Clarksville, TN – Finding your niche in social media can be a challenging task for anyone, let alone a person with a 1.4 million-follower base. For Austin Peay State University (APSU) alumna Cassidy Graves, this is the case on the increasingly popular platform, TikTok.
After downloading the TikTok app around November 2019, Graves reluctantly posted a video, thinking that not many viewers would see it. She had no followers at the time.
Instead, it went viral, almost overnight.
After some push from her family and friends, she decided to post another video and let the internet do what it does best. But not without some hesitancy.
“Originally, I wanted to delete my first video,” Graves said. “I was so paranoid from the response that I was getting, thousands of comments, and the rush of people coming in and looking at my stuff. I really hated it at the beginning because I didn’t know how to process that much attention.
“I’ve learned over time to just not read comments, keep posting, and not really care because there have been really great opportunities that have come from this, but I think when that first happened, I was just really freaked out because of having that much attention,” she said. “And the people online, they have no filter. They don’t understand that there’s a person on the other end.”
‘Just me poking fun at myself’
Her popularity was birthed from her unique talent of combining the art of yodeling with a comic spin. After recognizing that more people enjoyed her talent than those who disliked it, Graves continued to post more videos and realized a greater sense of confidence within her newfound craft.
“My videos are so silly,” Graves said. “Almost all of them are just me poking fun at myself. I like to have a good time on TikTok.”
This wasn’t her first attempt at creating content on social media, though. She had a YouTube channel in previous years, with a much smaller follower-base in which she shared arts and crafts and cooking videos with her boyfriend.
But because her content wasn’t considered viral on her channel, she had no expectations of her yodel videos to generate the popularity that they did. Her follower base skyrocketed, despite her novice skill level within the platform initially. But Graves was no novice to the skillset behind operating a social media account.
Graves attended Austin Peay State University (’17) and was a student employee for the APSU Department of Public Relations & Marketing, where she became proficient in operating the school’s social media accounts. She helped create photo and video content and scheduled the generation of the content for the pages.
“I think it gave me a greater understanding of what people like on different platforms,” she said. “APSU was kind of the start of it, with me working in social media. It gave me a greater understanding of what’s going to work on TikTok, what’s going to work on Instagram, what’s going to work on YouTube. And I think what’s really great about TikTok and what’s different than other platforms is that the algorithm is not working against people.”
‘Bizarre side hustle’ during a Pandemic
For close to three years, she worked to hone her skills and after her graduation, she landed a prestigious position at Disney World in Florida, where she worked in recruitment marketing. After spending two years at one of her dream jobs, she returned back to her home in Tennessee. Shortly after, she was hired at Regal Entertainment Group.
But after four short months, Graves was furloughed until further notice due to the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic.
During the first few weeks of unsettling times, Graves went back to what she knew — social media.
“When I first got my job at Regal, I had around 160 thousand followers and it grew to around 300,000 by the time quarantine began,” she said.
After just a brief period of creating video content for the app, she jumped to 1 million followers and has steadily increased in popularity over the past several months.
“I’ve been able to make the most of my time while being furloughed, that’s for sure. I’ve been able to find this kind of bizarre side hustle of yodeling on the internet. It’s just very strange to say.”
‘You have to deal with the bad to get to the good’
But that strange side gig brought about new opportunities that seemed unimaginable prior to the engagement she found within this relatively new platform.
“There have been a lot of really great upsides to being on TikTok,” Graves said. “First of all, I would not have a career in music if I had never posted that video. I wouldn’t have even had a shot at a career in music. But you have to deal with the bad in order to get to the good. And there’s been so much good to come from it.
“I think as you get older, you kind of realize that this [music] is an unrealistic career goal, there’s no way I’m going to be able to make a career out of music,” she added. “It was more of a hobby as I got older, and I never thought I would pursue that really because social media has kind of always been ‘my thing’ professionally.”
And now Graves is producing her first single. Aside from that, she is also partnering with brands and companies because of her exposure on social media.
Although she is furloughed from her full-time job, to which she plans on returning, she now dedicates substantial time to creating content with the hopes of sharing her vocal skills and invoking laughter in her audience. Even when she does return to her previous employer, she fully intends on continuing to generate videos for her followers.
“It’s definitely something that I want to learn how to balance,” Graves said. “I think at this point where I have 1.4 million followers, I’m just so engaged in that world. I can’t just stop.”
To learn more
To see Cassidy Graves’ TikTok page, click here.