Mathew Boudreaux of Mister Domestic has embraced TikTok as a platform. He says don’t be afraid to get in front of the camera and connect with your audience, including doing some live streams.
TikTok isn’t five years old, but the platform has grown to be a major player in social media. With 89 million downloads in the United States last year, and 100 million monthly users, the app that began as a place for posting DIY music videos now stands taller than mainstays Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And the demographics of TikTok users are changing rapidly. Roughly 52 percent of U.S. users are now 30 and older, compared to about 30 percent last year. All that means business-minded crafters must understand how to work the app.
Mathew Boudreaux ( @MisterDomestic) has made TikTok his home. His zany videos have attracted 215,000 followers and 3.7 million likes – so far. Still Boudreaux’s site is more than fun and games. He’s outspoken when it comes to social issues, and to business. His business is a “crafting sewing experience.” The experience involves education, lessons, an online sewing school, fabric design as well as patterns.
I talked to Boudreaux about his approach to TikTok, and how he uses it to enhance his core products. This interview has been edited for clarity and space.
Q: Did you look at the demographic stats for different social media before? Or did you just say “I need to be on social media. I’m gonna do it.”
A: I have an MBA and so I have a business brain. You look within your niche or your segment, see what’s going on. And then I would come up with a business plan and a penetration strategy for social media.
Like with TikTok? Oh my god, I did research for like four or five months before I really got into it. Now I was like, “Okay, this is how I’m going to enter TikTok. I’m going to enter as an artist, I’m going to focus on my creations.” The first four or five months, I just repurposed all of my old content from YouTube and elsewhere, and just turned them in just to see which ones would click, (and) which ones wouldn’t. And now I’m in the zone and I understand it.
Q: So you tested it?
A: Yeah, I did test it. And it’s not necessarily the things you want to do. I don’t like having to talk in my videos now. But I’m learning that if I have voice over my videos, people are going to be more interested in listening.
Q: Let me ask you a basic question. Why TikTok? Why not Instagram? Why not Facebook?
A: Well, I’m on Instagram and I’m on Facebook. But why TikTok? Because I was tired of the racists and homophobes in the sewing and quilting world. So I had to sever some ties. So now instead of me engaging on Instagram with my demographic and older, I’m engaging with my demographic and younger. So it’s like I’m bringing in new people into crafting.
Q: Okay, so let’s talk about your live streams. Why do you do them?
A: Because you have to live stream to grow. And that’s the main driver for TikTok growth is live streams. But once again, it’s all about that community. And this is where I find people are so resistant to this part of having a business through social media.
You have to be yourself. You can’t just make it about the product. People want to get to know who you are. And I see crafters not wanting to do that.
My advice is to get over it. You’re running a business. This is what the business needs right now. You need to get in front of a camera and do it. You need to practice and get better because that’s the direction it’s all going in. And a lot of people are missing the mark when all they think about is buying and selling products and a craft business.
Q: Do you schedule your live streams?
A: I don’t. It’s because I don’t have the bandwidth for that. What gauges whether or not I will do a live stream is how my most recent video is performing. When you live stream on TikTok, it pushes all of your videos super fast into the algorithm. So let’s say I have a video that I think is going to go viral. Then I’ll watch. I’ll see what it’s doing. And if it’s popping off, then I jump on.
“I just lead hardcore with my integrity and values and ethics: everyone’s awesome; everyone’s welcome,” Boudreaux says.
Q: You said your business was an experience. Why did you call it an experience?
A: Because the way I view my business is more of a community of people. With this community, there are products they can play with. If they want to learn something, they can learn something. But it all goes around to the mission of the community overall, which is for it to be truly inclusive. What I’m trying to do with the business of Mr. Domestic is to hit as many different areas to also create a consumer experience for them, too.
Q: One of the things I noticed was the inclusivity of the rainbow goes across almost everything you do. Did you always do that? Or was that something that you realized worked best for you as you developed your social media presence and your community?
A: Everything happened in the reverse order that most business people would think. Really, it was just the longer that I was on social media, the bigger I got, and the more I realized who my community was, the more I realized I needed to be loud and proud. I just lead hardcore with my integrity and values and ethics: everyone’s awesome; everyone’s welcome. I will do that, plow ahead, and now it’s a part of my DNA and what my brand is.
Q: Did you have problems with showing yourself and being yourself?
A: Kinda, sorta. I did acting. But it’s really just age. And the older I got, the less I wanted to be someone other than myself. And now I tell people, if I’m going to be in a place as Mr. Domestic, I’m showing up as my total self, queerness and all.
But yeah, live streams are important, because that’s how you connect with your people. That’s how you engage with people and draw them into your brand.
Q: How do you keep them?
A: You have to have boss stuff, you can’t have lame stuff. And in my live streams more, it’s not about me pitching something or demo-ing something. I’m just hanging out, chatting to people. Just letting them get to know me and see me. This is a lot of stuff people don’t want to do. But that’s why you go over to TikTok and see most crafters aren’t blowing up.
Q: Can you suggest people that you follow or the people you used as a case study since we’re talking business?
A: I always find people that are ahead of me, okay? What are they doing? What’s going on? And I’ll just watch them not to be like, “Oh, I’ve got to surpass them,” but to see what strategies they’re using.
There’s KatyeDid (@katyedid86). She’s big over there, like 600,000. There’s another one Fanatical Fibers (@fanaticalfibers), over 600,000. They’re the ones that taught me that it’s about jumping on trends and doing what TikTok is putting out there, as opposed to a generic video.
Q: How do you send people to your websites and your e-commerce sites? Because we are in business here.
A: A lot of my live streams, I’m either using products that I’m affiliated with, or it’s my merch. If I’m doing a demo, I’m like “Oh yeah. I have a sewing school”
Q: Let me make sure that I understand. You are not explicitly selling product.
A: Sorry, I’m not sitting there doing an infomercial.
Q: You’re engaging and you’re wrapping your call to action in your conversation in your engagement.
A: Yeah, that’s like Sales 101. That’s why I focus on the community. It’s just getting them to dig my vibe and like what I’m about. Because I am my brand and the experience of me is my brand. So if they dig me, then buy my stuff.
Afi Scruggs is our staff writer. Afi is an award-winning multi-platform journalist and author who lives in Cleveland, Ohio. Her articles and columns have appeared in the Washington Post, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, The U.S. edition of the Guardian, USA Today, and Essence magazine and on washingtonpost.com. Her audio segments have been broadcast on national NPR programs as well on local affiliates in northeast Ohio. She’s also written three books: Jump Rope Magic, published by Scholastic; a genealogical memoir, Claiming Kin: Confronting the History of an African-American Family; and an essay collection entitled Beyond Stitch and Bitch: Reflections on Knitting and Life. The New York Times Book Review called Jump Rope Magic a “magical, spunky book.” Afi learned to knit when she was 7 years old and to sew when she was 9. She’s forever working on reducing her stash.