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Catch 22: TikTok Virality

It's safe to assume that our surprise (relatively) viral moment on TikTok is behind us, so I can speak of it in the past tense. Although it was a whirlwind of activity, here are some things that I learned or found interesting.

We only opened our TikTok account upon the suggestion of a friend. Until that point, it was thought that TikTok was only for teenagers and younger. And while teens might be the biggest demographic, the other demographics are still considerable. Our friend informed us of this, so we gave TikTok a try. 

An appeal of TikTok, especially for a burgeoning company, is that while the viewer base is quite formidable, the producer base has still not been completely overgrown. In simple english: your content will be seen. This is unlike the other, longer established social media networks e.g. Instagram and Facebook.

Add that advantage to the following advantage: a small account has a chance at virality. TikTok will provide an (algorithmically?) allotted number of viewers for each piece of content (especially in the early days of an account). If those viewers respond well to your post, TikTok, in the interest of providing quality content to its users, further boosts it to those they think may be interested. So, if your content is stimulating, there is a possibility of (many) viewers beyond your current following.

Now, for our case. Prior to opening our TikTok, we were offering people who follow us on Instagram the not-uncommon offer of new small-businesses, a free item, so long they covered shipping and handling. There's no need to elaborate on why businesses offer this. It can be seeking product-validation, review fishing or general business traction. 

All we requested on the post was to like, comment and follow us and that we'd get the promo-code information to them. For many potential customers, this offer seems tantalizing until they discover that it's not 100% free and that they will be paying the shipping.  On Instagram just a handful of our followers took advantage of this offer, so when we opened our TikTok, we assumed that only a few would as well.

And, that's what happened. For 3 days. But suddenly the TikTok algorithm took notice. People apparently were viewing our video of the offer for an above-average amount of time and liking and commenting as well. Within minutes, the post blasted off. 

After the minutes-long shock wore off, I attempted at responding to everyone with the promo-code. I was speeding through comments, trying to remain personable while delivering the important info. I was bordering on carpal tunnel syndrome, when TikTok came to the rescue. They indicated that I had reached my comment limit and would need to take a break. This came as a relief to my thumbs, but also to my mind, knowing that I did my most. 

I took up responding to more comments the next morning. Responding and responding until that limit was reached. I did this for many days. Sometimes two or three times a day.

This was tedious, but not completely. Commenters would share funny or meaningful words which would keep me stimulated. You see, our company concept is to develop toys in the from of things that aren't toys. The ones the babies grab when they shouldn't. Like these. So, on our viral post, commenters would be sharing hilarious anecdotes, tremendous words of support and a trove of future product ideas.

At moments of weariness, I'd wish that I would've included the promo code in the post itself, but then I would remember that had action not been required from the part of the viewer (likes, comments and follows) this post would not have gone viral in the first place. Hence the catch 22.

Eventually, we reached our utmost limit of free products, over 100, and amended the offer to 75% off. As I responded to commenters I would offer this promo code instead. Most people were very understanding and didn't suspect us of a bait and switch. Many people continued ahead to checkout with their lesser discount.

As of this writing, the post has a bit less than 140 thousand views. Obviously, many posts on TikTok have many more views, but for a brand new account of a brand new small business, this was beyond our wildest dreams. We opened our small business with the intention of a side-hustle and in addition to that we were surprised to experience the generosity-of-spirit within humanity along with its sense of humor.

I will try to respond to your questions in the comments.

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