How to Go Viral on TikTok

Table of Contents

Is it your dream (or your job) to go viral on Tiktok?

You’re about to learn how to create content that absolutely explodes on TikTok. Sort of. Follow along with the real-life saga of Tiktok viral success as told by Alex McKenzie (aka @piesupplies), lowly software engineer by day, TikTok superstar by um, other times.

“It all started on a Sunday evening in July. I’m sitting back with a cool vintage Tab cola, enjoying the soothing hum of the 3D printer, and then at about midnight, the phone started blowing up.

I went from 70 followers to 3,500 overnight, and the video I had just shared already had 800K views, 106 shares, and over 700 comments.”

Alex McKenzie

Want those kinds of numbers for yourself? Stay tuned as Alex holds absolutely NOTHING back (no matter how much you might beg him to) in sharing his secrets to going viral on Tiktok.

Meanwhile, check out the video in question which is, at this writing, up to over 1 million views. If the reasons for its virality are clear to you, great. Otherwise, read on…

How to Go Viral on TikTok

The tldr;

“Nothing gets engagement on the internet quite like tee-ing strangers up to tell you that you’re wrong.”

– Cameron Mara, Tailwind Software Engineer

So, that would be number one:

#1 Secret to Going Viral on TikTok: Do Something Controversial

Not necessarily shocking (though that helps) or seriously divisive (we have enough of that, thank you), instead try something that people can get worked up about with very low stakes.

In this case, Alex was 3D printing a dice tower (yes, I had to look it up, too) and wanted to fill it (no, they’re not printed solid) with something OTHER than the expected sand. Still with me?

In his words, “I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere.” Can’t argue with that, right?


We’ll get to that in a minute.

So, off he goes to the Dollar Store to pick up nails and glue to weight his tower just the way he wants it.

Much outrage ensued.

Screenshot of TikTok image telling Alex to get sand for his print. "get sand" "from like a beach"
TikTok comments suggesting that Alex "Try sand" and reminding him that "you can find sand outside u know [winky smirk]"

Not understanding the lack of sand available in MANHATTAN, others had this to contribute:

TikTok user comments, "Must be nice having the money to buy sand rather than going outside and getting the free stuff"

Good thing he was about to become a superstar. This sand habit could break a man.

#2 Do Something Kind of Interesting

According to Alex, “3D printing is kind of a big thing.” I mean, who am I to argue?

It’s entirely possible all the ACTUALLY interesting things have been done to death on TikTok. Set the bar at “kind of” and watch your numbers soar!

There might actually be something to this. While fancy dance moves and talking dogs are show stoppers on the platform, there’s an insatiable appetite for a bit of invited voyeurism on social media.

#3 Find Your Niche and Roll with It

Alex is no mere one-hit TikTok wonder. No, he saw what the world needed – more 3D printing done WRONG – and decided to give them what they wanted.

Not that he did any research, mind you. I asked him if he thought this took off because of latent demand for inept and enraging 3D printing.

“Yeah, I did. Even though ultimately the response I got was hate and I had no research to back up my assumption.” Perfect.

He says,”People assumed I put the wrong thing in the dice tower, so I thought I would show them the “wrongest” thing you could put in a 3D print. And that would be food. Thus the series was born.

I recorded it as a cooking show and topped it off with nails. I figured that would get some sort of response.”

He figured right. His next project, a 3D octopus named Carol, was dubbed a “filthtopus” because of the disgusting infill (“infilth”) he used.

BONUS: The exact recipe Alex used to make the filthtopus

I asked him about the recipe for this InfilthTM. As all good recipe bloggers know, the answer must begin at the beginning of the beginning, or earlier if possible:

“I 3D print today because my father did, his father did, and his father’s father did. So, it’s been in the family for a while. We’re not entirely sure where it started, but we think it was from the Scottish side of the family because of the green Jello. Nails were added during the Great Depression.

It’s a family tradition I cherish because it really ties me back to my roots.”

Hold on a sec while I wipe away a tear.

When asked how his father feels about his TikTok fame, Alex muses,

“My father is a simple man who lives off the land. I told him I got a lot of views on TikTok and he asked where the theater was.”

-Alex McKenzie


So without further ado,

Here’s what you’ll need to make InfilthTM :

  • ¼ c sugar (no artificial sweeteners, please)
Photo of Alex's kitchen set up for recording of the Filthtopus recipe. White tile backsplash, various ingredients strewn about.
Obligatory kitchen photo
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Pinch of chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp parsley (it really rounds out the taste)
  • Salt to taste (but do not taste this)
  • 2 dollops Mayonnaise (the good stuff)
  • Mustard for color
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 Tbsp Creamy peanut butter for layer adhesion
  • 3 swirls of honey
  • Sunflower seeds for texture
  • White cheese with a low melting point (we recommend mozzarella)
  • Cooked rice
  • Salt to taste.
  • Packet of green Jello
  • Trader Joe’s Chili onion crunch (optional)
  • Mustard
  • Snacks
  • Zucchini chicken baby food
  • Nails
  • Mix until smooth, adding salt to taste. It’s difficult with the nails in it. Be patient.

    Do not be alarmed when the cheese disappears. It’s still there and will add a delectable ripeness to your completed filthtopus (or 3D project of your choice).

    Pour into a plastic bag or piping bag and dispense into the chambers (is that what they’re called?) of your print.

    #4 Have Thick Skin

    “Some people noticed that I am wearing nail polish,” says Alex. “I do all my nails grey except my ring finger, the power finger – that’s a dark blue.” To recreate the look, he suggests OPI Mi Casa Es Blue Casa and Less is Norse.

    People had questions.

    TikTok comment: "no hate, but why the nail polish. is it to hide dirty nails. or just because you like it. again no hate. I only wondering that's all"

    I had to know. “Is it true that you are wearing nail polish because your nails are dirty?”

    “It is. I get dirt under my nails, mostly sand. It’s just easier to paint them and hide my shame – and then crack open a bottle of fresh InfilthTM for filling my prints.”

    People also had opinions.

    TikTok comment: "Bro is that black nail polish [anguished face] midnight blue is where you be at"

    “It hurts to have your choices called out in public like that, but that’s the price of fame, I guess.”

    Seriously though, people can be mean, and amassing a large number of views and comments is a sure-fire way to bring out the trolls. Though you might consider sticking to more nerdy topics, as the comments on Alex’s post were pretty tame and the vast majority were downright positive.

    #5 Don’t Panic

    Tell me you can’t relate. You post a charming video of the creation of an iridescent filthtopus set to a stirring rendition of “Whistle While You Work,” and next thing you know – BLAMMO! You’re suspended.

    Screenshot of Alex's TikTok suspension notice "Your account was permanently banned due to multiple violations of our Community Guidelines. You can download your data."

    Your fortune is gone. Your fans are in mourning. Your filthtopus has to pick up another side hustle.

    Why was he suspended? Was it the fact that Alex made up the words to the background song when he couldn’t remember them? The fact that he used actual SAND in the printing? His nightingale voice?

    We’ll never know for sure. All we care about is that he’s back – with no explanation. The weird 3D printing will continue.

    Will he make any changes to his methods after this scare?

    “I think the confusion is part of the intrigue maybe? My next TikTok videos are actually going to be coherent, so hopefully that doesn’t tank my engagement.”

    Confused comments on TikTok: "I watched the last video, and it still does not make sense." "W-what's happening???!?? I have watched multiple videos and still don't understand"

    Seems like a bold move.

    #6 Use the Right Hashtags

    Alex spent a grueling 30 seconds thinking about which hashtags might help his content reach the largest audience of the right people.

    He landed on #craftingeek, #dnd, #diy, #3dprinting, #satisfyingvideo, #3dprinter.

    When in doubt, you can use high-performing hashtags like:

    • #fyp
    • #foryoupage
    • #foryou
    • #viral
    • #followme
    • #original sound (especially if you’re going to sing)

    BONUS: Monetize Your TikTok Account

    I asked Alex what was next for him and his patented InfilthTM formula.

    “Mass production. People love it (and when I say they love it, I mean they love to hate it).

    People want it. I’m working with a bottling company to get it on the shelves. You can make it at home but that would be copyright infringement. Look for it in your local Kroeger.

    We are buying sriracha and emptying the bottles to fill, so they’ll be easy to recognize.

    You don’t need a lot to make your own filthtopus. Just get a couple dozen and maybe a dozen more to keep in the garage. The cheese will only reach maximum potency after a couple of 80-degree days anyway.

    Oh, and because the original is very high in sodium, we will also offer an unsalted version.”

    Find Sponsors

    Could Alex be the next Ocean Spray guy? “I’m in talks with big mayo, Heinz, various 3D printer manufacturers. None of them want to sponsor me.” He’s currently waiting by the rotary phone for a call back from the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association.

    Get Yourself Into the TikTok Creator Fund

    TikTok has promised something like $230m over the course of the next three years to support the creators that make great content on the platform.

    So, it’s no surprise that Alex got picked up right away.

    “It took a couple of days for approval and. You have to have 10K followers, at least 100K views, and be over 18. You also have to verify your identity and send in a W-9 (in the US anyway). After a couple of days, I was IN!”

    I asked Alex how many millions he had personally collected so far. When he sent a screenshot, I was shocked. It’s inspiring.

    Screenshot of Alex's Creator Fund Dashboard with $0.00 balance

    “I know,” says Alex – “Look at all those zeroes.”

    As of this writing, he’s up to $22. He’s in the market for a TikTok house if you know of any (Googles ‘TikTok house”).

    Automate Your Marketing with Tailwind

    IF you needed to market InfilthTM which, now that you’ve gone viral, you really you don’t, would you use Tailwind?

    “I’ll be spending a lot of time making product. I don’t have a lot of time to make content. It’s going to be hard to keep up. I think Tailwind will be really critical for getting InfilthTM to the world.

    What more could we ask for, really?

    Conclusion: How to Go Viral on TikTok

    The six steps to going viral on TikTok are:

    1. Do something controversial
    2. Do something kind of interesting
    3. Find your niche and, when you do, roll with it
    4. Have thick skin (technically this doesn’t help you GO viral, but it helps you carry on when your life’s choices are questioned publicly)
    5. Don’t panic when things go wrong, just keep going
    6. Use the right hashtags

    And did you catch the two bonus points? Get Alex’s patented InfilthTM recipe and learn how to monetize your newfound TikTok virality!

    Hopefully it’s clear that there really is no actual secret to going viral on TikTok or any other platform. BUT, if you stay true to yourself, have a little fun, and keep at it, you might just be the next Alex McKenzie.

    Oh, and please follow him on TikTok and tell him if you tried his recipe. 🙂

    [sc name=”pin-me-tailwind-create-cta”]

    Going viral may seem random when it comes to Tiktok...and that's because it is. Check out this true story from our engineer on his rocket-like launch to Tiktok fame.

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