Taylor Corley, Campus Carrier arts & living editor
TikTok is currently the fastest growing social media platform, and its gamut of quirky dances, lip sync videos and relatable memes are taking over screens everywhere. The app combines the best of Twitter (brevity, self-deprecating comedy, and the ability to go viral with very few followers) with an element of videography.
While it is more common for users to have viral success with one or two funny videos, there are a few creators, like sophomore Caleb Enright, who continuously produce unique content in order to accumulate followers and views.
Enright saw TikTok as less of a distraction from homework and more as another opportunity to share his creative work.
“I started making animation videos on YouTube about a year and a half ago and then I switched to Instagram and in June of 2018 I started doing TikTok,” Enright said. “TikTok was a new platform so there was a lot more organic reach where I could post things for new people would see it.”
Enright first expanded the reach of his already created content by reposting videos from his other social media platforms to TikTok.
“When you have a piece of content and you’re trying to get it out there, you literally look at every platform that’s available so I started by posting videos I had already made on Instagram to TikTok,” Enright said. “I’ve even posted on Reddit before. That was the first platform where I got any traction.”
The app made its debut on the international market in September, 2017 and began gaining popularity in 2018, a year before Enright began posting content. After his first TikTok, it didn’t take long for viewers to recognize his content.
“I posted my first TikTok in June of 2019, and around August or September I had around 5,000 followers,” Enright said. “In retrospect I was like ‘Heck yeah! This is it!’”
It wasn’t until December that Enright had his rise to fame. The video of Enright jumping off a roof received over 50 million views and over 3 million likes. Before this video, he had posted other content that received significant amounts of attention but nowhere close in comparison to 50 million.
“I posted two videos that got around 1 million views each and were part of an ‘Exposed’ series I did,” Enright said. “That helped me figure out what it is that people like to watch, and by December I had about 20,000 followers. At that point I thought I had arrived, but no.”
Although the goal of posting content is for millions of people to enjoy it, the success came much quicker than Enright expected.
“It didn’t do well at first,” Enright said. “The video got maybe 50,000 views in the first day which was normal for a post of mine. But, when I woke up the next morning, the notification tab said 10,000 and that was not normal. I had people text me saying, ‘You’re on my feed’ and I just kept refreshing the app seeing a string of new followers. It was nuts.”
In the video, Enright appears to attempt a dangerous stunt in which he jumps off the roof, landing on a pole that’s supposed to hit an unsuspecting bystander below. This viral video is similar to the rest of his content but different from most other videos on TikTok.
“I’m not a renegade dancer,” Enright said. “I like to call what I post visual arts because the content seems real but none of it actually is. Whether the videos are edited or have a comedic effect, at face value the videos seem real or dangerous, but they’re not.”
In order to achieve this level of illusion, Enright spends most of his time editing rather than filming. “I spend a lot of time editing,” Enright said. “It usually takes around 20 to 30 minutes to film something and then, depending on the video, three to nine hours of editing.”
Although he sticks to the most convenient way of filming, Enright, who has been creating digital art since his sophomore year of high school, strays away from using popular TikTok effects and edits his videos with Adobe programs.
“Currently, I use my iPhone to film and I always have,” Enright said. “I’ve thought about not using my iPhone but it’s actually pretty great at recording, and I use Adobe software to edit my videos.”
Enright’s experience using computer software programing has given him the upper hand when it comes to making popular TikToks.
“If it weren’t for my previous experience with the software I use, I wouldn’t be doing what I am now,” Enright said. “All the software programs funnel into each other. In one video I used just Adobe Illustrator and got around 1 million views and in another video I used Adobe AfterEffects.”
Enright utilizes all types of platforms, including Instagram, YouTube and TikTok in order to gain exposure. He isn’t just looking for likes but rather interaction as well.
“I post for many different reasons and to some degree I’d like to consider what I post a form of art,” Enright said. “On my Instagram I post comics and animations and that stuff is definitely a form of art. But on TikTok, I also think it’s nice to entertain people and to see strings of people duet my videos or post videos of themselves reacting to my stuff. It’s fun.”
Enright finds joy in both the creation and payoff of the final production and makes the process enjoyable for everyone involved, both viewers and guest stars in his videos.
“My favorite video to film was the video before I jumped off the roof,” Enright said. “I asked my dad if he wanted to have a Star Wars fight and he said, ‘Sure, as long as I’m the good guy.’ Then I edited a fight between me and him.”
Enright relies on his own creativity as well as strategic inspiration in order to come up with ideas for his videos.
“Some of my ideas come to me throughout the day and some of them come to me while I’m filming,” Enright said. “Most of it though is me scrolling through my TikTok feed, looking at everything over 1 million likes to see why a video has that many views and what I can draw from it.”
Enright plans to continue creating content while at school and has hopes to increase his following.
“It’s very hard to set aside time for filming but it’s something that I want to do so I make time for it,” Enright said. “I would like to reach 1 million followers by April or May and if you think about how quickly people grow once they get on a roll, I think it’s possible for me to reach that.”
Enright approaches this app from a viewpoint that few users often consider.
“Most people just make a joke about seeing me on their feed but I would love it if people wanted to come up and talk to me about TikTok,” Enright said. “I think it’s really awesome.”