• Catrina Gardner

I went viral on TikTok. And this is that story.

In the summer of 2021 I was hanging out outside with my 7-month-old son. He had just started pulling himself up to stand and did just that as we were on the deck. He looked so cute and I wanted to capture the milestone, so I took a quick video on my phone. A day or two later as I was scrolling through TikTok, this video showed up on my feed and I thought it was so cute! As one does, I clicked on the audio and paired my own video of my son to it. The video was posted within minutes with hardly a thought going into it.

What happened next was completely unexpected.

At the time that I posted the video, I had about 2,000 followers on TikTok. I’d had some videos get decent traction before. A handful of my posts had reached over 100,000 people. But the majority of my videos were seen less than 1,000 times.

Within maybe a week, my followers shot up to 25,000! The video of my son had been seen 2.6 MILLION times. It had over 200k likes and over 1,000 comments. I was officially claiming “viral status”.

Luckily for me, it was an overall positive experience. The overwhelming majority of comments were positive. There were a handful of negative comments, but they were just trolls and didn’t cause me to lose any sleep.

I did start to wonder… Should I try to monetize off of this? Could I become an influencer? Do I want to? I did post a few follow-up videos. One specifically was to thank all my new followers. Jumping from 2,000 to 25,000 followers- you’d think I’d notice a HUGE difference in engagement on my videos, but I didn’t. Yes, many things I posted after the viral video had slightly higher view counts than previous, but nothing to brag about. It made me wonder about my new followers. Who are they? Do they also have kids? What do they post about?

As I was wondering this, I was also blocking anyone who left a negative comment on the video. When it comes to my newborn son, I have a zero-tolerance policy for bullying and negativity. Someone would write, “ugly baby” and I’d click over to their profile to block the user.

As I was doing this, I noticed one similarity with all the users who wrote negative comments. They were kids. Judging from their profile photo, username, and videos they uploaded, I guessed that each and every negative commenter was about 8-12 years old. This sparked my curiosity further and I started checking out all my new followers. Kid. Kid. Kid. Kid. Hey, a 30-something-year-old mom! Kid. Kid. Kid. Kid. Kid.

Huh. Now that’s interesting. Now, TikTok analytics doesn’t tell you the ages of your followers. I know that 83% are female. 77% live in the US. And they’re most active at 7 PM.

It made me wonder if I was using TikTok for business… what if I was trying to sell something? Would this viral video have boosted sales? This is just guessing, but I think all it would have done is given me a little bump, but nothing crazy. My new followers are children and they won’t be making purchases! If I were selling a service, I think the outcome would be even less impressive.

My takeaway here is that TikTok really and truly, for the most part, is a kids entertainment app. Of course anyone can be on there, but the very large majority of users are kids. While I do think there’s a market for small business owners to leverage sales on TikTok, I don’t think it’s for everybody. You can read more on my thoughts about using TikTok for selling here.

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