What Is the TikTok App and How Does it Work?

The popular social media app that takes advantage of short attention spans

TikTok is a popular social media and short video app that allows you to edit and post short videos and view the video posts of other TikTok app users.

The app also allows you to add fun extras to your videos like stickers, face filters, and even free music and sound clips.

News outlets use TikTok for local news and segments that are much more casual than on TV and other traditional platforms. Regardless of the user, expect to see a lot of memes.

The app is owned by a Chinese company called ByteDance. In 2018, TikTok merged with Musical.ly, a video platform app.

The app is free to download and is available on Android and iOS.

Watching TikTok Videos

Browsing and watching short videos from TikTok's vast collection of user-generated content is half the fun of the app. Like many other social media apps, there's a seemingly endless variety of hashtags and video genres to explore and follow.

To browse and watch videos on TikTok, start by launching the TikTok app. Once the app is open, you can browse and watch videos in three ways.

When you first open TikTok, it automatically populates a list of suggested videos ("For you") you can scroll through. The first video in the list will automatically play as soon as you open the app.

You can also search for videos by tapping the magnifying glass icon on the bottom of the screen. The next screen that pops up has a search bar at the top you can use to search for TikTok users, sounds, or hashtags. The rest of this screen is a list of currently trending hashtags you can browse for videos to watch. Once you select a hashtag, you'll see a grid of video thumbnails. Tap a video thumbnail to view its video.

A screenshot of the TikTok app's Following screen which allows you to follow your friends and watch their videos.

Finally, if you tap the Home icon in the bottom left corner of the screen, then tap Following, you'll be able to view a list of videos from TikTok users you follow. You can sync your contacts on this screen to find your friends, connect with them, and watch their videos on TikTok. Once your friends' videos fill this section of the app, you can scroll through the list to view them as you did in the suggested videos section.

TikTok Features

When you post your own videos on TikTok, you have an array of fun options to jazz them up. Similar to Instagram and Snapchat, you can add filters and effects, including face filters.

A screenshot of TikTok's Face Filters menu and a preview of what the author's face would look like if she added a rainbow colored cat face filter.

You can also add audio and even create your own sounds.

You can post pre-recorded videos and you can also go live, like you can on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You might want to do this while traveling or to show off a new purchase. There are also TikTok challenges in which you're encouraged to do something wacky (similar to the ice-bucket challenge on Facebook, but often sillier).

One feature unique to the app, is the ability to duet on TikTok; that is you can overlay your vocals on someone else's public video.

Like many other social media platforms, you can get verified on TikTok, which makes your profile more prominent.