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Tik, Tok, Boom: How a Viral Video Exploded My Personal Brand

Is going viral worth the effort?

Click here to read this story on Medium.com

Footage from a surveillance camera of Sanjay checking his Tiktok stats — photo by author

Everyone is promised 15 minutes of fame, but some minutes are just a prelude to continued obscurity. The best minutes are the kind that multiply and keep the clock ticking. But is it worth chasing that viral tick-tock clock (and flogging this metaphor to death)?

When I started writing on Medium and in this newsletter, I also started posting on socials, at least in part because a former colleague of mine had become a social media consultant and I wanted to work with her again.

I began with TikTok — just me reading my posts out loud and making funny faces. Most of my videos got 1000 views, which is at the minimal end of acceptable to not come across as a try-hard.

One day I posted a video about Drake coming in to my bar and me making an ass of myself, and it got 30,000 views. Happy Dance! I’ve gone Viral!

And then nothing else happened.

I thought, “hmm, this viral thing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be” and I dismissed virality. Been there, done that, didn’t like the view.

Then I met Tuan Le, a creator who does viral videos with a process, instead of just hoping to get lucky. He saw my place and said, “We should shoot a video of you giving a tour, I think it’ll go viral!”

Not this again.

I was dubious, but he convinced me to give it a try, because it’s consistent with my writing style, or brand, as I pretentiously call it. I’m rich and I’m open about my life, so why not show people my house? My wife had flown to India to visit family at the time, otherwise there’s no chance this idea would have been cleared for takeoff.

I made the video. It’s not scripted, just me giving a tour. But it is staged — anybody who knows me knows I never walk our dogs. My wife saw the video and her immediate reaction was not “Hey Honey, nice video” It was,

“What were you doing outside with my dog??”

When Tuan presented me with the completed video, I was embarrassed. What was I doing? People are going to call me a douchebag in the comments. My wife is going to kill me. No. No. No.

Tuan persevered. He convinced me people would be kind.

Kind. On social media.

I fretted. I sighed. I typed, “Ok, do it.” into my Whatsapp chat thread with Tuan. Then I closed my eyes, and hit ‘send’.

And that is how, like an unmasked toddler wheezing away in a Wuhan Walmart, I went viral.

I now have 600,000 views and rising on TikTok, with over 1 million views across all socials.

Without being an attractive female or a cat.

After Drake, I had gained 50 followers. After the home tour video I got over 3,000 followers. People have shared my home tour thousands of times. Over 1,000 people have signed up for my newsletter. I was invited onto four podcasts. Two people even said they planned to buy my book! Daddy gets new shoes!

The best part is that the comments I’ve received have been almost uniformly positive. From ‘beautiful house’ to ‘nice guy’ to 😀😀😀, people have been nothing but kind, except for the one guy who said I looked a billion years old.

Dude, I’ll buy some moisturizer tomorrow, leave me alone.

You can also see it posted on my other socials if you’re too much of an adult to have TikTok on your phone. I only got TikTok myself so I can stay abreast of the latest memes and talk to my teenage kids without sounding cringe when their friends are over. No cap? Bet.

@sanjaysaysofficial

Welcome to my humble abode… #hometour #torontohomes

On top of the direct benefits of having over a million views on a single piece of content, there has been an astonishing lift on every other piece of content I create. My regular videos have gone from 1000 views each to 5000 views each. My newsletter subscription signups have gone from 50 a day to 200 a day. If you’re one of the people who signed up after seeing the video, apologies for the repeat performance. Welcome to my newsletter. It gets better.

Turns out going viral is a thing, and it’s worth pursuing. Or you can just try writing great content and being a good human, if you’re satisfied with that definition of success.

Me? I’m going to be somebody.

  1. The video of me talking about Drake that went faux-viral. I know it looks like I had been drinking before I made this video, but I swear I was sober.

  2. Tuan Le’s website for his viral video production company. Maybe he can make you go viral too.

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