. Of course, we can also blame my insipid content! If a brand has already got organic followers, then shorts can generate multiple million views, but for a new brand/startup, chances of making it big by starting with shorts seem to be be low.
Instagram reels: To test out organic reach, I created a new Instagram account and posted the top videos. Here I generated five followers (some from my original Instagram account. Possibly Instagram promoted my new channel to my existing friends). The number of views was less than ten and a few likes. So again, organic reach does not seem to exist.
Furthermore when I studied other creators, as they already have an account, there are views in the range of multiple millions. If you are doing something funny and engaging, you might get picked by the Reels algorithm. In my case, the content is a tad serious. In any case, the idea was to test organic reach.
Bonus: I did post three videos on LinkedIn. I have 3500+ followers here, and I generated 5000+ views. This is not a good test of the organic reach part of the algorithm as it was not a new account with zero followers or contacts. However, my follower count went up by a couple hundred after the videos, so there is still a good element of organic reach.
I did not experiment very scientifically, as I picked only the best performing videos for Reels and YouTube- but it still did not yield the results in terms of views. It resulted in better engagement rates, which means that we should constantly test our content for audience feedback. If a piece of content works on one platform, double down on it and post it elsewhere!
My conclusion is that Tiktok and LinkedIn remain important channels for gaining organic reach. I hope creators and new startups are inspired to use these platforms by generating valuable and helpful content for their customers to get brand visibility.
Also, do not hesitate to try new social media platforms as the thousands of free views of your videos might get you hundreds of dollars worth of impressions for your fledgling brand. Especially important if you are an early stage startup or a creator.
Update (07 Sept 2022):
So here is an update on the experiment. I did some research on why my Instagram reels and YouTube shorts did not do that well. I found out from “experts” who are less than half my age that I had made the fundamental mistake of posting videos to Instagram and Youtube directly from Tiktok. Why is this an issue? The TikTok icon/watermark is embedded into those videos and the algorithms try and deprioritize videos which have the TikTok icon. It makes sense as the other platforms want creators making native content directly on those platforms, first!
I recently tried out a platform called Repurpose (this is my affiliate link)
It is an easy-to-use automation platform that will grow your online presence without you spending hours publishing them to multiple platforms.
You can automatically publish all your TikTok videos (without watermark) to …
- IG Reels,
- YouTube Shorts,
- Facebook Pages and Groups,
You can even set it up to backup all your existing TikTok videos (watermark-free) to your Google Drive with a click of a button (plus automatically backup any new videos without you even having to log into the software)
This would be a life saver in case your TikTok account ever gets shut down or TikTok gets banned in the country you live in (happened in India). This platform is a massive time saver and is affordable too! I recommend you experience it yourself. Try Repurpose and see for yourself.
Long story short, I am seeing tremendous increase in views on both Reels and Shorts.