How to Create Viral and Engaging Short-Form Content for TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram

How to Create Viral and Engaging Short-Form Content for TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram

How to Create Viral and Engaging Short-Form Content for TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram 2000 1334 Lifted Creative Studio
Titus Nakagawa of No Shame Media

Guest post by Titus Nakagawa

We love hearing about the inspiration and process behind great work. With all of the attention and focus on short-form videos this year, we asked our good friend Titus Nakagawa of No Shame Media to share some thoughts and tips on getting started in what seems to be the future of social media. He boasts a whopping 50k+ followers on TikTok with millions of views per post and has created and run marketing campaigns with the likes of Central Pacific Bank, Pidginmoji, and more. For anyone looking to establish a presence through short-form content and reach a new audience, Titus sets us up with a solid launching pad.

What I love about short-form video content is that you don’t have three minutes or even three seconds; with TikTok, you only have three frames to build a relationship with your audience and be discovered by millions of people, but here’s the real question:

In a crowded social media landscape, how on earth do you stand out amongst billions of accounts?

Whether you’re a small business looking to get in front of potential customers, the world’s expert on engraving koa wood knife handles, or a food content creator specializing in Filipino recipes, social media has the capacity to provide the lifestyle you want and growth beyond your wildest dreams with a few taps on your phone. However, with the infinite content already available to browse these days, just posting pictures of cute dogs or yesterday’s lunch won’t get you to the top. But why?

It’s because short-form content is “wearing the king’s crown” in terms of discoverability. Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, said recently, “We’re no longer a square photo-sharing app,” meaning the shift in content creation has moved to short-form video. The rocket success of TikTok has created a desperate need for other platforms like Instagram and YouTube to compete. Short-form is here to stay, and it’s how YOU can go VIRAL!

In this article, we’re going to show you how to create short-form content, from conception to hitting “Post,” including scroll-stopping hooks, features to incorporate, tips to improve your content, and hacks for multiplying your content across four different social media platforms.

Hey, you’re putting in the work, so let’s get the maximum exposure from your efforts.


Whether you’re new to TikTok or you’ve had the app since it was, consuming short-form content vs. creating it are two very different worlds. On the journey to create content, you need to look at this type of media, content, and entertainment through a different lens and research is your first step. Before you even think about opening your camera app, take the time to understand why you flick your thumb to instantly skip to the next post, why you stay on certain videos for a few seconds, and why you linger to watch all the way to the end of others.

Choose a platform, preferably TikTok, and dedicate 30 minutes a day for four days, consecutively, to scroll through posts with relevant hashtags in your niche. As you engage with the world’s smartest social media algorithm, save or “Add to Favorites” the videos that make you want to watch all the way to the end or that at least hook you in for 7-8 seconds, whichever comes first. For the next three days after that, do the same while scrolling through your FYP (i.e., TikTok’s “For You Page” feed).

After your week of consumption is done, revisit your saves and/or Favorites and pick the videos apart. Get surgical with it, and more power to you if you make a spreadsheet — I did!

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why did I continue watching past 3 seconds?
  • What got me to finish the video?
  • What movement caught my attention?
  • What words did they use in their hook?
  • Did they use text-to-speech or recognizable audio?
  • How quickly was the person talking?
  • What sound or music was playing in the background?
  • How many times have I heard that song?
  • How many different angles/backgrounds did they use?
  • Why was it funny?
  • Did I see any trends?
  • Would I share this with someone else and why?
  • Would I watch this again because I learned something new?
  • How can I apply this to my niche?

Watch the best videos multiple times, take notes, find commonalities and patterns, and start thinking about how you can use this in your niche or area of expertise.

Free Resource

Download Our Research Worksheet for Creating Viral and Engaging Short-Form Content for TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram

Conceptualizing Content & The 3 E’s

Educate, Entertain, or Encourage!

If your content doesn’t live in at least one of these three categories, you’re making content that won’t produce results.

You are tasked with creating content pillars. In other words, 3-4 types and/or styles of content that will be in your content plan which you can cycle through endlessly.

For example, a videographer could have these four content pillars:

  • Gear reviews
  • Short compilations of work
  • Editing tips and tricks
  • Vlog of running the business

“Don’t reinvent the wheel, realign it.” – Anthony J D’Angelo

With your cache of saved and Favorited videos, you should have your pick of the litter in terms of potential concepts to start with. Don’t bat an eye at “stealing” content ideas; it isn’t typically an issue unless you’re reposting someone else’s video without crediting them (don’t do that). Everyone on TikTok copies other creators without breaking any moral code, and in fact, the reason videos trend and have millions of views/likes is because their formula works. All you need to do is put your twist on it.

Think about all the audio tracks that have been sampled and remixed over the years in music. If Biggie can do it, you can do the same with your content.

Take a viral video and mull over how you can create a different punchline, level it up, tweak an outfit change, or show your own humor, all while applying it to your niche or industry. If you’re stumped in terms of an adaptation, you can Duet the video (covered later in this article) and show your reaction — this is as easy as it gets. I’ve seen Duet videos with millions of Likes where the person dueting was simply making reactionary faces to the original piece.

But what about original content? They definitely have their role as well. A popular method you’ll see time and time again is the creation and curation of a series. Creators make a series of videos by taking one template idea and repeating them over and over again with different messaging.

For example, @justin_danger_nunley built a following of 4.3 million followers in less than a year by simply spitting out random facts in each of his videos. I encourage you to look at his profile and the brilliance of his using another feature called Stitching.

@Johnnytsunami808 also has a brilliant series called “How people in Hawaii say it.” At the time of writing this article he is currently on part 12 of what will most likely be an ongoing series for his content plan.

Hooks: The Heartbeat of Your Content

A terrible hook = no discoverability = no results!

Through your research you should have found that the first three seconds of any video are critical — I repeat, CRITICAL — to the success of your content. All platforms judge content by watch time, so if your video doesn’t keep users on the app and engaged, the algorithm isn’t going to share it. Your success is solely dependent on your hook. You could have rock-solid proof on how we can eliminate the use of fossil fuels forever, but if the first three seconds of your video are shaky footage moving towards a whiteboard with no audio, viewers will never hear/see it.

We’ve split-tested dozens of hooks, and after analyzing the metrics, we’ve found these are the most effective hook elements:

  • Movement in the first 3-10 frames
  • Text-to-speech
  • Having the words “You,” “Your,” or “You’re” in text and/or audio
  • Change of background in the first five seconds
  • Start with a question
  • Open with “Why you”
  • Open with “How to”

Keep the Viewer’s Eyes Engaged

Something simple anyone can do to begin their video is walk into the frame. Using the videographer from the example above, a potential hook for a video review of a drone could be:

  • While walking quickly into frame, videographer holds the drone in-hand and moves it forward and back towards the camera to show it in detail in frame while saying, “You need to check this drone out, it’s the best I’ve ever used.”
  • Simultaneously, as videographer finishes saying the word “check,” bold text can appear on screen reading “This is why you need the Mavic Air 2”

Immediately, the eyes will track the person walking into frame and the drone movement, while listening to him/her speak, then the eyes will move to the text on screen, process the sentence “This is why you need the Mavic Air 2,” and by the time they’re done, you’ve got them hooked.

Features Worth Exploring

TikTok has a massive amount of features built into the app, and it can be overwhelming. If we went into detail about each of them down, you’d be reading until 2025.

Instead, let’s go over and break down the most important features for content creation so you can use them to enhance your content and increase the odds of going viral:

  • Timer: The video timer is self-explanatory, if you are filming and editing in-app, the timer is a tool you’ll use on practically every video, so get comfortable with it.
  • Duet: Duets are a built in feature allowing users to create reaction videos. We use this feature 2-3 times a week, selecting videos that are already going viral and riding the wave of their success. Not to mention, Duets are the easiest to execute while building a number of posts.
  • Stitch: Stitching allows creators to take up to 5-seconds of any posted video and “stitch” on a follow-up with their own recorded content. We use this feature frequently because it’s easy to use and there’s low to no post-production required since the stitched on content must be recorded in-app. Viewers are accustomed to the low production quality of stitched content, so this shouldn’t be an issue. A practical and easy use of Stitching is taking someone’s hook that was specifically made to be Stitched. For example, another user’s video might ask the question, “What is one thing that keeps you mentally stable during the pandemic?” and your Stitch will answer the question.
  • Text-to-speech: We recently completed a hook variable split-test and the results were mindblowing. The video views for the split-test resulted in 12K, 435K, and 2.6M views. Can you guess which one had Text-to-speech? Of course, it was the video with 2.6M views! Implement this feature as often as possible because some users subconsciously prioritize reading and others audio.

Filters & Green Screen: Filters and, more specifically, green screen should be used occasionally. There are many options in terms of types of green screen allowing creators to plop an image of their choosing as the background.

Download Our Research Worksheet for Creating Viral and Engaging Short-Form Content for TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram

Download Our Research Worksheet for Creating Viral and Engaging Short-Form Content for TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram

Short-Form Secrets You Can Use Today

You have your concept, you have the hook, now what? We’ve provided a list of tiny tweaks and tips that will make a huge difference in the quality of your content:

  • Create a schedule and stick to it.
  • Aim for one post per day.
  • Batch your content! Film and edit all your content for the week in one session and upload them to your drafts. This will take the stress out of having to post every day.
  • Speak quickly!
  • Remove any um’s, uh’s, other filler words/sounds, and dead space from your audio.
  • Record off app (i.e., in your native camera app) and edit in third-party apps like CapCut or Splice.
  • Make your videos short! Studies have shown that videos 7-12 seconds in length are optimal for virality.
  • Every 2-4 seconds, use an interrupt (e.g., sound effect, change of background, mirrors, new angles, zoom, etc.)
  • Find trends and apply them to your niche.
  • Use trending sounds. Search for audio that is on the upswing in popularity.
    • Hack: If your video doesn’t make sense with an audio track, use the trending sound and turn the volume down to 0.
  • Experiment with props in your hooks.
  • Get your pets in your videos! A study showed that content with animals increases discoverability by 60%.
  • Quantity creates quality! Get over your fears and anxieties, and just post, post, post.
  • Once you go viral, remix that video as many times as possible and post them immediately. Ride the wave because your new followers will likely see your other versions.
  • Rinse and repeat your “successful” videos.
  • Go live (a feature you acquire after gaining 1,000 followers). Live on TikTok is an under-utilized feature the company/platform wants to gain traction and succeed. When you go live, TikTok will insert your previous videos into users’ feeds, and a few videos later, place your live in their feed. It’s a growth hack that successful creators use.
  • Use a call to action at the end of the video. For example, “Follow me for more,” “what’s your favorite____,” “check the link in my bio,” and “leave a comment and tell me____” are all great examples you can use.
  • Watch time is the most important metric to the algorithm.
    • Hack: Learn about loops, and cut your call to action off by one word or halfway through your last word. TikTok will register even that split second of your video starting over as bonus watch time.

Make a post relating to your story and/or your journey. Why should users follow you? Literally, start this video with, “My name is ____ this is why I’m here.” Pin this video to the top of your feed.

How to Multiply Your Content

“My goal is no longer to get more done, but rather to have less to do.” – Francine Jay

Creating top-tier content can be challenging work, and as the saying goes, we work smart, not hard. Maximizing each piece of content is vital to sustainability. After a few months of consistency, you should accrue enough pieces to fill all of your existing social media platforms that also offer short-form as an option.

Our suggestion is to build in TikTok, starting with the app that has the richest and most advanced features, then spread your content to other platforms such as YouTube Shorts, Instagram Reels, Instagram Stories, Facebook Stories, and even Pinterest.

You might be asking yourself “What about that pesky TikTok watermark? Isn’t Instagram going to punish content that has TikTok branding?” You’re damn right they are, but we have a work around that will instantly turn one piece of content into six.

After your post is completed on TikTok, it will only take two simple steps:

  1. Copy the link of your post.
  2. Go to This site will allow you to download your content at full resolution, features and audio included, for free.

Furthermore, if you have any long-form content such as podcasts, YouTube videos, interviews etc., it makes sense to chop them into “bite-sized” pieces for distribution across the board. A 30-minute podcast can easily be cut up and turned into ten pieces of content, and if you use the steps above to multiply it across platforms, the one podcast can become 60 pieces of content just like Naruto’s shadow clone jutsu, the one becomes the many (I see you, my fellow nerds out there)!

New Followers and Customers are Waiting For You

Once you go down the journey of being a content creator, our last and final tip for this article is to consume content with the intention of creating. Your perspective will be shifted permanently for the better and will give you the inspiration and drive to further hone and improve your new skills. Build a relationship with your new audience, and foster it as you would if they were live and in-the-flesh in front of you. Give the world what you have to offer and build trust with your newfound community, then see what kind of magic manifests in your life.

Check out my website at for information about marketing, design, social media, or schedule a consultation to learn more on how we can help your business serve more people.

See you on the FYP!

We are a Creative Agency

We help daring businesses and organizations make meaningful connections with their audiences to achieve tangible results.

About the author

Lifted Creative Studio

We collaborate with Hawaii’s changemakers to craft brands that make a difference.