The TikTok method that scored Run Gum 7k followers in 6 HrsAshley R. Cummings
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I recently stumbled across a TikTok account that I adored, @growithjessie. Every year, I try to grow a garden, and every year, it turns into a rotten pile of weeds. Because I wasn’t born with a green thumb, I’ve started to consult the internet for gardening pointers.
When I saw that Jessie was sharing tips on how to grow literally anything in the comfort of your own home, I was hooked.
For example, here’s Jessie showing the world how to grow—wait for it—a tropical cocoa plant in Canada of all places.
Jessie’s undeniably cool TikTok account wasn’t the only thing that inspired me to connect with her.
Jessie is also a successful TikTok consultant and has helped several DTC companies use TikTok to boost brand awareness, get more followers, and capture more sales.
I reached out to Jessie to discuss Run Gum’s secret formula to their recent TikTok growth—specifically the 5-step strategy Jessie used to drive 7K followers in only six hours.
Here’s the interview with Jessie.
Tell me more about your job as a TikTok creator.
Before Covid, I worked as a marketing manager for reed - Smarter With Water. I started a TikTok account for the brand and began posting videos on water leaks.
A couple of the videos got 5,000 views. That was intriguing, so I thought it would be fun to create my own page, @growithjessie, and see what type of content I could make for my account.
I decided to try posting a TikTok video on how to grow strawberries. I had seen a YouTube video showing how you could plant a tomato in soil, cut it up, and you'll get a thriving tomato plant in a few months. This particular YouTube video inspired me to try the same growth method, but with strawberries instead of tomatoes. After some trial and error, it eventually worked, I was able to grow strawberries, and the video I made got 10 million views.
From there, I started sharing TikTok videos of how to grow every fruit and vegetable that you can think of—tropical, local, and from countries all over the world. And, it really resonates with TikTok users.
How did you start building your TikTok strategy?
I found a fun niche, but I also wanted to fill a void in the TikTok marketplace. I wanted to help other profiles become more user-friendly.
When I would venture over to TikTok profiles from the “For You” page to see if they would have more content I would enjoy, I noticed many profiles weren’t user-friendly. There were many videos, but I didn’t really know what I was looking at, so I quickly left their profile.
To avoid this problem for my own account and capture long-term followers, I created a front caption on all my videos that explained the video. That way, when users would go to my page, they would immediately know exactly what they were watching.
After my strawberry video got 10 million views, I got about 20,000 followers. From there, I knew that I was onto something and that I had just created a TikTok method and a strategy.
From there, I started working as a consultant with more notable brands like Run Gum.
What was Run Gum’s TikTok presence like before its team worked with you? What were some of Run Gum’s challenges?
The main challenge for RunGum was that they would post inconsistently on TikTok. But, interestingly enough, those inconsistent videos would go very viral. When I started, Run Gum had about 15 videos and 19,000 followers.
We started our relationship with a 60-day partnership. Within the first 30 days, we saw a little growth. However, we were posting original content that was getting about 5K to 50K views per video.
After the initial 60 days, we gained 3K more followers, so we extended our partnership for another 60 days.
To give you more background, Nick Symmonds, the CEO of Run Gum, is also a famous Olympian—a two-time Olympian for distance running in the 800 meters.
Nick has a YouTube channel with over 300K followers with tons of excellent content, and he posts weekly videos. The videos take weeks to film, edit, and finalize, and the team uses high-end drones and cameras with multiple people filming at different angles. They also use a very professional program to edit the videos.
I wanted to get access to Nick’s content so that I could repurpose the content for TikTok. Remember, the main challenge Run Gum had with TikTok was inconsistency. The team wasn’t posting enough, even though they had tons of great YouTube content.
How did you come up with a strategy for Run Gum?
We started with my original 5-step method strategy, which I’ll talk more about in a minute. In the first 30 days, growth was slow, but we were still getting interaction.
From days 30 to 60, I gained access to Nick’s YouTube videos. I took these YouTube videos and repurposed them for TikTok. I wanted to see what would hit on TikTok, especially with Nick Symmonds as the main character.
At first, I would edit the entire 20-minute YouTube video into a one-minute TikTok, which required a ton of work. However, after gaining 3K followers, we partnered again, adjusted the strategy, and turned one YouTube video into 20 shorter TikTok videos. We also started posting consistently.
I wanted to see if this method would continue to work. Nick had so many YouTube videos, which gave us tons of content for TikTok and helped us gain more views and followers. From there, we started to implement TikTok ad strategies, which has also helped us see a direct increase in sales from the platform of TikTok.
For Run Gum, I used my original 5-step method and combined it with the newer and custom method for Run Gum of repurposing YouTube videos as series vidoes.
What are the five steps of your original method?
The 5-step method is excellent for any DTC brand, but it works for B2B brands. Here’s how it works.
Step 1: Find a niche
The first component of the framework is finding a niche. For D2C brands, building your niche around your best product is crucial, and then you have to conduct thorough research. This includes researching the history of the product itself, how it came to be, and the five Ws.
As part of the process, create a Google spreadsheet, and bring together all your research and assets that you could potentially repurpose into niche TikTok material. For example, you could include blog content, YouTube content, magazine content, and ideas for life hacks, tips, tricks, trends, reposts, duets, and stitches.
Adding your research and ideas into one Google sheet helps you generate endless ideas for your niche. You can create a unique video series based on each idea when you have this information organized.
For example, let’s say you go out to dinner. You could bring your product, give it to the server as a gift, and ask the server if it’s okay to videotape their reaction. That could be a great piece of content for a series of videos on TikTok.
Whatever you do, you have to find a niche that works for you and create videos that pertain to that niche and the variable audiences within that niche.
Do your research to curate ideas never seen before in your niche, or you can repurpose cool content in your own way.
Step 2: Have a main character
Second to finding a niche is finding a main character, whether that's the CEO or somebody in your company or hiring an outsourced creator. For Run Gum, it’s two-time Olympian Nick Symmonds.
It doesn’t matter if the character is high-level or low-level as long as they’re creative. Creativity is what matters most. A brand can gain a total follower base by having a consistent and recognizable sound or aesthetic to each video.
For DTC brands, I also recommend choosing a main character that can relate to variable demographics, especially since the audience is large on TikTok and followers can be anywhere between the ages of 10 and 70. You want your main character to be able to speak to your entire audience.
As you build your strategy, add your main character's information to the Google sheet, including tone, language, persona, and everything else you want your main character to represent.
Step 3: Follow a storyline
The third component is using a storyline. Here's another place where your Google sheet research will come into play, including the learning components, the brand DNA, the analysis on the history of the product, and how you’re going to tell your story.
- What's your personal story?
- What's your brand story?
- How comfortable are you sharing your story and being vulnerable about it?
- Are you comfortable with TikTok being a video-based platform, or are you more comfortable with the image-based platform of Instagram?
These are all things you have to think about to know how you're going to portray your brand and tell your story, especially if you're putting it in the hands of a TikTok creator.
I will say if you’re going to hire a creator to do the storytelling for you, let them take the reins. Hire them for a 30 to 60 day period, let them do their thing, and see what happens. Follow up with them to understand their method and what the visuals will look like, but let them take charge. You can always check in and adjust the strategy.
Remember, the storyline is key to your success on TikTok, and you want to partner with a good storyteller. You have to let whomever you hire infuse the information gathered during the research phase—the facts, life hacks, tips and tricks, and how-tos—into the videos using their creativity.
Step 4: Generate a custom hashtag
The fourth aspect is generating a custom hashtag. This is one of the most essential parts of my method as it yields such positive results. Of course, every step in the 5-step process is important, but I love this one for DTC brands starting from zero because creating a hashtag makes it easier for followers to find them.
A custom hashtag also creates more reach for your brand image, especially when you’re posting consistently. For example, if you post ten videos a week and each of those videos gets 100 views, which will likely happen, your custom hashtag now has 1K views.
If you post ten videos a week for 365 days, and your hashtags are on the caption of each of those videos, you would see about 40k views on the hashtags.
Also, for your custom hashtag to be effective, your hashtag has to have next to zero views. In addition, it has to be unique. If your hashtag is unique, it will act as a funnel toward your brand and boost brand awareness.
For example, my personal hashtag is #HowToWithJessie. I started using this hashtag in May last year—right when I created this five-step method, and now this hashtag has over 143 million views.
For Run Gum, I created three custom hashtags, and they all started with zero views. Their brand hashtag is #RunGum. #RunGum has 84.4 million views as of now.
I also like using #QuickTok and have seen positive results for Run Gum with this hashtag. If you can find a hashtag that rhymes with TikTok or something that pertains to your brand with Tok, people like that. We did #QuickTok, and it has 75.2 million views.
Then, we created a hashtag around our main character, #NickSymmonds. He’s the face of the brand, and #NickSymmonds has 72.5 million views.
I use #RunGum on every video, so that hashtag has about ten more million views than the other two, but that’s okay. We only started using these custom hashtags in February. From February to now, we’ve had enormous growth, and we’ve also seen boosts in sales due to our TikTok presence.
Step 5: Understand effects
The fifth component is understanding effects. It’s important to realize that there's a difference between creating content and creating meaningful content and that you need to do both.
When you create your videos, take advantage of voiceovers, captions, templates, music, speed, and timing—all of the things made available in the repertoire of TikTok editing.
You have to consult with someone who understands the effects of these decisions and knows how to guide your team. In regards to this specific question, I always say follow the 70/30 rule.
You should film 70% of your content from your camera roll and 30% from within the TikTok app. Then, see what happens.
Look at your analytics to see which videos are getting more views than others, take that idea, and repurpose your content to extend your reach.
Review your results every 7-14 days, and tweak your strategy accordingly. Success is about constantly seeing what works and tweaking.
It’s also critical to follow TikTok trends and switch up your strategy based on what is trending. Trends are constantly changing, whether it's the music, a dance, or whatever you see on that “For You” page. You need to know what is happening on TikTok so that you can participate.
When I consult with new clients, I never promise a specific amount of followers when we start working together. Instead, what I do is offer a proven strategy and build that strategy for their brand. I help clients promote a positive brand image, create meaningful content, and develop a method they can continue using after our 60-day consultation period.
Bonus step: Consider outsourcing to a creator
I also recommend that you chat with a consultant or a consulting agency. Hire them to teach your marketing team how to use TikTok efficiently and help you develop a strategy and method that’s right for your brand, and that will yield results. Not only do you want a better brand image and followers, but you also want someone that will help you create a long-term strategy that will result in more sales.
Sometimes I recommend that brands hire a creator to run their platform for a number of days, but it’s critical to think about the future. What happens after those 60 days when you're not going to rehire this creator? Who are you going to put in charge of your TikTok account? Is there a face to your brand? Are you going to give access to your TikTok account to all of your employees?
You have to sit down with your team and ask what type of strategy and method to use. You have to consider how open and vulnerable you want to be on the platform. And, you have to determine your budget and your final plan.
Again, you can hire a creator for the first 60 days, but what I recommend is to chat with someone who knows TikTok and have them teach your team how to use it so that you can build upon that strategy for the long haul.
This is where understanding the effects of your decisions comes into play. For example, are you going to film straight from TikTok so you can interact with your followers but not be able to save content to your camera roll? Or, are you going to film from your camera roll and import it into TikTok so that you have a shared content library and so you can repurpose your content?
What are some of the results you have seen from using this 5-step method with Run Gum?
I have continued working with Run Gum, which has been great. After the first 120 days, the followers started to boom.
Once we started to see significant growth in our follower count, we started adjusting our method to sandwich our brand videos between our series videos. So, we would post series videos, then a brand video, and then more series videos.
We were also doing some influencer outreach to see if we could send a product and get creators—whether they had zero followers or a million—to make TikTok for us. Reaching out to creators has been working very well for Run Gum.
For example, we partnered with a popular creator, Matt Choi, who is a personal trainer and nutritionist. Matt has nearly 140K followers. We sent Matt some Run Gum, became friends with him, and he created an awesome post for us.
We pushed out Matt’s video with TikTok ads, and the video already has over 580K views. This is one example that shows how much reach there is within TikTok when you create meaningful content.
It also shows the value of making friends with popular creators. You can ask them to post for free, especially when you have a great product. We’ve found that creators will want to post about your product if they have a good customer experience. Then, once you have a video testimonial, you can use TikTok ads to generate views, get more followers, and make more sales. The best part? Advertising on TikTok is much cheaper than Facebook.
As we move forward, we are interested in seeing what more we can accomplish using my original method and tweaking it to support changing trends and set our brand apart from competitors in the niche.
What content plans with Run Gum do you have moving forward?
I also recently went out to Oregon to participate in the filming of “Run Games,” which is Run Gum Summer Games.
We filmed this series of events, and it was awesome. Next, we will test the videos over the next 14 days and use these videos as our series videos. There are about 15 videos with opening and closing ceremonies. It will be a great test to see how it performs on TikTok and what the followers will like.
We will take those analytics in the market research we gain from the new series to tweak the method for the next 30 days.
As I mentioned previously, the method we have used has always been tweaked and changed. As such, we can stay current and can appeal to a variable audience in a unique, creative, fun, appealing, and inspiring way—especially in the running athletic sports niche.
In my eyes, this is only the beginning for Run Gum. I'm excited to see what happens in terms of growth for their DTC brand. It's only been four or five months. We'll see what happens in six, seven months, and we'll go from there. But, again, consistency is key.
What are some takeaways for DTC brands that want similar results?
1. Hire a creator
Everybody wants to go viral, but it's not an easy task. The main thing is not to focus on going viral. It's to focus on your product, your passion, your team, and that element of consistency and perseverance, and creativity. Hire a creator, whether low or high-level, and hand them the reins.
Don't be overbearing, and don't edit each video to its fullest extent. I say let the creator take the reins. Hire them for a short time with the possibility of an extension, and you'll see what they can do with your product. Let them be vulnerable with it. Hire a bunch of people to do it if you can.
2. Remember TikTok is a video-based platform
Understand that TikTok is not an image-based platform. It's video-based, so it's a moving platform that's less coveted. It's more vulnerable.
You can use that to your advantage and post consistently. I suggest three posts a day for 365 days while tweaking and changing that method every 14 to 30 days.
Do whatever you need to do to facilitate that consistency and growth, and focus on the growth potential for whatever method and strategy are right for your brand.
3. Realize it will take longer to grow if you start from zero
It's tough to start from zero. I've done case studies on brands that had a following and brands that had zero followers. When I first started this agency, I wanted to see if the method made a difference when working with a brand at zero and one that has 10K followers and is verified. There is a difference.
My 5-step method truly does have more potential if your brand is already notably verified and has over 10K followers. However, even if you don’t have followers, if you implement this method, tweak it as you go, post consistently, and push out as much meaningful content as you can, I guarantee you will see growth. This is especially true if you invest for 365 days and change that method with your team every 14 to 30 days.
It’s harder with a brand that has zero followers, but it does work. For example, I worked with Homesick Candles. They started at zero on TikTok, and I got 35,000 followers in 60 days using the five-step method that we went over.
That was quite interesting, but I think the difference between the pace and growth for this one was that their niche was specific—candles. I was able to find cool tips and tricks within the niche of candles that resonated with people. And that is rare. It takes creativity, but it's not impossible. It takes research, and research is what can facilitate creativity. Then, you have to film the product in really cool ways and try to make cool transitions.
If you’re starting from zero, understand that it might take more than 60 days to facilitate this growth and build the image that you're looking for, especially if what you're looking for is to go viral in a short amount of time.
4. Make passion and creativity your goal, not going viral
I'll mention it again. I don't think “going viral” should be your TikTok goal. Yes, it's possible because of the “For You” page algorithm. It’s more important to focus on what you have at hand and your passion. If you're passionate about something, creativity will shine. People relate to creativity in any shape or form.
Going viral is random. That's why I say to post three times a day, and if something does or doesn't happen to go viral, it's okay. Make it a part of your strategy and your method. You repurpose it in creative ways, and you'll be surprised to see what happens. Then, re-evaluate after 60 days.
I also suggest getting your team to learn how to use TikTok, giving them access, and posting awesome one-off videos while putting one main person in charge of the more meaningful content.
5. Don’t forget about your custom hashtag
Your custom hashtag can generate a great brand image. Use it in your caption and on all social platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
You can use that hashtag to build a niche and make those hashtags your own. Always make sure they don’t have many views to begin with, and play around with Tiktok Ads to see where it can get you.
Why is it important for DTC brands to engage on TikTok?
Direct-to-consumer brands need to have a social strategy, and TikTok is now a large part of what social media is today.
The beauty of TikTok is that it has created and coined the “For You” page, which is essentially an algorithm that can push any video out to anybody in the world. That “For You” page and the fact that TikTok is a video-only based platform is incredible to me. It creates this tunnel of vulnerability that nobody in the world has ever been in before.
TikTok is also so new, and it has so much potential, which is why TikTok is the place to be. You can also take advantage of the content you post on TikTok and repurpose it for Instagram on your Reels page.
Instagram is an older platform, and it’s a bit harder to grow on Instagram now. But, TikTok is still a child. TikTok still has its teen, adult, and grandparent years to develop. That's why now is the time to be on TikTok.
Above all, remember this...
Even if you don’t grow rapidly, you're still building something.
If you're posting daily, engaging with other creators, being as creative as possible, and tweaking your method as you go, you'll see growth—whether that's in followers or views or sales via ads.
The important thing is building a brand image that audiences can relate to, be inspired by, and want to follow because they gain something from your profile every time they see it.