When Javier Melendez created his TikTok account, he didn’t anticipate emerging as an industry leader on the social media platform. He was simply looking to connect with others by sharing relatable content about himself and cracking a few jokes along the way. Little more than two years later, Melendez has over 40,000 collective likes on his profile and he continues to upload several times a week. 

As national sales executive with Hanson, Massachusetts, distributor Walker-Clay, Inc., one of Melendez’s responsibilities is to connect with existing clients and reach new ones. A few months before the start of the pandemic, as TikTok’s popularity catapulted, Melendez started uploading his own videos, using humor to teach people about promo and share relatable moments with industry colleagues. Some of the silly work-life nuances he posts about are renovating his home office and getting pumped up for the first sales meeting of the day. Idea-generating posts include ways to elevate an event and how to make safety programs more fun.

PPB spoke with Melendez to learn more about how he’s using his TikTok account—@javisdaman—to reach a larger audience.

PPB As one of the most-advanced early adoptors of TikTok in the industry, how did you first approach using the social media tool to sell promo?

Melendez: I never approached TikTok as a tool specifically to sell promo. My approach with it when I started was to post videos on there to show me, show a little bit about my life, because being authentic is more important, I find these days, than putting out just a brand or a message and such. So, my whole strategy around most of my social media is: It’s me posting. I don’t schedule posts. I don’t make things specifically because people ask me to. Ninety-nine percent of the time it’s just me pointing and shooting, no real strategy to it, just going for it. Some things stick and some things don’t, and that’s cool. I realize it’s not everyone’s flair. From a tool perspective it’s helped me build out some relationships, some opportunities and some sales.

PPB Do you have any tips on what works and what doesn’t for TikTok?

Melendez: There are things that work and things that don’t work. Some of the social media influencers will tell you things like “you need to post three times a day,” “you should be posting such and such,” “use trending hash tags and follow trends,” and things like that. I typically don’t do that to a degree because I don’t want to be known as a TikTok influencer even though that’s how some people know me. I want to be known as Javi. And I want people to know, hey, I get frustrated with a 4:45 pm notification for a 5 pm meeting, too, [which inspired] another video the other day of having to hang my beer up back on my fridge with my magnetic coolie. I’ll incorporate promo in certain ways but it’s more so things that just come up in life and showing that. 

You never know what’s going to click with TiKTok. It’s one of those platforms you could take off right away with and then you might fall into a lull. I’m in a lull right now, and I may make a weird video about a water bottle and I’m viral again. I think people should just try it, see what works for them, but really don’t come across as fake, don’t be too scripted, have fun and do something with your own flair.

You’ll see people with very polished profiles on social media, and that’s cool if that’s how you want to portray yourself and whatnot. But everybody puts their socks on one at a time, so just being authentic to that and saying, ‘yeah, I put my left sock on first before my right.’ Just being a human is how I see it.

PPB How are you using TikTok right now for business?

Melendez: I’ll incorporate a promo video every now and then. Most of my videos are not specifically focused on promo. Some of them are like a ‘day in the life of the distributor.’ I’ve done videos talking about specific items like USA-made around July 4, and yes, those are a bit more scripted, tailored, but then again, I just do random videos in my truck or whatever. I’ll post stuff like that on my other channels, so use TikTok as my main creator vehicle but I evergreen it to Twitter, to LinkedIn and such, and what’s amusing to me is I’ll post videos on LinkedIn. Obviously I polish them a little bit with a little more of a descriptor text-wise and my clients will say, ‘Oh I loved that video you did on LinkedIn.’

I walked into a prospect meeting with a now-client, and she said to the other woman in the room, ‘I love his videos on LinkedIn, they’re so fun. I love the pen video you just did.’ This is a person who doesn’t engage with them, who doesn’t like them or comment on them, but here she is being an advocate for me to her marketing officer in the room. There’s proof in the pudding. 

Danielle Renda is an associate editor at PPAI.