Have you ever wondered how creators blow up on social media apps like TikTok and stay consistent? Maybe you considered making the leap from your day job to full-time content creation, but haven’t quite solidified your audience.
Thinking long-term and harnessing growth strategies can prepare you for success as a content creator, but where do you start? We know content creation can be liberating and laborious at the same time, so why not hear from TikTokers who’ve reached viral status on the platform? The Leap speaks to Kylen Hodges, Francine Ng, and Abbie Budden about how they engage their viewers, as well as their secret sauce to growing their audience.
While you are here, read about how you can make money while making content on TikTok.
How did you blow up on TikTok and how did it feel?
KH: So the video that went viral was the video with the “depressed fish.” It was an astounding feeling, because that was the first time that people at my job and around my friend group actually recognized me on the platform. It went down as one of the funniest TikTok videos of 2020. That was the first time I got a taste of the notorious “TikTok clout.” But as soon as it comes up, the clout can fall just as fast. That was a reality of the journey that I wasn’t ready for.
FN: Honestly, I never thought I’d blow up on TikTok, and even if so, definitely not to this extent! I actually started making videos out of boredom during early COVID-19 quarantine, just as a way to keep myself entertained and active. One day, I decided to randomly upload a skit about common experiences that I’ve had as an Asian American, and somehow it blew up. After that, I began making similar videos sharing my Chinese culture, Cantonese language, and life in general.
One of my biggest motivations to continue making content is that I love hearing from others when they can relate to my videos. It’s amazing to see how so many of us share the same collective experiences.
AB: It’s pretty hard to define which specific day my account “blew up.” I think it happened on several occasions on completely different scales. I tried out multiple niches, but once I landed on the school nostalgia theme, that’s when things really began to expand, and I noticed I was gaining a regular audience.
I think the rapid pace of it all was because I was paying attention to what my audience wanted, which also helped spark other ideas. As a creative, that was the best feeling, to not only have validation for what I was creating, but to also be privileged to have a platform filled with all different types of people with a similar interest, to spread laughter and joy, especially over the lockdown period.
Tell us more about your content and growth strategies.
KH: My content has evolved over the last two years from comedy animal videos to various series, like the girlfriend series, Among Us series, “mah boy” series, math teacher series, and even the mom series. My strategy for making videos and growing your audience is to move with certain trends and things that are popping at the moment, and add your own twist or personality to it, making it unique to only your account.
Also, posting about 15 videos a week when I first started helped my chances of getting more views and ultimately blowing up. “Quantity [over] quality” is the key in the beginning, but when you get bigger (past about 100k followers), “strategy or quantity” works the best. Find a strategy in your previous videos that got you the most views, and utilize it to the point where it becomes steady for growth. This could take many, many, many tries, but you will start to get it. Low-viewed videos aren’t losses, they’re lessons. You will get better, I promise!
FN: My content is mainly focused on my experiences as an Asian American, centering around various topics such as my culture, language, and food. For example, I love sharing videos about my native language, Cantonese. I’ve been able to connect with so many fellow Cantonese speakers through TikTok, which is something I’ve never really had growing up, so it’s been a super fun and refreshing experience.
As far as my growth strategy, while I do try to diversify my content sometimes, I mostly try to stick to niche content related to my Asian American identity and Chinese culture. I think that through this, my audience can better understand and predict what to expect from my channel.
AB: At the moment, I’m really trying to delve further into the depths of my comedic videos, and branch out wider to cover all sorts of British nostalgia and relatable occurrences in daily life that almost anyone can relate to. I’m taking far more inspiration from things I experience on a daily basis to create a nice balance of looking back fondly on the nostalgia of the past, but also being able to laugh at the absurdities we experience day to day. I’ve found by branching out my niche and finding that happy medium that I’m able to connect with a real wider range of people, across all ages.
When I initially started, I was on a constant mission to expand, which evidently had gotten me to the place I’m at today, but I now focus on what’s most important to me, doing exactly what I love and not worrying too much about the expectation people put on me. I’ve come to realize that most people enjoy me regardless of what I do, so I constantly strive to be authentic, as opposed to trying desperately to be too “relevant.”
Which particular TikTok videos launched you into viral status?
KH: I started to take it more seriously when I posted the “depressed fish” video, but the video that put me on the map was a collection of 10 videos I posted after the fish video. When I posted those 10 videos, they all did significantly well and granted me a spot in the conversation of the small, upcoming comedic class in 2020. I was 17 at the time, and all I was thinking about was how I was going to make my next video better than my last. It was a great experience!
FN: Some of my most viral TikTok videos consist of general relatable Asian American experiences, misconceptions about being Asian American, and Cantonese-speaking skits. While I still focus my content creation on these topics, I’ve also recently began to branch out into more overall experiences. While not every video is guaranteed to go viral, I love that by broadening my content, I’ve been able to reach a more diverse audience.
AB: The one major turning-point video was definitely my “what teachers wear” video that skyrocketed to 12 million views. Those were numbers that I never expected to see, and I think as much as it shouldn’t, large-scale views like that helps gain respect and recognition from other huge creators. It’s totally crazy how each video brings in a totally new set of people every day. So after that 12 million rollercoaster, you think you’ve hit the peak, but then as you explore new avenues of content, you gain lots of new people who have never seen you before! My ‘that one girl’ series kicked off with 6 million views, and the viral videos always hit at the most unexpected points. My parody ‘GRWM’ of teachers was something I had a lot of fun writing and making and then suddenly the two videos amounted to almost 11 million views out of the blue! That’s what is incredible about TikTok – the unpredictability of how each video will land with your audience, and the unexpected hits that are surprisingly successful.
How do you plan to continue engaging with your audience on and off the app?
KH: At the moment, I’m trying to implement my Snapchat and respond to any DMs I receive on TikTok and Instagram. I [want to] be connected with as many supporters as I can, so that I can show them that I am thankful for them. They really have changed, and are still continuing to change my life in many wonderful ways. I also use Among Us as a way to engage with supporters that want me to do certain songs. It’s great!
FN: On TikTok, I do most of my engagement with my audience by replying to comments and trying to keep up a consistent posting schedule. However, I engage a lot more on my Instagram. I love posting on my Instagram Stories, whether that be putting up interactive polls, sharing music that I’m currently listening to, posting a “vibe check,” doing a Q&A, or asking for book recommendations. Through these engagements, I’ve had the chance to hear from others in various ways, which has helped me not only to learn about what kind of content my audience enjoys seeing, but also to create a sense of community — and family — of my own.
AB: Now that I’ve built my platform, I’m really enjoying showing my audience exactly who I am and what I’m all about. So as much as it’s important for me to continue to draw in engagement with the popular, scripted skits that allow me to be super creative, it’s nice for me to also show my real self, which although doesn’t always drive high engagement, it allows those who already follow me to become interested in my daily life and my hobbies, so I can connect with people in a multitude of ways. I’m really enjoying being able to collaborate with other creators, and it’s a great feeling to not only have a totally new network of people in my life, but also be able to create so many more fun videos for my audience.