When Kendra Womack uploaded a short video of her aunt’s Labrador retriever to TikTok last year, she didn’t expect what happened next.
The social-media app’s algorithm picked up the clip of the 26-year-old student and part-time barista tossing a yellow squeeze toy to Daisy, who appeared to devour it in a single gulp, and promoted it to users around the world. Overnight, the 12-second clip went viral, getting hundreds of thousands of views. It has since been seen by more than 1.4 million people.
“I was in shock and disbelief,” Ms. Womack said. “I couldn’t believe how easy it was.”
Ms. Womack and other enterprising smartphone users around the world have turned to TikTok as the go-to platform for delivering an instant shot at internet fame. At a time when a growing number of social-media platforms are basing their business models on celebrity creators and other popular influencers, TikTok is emphasizing the idea of turning nobodies into viral sensations as it tries to regain momentum following a turbulent 2020.
Some TikTok users, though, get frustrated when the viral fame of one video is hard to replicate with subsequent clips. And TikTok’s short-form video format, which was novel when it was launched less than five years ago, now faces competition from a host of rivals.