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Dan Oliver, founder of Dan-O’s Seasoning, was slinging his signature blends at trade shows and flea markets around the country when COVID-19 hit, shutting down his primary sales channel and forcing a hard pivot. Oliver turned to TikTok, going all-in on the video-sharing platform, and struck gold.
First, a video of him making crab cakes went viral. Daily sales increased sevenfold. A few months later, his bacon-wrapped jalapenos caught fire (figuratively), catapulting sales again.
Three years, hundreds of videos and millions of views later, Dan-O’s Seasoning has expanded from an e-commerce business to a supermarket staple and overall revenue has increased nearly 10,000%.
Dan-O’s success isn’t a one-off case. Thousands of entrepreneurs have seen their businesses take off on the social video platform. After all, with TikTok you’re only one viral video away from becoming the next big thing. But you have to play your cards right.
1. Start strong
“The most important part of your video is the first three to five seconds,” Oliver says. Jump in, make a splash and get to the point before people start to tune out.
“Start with something that’s attractive, like slapping a piece of meat,” Oliver says. More than a few of Oliver’s TikToks start with him dropping a monster slab of beef or pork onto the cutting board (and yes, he’s slapped a brisket or two). “Make it interesting and don’t waste people’s time.”
2. Pitch your business
Video views are literally worth nothing if you don’t translate them into dollars. Sprinkle your business’s value props into your videos and tell viewers where to go next, whether that’s to your website, online storefront or email list.
“Social media followers are great, but you have to strategically move people to your other platforms, whether it be your email list or another high-leverage pipeline,” said Elise Darma, a marketing specialist turned influencer who now coaches entrepreneurs on how to grow their social media presence, in an email.
3. Work smarter, not harder
“Batch create content if you can,” Darma said. “This is the most efficient way to use your brain power.”
What does that look like? Rather than drumming up ideas and shooting videos on the fly, create an editorial calendar that outlines what you’re going to post and when. Film and edit multiple videos in one session, rather than one at a time. Then, squeeze as much juice out of each video as possible.
“Repurpose one video as much as you can — across TikTok, Instagram, YouTube Shorts and Pinterest Idea Pins for maximum impact,” Darma said.
4. Define your goals
Any good social media strategy should be anchored in specific goals, whether that’s views, comments, clicks or some other type of engagement, says Danielle Wiley, founder and chief executive officer of Sway Group, an influencer marketing agency.
“Social media is amazing from a metrics perspective — you can get so much data — but that data is meaningless if you don’t create goals,” Wiley says. “If you don’t know what the goal is from the beginning, you won’t create the right type of content.”
5. Lean in to what works
Posting anything and everything makes sense at the start; you need to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. But when videos start gaining traction, it pays to follow that thread.
“A big thing I see is that once people see success with one video, they forget to continue their momentum by creating videos similar to the one that took off,” Darma said. “You know what style and what topic resonates with your followers, so make more of that. Invest in what works.”
For Dan-O’s Seasoning, the thread was recipes. TikToks of Oliver making everything from sushi to deep-fried mac and cheese to parmesan potatoes to prime rib rack up hundreds of thousands of views. If one really takes off, like a recent video for pulled pork tacos, views are in the millions.
Videos of Oliver sharing his entrepreneur story or scouting out Dan-O’s on store shelves did well, but didn’t strike the same chord. So his team made a strategic decision: The official account for Dan-O’s Seasoning would only feature recipes.
“It’s definitely working. I follow all these other creators, people we’re in competition with, and their accounts are kind of stagnant. Ours is not,” Oliver says. “We continue to grow, anywhere from 2,000 to 10,000 followers a day.”