Tips and tricks for TikTokby Courtney Llewellyn

It’s always about the next big thing, whether it’s a new model of phone or the new “superfood.” The big thing in content creation and sharing right now is TikTok.

The short, vertical videos on the app, often accompanied by prerecorded sound bytes or music, are dominating social media, but they’re not just for teens. Viral success can happen overnight, even for farmers and growers. You just need the right equipment, some inspiration and a message to share.

Josh Sumsion, marketing director at Dead City Haunted House and Dead City FX, gave tips on how to use TikTok to the most benefit during the recent HauntCon. While his presentation focused on ways to drum up excitement for haunt attractions, the information is applicable to anyone interested in utilizing the app for likes and shares – and getting people to talk about your business.

“TikTok is insane, for lack of better words,” Sumsion joked. “It meets a growing demand for virtual escapism. It has an endless collection of sound bytes and songs to use, and the creativity tied to it is unlimited. Other social media platforms are a little less forgiving.” The app is now the fastest growing social media platform in the world. Daily user time is 45 to 60 minutes, which is a lot of time when there are so many other options trying to grab our attention.

“You do not need to wait to make something great,” Sumsion said. “And your current phone camera is just fine.” However, good lighting is key. Brightly lit videos do noticeably better on TikTok. Make sure you’re illuminating your subjects, whether they’re people or plants, without overexposing them. You could use studio lights, lamps, windows or natural light, or even your cell phone flashlight.

When it comes to recording, you can use your cell phone or a DSLR camera – just make sure you turn it vertical. (Also make sure your lens is clean.) Much like still photography, it’s important to consider the “rule of thirds” for a good shot. Sumsion suggested imagining a tic-tac-toe grid on every shot. You want to use your subject to get a winning row, whether it’s horizontal, vertical or diagonal. “That’s how you get good focus points and keep people’s attention,” he said. The “sweet spot” for length is 15 seconds.

As for editing, Sumsion recommended the Adobe Creative Cloud, which is “great for digital manipulation. My top three are Photoshop, Premiere and After Effects.” He said there are also a lot of free websites to help you edit.

But what do you make videos of? Sumsion said inspiration is all around us. When you’re still feeling a creative block, though, he suggested viewing what everyone else is doing. Surround yourself with the influences you love and build from what came before. He mentioned a famous quote from Pablo Picasso: “Lesser artists borrow; great artists steal.”

However, with a strangely unpredictable algorithm adapting every user’s “For You” page after each video they watch, comment on and like, no two users are guaranteed to ever have the same experience once they’ve opened the app, Sumsion noted. “That’s truly what makes it the most beautiful – it’s unlike other platforms where you always see the same people and the same content. TikTok rewards you like no other platform right now.”

Consider Lacie Evans, a cattlewoman in Ohio, who has 35,000 followers on Instagram, but 626,000 on TikTok ( A lot of her videos are day-to-day herd checks and other cow care happenings farmers may consider mundane, but they draw in thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of views.

Justin Lane of S&K Greenhouse in North Carolina ( only has about 6,500 followers – but 24,000 likes. His posts include viral dance videos, plant highlight videos, plant care videos and sharing of life experiences (he recently welcomed a baby to his family).

How do you stand out? “Be genuine” is Sumsion’s simple advice. Show behind-the-scenes content. “The most mundane things to us can be the most mesmerizing thing for TikTok viewers,” he said. The ultimate goal is to show your business and yourself in the best light you can and to amplify your voice.