TikTok hit app stores for the first time in 2016 and over the last few years, it’s steadily grown in popularity among young users. Then, the app hit a major growth spurt at the start of 2020, when millions flocked to TikTok while social distancing. Williwhey was one of many creators carried to social media stardom by this almost overnight influx of users. “I created my account in March of this year,” Williwhey says. “My first upload was a video from a vacation in Los Angeles with a family fighting in the background.”
Once Williwhey got his initial taste of online notoriety, he was hooked. Not content to let happenstance play out as it had previously, Williwhey took a truly scientific approach to the platform. Each time he created a post it was a test to see what people would respond to. Ideas that flopped were discarded never to be seen again. But each time a post did well, he took the elements that worked and applied them moving forward, figuring out his style as time went on.
“My page has changed a lot in terms of content in the short time I’ve been on the app,” Williwhey says. “I started filming videos on my cell phone, but I was one of the first to switch to a professional camera.” The scientific tweaking of his style, along with the production quality of his videos, is certainly working out for Williwhey—he has over 3.6 million followers and it’s a rarity when one of his posts receives less than one million views.
After being fed a steady diet of increasingly professional-looking videos from TikTok stars like Williwhey, fans are starting to expect studio-level quality from their favorites. “In the past, [TikTok] used to be laughed at and it was embarrassing to upload content to it,” he says. “Today, I’m proud of it and I have an incentive to shoot more high quality and elaborate videos.”
Despite his dedication and success, one of Williwhey’s biggest struggles as a creator has been opening up to his loyal following. “The bond I have to my community isn’t as strong as others yet,” Williwhey says. “I’m not someone who gives away too much of myself, but I think that comes with time.”
One way Williwhey has connected with the community, and part of the reason he gained notoriety in the first place, comes from his impressive tattoo collection. He is pretty covered when compared to other creators on the app. His most eye-catching tattoo is a large black-and-grey skull that represents more than just a simple piece of art to him. “The skull on my back means the most to me because it’s helped me to process the death of my father,” he says. “It’s my most polarizing tattoo and it also gets the most attention on TikTok. I paid by far the most money for it and suffered the longest compared to any other tattoo.”
There’s another tattoo of his that stands out both to the TikToker and to his fans. “This tattoo reminds me to not let my head hang,” he says of the laurel wreath on his throat. “And it drives me to be successful with my videos.”
Though Williwhey is still a comparably new creator on TikTok, the app turned his life upside down in a short span of time. However, he is along for the ride and, luckily, he has people in his corner. “My family and friends support me by helping me shoot my videos,” Williwhey shares. “They’re eager to see where this journey takes me.”
While none of the creators who’ve made a name for themselves on TikTok could have predicted where the app has taken them, it’s undeniable that the sky’s the limit for TikTok’s finest. Before March, Williwhey was just a normal 20-something with a love for tattoos, but now, he has a platform that can be used as a springboard for God knows what. “I’m still a long way from where I want to go,” Williwhey says. “But that’s why I think I’ll continue to have success. My creativity is far from over.”