Getting Started With TikTok

Want to know how to build a profile on a new platform or engage visitors (even when your building is closed)?

Our March 2021 meet-up was hosted by Siobhan Beatson, Museum Manager at Ullapool Museum, who chatted to our network about the museum’s TikTok account (one of the few heritage sites in Scotland with an account).

Tips on TikTok Content

The vast majority of TikTok viewers are under 35. This is great news if you have a gap in your audience between ages 18 and 35 (like Ullapool Museum), but it also means that you can’t recycle the same posts from Facebook or Twitter. Instead, you need to think about what will appeal to this younger demographic.

Content that shares information needs to be engaging, so perhaps try adding humour to your videos. Your audience is looking to be entertained.

You also need to grab the audience very quickly. TikTok videos are capped at 60 seconds, but it’s really the first three to five seconds which will capture the audience’s attention. Siobhan compared this to dating apps like Tinder: what is it about what you see and hear that makes you want to read/watch on? Adopting a catchy song or soundbite, especially ones currently trending on the platform, is a good way to do this.

It’s also worth noting that users don’t see a backdated catalogue of videos on their ‘For You’ page (a TikTok user’s home feed) – all the videos which the app puts in front of the user are recent so you need to jump on trends quickly. Because of the short shelf-life of TikTok content, likes and views are currency on the app, rather than your number of followers. The good thing about this is that accounts with a small number of followers can go viral – a huge plus for the heritage sector.

The TikTok Algorithm

The TikTok algorithm can be influenced by certain trending hashtags (see which hashtags are trending on your own TikTok account for inspiration), which you can then include when you publish your videos. For example, #Gaelic is a popular hashtag for Ullapool Museum’s videos. Don’t forget to consider hashtags trending on Twitter too as there is often crossover.

Similar to other social media platforms, TikTok also requires regular posting. Some of the bigger European museums are posting multiple videos daily. Siobhan finds that a mix of instinctive and reactionary posting, as well as scheduling for planned campaigns, works well. Find a routine that works for you and stick to it.

(Note: Neither scheduling services like Hootsuite, nor the native TikTok app, have the ability to schedule TikTok content, just now. Siobhan suggests scheduling videos in drafts and then logging in to fire them out in real time whenever they need posting).

What Not To Do:

  • Splitting long videos into multiple TikTok videos doesn’t work (e.g. Part I, Part II). Ullapool Museum use two parts max. The more parts you post, the fewer views you’ll get
  • Don’t assume that your other social media followers will follow you onto TikTok. The demographics are very different and require different content

Things To Do:

  • Start by downloading TikTok and getting familiar with the app– think about what makes you swipe past a video and what aspects hook you in to watch the whole thing
  • Be really creative and have fun! (Just always be mindful of humour that may invite a negative response)
  • Consider ways you can link items in your collections to different themes. Ullapool offered a tour their building, which is Grade A listed, using the “things that just make sense” trending theme
  • 10 seconds clips can be just as successful as a full one-minute video
  • Transmit your information under the guise of entertainment and make your points short and sharp
  • Link in with the bigger accounts by ‘stitching’ or ‘dueting’ their videos. Stitching tags the original poster in your video and is therefore more likely to send your video into their audience’s feed. As a rule of thumb, ‘stitch’ a video when you have something else to add, and ‘duet’ a video if you want your comments to play alongside the original. You can read more about the two here
  • It’s all about trial and error. The fleeting nature of TikTok means that if something flops, you don’t have to sweat it. Try to learn from the experience then move on to the next video
  • Look at other museums and what they’re doing for inspiration. Examples that Siobhan enjoys include:

The Black Country Museum, who are the biggest museum on TikTok right now with 8.1 million total likes on their videos and 500,000 followers. Their ‘Peaky Blinders Grandad’ character is a reenactor from their own museum space, and they’ve adapted their engagement scripts into TikTok videos using the popularity of the TV show Peaky Blinders as a hook. Siobhan likes how the museum address current events through historical characters to make them more relevant and offer unique perspectives.


the greatest mistake of all is not making them, ar kid #lifeadvice #learnontiktok

♬ Atlas: Hearing – Sleeping At Last

And Rijksmuseum, a huge national gallery who use their collection as content for their videos. They’ve also started using AR technology to make their portraits come to life and engage with TikTok trends.


On this day in 1853 Vincent van Gogh was born. Happy birthday Vincent! 🎂🎉 #rijksmuseum #amsterdam #vincentvangogh #art #artclass

♬ original sound – Rijksmuseum

So, Should I Start Using TikTok?

TikTok can be a tough nut to crack and as always when considering whether to start a new social media account, you should think about the capacity of you or your team (do you have time to post every other day?) and whether TikTok can help you reach your broader communications goals.

However, it can be very successful way to tap into that younger demographic. What Siobhan likes most about TikTok is that viewers like to see you grow, more so than on any other platform. Your early attempts may not go viral, but as you learn and find your own style, repeat viewers will want to come along for the ride.

If you want to be the first to know about our next online SHSMG event, you can also follow us on Twitter or sign up to our bi-monthly newsletter.

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