Platform outline

TikTok is a video sharing platform where users scroll through short-form videos made by other users and one of TikTok’s strongest features is connecting people through interests, identities and hobbies.

Often the videos on TikTok have a link to different trends in music, sounds, dance and comedy but as the platform develops so does the style of content and the different communities that grow around the content.

The secret to TikTok’s success is the combination of music, video editing and in-app features that make content creation and response easy. The platform also has an incredibly sophisticated algorithm that learns what material users want to see significantly faster than many other apps. A common joke on the platform is that the algorithm knows more about you than you do and allows you to recognise things about your personality through your likes, interests and recommended videos.

Currently, TikTok is an underutilised platform by archives and there is certainly a question around what archives TikTok might look like and become. Joining TikTok is an opportunity to explore and be a part of contributing to what that community becomes.

If you are using TikTok for the first time you may find it useful to read the following guides for beginners.

Digital Pathways – TikTok for museums – an introduction

Social Media Examiner – How to create your first TikTok video (YouTube video)

If you are familiar with the platform but are interested in learning more before approaching storytelling on the platform, then these guides looking at TikTok from a museum’s perspective may be useful:

Museum Next – How museums are using TikTok

Pocket-lint – Best TikTok tips and tricks: Your complete guide to Musical.ly’s successor


Across the Digital Engagement Toolkit, we are looking at who engages with a particular platform by generation. You will find more detail on this within the platform finder. When looking at audience engagement by generation it is important to keep in mind it is not definitive of everyone’s behaviour. However, understanding the broad trend of a generation’s approach to a platform is useful to understand the audiences you are most likely to find there. For the purposes of this toolkit, we are using terminology that defines audiences with the following demographic terminology: Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y and Gen Z.

TikTok was released in the UK in 2018 and has quickly become popular amongst Gen Z, who remain the highest users of TikTok in terms of both audience and creators. However, since March 2020 the platform’s user base has consistently expanded and there is also a large and active Gen Y audience base. TikTok’s continued growth is seeing the variety of its audience expand across generations.

Audiences are heading to TikTok for funny and engaging content with the app offering an algorithm that quickly learns their interests. You don’t have to join in on every new trend to be a TikTok creator and can find your own ways to embrace the language and the style of the platform. When approaching what you create, think less about which audience profile you are trying to reach and more about connecting with those who have an interest in the past and in the collections you hold.

Storytelling guide

The best place to begin when creating for TikTok will be about finding your place on the platform and trying to discover content from archives, museums and other relevant historic and cultural heritage institutions and organisations.

There are many different sub-genres and communities on TikTok from CleanTok, TikTok’s all about cleaning, PlantTok that is about growing and caring for plants to communities like gay or lesbian TikTok. Every type of interest or person can find their place on TikTok and discover content relevant to them.

Think about the purpose of your content

Start by looking at and connecting with #ArchivesTikTok and see if you can build upon what this community is; choosing to make archive content for TikTok today would make you among the early adopters in the UK of #ArchivesTikTok.

The purpose of your content has to be about more than just reaching a particular audience, so take time to consider what you want to achieve with your TikTok content and think about the style and tone of content that will fit the varied styles of the app. Take a look at the ‘Inspiration’ section of this page to help you understand and define the purpose of your content.

You may find it useful to write a creative mission statement or brief for your content. For TikTok, it’s important that you include a sense of what the feel or style of your content will be. Here are some examples:

‘Unlocking the secrets of our archive and revealing them to the world.’

‘A peek behind the scenes of our archives and what an archives team gets up to each day.’

Your first video content will be an experiment; a mix of defining your archive and playing around with the app and its features. Remember, you don’t have to post the first thing you make but with TikTok, you never know what people might enjoy, so don’t edit out every mistake and wait for it to be perfect. If you feel the video reflects what your archive is then there is very little to lose by posting it and seeing how the algorithm and audience responds.

If your archive is already on TikTok let us know by tweeting us at @UKNatArcSector and connect with other archives on TikTok through #ArchivesTikTok. Starting together and interacting with each other’s videos will be far better than starting alone. You will also find more accounts to follow and communities to connect within the ‘Inspiration’ section of this page.

If you would like further advice on beginning with a creative idea, take a look at the Creative Inspiration Guide.

Be yourselves

TikTok is about being yourself and many audiences on TikTok are looking for authenticity. You may see a lot of big personalities, funny people and naturally charismatic and engaging creators on the platform which can be great for inspiration but also daunting when thinking about creating content on the app. This may lead you to think that you aren’t the sort of person that ‘should’ make a TikTok, however, the variety of creators and content on the platform means there is space for your archive and your voice.

In the research you do it’s great to be inspired by content and accounts but don’t try to mimic exactly what you see. Being ‘inspired by’ is a major part of the creative process, but your content should be about who you are. Remember audiences are also looking for experts, interesting information and to see inside worlds they know nothing about. That is where archives have a lot to offer on TikTok.

You will find more advice on developing a voice and style for your digital content in the Creative Inspiration Guide.

Tip: Let making your TikToks be fun and playful even if that isn’t the style of the video; the process of making it should be fun. If you aren’t enjoying it your audiences will know immediately.


TikTok offers you a chance to grow a community around the work you are already doing. Many TikTok users love discovering a new part of TikTok they never knew about, parts of the world they have never seen and interests they have never come across before.

Think about how you use your TikTok content to show what an archive is, what an archivist does and to tell the secrets only archives know. TikTok is playful and about interaction so think about the ways you can interact and invite your audience into your archive through TikTok.


Duet is a playful inbuilt feature where you can respond to an existing video on the platform. Both the video you create in response and the original video you are dueting are displayed side by side simultaneously as a new video.

You will see this feature used in a variety of ways, here are just a few examples:

Shared conversations: In this style of video one creator writes or creates one side of the content and they create clear space for someone else to fill it in with their response. E.g. asking a series of questions for someone to duet their answers.

Share action: Interacting with action across screens and creating videos that appear joined. E.g. throwing a ball from one video to another.

Commenting: A creator might talk in the pauses or silences of a video. This might be used to add an opinion, subvert the content, parody or even correct false information.

Reacting: Often creators will show their reaction to content they find hilarious, inspiring, talented or weird. A common style of this is first time reacting to a video – recording yourself as you watch a popular TikTok for the first time.

Creative thinking and exercises

TikTok is a playful and creative platform and a place to try things out. If you want to be a TikTok creator you need to be pushing content out and seeing what the algorithm and your audience respond to. You may never know the exact reason one video gets more views than another. Instead, focus on how to nurture your TikTok style and know that there will be a lot of trial and error.

Exercise – explore the platform

Set up an account and spend some time on TikTok scrolling through your feed and liking videos that you enjoy, whether cultural heritage based or other. During this time note down styles of video you haven’t seen before or TikTok features used that create video styles you like. This will enable you to have a list of potential content you could try and apply to creating content for #ArchivesTikTok.

Could you create a shorter form of your existing YouTube content? What popular sounds or editing styles might help that particular content suit TikTok? You can find popular sounds within the Discover section of the TikTok app.


There are many videos and a whole community around organisation videos. In these videos, you will find people organising cupboards, fridges, garages and much more. This style of video is about the meditative and feel-good factor surrounding the act of organisation. How an archive stores material means that this style of video is something to explore and has the potential to engage new audiences with archives.

Similarly, you will find other meditative and relaxing content under the theme of ‘satisfying videos’. Take a look at a range of videos and then think about your archive processes and day to day routines and a video may be waiting to be made. Take a look at #organizingTikTok and many hashtag variations on both spellings of organised and organized.

Archives on TikTok

There are already accounts on TikTok focusing on archive content but many more are needed so there is certainly space for your archive to make its mark. Take a look at the following accounts for inspiration. It will be best to view them within the TikTok app rather than via your browser.

The Amateur Professional (@theamateur.professional) has wonderful content. Their account will give you a real insight into how to create from the point of view of your expertise, interest and passion. It certainly demonstrates that you don’t have to jump on every sound and trend or make your content about going viral. You can create content with specialist interest that audiences will love.

The Center For Michigan Jewish Heritage (@mijewishheritage) also has unique and fun content. It has a playful style that embraces the day to day of an archive and has a sense of humour about archives and archivists.

The Museum of London (@museumoflondon) and Black Country Living Museum (@blackcountrylivingmuseum) have great examples of collaborative content with TikTok duets.

The National Archives (@uknatarchives) launched a TikTok account this year and is a good example to follow to see how the channel evolves.


You will find a range of ways people are tagging their archives content on TikTok:


You can also check out #LibraryTikTok on TikTok or Twitter to see how libraries across the world are using the platform. Similarly, #musuemsoftiktok #Museums of TikTok are also popular hashtags.

Helpful stuff

There is a lot of content on TikTok that was not created solely within the app. It is worth checking out this guide to see the types of software that creators are using to create the content you see:

Backlight – 10 TikTok editor apps that beat the native editing interface

Whilst the guide below is focused on creating a viral video, it provides straightforward instructions for curating clear and concise videos with helpful information about the different styles of video that are possible:

Backlight – How to make viral TikTok videos as a complete beginner

How to measure impact

Here is TikTok’s guide to how to measure impact within the platform and how creators can learn from it’s analytics:

TikTok – Understanding your analytics

This article has a step by step guide to show you how to see your analytics:

Alphr – How to check your TikTok analytics and stats


TikTok has a wide range of accessibility features. The audience and majority of creators are Gen Z who on the whole want to create spaces that are inclusive. There are a lot of dialogues around trying to make the platform as inclusive as possible and videos sharing tips.

TikTok offers captioning, text to speech and photosensitivity warnings and they have a guide to what is possible on the platform:

TikTok – Our commitment to accessibility

You will also find useful guides to these features and other tips here:

Bureau of Internet Accessibility – Becoming more accessible on TikTok: Tips for more inclusive content

Further reading

Influencer Marketing Hub – How to get more followers on TikTok in 2022

Digital Pathways – Resource portal. This portal has aggregated useful resources from different organisations on a multitude of digital topics. Guides relating to aspects of digital engagement are included.