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How Among Us grew to nearly 3 million TikTok followers with metrics, personality, and memes

"We're not gunning for a one-hit viral thing. We're really aiming for sustainable, practical community engagement."

For some, the world of TikTok is as alien as a Star Wars cantina. For Innersloth community director Victoria Tran, who helped rocket the smash hit Among Us to 2.9 million followers on TikTok, the social media platform is a chance to build brand identity, engage players, and create amusing content.

At GDC 2022, Tran detailed her strategy for how to approach TikTok, be it for Among Us' huge following or for smaller indie games.

For Tran, a key point is building a "brand identifier," or basically a distinct and enjoyable personality for your social account. Tran achieves this by focusing on tone, consistency, hooks, and trends.

For tone, Tran likes to pick three big adjectives to help establish what kind of voice her social media has, be it quirky, wholesome, relatable, or competitive. But this also extends to the lighting you use to shoot your TikTok, the polish of the filming, and what kind of content you create.

For consistency, Tran notes that it's beneficial to have one person or voice represent the human element of your TikTok account.

"Scrolling through TikTok is quick and not everyone checks the username and profile pic, so having a distinct face someone can immediately associate with your TikTok account really helps people identify your content easily."

If using your face in a widely-seen social media platform sounds like a nightmare, Tran says that just using consistent elements like the same kind of color palette or distinct objects. This worked for  Unpacking, a pixel art game about moving your belongings into a new home, which doesn't feature any visible characters beyond your stuffed animals.

A hook is the first one to three seconds of your TikTok video, and Tran says it's important to immediately frontload your video with interesting content, be it a question posed to the audience, like "times I used the Among Us account for my own gain." Then your job is to expand on that throughout the rest of the video.

Trends are probably the most self-explanatory element. These are the viral topics or memes that develop on TikTok, such as distinctive techno music that's typically associated with jokes about not getting your work done, something I know nothing about. Melding these trends to your account in a unique (or at least funny) way is an easy way to increase engagement, because audiences already have an idea of what kind of content to expect given the trend's format.

"According to the Sprout social index, some of the reasons some brand stood out more compared to others, according to consumers, was things like memorable content, personality, and compelling storytelling," Tran said. "A lot of times with social, we're not gunning for a one-hit viral thing, we're really aiming for sustainable, practical community engagement."

Tran also pointed out that TikTok users are 1.5 times more likely to immediately buy something they see on the platform compared to others. Couple that with the fact that, according to the GlobalWebIndex, 16 to 24-year-olds are the only generation to use social media over search engines to get their information, and you've got a cocktail for impressive engagement.

Curating your content for engagement

There are five different content types that Tran said she's found useful for engagement on TikTok: Game updates and announcements, personality-based videos utilizing trends and community, behind-the-scenes videos that focus on the developers themselves, gameplay, and miscellaneous content like merchandise, notable reactions, or something else.

For gameplay, Tran noted a particular TikTok that capitalized on a in-joke in the community. Players had often joked about "cleaning the vents" as a fake task in the game, to the point where Innersloth added it as a real task later on. Instead of making an all-encompassing TikTok video about the whole update (which included plenty of other changes), Tran focused on the vent cleaning because she knew the community would engage with the already existing joke. Personality-driven videos can even work when dealing with touchy community sentiment, such as the desire for new content.

"Not being afraid to be honest with a TikTok community is one of the things that they just love the most, even more so than other platforms I've found. They've just really latched onto this self-awareness," Tran said.

Tran also suggests honing in on one aspect of gameplay when showcasing or demonstrating the game on TikTok. According to Tran, a trailer for updated roles in Among Us didn't fare as well as hoped, but focusing on one new role (in this case, the appearance-changing shapeshifter) earned 3 million views and 276,000 likes.

"One of the the things [regarding merch videos] that I will say does much better than I thought, but you have to be careful not to be straight up like 'buy this thing,'" Tran said. "I feel like the algorithm doesn't really like the whole 'buy, buy buy' thing. So instead what I usually do is instead show off the product. Honestly, don't even say where to get it. You can put a website maybe in the comments or respond to people, but otherwise people just like looking at merch."

One other key takeaway from Tran's research include that audience engagement doesn't tend to fluctuate too much based on video length.

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On the subject of toxic community members, Tran has found that TikTok users are surprisingly receptive to frank and open comments from the account they're replying to. For example, when some users trash Among Us in the comments for being a "dead game," Tran is typically quick with a kind and vulnerable message about how Innersloth hopes people find any game that they can have fun with, even if it isn't Among Us.

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Tran concluded by saying she hopes that attendees and fellow community managers measure their content's metrics, not aim for virality but instead aim for long term community, and that data and culture can coexist.

"Working with data along with cultural interests in the space is key to making a successful brand in a space like this," Tran said.

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