Like many others during the early months of the pandemic, Kat Norton moved back home with her parents after her corporate role went remote. Finding herself back in her childhood bedroom, she started to reflect on her passions, what filled her cup, and what her dream job might be. "I remember I wrote down that I love Microsoft Excel, I love to help people, and I love to dance. I looked at the list and was like, 'Dang, well I don't know what I can do with that.'"
After a lot of meditation and reflection, she realized she could actually bring those things together. "I realized my limiting beliefs, that little voice inside my head, was telling me that you can't dance on TikTok, you can't have your own business, and entrepreneurship is hard. All of these ideas were conditioned in me, but I essentially went in and did the work internally and cleared them out. I literally visualized the Excel screen above my head before I even created Miss Excel." A friend encouraged her to post on TikTok, and in March of 2020 Miss Excel launched. "It was really a matter of me getting out of my own way," she reflected.
Her first viral video—a combination of Excel's Left and Find functions and Kat dancing to the catchy single "Level up" by Ciara—was only the fourth video she made. It grew her following from around 1,000 to over 100,000 in less than a week. "I was just excited to be able to get these tips and tricks out there and into the hands of more people, and I was getting positive feedback that it was helping people. The algorithm picked it up and the whole thing happened so fast. But it was awesome!"
So, what does it actually take to go viral? Kat says she's reverse-engineered it to four main concepts: polarity, craftsmanship, creativity, and authenticity. Let's dive in.
For Kat, polarity means bringing things together that don't always seem like they should go together—like dancing and Excel, for example. "These two things were so different, and that's what caused the conversation when I first posted it," she said. "There's a healthy polarity. Some people loved it, and some were confused. Some people questioned why I was dancing, and that general stir then caused conversation and got the video pushed through the algorithm as people shared it."
Kat recommends that all videos are well edited, and text is visible. Little things can easily prevent you from going viral, like typos or text that's cut off. "Make sure your content is in a good, clean spot and then add layers of creativity," says Kat. "I sit with my content and meditate with it and then start to ask myself if I can do more to infuse it with more creativity and fun."
Give yourself time to be creative. That can mean blocking off large chunks of time on a calendar (which can be endless with competing priorities). Kat dedicates an entire day to getting into what she calls a creative flow state. "So many times throughout the day, people snag 30 minutes on your calendar for a brainstorming session, but you've just come off a bunch of meetings and you're all hyped up. And then you're trying to say, OK, you know, think of a viral idea right now. It's a lot harder to do than if you give yourself that space." The first thing Kat does is block off her calendar. "I have a day with myself. I give myself the space and then I sit down and I just look at what's trending. Once I get past the hour mark, I start to get idea after idea after idea."
Don't do things that aren't authentic to you, whether that be where you post your content or the topic of your content. "If you don't feel good about [what you post], then people can tell you're being fake." She doesn't do Instagram livestreams, because it doesn't feel authentic to her.
Additionally, Kat doesn't view social media as something that needs to be done every day. "Sometimes I actually make more money on days that I don't post," she shared. There's a balance to find between quality and quantity. "Just scouring for something to post for the pure intention of getting views isn't the right mindset. I feel like I'm so much calmer and happier and at peace when I'm not putting that pressure on myself. That then leaves this space to be creative and come up with things and be able to pivot versus a rigid formulaic approach."
To trend or not to trend?
It can be tempting to hop on every social platform trend that you see to try to generate more engagement, but that doesn't necessarily work, Kat says. "Take a survey of what's going on in the space and ask yourself 'Does this feel good?' Is it a 'Hell yes'? And if it's not, then it's a 'No.'"
Going viral isn't a guarantee, but with these tips, you'll have a better chance of getting your content out to the right people at the right time.