Stephen: Hey guys, welcome to another episode of the Digital Masters Podcast. Today we have on CFO Adam [Knihtila]. We’re going to be talking about how to grow your business on TikTok of all places. Yes, an accountant, a virtual CFO, getting new business on TikTok. Let’s get into it. CFO Adam, thanks for being on the show.
Really, really excited to have a chat with you today.
Adam: Yeah. Thanks for having me on, Stephen.
Stephen: Yeah, for sure. So you are the first, besides one of my clients, who I initially ran into on TikTok. Then you jumped over onto LinkedIn.
So when I saw you there I was, ‘Hey, I got to have you on here because you understand marketing and you’re going for it.’ And most accounting professionals that I know don’t. So I’m looking forward to talking with you today.
Adam: Yeah. It should be a good discussion.
Stephen: So let me ask you this. Most people think TikTok is a dancing app for kids, which is how it started. But there was something that you saw or that you knew…what was the insight that made you say, ‘Hey, I’ve got to get on here.’
Adam: I first downloaded the app probably in the summer of 2020. Probably about 12 months ago. At first, it was just exploration. It was figuring out, is it just an app for kids dancing and singing or is there other stuff going on here? I’m pretty active across social media on LinkedIn and Instagram and Twitter.
It was, ‘Okay, this is a new one. Let me go on here, figure out what it is, how it works.’ So literally for six months, I was just consuming, trying to figure out what’s in here. How do you follow people? How do you connect to people? What can you do within the app? Didn’t post any videos.
I posted some pictures I took of things just to see, what is this? What actually happens when you do this, throughout that process, from the small business owners’ section of TikTok. And it was, ‘Oh, there’s a lot of really good business owners on here.’
In January of this year, I had just started following Rachel Peterson. She goes by The Mrs. Peterson on TikTok and she had a video that I felt was talking to me. It was, ‘You need to start creating on here today.’ So I was, ‘All right, I guess this is the universe telling me that I need to start creating videos on here.’
And one of the things she said is when you create that first video tag me in it and I’ll comment back on it.
Stephen: That’s cool.
Adam: So what am I going to do? So I created a video. It was basically me saying, ‘Hey, I didn’t know how at that point, how to do it, or “duet,” or “stitch” or anything like that.’
So I just created a video. ‘The Mrs. Peterson told me to start creating content. So here I am, hello world.’ And that was the beginning of the process. So that was eight months ago at this point, that was the beginning of January. I started posting a video every single day.
And I don’t do any of the dances. Every once in a while, I’ll sing, because that’s kind of one of my artistic talents. But I do what I call infotainment. I provide information about taxes and small business and little snippets about, ‘Hey, this part of the tax code, did you know this about that part of the tax code?’
And about two weeks in, I had what I consider my first viral video. It’s gotten about 50,000 views and it was about the standard mileage rate. And to me, this is the most boring, the most mundane topic in accounting and taxes, telling people that the standard mileage rate for 2021 is 56 cents a mile.
But this was one piece that was top of mind for people in the middle of January. They were heading into getting their tax forms and wanting to file their taxes. And there are a lot of small business owners on there that need to know how much they can deduct for their mileage.
So it had hundreds of comments, hundreds of shares, all sorts of likes and it shot me overnight from no followers to I think 2000 followers, basically within the week after that video.
Stephen: Wow. Yeah. That’s amazing. What I think is interesting about TikTok is that you can have no followers, but you can have one of those viral videos go off. People usually think, ‘Hey, I can only get a lot of reach on social media if I already have a ton of followers.’ That isn’t so.
The other interesting thing you said is that when you have a platform like this, a lot of us don’t know what kind of content people want. We think we do, but we don’t. It’s often the most basic and boring stuff to us that is the most interesting to other people. And you just displayed an example where something you thought was boring was actually what people wanted to hear.
And you would never have known that unless you had taken a stab, experimented, and posted different types of content and figured it out. Too often, people want to know all the answers about marketing upfront. Life doesn’t work that way. There’s nothing good in life where you know exactly what it is in advance.
So I love your style, man. I love that you’re willing to go out there and give it a try.
Adam: Yeah. And that’s a big piece of it. I don’t have any expectations of any video anymore, for that exact reason. With some videos, I was, ‘Oh, this is going to crush it. People are going to love it. They’re going to be flocking to me. And I’m going to be adding followers…and then I’ll get only 200 views.’ [laughter]
Stephen: Yeah. The same thing happens to me too. Every time you think it’s going to be the best video, it’s not.
So I went to your channel too, and I was looking around at what you were doing.
You really invest. You’ve really learned how the platform works as well. So you’re doing stitches, there are people you’re following, and you’re interacting with people. Do you think that’s an important piece to TikTok, from your point of view?
Adam: It’s a huge part. Especially I think stitching is huge because in the first portion of the video they see that influencer, that big-name creator on the platform who they already know. So they watch that for five seconds thinking that it’s one of their videos. And then all of a sudden they get that switch. And then now it’s this other person they’re, ‘Oh,’ and then, they’ll stick around at least for a little bit to hear what you have to say about that video or whatever.
And it’s, ‘Oh, maybe I need to follow this person too because that was really insightful. That was interesting. That was a thoughtful thing they had to say. So if they’re talking about it on this video, they must be talking about this in their own content as well.’
So I think that’s a big place for people, especially if they’re just starting, to follow some of those bigger creators, those people that have a hundred thousand or more followers. And stitch some of their videos, duet some of their videos, and then you’re going to get in front of some of their audience as well, especially if they respond to it because then it tells the algorithm that, ‘Hey, this person should be getting more attention.’ It gives you a place to show off your expertise in a different fashion as well.
Stephen: Yeah, totally. And for people that are listening, who may not understand. When we talk about stitching, what that means is that you can take a small portion of somebody else’s video and use that as the beginning of your video. And then you can attach your perspective or thought or whatever it is after that.
So when that video goes out onto the field, people watching that video are going to see someone else first. So if you pick a big influencer, if you pick Elon Musk, for instance, when that video comes across the feed, everyone’s going to know Elon Musk and they’re much more likely to stop and listen to what he’s got to say.
And then right after that, you can very strategically transition right into your message from that.
Stephen: Okay, cool.
I think when you’re creating content, you learn a lot. And I’m going to ask you about that after this.
But first, especially accountants, they love ROI.
Let’s talk about business, man. How has this helped your business specifically?
Adam: I have gotten more business from TikTok this year than I’ve gotten from LinkedIn.
Adam: And on LinkedIn, I think I have 12 or 13,000 followers. I’ve been very active on the platform for two years now. So I’ve got a lot of people who know who I am. I went to virtual networking events during the pandemic and people were, ‘Oh, you’re that CFO guy.’ And that was how they knew me. We’d never met in person. We’d never talked before.
But TikTok again, it’s much more personalized because, one, it’s all video.
So there’s no distance. They’re seeing who they’re interacting with. And because of the content that I’m putting out, it’s very similar content between the two platforms, it’s very informational. I talk about taxes and finances.
But again, I’m one of the few accountants that are actually on the TikTok platform.
There’s maybe, I don’t know, a half dozen other ones that I’ve come across. But one of the big pieces that I do is a lot of stitching or getting ideas from these so-called experts. [Laughter] But they tell you about the ‘best’ pieces of tax laws or job opportunities or business opportunities. I call them, ‘The grass is always greener’ experts.
But they leave out all the other sides of it, for example, ‘This is what really happens,’ or ‘this is how you actually can do these things.’ So that’s a big place where I get my content creation ideas, seeing those and then saying, ‘Here’s the rest of the story.’
Stephen: Yeah. And going deeper.
Adam: It’s going deeper, but there’s also a reality in play. I was talking with someone last week who had sent me a video. Because I tell my followers, ‘If you see a video, feel free to tag me in it if you want to know if this is true or not or things like that.’
And they sent me a video and this person was talking about how they’re living like a king on $10,000 a month and it’s all passive income. They didn’t explain how much they have invested to be able to toss off $10,000 a month in passive income.
It’s not $10,000. It’s not $20,000. It’s probably millions of dollars potentially that they had to invest to make that $10,000 a month passive income. But they’re trying to get views for themselves, which makes sense. They’re a business owner. That’s how they make money.
But for the average person that’s out there that might be working a nine to five that makes 40 or $50,000 a year, for them to build up a business that’s going to get them to $10,000 a month passive, it’s going to take a while and it’s going to take a lot of steps to get there.
And so sometimes it’s those reality checks I like to throw out there and some of them do well and some of them don’t.
Stephen: Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense.
What I’ve noticed, too, is that the more specific you make the thing you’re talking about, the more it allows you to go a little deeper on it.
I think presenting yourself as the expert on a place like TikTok is important because I have noticed if it’s surface level, the kind of stuff that you see a lot of on LinkedIn, surface-level advice doesn’t seem to get as much traction on TikTok.
If I say, ‘Having a marketing strategy is super important,’ — I don’t really say that on LinkedIn, but I’m trying to make a point — which is that if it’s too general, on TikTok it doesn’t do well.
It seems on TikTok, it’s gotta be entertaining. It’s gotta be creative. It’s gotta be tangible advice that somebody can watch and say, ‘You know what? I think I could go home tonight, and if I wanted to, I could actually implement this.’
Adam: Yeah. And that expertise that’s really what I’m trying to show in my videos because I want people to hire me to do their taxes, to be their bookkeeper, to be their accountant, to be their CFO.
And by showing off that expertise and, once they follow me if they go through my feed and all the videos that I’ve created, yeah, there’s some of the fun ones in there just because it’s, TikTok, you’ve got to have fun every once in a while. It can’t be me droning on about tax topics and things like that.
But as they go back, they’re going to see more and more. They’re, ‘Okay, this guy knows what he’s talking about. He’s not making this stuff up.’ It’s pulling those relevant items. Like you said, the 56 cents a mile thing, it was the middle of January, and business owners needed to know that at that point, and boom, that worked really well.
When there was stuff that was coming out about the PPP earlier in the year, about how people were starting to go to jail because they had fraudulently applied for PPP and bought Lamborghinis and stuff like that, I did a video with a green screen of a news article talking about that topic.
So there were pieces like that, okay, this is top of mind right now. It’s something that a lot of small business owners were concerned about. ‘Is the government going to come after me because I got a PPP last year or this year? And, should I…
‘I’m already afraid that they’re going to come and knock on my door and haul me off in handcuffs because I didn’t do my taxes right. Now I applied for this new government program that had never been around before and people are getting hauled off to jail.’
So I was coming in with that reassuring: ‘Don’t do this, if it doesn’t feel right, it’s not right.’ And being the voice of reason that, ‘if you did everything you were supposed to, you followed the rules, you’re going to be fine.’
It’s tossing in some stuff like that because fear is a big thing. People are afraid of the IRS. They’re afraid of their taxes. And by helping to allay some of those fears, if you file your taxes every year and you include everything you’re supposed to, you’re going to be fine.
And if they send you a letter, find a professional to help you take care of that. But if you’re doing shady stuff, that’s going to catch up with you eventually.
Stephen: Yeah, for sure. So let me ask you this. How much time, on average, do you spend creating a TikTok each day?
Adam: Less than five minutes apiece.
And that’s changed over time. So again it’s only been eight months or so that I’ve been on the platform. But one of the things I’ve learned is that you can batch a whole bunch of videos.
Because of the length of how long they stay on the platform, you can put five videos in a row. And it’ll disperse them out as it sees fit, rather than other platforms where you can only post once a day or maybe twice, or you’re going to screw up the algorithm.
Yeah. So there are things like that that I’ve learned as I’ve gone along. A lot of times I’ll batch content and I’ll do three videos one day and then none for a couple of days. But it’s all kind of top of mind stuff that I’m finding on there. I saw it in the feed. I saw it on another platform. I saw it in the news, stuff I want to talk about. I’ll go in there and hit record, do it all in one take, put on a caption, and hit upload.
Stephen: Yeah. Yeah. I think one thing that can help is staying loose. I think people get tight. I get it. I go through this too, but people get real tense about, ‘What am I going to post?’ I think it’s easier said than done for some people, but I think you can really lower the bar for yourself.
You can take: What did you do with a client yesterday? What did you read today? Give your perspective on it. That’s what’s going to make you different from anyone else. Anyway, this information is out there. The mileage stuff, like you mentioned, is out there. But what’s your perspective on this stuff? I think that’s really what makes you different anyway. So focus on your perspective.
So, business is cool.
But what else? How else has this helped you as a person? Even getting out there on video, on TikTok, how else has doing this helped you as a person?
Adam: Yeah. When I first started, I did video on LinkedIn for a little while.
And I’ve gone back and forth with doing it, not doing it. And I always felt it had to be perfect. I’ve got to get everything set up. It’s got to be recorded right. It’s got to be edited, there’s gotta be captions put in. When I go on TikTok, when I go on there, I’ve removed all of those barriers that I had in my head.
The audience doesn’t care if I’m wearing a dress shirt and a bow tie, or if I’m wearing a t-shirt or a polo or I’m laying on the beach, they don’t care about any of that. They want content. They want something to entertain them or inform them.
That’s what they’re looking for. And if they don’t get that, they’re going to scroll right by. You can have a three-ring circus going on during your video, but if you’re not providing anything that they’re looking for, they’re going to scroll right past.
The other piece that I’ve found is that I like to talk and on a lot of these topics, I feel like I need to talk about them for a very long time to get them across.
The average user on TikTok might only watch for eight to 10 seconds, on any video. So if you can’t get across your point in eight to 10 seconds, they’re never going to hear it. Because let’s say if it’s on 30 to 40 on your video, and they’re only watching eight to 10, they never got the important piece from that video and they’re never going to see it.
So it’s focusing on getting that hook in first. This is what the video is going to be. So the hook for two to three seconds, and then the next most important point in that next five to seven seconds.
Anything after 10 seconds is gravy. And that’s when I can ramble on, for the next well, I have access to, I don’t think I’ve ever done a three-minute video on TikTok. I think only the biggest creators really can do that. Because someone’s not going to watch me for three minutes talking about the standard mileage rate.
But if I can get that in 10 seconds, and sometimes I’ll reset the video recording to that 15 second video time to try to control myself, and if I’m still talking at 15 it shuts off. Okay. I was talking too much and that’s kinda my editing process for lack of a better term, it’s more so setting that timer to say, ‘I’ve got 15 seconds.’
If I can’t get it in 15 seconds, it’s probably not worth it. Or it should be multiple videos that I needed to spread it over.
Stephen: Yeah. Cool. One other quick question. I want to speak directly to accountants and CPAs and virtual CFOs. What do you say to them when they look very rigidly at marketing ROI and want to know, “When am I going to get my first client?”
I think that’s a fair question, but I don’t know if that’s the best question to ask.
What would you say to someone that thinks that way or is going into this with that mindset?
Adam: Like I said, I took almost six months to learn the platform and try to understand it for myself, how I could use it for me.
So I think they need to do that unless they’re already creating video content on other platforms, like if they’re doing reels on Instagram, if they’re doing stories on LinkedIn, things like that, where they’re already creating some of that video. Then they can probably shorten down that timeframe..
But they probably need to give themselves three to six months to learn the platform, test the platform, see what’s going on, and start building some community. And then from there you really can’t have any expectation on when clients are going to come in.
Especially if you’re doing it all on your own and you’re not using a marketing consultant as well. Again, it’s to put content out there, to show off your personality. Because that’s a big piece of it. 90 plus percent of the population has the stereotypical vision of the accountant with the visor on sitting in the dark room with a little desk lamp crunching numbers.
If you can show that you’re not that, that is going to draw more people in than any amount of knowledge that you’re going to share. Showing that you’re not that boring, stodgy old accountant. Bring out that personality while you’re giving your opinions and your thoughts and your expertise.
And not going, ‘Yes, you’ve got to file your taxes by April 15th,’ and being that robotic accountant, impersonal. Everyone knows you have to file your taxes by April 15th. Everyone is aware of that. You’re not breaking news there.
But if there are tips on how to file sooner or how to file an extension or things like that, those are the pieces that you can add on to and say, ‘Oh, by the way, you have to file by April 15th.’
Also when you’re creating videos, TikTok has a long tail. I still get people watching my videos from January. If I was talking about something like, ‘Oh, you have to do this by next week,’ and now it’s September, they’re, ‘What do you mean I have to file taxes by next week?’ Some of that timeliness kind of goes away because of the way the platform is set up.
Stephen: By the way, I’ve got to get my taxes done.
Adam: You’ve got a month and a half. You’ve got until October 15th on your personal return.
Stephen: Don’t tell me that. I might use up all that time. [Laughter]
So I like to do a real quick rapid round. I’m gonna throw four things at you and I want to hear your take: underrated or overrated.
Okay. And if you have some additional thoughts on it, feel free to dig in a little bit.
LinkedIn: underrated, overrated.
Adam: Yup. Even though it’s where I’ve built my biggest following and people on other platforms know me across from there’s a lot of things that I think are ramping back usage at this point.
I think they have some things to work on.
Stephen: Yeah, me too. This one’s an easy one.
Adam: TikTok is underrated for sure. Anyone who’s not on TikTok, either in the B2C or the B2B space, needs to start. Because last month or the month before that, it passed Facebook as the most downloaded app and it’s not going anywhere.
As all of these young people who’ve been on the platform age, even if they’re not your customer now, they’re going to be someday. Even those 18 to 22-year-olds on there dancing, eventually, they’re going to need a tax accountant and they’re going to need marketing advice for their businesses.
So it’s time to at least look at it and get started to see if it’s a complementary activity.
Stephen: Yeah. Yeah. I think people get wrapped up in the B2B and B2C. To me it’s P2P. It’s people.
Adam: And with video, you don’t have any choice. It’s you unless you’re going to create one of those AI avatars that talks for you.
Adam: Overrated. Never used it. Never will use it. I’ve been on the anti Clubhouse bandwagon since it started. I don’t have time to listen to people talk at me for days or hours on end. Early on people were spending their entire weekend, Friday night through Sunday night, on there.
And I was, ‘What are you doing with your life?’
Stephen: Yeah, I agree with you on that one.
What about YouTube?
Adam: I think it’s underrated, especially shorts. They’ve come out with that to compete with TikTok and to try to pull back some of that market share. It’s another platform that has a long tail.
Those videos stay out there for a long time. But you have to optimize them and that’s a big piece. If you don’t optimize your videos and you aren’t getting the right keywords and everything else in there, people aren’t going to see it, no matter if it’s the best content in the world.
So you’ve got to learn the platform and understand what you need to do on there. But you can build an enormous following in a hurry if you’re doing those things correctly.
Stephen: Yeah. Cool, man. This has been really refreshing, man, talking to you about this, especially your being an accountant. So I appreciate you being on. So tell people listening what specifically you do and where can people get a hold of you?
Adam: Yep. So I have two pieces.
I’m a virtual CFO for businesses in the half-million to two and a half million revenue range. And then I also do accounting for small businesses in the 300 to $400,000, half a million range in revenue. That’s typically where most of my clients land.
I’m up there across all social media. It’s typically CFOadam. Sometimes there’s an underscore between CFO and Adam, depending on if someone else grabbed that first before I got all my branding in place.
So that’s the easiest way to find me. Or Adamkae.com. Adam K A E dot com is my website to check out my virtual CFO offerings.
Stephen: Awesome, man. I really appreciate you being on. I appreciate the coloring on your background and your bow tie. You’ve got it. Your branding is all nailed. So thanks again, man. Appreciate you being on.
Adam: Yeah, thanks for having me. It was a great discussion.
Reach out to Adam: