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Leveraging TikTok for Small Businesses – feat. Maddie Miller

October 19, 2021

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Leveraging TikTok for Small Businesses – feat. Maddie Miller 

Have you thought about using TikTok to market your creative biz? If not, you’ll definitely be considering it after hearing from our gal, Maddie Miller of Tailgate Pups. After a very short month on Tiktok Maddie’s Tailgate Pups T-Shirts went viral and changed her life forever, allowing her to quit teaching to work full-time in her business. Listen in as she pulls back the curtain on her TikTok strategy and debunks some common TikTok myths that keep people from leveraging this platform that has the potential to change the game for their business! 

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Tell us about your creative journey and how you got into this space? Just so our listeners know, are you full-time or part-time?

Maddie 3:06

I started, full-time actually back in March of this year. So, um, it’s been a little bit, so that’s exciting. Um, I have always been creative, like I said, in the bio, like I started doing art, like my mom and my grandma would always tell me, like, when I was like two years old, I was drawing, painting. I just have always been that way. And. I kind of moved through different mediums. 

And then in college, I was doing watercolor pet portraits and I’d like, sit on the floor of my apartment and like paint. And then I kind of moved. I moved back home, I got married and all that. And I continued doing that stuff like Etsy on the side just while I was being a teacher, I actually started grad school. Because I was working with kids with autism and while I was doing my online, like grad school, I would be like painting, pet portraits. I was selling and I realized like, Hmm, maybe I need to not be in grad school. Like maybe I need to pursue this more.

And so it just kind of expanded and kept going. And then the pandemic hit and I moved kind of into the digital art space and started selling portraits and stuff. And it kind of just took off from there. 

When did you first start using TikTok?

So like I had done, you know, Instagram. I mean, I’ve had Instagram for like forever, but like for our, I had started it at the very beginning of 2020, like before the pandemic hit and then grew my following there.

And I had watched a lot of TikToks like, I was like the type that lays in bed at night, like scrolling through  TikTok, you know? And like, I was kind of like an observer for a while. And then I was like, oh, you know, maybe I’ll just like, make funny little videos here and there, like. Kind of showcasing like products or whatever, and it kind of happened.

My business had blown up cause I used Etsy back that now I have a website, but I was using Etsy throughout basically the holiday season last year. In 2020. And, um, around the holidays, I started making funny videos about like my family, wondering where I’m at and like, whatever. And it was like me making all my products and like packaging and like whatever.

And I think I had like 50 followers on TikTok, like nothing crazy. I wasn’t really like trying to do anything with it, but I just. Downloaded it and just like doing it for fun, kind of. And it was before I feel like tick-tock really like, grew into what it is now. Um, so yeah, it’s just for fun. Okay. Just for fun.

How did you gain traction on TikTok? 

So I took my dog. Hey, he’s a yellow lab. Very basic dog, you know? I drew a picture of him.

And then I put him just like on a t-shirt and I was like, took a little video of me making it and making it with my cricket machine like drawn him on procreate, you know, nothing like literally so simple and to do a little video. And it was like a Saturday night and I was like, oh, I’m going to post this on TikTok.

So I’m lying in bed. It’s like nine o’clock at night. Okay. And I go and I post the video and like I said, I had like, probably less than a hundred followers, like nothing. And I wake up Sunday morning. And my phone is buzzing. Like it is going off and I’m like, oh my gosh, is there an emergency? Like, cause I just hear it.

I’m like somebody calling me whatever. And I pick up my phone and I’m like, what? In the world? It had a gun. Viral. It had hundreds of thousands of views. I had my Etsy like messages were like full and Instagram. Like it blew up like insane. And I was like, what is going on? And I went to the video and like, all these people are like, how do I get one?

And can you draw cats? I just was like shocked. I didn’t know what to do with all the notifications. It was crazy.

Elisabeth 10:55

Okay. And so what about that post people just liked it so much that they were asking you like where they could buy it and going to your bio and going to your site. So there wasn’t like any call to action or anything like that on that post?

Maddie 11:09

So I had put in there just like briefly, like, oh, I’m going to upload these on my shop on Monday. So this was Sunday. Um, and so more to the story, um, a little more in-depth, but like, I. Had put that like, they’ll drop Monday, whatever.

I never had anything like crazy viral so I didn’t expect that. I expected my like loyal followers that have been around forever to like, be like, excited about it. Maybe a couple of them buy it. So then I’m like, okay. So I go to my husband and I’m like, what do I do? Like, I have hundreds of messages on Etsy.

Like, what do I do with this? And he’s like, A hundred of them just put them up on Etsy on Monday, put up a hundred of ’em like, see how it goes. And I was like, I don’t think that’s going to sell, but like fine. So Monday I’m a teacher back then. Okay. So Monday we are coming back from Christmas break and I go to a meeting and at two o’clock I was going to press live on Etsy and like, let him go.

I go to a meeting and they sold out in two minutes. And I had people commenting on Instagram like they already sold out. 

What kind of content do you post on TikTok?

Maddie 19:29

The thing with TikTok is that our generation now is very like fast. Like they want like that instant gratification and all that. So like with TikTok, you kind of have to like come up with something that’s like a, like a hook, you know, like to get them from the very beginning and you have to get them within the first, like 2 seconds or your viewer is just lost. So I, after that video like I posted some similarly, but then like I do a couple where like my dog Mose will package an order. So like, I’ll get his little paws and so sometimes Mose goes viral sometimes when he packages orders. 

How are you able to get that content to convert to purchases or website views?

Maddie 27:30

The trick to me is like taking some of the trends or whatever and turning it to being about your product. So like, I had a video that I made and it was that like good for you song like that saucy like new song trail. I’ve heard it. And everybody was like saying something sassy into the camera about it.

I turned it into being about like Karen’s who, um, expect like my hand drawn dog t-shirts to ship like Amazon prime and that video blew up and it was just me being sassy and like doing the trend of just singing the words to the song. But my text on the video said like when Karen expects her hand drawn dog t-shirt to be shipped, but like Amazon prime and then.

People are commenting. Wait, did you say hand drawn dog? T-shirt like, and then like all of the commentary and like the engagement of it, of like, wait, can you draw my dog? Or how do I order this? And is it on your website? And so like all the comments and all the engagement then pushed out. And so it went viral, but it was just a trend.

I’m literally just talking to the camera, like mouthing lyrics to a song, but the text was what caught people. So to me, it’s like using those trends in your favor to promote your product. It’s kind of sneaky, sneaky marketing. Yeah. I like that. It’s smart because then you can ride that wave of other things that are popular.

What are some common myths people think about TikTok and use as a reason to avoid the platform?

Maddie 19:20

the main one, I think that a lot of people see, especially like people like our age or maybe a little older that are creatives is that it’s for the younger generation and. There is a big chunk of that. But I think as tick-tock has kind of blown up in the last like year or two, now you see like celebrities using it and stuff, and it’s become like more overall used kind of likeInstagram, but you just have to know your audience.

Like, there is a lot of like teenyboppers on, but then you have. If you have your niche of people, like if you’re like a wedding station or something, and you want to post about that, like the algorithm is going to figure out that, like, it shouldn’t be posting your, or pushing yourself like 13 year olds on tech talk, you know, like I think, um, using the correct hashtags, interacting, like the more you interact with other people like yourself, then it’s going to push you out there.

What kind of person/creative could benefit from using TikTok? I’m assuming it’s not for everyone, just like any other platform!

Maddie 33:02

I think product-based creatives, um, because even artwork, like, even if you paint or anything, you can show like the behind the scenes kind of stuff that goes on. Like, people love to watch that people like to watch, um, like sometimes I’ll post videos of like lettering.

So like if you’re a calligrapher, like that could be something showing that process. ’cause people like it’s those like satisfying videos, you know, that everybody like reshares is all the time. Like the things like that, like showing how you’re doing things. 

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