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How a top TikTok creator went viral and turned it into a full-time business

Change Makers Featured Social & Digital

How a top TikTok creator went viral and turned it into a full-time business

TikTok's Sam Despo

Marketing Mag Contributor: Sam DespoIn the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many professionals found themselves at a crossroads – re-evaluating their careers and life choices. Sam Despo traded in his corporate desk job for the unpredictable world of social media and now stands as one of Australia’s most prominent TikTok creators with more than 700,000 followers. Marketing Mag sat down with Despo to find out how he went viral overnight and how marketers can do the same.

Despo’s first video ‘5 tools businesses can use’ went viral overnight. The TikToker touted Linktree – a platform that simplifies sharing and directing web traffic to a variety of links. The video garnered half a million views and earned the creator more than 7000 followers almost instantly. Within 18 months, he amassed an impressive 650,000 followers, placing him in the top 0.1 percent of creators in the country.

Since jumping head first into full-time content creation, Despo has launched two successful businesses, achieved a six-figure revenue within a year, and leveraged Linktree to monetise his online presence – generating more than $30,000 in coaching revenue.

Despo is also a key figure in TikTok’s ‘Learn On TikTok’ program – influencing the platform’s educational content. Beyond TikTok, Despo has also now formed partnerships with industry giants such as Linktree, Sony, Adobe and Nike. 

Marketing Mag: What advice do you have for marketers looking to transition from traditional roles to digital content creation or entrepreneurship?

Depso: Learn to be ‘comfortable being uncomfortable’. The biggest barrier to most people creating content is the thought of ‘what will my friends and family think’. If only more people knew how one video can completely change your life, just like my first viral TikTok did for me. 

I went from zero followers and zero clients to 10k followers and 10 clients in one month from posting video content. My biggest breakthrough was creating content I was genuinely passionate about that resonated with a broader marketing audience. I started creating this in my free time and very quickly, it became a full-time job. Be consistent and always post value!

MM: What content strategies have you found most effective in engaging and growing your audience, and how can marketers apply these strategies to their own brands?

You need to think of TikTok as a marketing funnel. Your first step is to generate awareness of your channel and think of ideas that will reach your broader audience and niche. Then build authority through nurturing content. This is where you want to build a relationship with your audience, almost as if they know you. Only then will you earn the right to sell.

Where brands/creators go wrong, is when they try to sell, sell, sell, and let’s be honest, no one likes watching an ad. Your content should always be focused on giving through value-orientated messaging. For me, it’s all about those marketing tips, tricks and tech, baby!

MM: How can marketers leverage Linktree or similar tools to drive traffic, conversions and revenue for their brands?

There are now so many ways to make money using Linktree, here is how I have:

  • Sell templates for your niche – I sold marketing calendars.
  • 1:1 coaching – I did one hour of paid ads coaching for brands and marketers.
  • Affiliate marketing – I have my own links for my favourite tools when people sign up from the link in my bio. I earn a monthly commission.
  • Capture email leads – I capture marketing email leads who then become clients in my paid ads agency Pulp Digital. Soon I will be creating a marketing community to help even more people.

MM: What advice do you have for marketers seeking to collaborate with influencers effectively and authentically to amplify their brand’s reach and impact?

Let the influencer have creative freedom to create a video that feels native to them and their audience. When brands have strict guidelines, it always impacts the overall performance and they will get fewer views.

My best-performing partnerships are when I’ve been given a goal from the brand, and I have full control of my hook, script and video length to get maximum views or clicks. I once had a partner video get four million views and generate almost $100,000 in revenue for the brand.

MM: What lessons can marketers learn from your experience in terms of embracing change, experimenting with new platforms and staying ahead of the curve?

I always suggest at the very minimum, you need to diversify across as many platforms as possible. In my case, I post across TikTok, Reels, YouTube Shorts and LinkedIn and link everything in my Linktree. You never know what’s going to happen, TikTok could get banned next year, algorithms change all the time, new features get released and so on.

If you want to stay ahead of the curve, you always need to be experimenting and giving your audience a sense of ‘uniqueness’. I’m always striving to find a new content series, talk about new trending topics and be that person you come to for all the ‘latest and greatest in marketing’. 

MM: How can marketers build and monetise their personal brands effectively, and what role does authenticity play in establishing trust and credibility with their audience?

To build a personal brand, I suggest focusing on providing value. This gives your audience a reason to watch your content time and time again. Always post quality content – don’t post for the sake of posting. This is how you build a community, and community opens up so many doors. My biggest advice is to create content you’re genuinely passionate about, create conversations and be known as ‘that person’ inside your niche.

TikTok's Sam Despo

MM: How can marketers leverage TikTok and other social media platforms to deliver valuable educational content and connect with their audiences in meaningful ways?

The best part about TikTok (and other platforms like Linktree) is they allow for discoverability. It’s also easier than ever to create content! What I love about TikTok is the platform thrives off more raw and authentic content, so it’s super easy and quick to post literally anything, anywhere. By talking to camera or doing voiceovers, you start to humanise your content and it allows you to build genuine connections with your audience. 

MM: What’s your opinion on the danger of becoming too reliant on one platform, for example with the uncertainty of TikTok over in the United States?

You need to diversify across as many platforms as possible (as long as they are relevant to you). Yes, I know this can be time-consuming but it’s the only way to guarantee longevity on social media. One of the great things about Linktree is that it’s platform agnostic. I own my Linktree – it’s mine and it’s free from the algorithms of large platforms.

If TikTok does get banned, then I can see a HUGE shift back to Instagram and Reels will become even more popular. So right now, I am always looking ahead and focusing on a multi-channel strategy, which means reposting and creating bespoke content for each channel and linking everything in my Linktree. 

MM: Looking ahead, what emerging trends do you see shaping the future of digital marketing and content creation, and how can marketers position themselves to capitalise on these opportunities?

Right now, building your personal brand is a must. Gone are the days of waiting for someone to notice you or your work – today you are in control of your own narrative and it’s easier than ever to create content to be discovered.

I was fortunate enough to begin my journey almost three years ago and now more than ever, I am doubling down on content to discover new opportunities that would never have presented themselves otherwise.

Sam Despo is one of Australia’s top TikTok creators with more than 700,000 followers. He is also the founder and director of Pulp Digital – a specialist agency focused on using digital marketing strategies, content production and paid ads to help scale e-commerce businesses.

Imagery attributed to Sam Despo.

Also, read about making your marketing channels work for you with SevenRoom’s managing director.


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Billy Klein

Billy Klein is a content producer at Niche Media.

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