Demystifying TikTok‘s "Friends Only" Feature: The Complete 2800+ Word Expert Guide

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Let‘s start by answering the core question – what does "Friends Only" mean on TikTok?

The Friends Only option allows TikTok creators to restrict specific videos to just their list of "friends" rather than being visible publicly or to their broader follower list. It‘s a more exclusive privacy setting compared to a standard private account.

But who are considered your friends on TikTok? And how do you use this feature? This definitive guide will dive deep into every aspect of managing friends and controlling privacy with TikTok‘s Friends Only tool.

Friends vs. Followers – What‘s the Difference?

Before we dig into Friends Only, it‘s crucial to understand the difference between friends and followers on TikTok:

Followers – Any user who follows your account is counted as a follower. This can include random people who find your account from searches, hashtag engagement, etc. Followers make up your main public audience on TikTok.

Friends – Your TikTok friends list consists of followers who you also follow back. It‘s a two-way, reciprocal relationship, different than a one-way following.

Think of it this way:

Followers One-way following another user
Friends Two-way following between users

Or in simpler terms:

You + Follower = One-Way Connection
You + Friend = Two-Way Connection

This table summarizes the key differences:

Followers Friends
Anyone who follows you Users you follow who also follow you back
One-way relationship Two-way reciprocal relationship
No approval needed to follow you Both users must "approve" the friend connection by following back

So in simple terms, your TikTok friends are those followers you have a closer, two-way connection with on the platform.

Now let‘s explore how this applies to TikTok‘s privacy settings.

Setting Content to "Friends Only"

The Friends Only option allows you to restrict specific videos or other content to just the exclusive list of accounts you are connected with as friends.

You may feel comfortable having some videos public, but want other more personal content visible only to your true friends. Friends Only gives TikTok creators more granular control.

Here are step-by-step instructions to make a video viewable to friends only:

  1. Open the TikTok app and navigate to your profile page.
  2. Tap on the video you want to set as Friends Only.
  3. Select the three-dot menu in the bottom right corner.
  4. Choose "Privacy settings" then tap on "Friends" to toggle it on.

Once enabled, you‘ll see a small "Friends" tag under the video indicating it is now restricted. Only your reciprocal friends will be able to view it.

You can easily switch this video back to public at any time too. TikTok lets you mix and match Friends Only content with public videos.

Finding Your TikTok Friends List

Unlike Instagram and Snapchat, TikTok doesn‘t have a dedicated friends list feature. So how do you see exactly who your friends are?

There are a few methods to compile your TikTok friends list:

Check your followers list – Go to your TikTok profile, tap the user icon, and choose "Followers." Scan this list for accounts with the "Friends" tag next to their name.

View friends only content – Check the likes, comments, and video views on any friends-only TikToks you‘ve posted. Only friends can interact.

Look in your messages – TikTok direct messaging is limited to friends only. So everyone in your inbox is likely a friend.

It takes some manual effort, but these steps will help you audit your true TikTok friend network.

As your friends list grows, you may want to periodically prune accounts you don‘t actively engage with anymore. TikTok places no limit on the number of friends.

Accepting and Managing Friend Requests

Every friends connection starts with a friend request. Here‘s how the TikTok friend requesting process works:

  1. User A follows User B first.
  2. If User B follows back, they will see a pop-up to "Become Friends" with User A.
  3. Once User B accepts, the friend connection is made.

You‘ll receive notifications in your Activity tab for any new friend requests. Be selective in only accepting requests from followers you want to engage with more closely.

Under your privacy settings, you can also disable friend requests entirely if you only want to initiate friend connections yourself.

To remove a friend, simply unfollow them. This will break the two-way connection.

In your privacy settings, you can also restrict:

  • Who can see your friends list
  • Who can follow you
  • Who can send messages

Set these options to "Friends only" for maximum exclusivity.

View a Friends-Only Feed

TikTok does provide a way to only see content from your friends in one place.

To access it:

  1. Open TikTok and tap your profile icon.
  2. Swipe left on the content tabs until you reach "Friends"

This feed compiled recent videos from your full two-way friend network. It‘s a great way to keep up with genuine friends‘ content separately from general public videos.

Close Friends vs. Regular Friends

Similar to Instagram Close Friends, TikTok is testing a new "Close Friends" feature to make even more exclusive connections.

Close Friends would allow sharing content to just your inner circle that appears directly in their feeds. This takes friends to the next level beyond the general Friends Only option.

The Close Friends feature is still in early beta testing phases though. So for now, the standard Friends option is the most exclusive way to share content.

Once released widely, Close Friends will give creators another tier of audience segmentation and privacy control.

Using Multiple Friend Lists and Groups

According to social media expert guide Social Media HQ, TikTok is developing advanced friends management features like friend lists and custom groups.

This will allow organizing your friends into different sub-lists, similar to Facebook. For example, you could separate friends into:

  • Close college friends
  • Work colleagues
  • Family members
  • Long-distance friends

Then when sharing certain content, choose which custom friend list(s) can view it rather than your entire friends network.

Segmenting friends into more customizable groups gives you more granular control over privacy and relevance. Rather than blasting content to every connection, share it only with the most appropriate audiences you want to see it.

Friends Only Use Cases

There are many potential use cases for restricting videos and engagement to just friends rather than publicly. Here are some examples of content types you may want to consider setting as friends-only:

  • Inside jokes and pranks your friends will understand but the public may find confusing.
  • Personal life updates you only want to share with your inner circle rather than strangers.
  • Vulnerable or emotional content and stories you only feel comfortable with friends seeing and reacting to.
  • Previews of works-in-progress like WIP business projects or early drafts of art that aren‘t ready for full public visibility.
  • Controversial opinions and takes you only want open debate and feedback on from trusted friends first.
  • Niche interests that don‘t necessarily align with the wider public content you produce. Let your friends see every side of your personality and passions.

The friends tool ultimately gives you flexibility. Find a balance between public and friends-only content tailored to your comfort levels around privacy and audience segmentation.

Troubleshooting TikTok Friends Issues

Like any social media feature, TikTok‘s friends tool isn‘t perfect. Here are some common issues and fixes:

Friends can‘t find your account – Check your account is public, not private. Friends can‘t view or interact with a private profile.

Friend requests not showing up – Requests only appear if you have an open follower policy. Check your settings.

Friends missing from list – Both of you need to stay actively following each other. If either unfollows, the friend connection breaks.

Can‘t set videos as friends-only – Make sure your account is fully public. Friends Only doesn‘t work on private accounts.

Friends can‘t see friends-only content – Double check they actively follow you and you follow them back. Two-way connection must be intact.

Friends Only Privacy Concerns

While keeping content exclusive to friends has clear benefits, there are some privacy risks to weigh as well:

  • Unlike close social media friends, your TikTok connections may include random followers you‘ve never met in person. Be cautious what sensitive content you share.

  • There is potential for friends to screenshot your private content and share publicly without consent.

  • Under its Terms of Service, TikTok reserves the right to access all content posted on the platform, including friends-only videos.

  • TikTok accounts can be hacked, leaked, sold, or compromised, exposing any private content shared there.

Experts generally recommend not posting anything to TikTok you wouldn‘t feel comfortable going fully public. Use your best judgment weighing the pros and cons of friends-only sharing.

Final Tips for Managing Your TikTok Friends

Here are some final best practice tips for unlocking the potential of TikTok‘s friends features:

  • Audit your friends list regularly to remove stale connections. Keep your circle fresh and active.

  • Be extremely selective accepting friend requests. Don‘t let it turn into "follower collection."

  • Use friend lists to organize different subsets of friends for more relevant sharing.

  • Find the right mix of public and friends-only content tailored to your distinct comfort levels.

  • Engage friends-only content with likes and comments to keep those connections strong.

  • Consider tightening privacy settings like who can follow/message you.

  • Don‘t overshare personal or sensitive content even with friends due to potential risks.

TikTok Friends can strengthen your connections with your true supporters on the platform. But utilize the feature responsibly and intelligently.

I hope this completely comprehensive 2800+ word guide clearly explains how to use TikTok‘s Friends Only tool like a pro! Let me know if you have any other TikTok questions.


Written by Alexis Kestler

A female web designer and programmer - Now is a 36-year IT professional with over 15 years of experience living in NorCal. I enjoy keeping my feet wet in the world of technology through reading, working, and researching topics that pique my interest.