Mike Kruzich ran a marketing consulting firm established in 2017, turned to content creation during the challenges of 2020. When his traditional business was impacted, Kruzich explored TikTok, an emerging platform known for dance trends. Using his background in business, he began sharing content and steadily built a following, highlighting a shift in the digital content landscape. We sat down with him to discuss his journey as a content creator and his recent shift back to marketing services as a content marketing agency owner.
Marketing Expert To TikTok Titan: Mike Kruzich’s Journey In The Creator Economy
Embracing Content Creation During The Pandemic
In the throes of 2020, Mike Kruzich found himself in a situation that many could only describe as nightmarish. As the owner of a thriving marketing consulting company established in 2017, Kruzich had enjoyed a successful run—until, quite literally overnight, everything came to a screeching halt.
“I vividly recall that pivotal day in April 2020,” Mike shares, “when former President Donald Trump acknowledged the gravity of the situation, calling it a pandemic. I had been watching a YouTube video of the announcement, and it felt like a surreal, apocalyptic turning point.”
Kruzich, like countless others, found his business, which had been humming along smoothly, stymied by the pandemic’s unprecedented challenges. The shift was sudden and drastic: “From one day to the next, the entirety of my business nosedived. It plummeted to zero.”
Initially hopeful, he believed, as many did, that this period of stasis would last but a month. He continued paying his staff, expecting to reboot operations once the dust settled. But the situation prolonged, pushing him into unfamiliar territory. “With money depleting and a prolonged pandemic, I was left pondering my next steps, occasionally whiling away my hours on video games,” Kruzich admits.
It was during this period of introspection and recalibration that he chanced upon TikTok. At the time, TikTok’s reputation was largely as a dancing app, predominantly patronized by a younger demographic. “Admittedly, downloading TikTok felt slightly out of character for me. It was as if I was dabbling in uncharted territory, possibly even infringing on a space reserved for Gen Z,” he recalls with a chuckle. Despite initial skepticism, Kruzich decided to give the app a shot, spurred by its rising popularity.
Drawing from his background in marketing, he posted a brief video—casually capturing a business tip on his computer screen. To juxtapose, he reflects, “While an hour-long, meticulously crafted YouTube video on marketing had garnered merely ten views, this 30-second impromptu TikTok shot to a thousand. The metrics spoke volumes.”
Recognizing an untapped potential, Mike committed to this new platform. “I felt a resurgence of purpose,” he states. “Using my background, I began curating business content, distilling lengthy YouTube videos into concise, digestible TikTok snippets.”
The results? Nothing short of spectacular. “In a mere month, I amassed 50,000 followers,” he says, still seemingly astounded. And it wasn’t just about followers. Within a few more months, Mike transitioned to discussing trending topics, which shot his follower count up to a staggering million.
Monetizing his newfound success wasn’t immediate, though. “Despite the impressive following, there was a looming question: How do I convert this into tangible income?” Kruzich recalls. The answer lay in leveraging his massive reach, promoting apps, and forging partnerships with brands.
Fast-forwarding to the present, Mike Kruzich is no longer just a content creator but a digital influencer in the creator economy. With over 5 million followers and collaborations with renowned companies like Netflix, Opera, and Express VPN, his journey exemplifies adaptability, tenacity, and the immense potential of digital platforms.
“While I never envisioned myself as an influencer, the universe had other plans. Embracing change and capitalizing on emerging platforms not only saved my livelihood but catapulted me into a world I’d never imagined. The creator economy isn’t just about numbers; it’s about evolving with the times, understanding audience pulses, and delivering value, one post at a time.”
Ingredients of Influencer Success
The trajectory of Mike Kruzich’s rapid ascent as an influencer is rooted in a combination of unwavering dedication and a keen eye for platform dynamics. He broke down the key factors as follows:
- Commitment: Mike’s commitment was total. The day after posting his first video, he saw it as his next opportunity and devoted his full attention. With a strong belief in the power of dedicated effort, he remarks, “Dedicate your life to a skill, and in three months, you’ll likely be in its top 1%.” He’s quick to credit his wife for her support, allowing him the freedom to pursue his passion single-mindedly.
- Trendspotting: Leveraging tools like Google Trends, Mike made it a mission to understand what was currently trending and build content around it. Recognizing that content centered around trending topics has a much higher chance of going viral, he emphasized the importance of understanding and addressing public interest.
- Platform Adaptability: Adapting to platform nuances was another critical factor. Mike highlighted an instance with TikTok’s update, which introduced a scroll bar for videos longer than 30 seconds. Instead of letting viewers skip to the end of his videos, Mike ensured his content was 29 seconds or less, effectively eliminating the scrollbar and maintaining viewership throughout.
This attention to detail exemplifies his ability to adapt and leverage platform updates for maximum engagement.
- Innovation in Editing: With the introduction of Cap Cut, a video editing tool by TikTok, Mike sensed an opportunity. He surmised that TikTok might favor videos edited with its own tool, so he shifted to editing with Cap Cut, even though it doubled his editing time. This strategic move, he believes, gave his content a boost. Beyond this, Mike also pioneered editing techniques to enhance engagement, such as zoom-ins and employing red arrows, reminiscent of eye-catching YouTube thumbnails.
- Staying Ahead: Mike’s overarching advice for emerging influencers is to remain on the cutting edge. Whether it’s an editing trick, a trend, or platform updates, being among the first to harness these elements can be game-changing. It’s about continually adapting, evolving, and understanding what’s next in the digital landscape.
Personal Losses and Re-evaluating Purpose
In a sobering series of events that deeply shaped Mike’s perspective, April of 2023 emerged as a cruel month of remembrance. Mike recalls, “I had to fly back to Iowa for my stepdad’s funeral after he was tragically taken away by my uncle. Shortly after, another blow struck when my grandfather, whom we believed was in good health, passed away unexpectedly at 78.
These heart-wrenching incidents took away the two central male figures in my life.” This introspection made him liken his awakening to an ‘unplugging from The Matrix.’ He came to the realization that much of his life’s endeavors had been channeled toward making these men proud, and while they were proud, Mike pondered if he was genuinely fulfilled.
Kruzich noted his current professional setup was comfortable: “I was able to work from home, crafting a single TikTok daily that provided a comfortable lifestyle for my family.” However, the existential question arose – did he want to continue this for the next 20 years? While his content on TikTok garnered substantial attention, with videos such as “the woman with the biggest lips in the world” going viral, Mike began questioning the true value he was adding to society.
It was a jarring revelation when he looked at his analytics and discovered over 120 years’ worth of watch time on his content. “That’s 12 decades of human life spent watching what I put out there. While entertaining, could I pivot to content that more tangibly benefits society?” he mused.
Though Mike recognizes that not every piece of content can have a groundbreaking societal impact, his inclination was to steer towards a direction that was more fulfilling and impactful. This introspection led to the inception of his content agency, which he views as a progressive step in this renewed journey.
Translating Content Creation Skills to Agency Success
For Mike Kruzich, the transition from a content creator to spearheading a content agency isn’t just a business decision; it’s a culmination of years of hands-on experience. Having personally navigated the content landscape for three years, Mike has developed an innate sense of what resonates with audiences and what goes viral. Unlike many who venture into the content agency realm influenced by the glitz and allure showcased in YouTube videos about the potential riches, Mike’s journey is rooted in tangible results and authentic experience.
He notes, “In the past, businesses approached this as a ‘social media marketing agency.’ However, many today are diving in because they see it as a lucrative trend, not because they’ve genuinely mastered the craft.” Mike’s approach is different. His deep understanding of platform cultures and the nuances of content virality sets him apart, confidently declaring, “This is a game-changer.” Such is his confidence that he offers an unprecedented guarantee to his clients: “A million views in 90 days, or we work for free until you hit it.” And he’s never fallen short.
To the uninitiated, a million views might seem monumental. But for Mike, who boasts 2 billion views over three years, this is a routine achievement. His method involves meticulously planning content, emulating successful models, and crafting word-for-word scripts. During recording sessions, his expertise shines through as he coaches clients on voice inflections, mannerisms, and more. Drawing from his extensive background of producing over a thousand videos with an average of 800,000 views each, Mike equips his clients with the wisdom of his experience without them having to go through the long-winded learning curve.
Organic Growth vs. Paid Advertising
Mike believes that if content requires paid advertising to be seen, it might not be genuinely engaging. His core philosophy revolves around the power and authenticity of organic growth, emphasizing its role as an indicator of content quality.
His take is straightforward:
If organic algorithms aren’t pushing your content, and if you’re relying heavily on advertising, then the content might not be strong enough to stand on its own.
Many companies, according to Mike, are reluctant to commit the time and skill required for organic growth. Instead, they often take shortcuts, opting for paid advertising strategies. He posits that if these companies invested in understanding their audience organically, they could better optimize their paid efforts.
As an illustrative example, Mike says if a company posts ten pieces of content, and nine garner only 100 views each while one gets 100,000 views, it’s evident what content truly resonates. That standout piece of content should be the focus of advertising dollars because it’s proven to engage audiences.
The crux of his argument is the disparity between perceived audience interests and actual engagement. What companies believe their audience wants, or what audiences say they want, often diverges from the content they actively engage with.
By prioritizing organic growth, companies can better understand their audience’s preferences. Once this understanding is established, it can be paired with paid advertising strategies to amplify success. In essence, organic growth should guide and inform paid strategies, rather than replacing them.
Manufacturing Scalable Virality Over and Over
Mike Kruzich highlights a pressing problem in modern digital marketing: businesses prioritizing their own inclinations over their audience’s preferences. He underscores this with the simple mantra: “Think less about ‘I’ and more about ‘they’.”
Key Takeaways from Mike’s Strategy:
- Audience-centric content: When a business, like a lawyer, creates content, they often prioritize what they believe is humorous or valuable, often overlooking the target audience. However, Mike emphasizes focusing on what the audience finds valuable or engaging.
- Replicate proven strategies: Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, Mike suggests observing successful players in the same domain. For instance, lawyers should look at their peers who have viral content and replicate those strategies. But a crucial point he makes is to ensure that the strategy is duplicable, and not solely reliant on unique attributes of a particular individual.
- Diverse content ideas: The central theme of content generation should be relevancy and virality. Drawing a comparison, he emphasizes that a video on a trending topic, like a significant event involving Donald Trump, is more likely to go viral than a mundane video about one’s cat.
- Mastering the content delivery: Beyond just content ideation, the way it’s presented plays a pivotal role. This includes voice inflections, the narrative, and how it’s conveyed.
- Platform diversity: A common mistake businesses make is sticking to their preferred social media platform. Mike’s advice is to leverage every platform available. With the rise of short video formats, businesses have the unique opportunity to repurpose content across multiple platforms like TikTok, Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts, Snapchat Spotlight, and Facebook Reels. By posting on multiple platforms, the chances of content going viral increase exponentially.
For instance, if an agency produces 100 videos for a client in 90 days, and it’s only posted on Instagram, there’s just one chance per video to go viral. However, by utilizing five platforms, there are 500 opportunities for viral engagement.
Maximizing opportunities: Mike finds it puzzling why many businesses, even successful creators, don’t leverage all available platforms. He believes it’s a simple mathematical equation: more platforms equate to more opportunities for virality.
Mike believes his agency stands out because of its history and success in delivering viral news content. Over the years, they’ve managed to average around 800,000 views per video. One notable achievement was when they were the first to break a story about a listeria outbreak in packaged salads, which ended up amassing 25 million views. Such successes have made Kruzich a known figure in the journalism space, opening doors to connections and exclusive stories. His expansive contact list of over 50,000 journalists allows him to share fascinating stories widely, leading to guaranteed placements for his clients.
Kruzich believes that any entrepreneur or business can benefit from a strong personal brand online. Building a significant follower count isn’t just about direct sales or leads; it’s about the doors of opportunity that open. It’s comparable to the attention one would get driving a Lamborghini; a large follower count demands attention and offers credibility.
For Kruzich, the value of personal branding extends beyond immediate returns to long-term opportunities. For instance, having a substantial online presence can double response rates on cold emails or lead to unexpected business collaborations.
Mike takes charge of the overarching content strategy, focusing primarily on generating views, as he considers this the most crucial part. He’s also involved in coaching during filming sessions. Remarkably, in just an eight-hour session with a client, he’s able to produce around 100 to 120 videos, providing them with content for three months in just one day. His method not only saves clients time but ensures they’re guided by a seasoned expert throughout the content creation process.
Trends that creator economy professionals should be watching
Emerging trends that are catching momentum in the creator space revolve around the concept of video podcasts. While audio podcasts have been popular for some time, video podcasts are becoming a key tool for creators and businesses.
The strategy is simple yet effective: record an hour-long video podcast, then dissect it into smaller, bite-sized clips of about a minute each to share on social media. This approach capitalizes on the surge in short-form content consumption, drawing viewers in and converting them into dedicated podcast listeners. “That’s been huge for a lot of people because of the short form content that has the opportunity to go viral.” Discussing its potential conversion power, he mentions, “I know people that they’re only getting like 10,000 views on their YouTube podcast and they’re able to make six figures.”
In terms of the future of short-form video content, YouTube’s recent data offers some insights. The platform revealed that the introduction of YouTube Shorts has inadvertently affected the consumption of longer videos.
The takeaway from this is clear: audiences are gravitating towards short-form content. They are no longer interested in prolonged intros, promotional segments, or sponsor messages that are common in longer videos. They crave the highlights, the main content, and that’s it. This trend suggests that short-form content isn’t just a fleeting phase but a format that’s set to dominate for years to come. Every major platform has adapted to facilitate viral short-form content, further cementing its importance in the creator economy.
Mike Kruzich on advice for aspiring content creators and influencers:
Mike advises that first and foremost, content creators should “Make content that people want to watch, not what you want to make.” He emphasizes the need for consistency, urging creators to “stay consistent and post multiple times per day.” Kruzich also encourages diversification, noting that creators should “Post those videos on every single platform. Don’t skip. You don’t know which platform you’re going to go viral on.” He mentions the unpredictable nature of virality, sharing his personal experience, “I posted on YouTube for six months… and then one day I just popped off and now I’ve done like 100 million views on YouTube shorts and I have 100,000 subscribers.”
His counsel is clear: “Just don’t give up and don’t get discouraged.” For creators looking for a strategy, he suggests, “Only post what’s already been proven to go viral… Trending topic. Something that people are already talking about. Something that’s gone viral on Reddit.”