How to get started with TikTok?

TikTok went viral – and then some. The short-form video-sharing app, the spiritual successor to Vine and the true successor to, took the world by storm last year. Like other social media apps, it’s often filled with viral memes, slang, challenges and dances. You may have seen this in the news when teens used the app to spread their plan to reserve tickets for a Trump rally (and then didn’t show up), when lawmakers called for a national security review of the app, or when the app came to light. debuted last year’s bootleg hit song “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X. Originally popular mostly with teenagers and young adults, TikTok has grown in popularity among users of all ages since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

TikTok offers endless video scrolling on your “For You” page. You can scroll down to continue watching videos that TikTok has curated for you based on your likes and activities using its algorithm. (This isn’t necessarily a good thing. TikTok was suspected of suppressing black creators, preventing users from getting their content “For You” based on their appearance and whether they appeared in “slums” or “ruined dwellings.” In the past, LBGTQ creators and disabled creators have You can also find content and creators by searching for hashtags or even audio.

If you want to publish your own content, you can edit your videos within the app. Videos recorded through the app can be a maximum of 15 seconds long, but you can combine clips with a maximum length of 60 seconds or upload longer videos that you have recorded outside of the app. TikTok also lets you do duets where you can juxtapose your own video with another video, allowing you to shoot a reaction video, answer questions, or dance and sing together.

(Note that like other social networking apps, TikTok has its own share of privacy issues, such as the recent discovery that it accesses content from the clipboard on iOS devices.)

Once you install the app, create an account, and start interacting with the content, it’s easy to get lost in the streaming video. Here’s how to get started. (These instructions were written for an iPhone, but the process should be similar for the Android app.)

  • Download the app
  • The first screen will ask you to choose the topics you are interested in. Tap the different buttons to select them. (You can also click the “Skip” option in the upper right corner.)

Choose your interests

TikTok asks you to choose some of your interests to help you find content you’ll like.

Choose your interests

Tap topics to select.

  • The next screen explains how to navigate TikTok. You can swipe up or select “Start watching” to continue.
  • You will see a series of buttons at the bottom of your screen. From left to right, these buttons allow you to go to your “For You” page, search for content, create videos, access your messages (“Inbox”) or view your profile (“Me” button).

Scroll page up

This screen instructs you on how to navigate the application.

Discover page

You can discover more content using this page.

You are ready to start watching the videos! But you don’t have an account yet. If you want to post content, see and read messages, or get more personalized recommendations, you’ll need an account. To make one:

  • Tap the “Inbox” or “Me” buttons
  • Tap the pink “Register” button
  • You can create an account using your phone number, email address, Facebook, Google, Apple or Twitter account. (If you don’t see all of these options, tap the arrow below the options that appear.) Let’s say you want to use your phone number or email address.

I tab

Click the “Register” button to create an account.

Sign up for TikTok screen

Choose one of the options to start creating your account.

  • First, you will need to enter your date of birth. Tap “Next” when you are ready.
  • On the next screen, you can choose between using your phone number or email address. Use the tabs at the top to choose which one you want to use for your account. Enter your phone or email and then click “Next”. (You will likely need to verify your account by typing a code or clicking a link sent to your email.) Additional verification may then be requested. (I have a window asking me to slide a puzzle piece into place.)

Tabbed registration screen to use your phone number

Add your phone number here.

Sign up screen but with tab to use your email address

Enter your e-mail address here.

  • You will then be asked to create a password. Click “Next” when you are done.
  • Next, you will need to choose a username. When you find a unique one, click “Register”.

Create password page

Set a password and enter it here.

Create username screen

Choose a unique username and enter it here.

  • You’re done!

When you create an account, by default everyone can see your videos, but you may want to set your account to private. This means that people have to request to follow you to see your videos. Here’s how to make your account private:

  • Click the “Me” button in the lower right corner of the screen
  • Tap the three dots in the upper right corner

Profile page

You can access the privacy settings from your profile page.

Settings and privacy options

Select “Privacy and security” at the top of the screen.

  • Tap “Privacy and security”
  • Open “Private account”
  • You may also want to scroll down to access more privacy settings.

Privacy and security menu

Turn on the switch at the top of the screen to make your account private.

Privacy and security menu

Scroll down to view more privacy options.

Now you are ready to watch videos and post your own video! The more you use TikTok, the more exclusive content you get, which means (for me at least) you’ll spend more time on the app.

BoundaryJulia Alexander recommends taking the time to truly explore beyond the “For You” page by scrolling through different hashtags, searching for songs, and finding new creators to follow. To learn more about using the app, read our guide to navigating TikTok culture, content, and niches.

Update June 30 at 4:36 PM ET: This article has been updated to address recent privacy concerns.

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