The Real Reason the Danny Gonzalez TikTok Song Didn’t Go Viral
The world is such a fascinating and interesting place, and I love analyzing different outcomes to try and understand why things did or didn’t happen. While most of the time, I study human behavior through various forms of psychology and philosophy, social media is also really intriguing. Today, I watched the new Danny Gonzalez video where he tried to make his TikTok video go viral, and spoiler, it didn’t happen. But why?
As humans, we crave control and are constantly looking for patterns and formulas. Books and online courses claim they can help you with anything from confidence, to dropping 10 pounds, to going viral on Tik Tok. Something we want to believe is that we can analyze success, break it down into smaller parts and replicate it.
In Danny’s new video, that’s exactly what he tried to do. In the video, he did far more research than I expected him to do, and he became a true scientist. Danny researched all of the most popular Tik Tok songs and looked for similarities. He checked to see what the beats sounded like, and he even went as far as to take all of the lyrics to create a word cloud.
Although Danny broke this down into different parts to try and make his song go viral, he went even further. He used the wisdom of the crowd by talking to friends on TikTok to see what they said made a viral song. And he even talked to them about using his song to help make it go viral.
With massive influencers using his song or dueting it, this was Danny’s ace in the hole. What I was even more surprised by was that once people figured out that it was Danny, that should have been a done deal. But, unfortunately, the song still didn’t go viral.
This piques my interest because although I can’t give too many details, my day job is in marketing and branding, and I’m currently working on a case study.
Without cheating, pause for a moment, and answer this question:
Influencers with a combined 52 million followers promoted something. Of those 52 million followers, how many do you think got involved? Or what percentage do you think got involved?
For anyone in sales or marketing, you know that sometimes even a 1% conversion rate is a success. So, out of the 52 million followers, even if we cut that number in half based on potential overlap, what should the conversion rate be? If we reduced it to 26 million unique followers and looked for a 1% conversion, that’d be 260,000.
The actual number? Less than 37,000. That’s a 0.1% conversion rate if we conservatively assume that there are 26 million unique followers.
So, returning back to Danny Gonzalez trying to make his Tik Tok song go viral, how can we explain what happened? He put the pieces of the puzzle together, but he didn’t get the results he was hoping for. With so many people hoping to make it on social media to become an entrepreneur or just for the clout, I thought it’d be fun to come up with some possible explanations for why the Danny Gonzalez TikTok song didn’t go viral.
How to Go Viral on TikTok (Maybe)
Let’s pretend you have a friend who is a massive Danny Gonzalez fan, but they haven’t seen this new video yet. You’re hanging out with them, while social distancing and wearing a mask of course, and you do a fun little experiment. You don’t tell them the specifics about Danny’s project, but you tell them “Danny Gonzalez made this sick song on TikTok and it went viral!”.
If they’re truly Greg, how do you think they’d respond? I’d be willing to bet that they’d say “Well duh. Danny is awesome. Of course, it went viral.”
And then you’d tell them that you were just kidding, and the whole thing kind of flopped. Now you’re sitting with them awkwardly because of this little experiment they unwittingly participated in.
The reason I give this hypothetical situation with your friend is that we all fall victim to what professor Duncan Watts calls “creeping determinism”. Duncan Watts wrote one of my favorite books, titled Everything is Obvious, Once You Know the Answer. He explains that creeping determinism is our posthoc rationalization of results by saying we knew it all along. This is actually impossible, but our ego loves to jump in and act like we’re fortune-tellers and knew everything without all of the information to possibly come to an exact conclusion.
The reality is that Danny Gonzalez is a great example of how we try to replicate success, but it doesn’t always work out. This is why economists and investors aren’t nearly as great at what they do as we think they are. If there was a formula for hit movies, would they have almost passed on Star Wars? If there was a formula for breakout book series, would JK Rowling had been turned down by multiple publishers before getting a deal for Harry Potter?
If I came up to you a couple months ago and said, “Hey, a tatted-up 40-something on TikTok is going to blow up for riding a skateboard listening to Fleetwood Mack”, would you believe me? Not only did 420 Dogg Face go viral, but Ocean Spray even gave him a truck.
Your creeping determinism may try to explain why he went viral, but the reality is that nobody could have predicted what happened.
Personally, I’m not surprised that the Danny Gonzalez TikTok song didn’t go viral. What I am surprised about is how much work he did without it gaining much traction. While some people may think I over-analyze things, I think it’s extremely important to find lessons in as many places as possible.
I’m the father of an 11-year-old boy, and this world doesn’t always work the way we think it does. If you watched my video about How MLMs Trap People, you learned about the just-world fallacy. Something I try to teach my son is that we don’t have control over outcomes, but we do have control over effort. Since the outcomes are out of our control, we should only judge ourselves based on the effort we put in.
Danny put in more effort than I expected him to. Not only did he do quite a bit of research before diving into this project, but he posted consistently. A topic that I recently became interested in is luck vs skill, so I’ve recently read some books on the psychology of luck. Two books that did a great job diving into the research were The Luck Factor and The Serendipity Mindset (and if you’re interested in luck and inequality, I highly recommend Success and Luck).
Something I learned from these books on the psychology of luck is that so much of our success is a numbers game. The more we try, the more chances we have at success. So, like I said, I’m not as surprised that Danny didn’t go viral as I am that he put in a ton of work. As a content creator and someone in marketing, I think it was pure genius that he made daily videos using his song until it went viral. And it was also a great idea to try a few other Tik Tok trends to make the song pop off.
Unfortunately, none of these things worked. Danny did get almost 2,000 people to use the song, but his goal was 50,000. Even though he didn’t hit his goal, I think it was a great experiment and probably a humble experience for him. Often times, the social media tycoon Gary Vee says that he wishes he could start all over and build from the ground up. If Danny’s video taught us anything, it’s that it’s not that easy and there may not be an exact formula.
But what’s the biggest takeaway for all of us? It’s that we need to work on finding the balance between working hard and cutting ourselves some slack. Whether you’re trying to build a social media following or just trying to succeed at your day job, sometimes we work hard, but things don’t work out. Sometimes, the most we can do is reflect on the situation and ask ourselves, “Did I try my best?”. If the answer is no, we can try some deliberate practice in certain areas. If the answer is yes, we need to practice some self-compassion and avoid the just-world fallacy.
If you need help with your mental health, I highly recommend the service I use, BetterHelp. They’re an affordable online therapy service, and by using this affiliate link, you help support The Rewired Soul