7 Lessons I Learned After (Accidentally) Going Viral on TikTok

SPOILER ALERT: One of the biggest lessons I learned is that you can absolutely go viral on TikTok regardless of the size of your followers. More on that in a bit…

A few weeks ago, I filmed a video for LinkedIn (from the deer stand, naturally). It was a one-minute, tongue-in-cheek message about how deer hunting today is very different from when I grew up hunting in the 80’s and 90’s.

Go ahead, insert your “old man” comment here.

As my LinkedIn videos go, this one performed fairly average, generating ~4,000 views and decent engagement. 

Just for fun, I posted the same video to my TikTok account. Its an account I started earlier in 2020. It consisted of just a few dozen videos that had racked up a couple hundred views in total and a whopping 100 followers.

Oh, I forgot to tell you, I was a really, really big deal on TikTok last year.

Kidding aside, I expected nothing from this video. Why? Because it went against nearly every best practice of successful TikTok videos:

  • There was no funny sound or music clip
  • It was a full minute, which is the maximum allowed and an eternity on TikTok
  • It was just me talking on camera for the most part 
  • It included captions, which nobody does on TikTok – like, ever.
  • Oh and did you catch the part where I had less than 100 followers? Just from that alone, there was no way this would gain a lot of traction much less go VIRAL, right!?

Let’s take a look at the video before going further:

Anyway, I added a few hashtags, uploaded the video to TikTok and put away my phone.

A few hours later, just before the family went to dinner, I opened the app. To my amazement, the video had already generated 4,400 views. I was shocked since none of my previous videos had ever generated more than 100 views in their lifetime.

As we sat down to dinner 30 minutes later, it was up to 15,000 views. 

By the time we left the restaurant: 42,000 views.

Oh, we went to O’Charley’s since I know you were wondering. My salmon was terribly overcooked and the service wasn’t great, but let’s not get sidetracked, here.

I went to bed at 11:00 with 88,000 views.

Two days later, it was up to 206,000 views.

And after just 5 days, the video had exceeded the 250,000 view mark with 26,000 likes. What just happened here!?

Since then, the pace has slowed considerably, but one month after sharing the video, it has 286,000 views and still gets several hundred views each day. The video also generated 2,300 new followers and a total of 27,600 likes.

Anyway, here are 7 things I learned from my “viral” TikTok experience:

  1. Hashtags are a Big Deal, Y’all

    Hashtags have been around for years and help categorize content on social media channels. Some channels value hashtags more than others. Used properly on TikTok, they can be pure gold. 埠埠

    For this particular video, I used just four: #deerhunter #deerhunting #hunting #deerseason2020

    From what I’ve seen, fewer hashtags are better and you should keep them related to the actual content of the video. Dont use a dozen unrelated trending tags. I think thats actually harmful. 

  2. You Can Go Viral on TikTok Regardless of Your Follower Count

    The For You Page is a mystical creature I truly do not understand, but it’s the reason anyone can go viral on TikTok. Here’s what TikTok has to say about this page. Essentially, its the main user video feed that’s filled with highly personalized content. It’s based on a host of factors, including the video content users frequently engage with, the types of people they follow and many other dynamics.

    When looking at the analytics of my video, 99% of the views came from the For You page (see analytics at the bottom of this post). In other words, it delivered my video to people who frequently engaged with deer hunting and hunting content on TikTok.

    But understand the beauty of this:  TikTok showed my video to nearly 300,000 people who never followed or knew anything about me. Thats the power of the For You page. No other social media channel allows an “Average Joe” to go viral without the support of a large network of followers except TikTok.


  3. Relatability Matters – Even on TikTok

    One of the universal keys to success on social media is to create relatable content. Ive witnessed this first hand on LinkedIn for years. The same is true on TikTok. As I scrolled through the hundreds of comments, I noticed many older folks (Dads like me) who remembered hunting back in the good old days. Back when we didnt have cell phones and social media to keep us entertained while sitting in a deer stand.

    On the flip side, there were many comments, clearly from teenagers, that balked at the idea and said I should basically take a hike old man and others professing to be hardcore hunters who never take their phones into the woods.

    Bahahaha yeah, right. Whatever, junior!

    Bottom line, if your video is relatable to your audience, you have a shot at going viral. Or at least getting strong reach.


  4. You Don’t Have to Dance to Taylor Swift Songs to go Viral

    I just had to say it. I’ll never dance on TikTok. Never, ever. Mostly because I don’t know how and at this point in life, I’m not interested in learning. Some people have been singing songs about being “Rachet“, lately, so I might jump on that bandwagon. 仄儭 Just as long as dancing is not involved.


  5. Results Not Typical

    Admittedly, I was low-key excited that my video went viral and hoped my new found TikTok fame would make every future video do the same.

    Nope, doesn’t work like that.

    True, most of the videos I’ve posted since this one had more views than before my viral moment, but that’s a function of the 2,300 new followers I picked up from the video. Just because you have a huge viral hit, don’t expect to automatically become the next TikTok superstar influencer.


  6. How Does Life Change After Going Viral?

    Glad you asked. The day after going viral, I woke up to piles of money in my house. I walked outside and it was raining hundred dollar bills. People were delivering fancy cars, boats and even a pack of snow tigers. My dreams were coming true! Strangers stood in line for miles just for an autograph and a photo with the most famous person in the history of North Mississippi.

    Then I woke up for real and I can honestly tell you, NONE of that happened. I called my parents and told them I had “gone viral on TikTok” and they said, “Oh….well that’s neat”.

    In reality, I went back to work because it was another Monday morning and I had 6 Zoom meetings waiting for me.

    And that’s the life of a one-time viral video creator, y’all.

  7. Kids Are Mean & It’s Hilarious

    If you want to kill a few hours reading through the comments, grab some popcorn and click this link. Some are from folks my age who grew up hunting under similar circumstances. Most were clearly from teenage kids who didn’t understand the sarcasm I tried to POUR into this video! Some were mean and honestly, it’s just a train wreck so I hope you enjoy!

Analytics:

Analytics of Viral TikTok Video
Analytics of Viral TikTok Video

Here’s the original video: