TikTok Live is essentially the best and worst parts of the Internet right on your phone in highly scrollable format. It is the perfect example of the mayhem that emerges when you let people broadcast to potentially hundreds of millions of people — regardless if the broadcaster knows what they're doing or has anything to actually, you know, say.
But TikTok Live is also growing more popular every day. For content creators, it provides a pretty low-risk opportunity to get eyes simply for doing what you normally do.
And if TikTok's recent rumored focus on TikTok Live is any indication, you'll want to consider "going live" at least a few times to give it a shot. Especially if you have any ambitions to grow your TikTok reach and engagement.
TikTok: Your Guess Is As Good As Ours
TikTok's eternal promise is anybody can reach massive numbers of people seemingly at random. Relatively "normal" people with a quirky hobby or comedic personality (or yes, attractive features) have a better chance of gaining visibility quickly on TikTok over just about any social media platform.
In fact, outside of Twitter, TikTok may be the only social media platform where virality and discoverability supersede community. This is also its double-edged sword.
TikTok notoriously has the widest range of viewed to non-viewed content from single creators. Users who amass hundreds of thousands or even millions of followers can find themselves tirelessly creating videos that reach half a percent of their following — even if they follow the exact same "formula" as their popular content.
That's because TikTok serves the content, not the creator. And ask any marketer or content strategist: there are best practices to follow, without a doubt; but nobody truly knows why one piece of "average" content may go viral while one piece of painstakingly crafted content only gets a few thousand views.
With the sheer number of pieces of content being created for TikTok every minute, the platform doesn't really "owe" you a fair crack. So while you may have a piece of content you believe should be incredibly popular, it might just hit a spell of bad algorithm luck.
And spending your time worrying about it isn't good for productivity or mental health. But if your goal is to grow on TikTok, that's where the strength of TikTok Live lies.
TikTok Live: Half The Effort, All The Guarantees Of Success (Read: No Guarantees)
Like the rest of the platform, TikTok Live is designed to be scrollable. The attention span is incredibly short. The content is all of the things you love and hate about the Internet right at the tip of your thumbs. Incredibly talented individuals and shoegazers side by side. Oh, and way too much ASMR.
But unlike trying to craft truly engaging content on TikTok, going live doesn't have to really require that much effort. Especially if you're just going live while doing something you'd be doing anyway.
That's because right now, TikTok Live is a very integrated part of the platform (which means it's part of the overall discoverability angle) while also having a very low bar for quality. Some of the best TikTok creators spend days crafting great videos between conceptualizing, recording, and editing.
You don't have that option with TikTok Live. There are no filters to be creative with. No trending sounds to piggyback off of. No hashtag hacks or going back and forth for hours over the caption. You just kind of go live and hope you can catch interest from people enough for them to follow you.
How To Qualify For TikTok Live
First, there are some requirements before using TikTok Live. The primary one is the simplest: you have to be at least 16 years old. And if you want to go live on TikTok and potentially make money from it by receiving digital currency in the form of "gifts" from viewers, you have to be at least 18 years old. The second requirement deals with your channel size.
As of now, you need at least 1,000 followers to start broadcasting. If you're just diving into TikTok and don't have an existing fan base you can bring over to help you get over that hump, you need to do one of two things.
You can either post content in your niche often and hope for growth, or you can run ads on your TikTok content to boost viewership and follows. In both cases, you'll find it usually comes down to one or two pieces of "catalyst" content that really helps you hit that 1,000 follower threshold. In other words, don't expect everything to be a hit. But if you post good enough content consistently enough, something will probably get enough views to bring in followers.
Likewise, when running ads, you still want to focus on native content that feels organic and fun to watch. You'll save money in the long run if you test different TikTok posts as ads.
The Technical Aspects Of TikTok Live
Once you meet the requirements, you're allowed to go live on TikTok right from your phone. It's a fairly simple process that involves naming your broadcast and choosing a thumbnail.
Once you're live, you'll see who joins and comments. There's also a little counter in the top left indicating your "likes" for a broadcast. Likes happen when a user double taps the screen. They aren't "worth" anything and anybody can tap as rapidly and as often as possible, but generally if you get likes from a lot of people there's a better chance your live broadcast will show up on more feeds.
When you're live your TikTok profile picture pulsates and the words "Live" appear by it. You can go live for a maximum of 60 minutes at a time, though you could do back-to-back lives into perpetuity if you wanted. That said, the current allure of something like TikTok Live is the fact that it requires relatively low effort and less time, so staying on between 30 and 60 minutes is really all you'd want to do.
Users can also send you "gifts" which convert to "diamonds" which then actually convert to money when you cash out. At the end of your live, you'll see how many "diamonds" you have. Each diamond is worth about 5 cents in USD and you can cash out as soon as you have at least $100 worth of diamonds (though TikTok takes 50 percent, so you'd only be nettings $50).
TikTok is reportedly testing the ability to use a platform like OBS to go live from your computer to your account. The features is called TikTok Live Studio. And you probably won't be able to use it any time soon.
But you can use a third party platform called Loola.tv in a pinch. The free version is essentially a limited trial with a cap on the amount of time you can go live. Otherwise, expect to pay $20-25 per month in order to use it. If you've already got a solid OBS setup for livestreaming, it might be worth checking out.
What To Expect When You Go Live On TikTok
In short, don't expect much at first. Even accounts with millions of followers may only have a few hundred live viewers at any given time. On the other hand, accounts with just over 1,000 followers may have 1,000 viewers, too.
It's all about doing the basics: making sure you have nice lighting and a good camera angle. Going live at times when people are scrolling (usually in the evening). Creating a clever title for the broadcast. Saying hi to people and interacting when they come in. Doing something at all times instead of just staring at the phone.
This is why it's easiest to use TikTok Live when you're say, playing a song, or working on something in photoshop, or painting, or literally *anything* creative with a visual component. Don't overthink it.
Likewise, don't give any time to trolls. And there will be trolls. But there will also be people who genuinely want to connect with you and support you. In most cases you can expect to gain some new followers every time you go live — if you follow the steps above.
And remember, this is all still "top of funnel" stuff. Meaning these are entryways into you as a creator. TikTok Live — or any social media, really — is not the best place to engage with your biggest fans. It's meant to be an opportunity to broadcast far and wide, bring in people who have never heard from you, and eventually convert them into a fan you can communicate with via something more tangible like an email list.