In the summer of 2020, I posted my first ever video on TikTok. No, it wasn’t a dance routine (I’m not about to completely embarrass myself on the internet) — instead, I recommended a few of my favorite books to my very tiny audience. A year and a half later, I have over 1300 followers, I’ve had several videos go viral on BookTok and now shoulder the responsibility of running the official Daily Arts TikTok account. While @michigandailyarts has only been live for a few weeks (please follow us!), it’s vastly different from my personal account.
Even though it has almost 37 billion views to its name, “BookTok” is still very much separated from more “mainstream” content on the app. There are certain audios that trend only within this specific community, and it’s rare that I come across a BookTok account successfully reworking a popular outside trend to fit their content. To us readers, none of that really matters — the important thing was that we have a space to share our love of books with tons of other people. And yet, there is a certain dominance to BookTok that is unlike other online subsections. It’s no secret that this community’s growing popularity is even affecting the publishing industry (just look at the “as seen on #BookTok” displays at Barnes and Noble). On those displays, you’re likely to find the same collection of books every time because everyone is still talking about them. Your chances of landing on the “For You” page increase when your videos feature those books, thus encouraging more people to read them and creating a never-ending cycle. Once I figured that out, the work I put into making videos got easier — I just needed to feature a few that all fit into a certain category and match them to an audio I liked. In exchange, I noticed an increase in my engagement.
I created my personal account my freshman year of college, but I didn’t start making content until quarantine. Naturally, that meant I had a lot of free time, most of which was spent watching other people’s videos for inspiration. I could plan out several videos, record them, caption them and add hashtags all within a couple of hours to be set for a week’s worth of posting.
One of the downsides to BookTok (or content creation in general) is the high levels of burnout. Being back in school full-time on top of working has significantly affected the amount of time I spend on content, as well as the amount of time I even have to read for fun. Posting multiple times a day is considered ideal for gathering engagement and keeping followers interested in your content. I noticed that my watch counts went up significantly over winter break when I had more time to be making content, but even then I was only posting once a day, and my videos have still dropped off in quality compared to two years ago (I’m not the only one who’s noticed that BookTok is in its “flop era”).
On the Daily Arts account, I can’t help but feel a greater need for professionalism, since we’re a nationally recognized student newspaper. Our beautiful Instagram account has mainly been promoting specific articles that we publish. While we as a section hope to do the same on TikTok, that means I face the same challenges as BookTok when working with mainstream trends: I have to not only rework something popular to fit the audience of each article, but act fast enough that the trend in question is still relevant by the time the video is posted.
While I want the account to be taken seriously, professionalism doesn’t necessarily thrive on TikTok. After all, several well-known brands have TikTok accounts that post absolutely bonkers content, but they’re attracting audiences of people my age and they get people talking. Duolingo compares their mascot to God. WatchMojo is becoming known for their thirst traps. Lionsgate is a master at mixing movie promotion with what’s trending. We at Daily Arts may be journalists, but we’re students first. We want to give our audience a taste of life in the newsroom, where we talk and laugh and enjoy each other’s company. It’ll be easier to follow trends when posting this kind of content, which takes off the pressure of reworking, and we’ll attract an audience because we aren’t trying too hard.
With both accounts, there is a great sense of community. I interact with followers and friends much more closely on BookTok. We follow each other on Goodreads, are viewers of each other’s private Snapchat stories and I have even had a few “book fairies” send me mail and gifts. Within Daily Arts, I get to make videos of and with my friends here on staff. As a bonus, any writer who has video ideas can help me out at any time, which will help prevent burnout. And of course, I have also found ways to apply my personal skills to the more professional account. Social media management is still very new to me — a more professional TikTok account may be different from running an account for my own interests, but they’re both teaching me to think outside the box and have fun. There’s plenty for me to learn as @michigandailyarts grows, and the only way to do that is to get to work.
Daily Arts Writer Hannah Carapellotti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.