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The #1 TikTok influencer in the world right now is not an A-list Hollywood celebrity, a world-famous athlete, or a beautiful supermodel. No, the #1 TikTok influencer right now doesn’t even speak English. He is a 22-year-old Senagalese immigrant living in Italy who started making viral TikTok videos while living in the basement of his parents’ apartment after getting laid off from his hourly factory job during the pandemic. Here’s what you can learn from Khaby Lame, better known as the guy who makes insanely funny videos using expressions, gestures, and a few ridiculously low-budget props.
Don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone
For Lame, the key to eventual social media success was being willing to go out of his comfort zone. For example, he does not speak fluent English, so he decided to start making videos featuring only funny gestures and expressions. He specializes in poking gentle fun at other social media influencers who put together elaborate, overproduced videos. He also has some hilarious videos where he debunks magic tricks. Each video typically ends with Lame stretching out his open palms, arching his eyebrows and looking upwards to the sky, as if to say, “What was so hard about that…?”
If you are passionate about something, go after it
When Lame got started making viral videos, the intention was not to make a lot of money or to become super-famous. Instead, he had a modest goal: to make people laugh and to provide for his family. In order to boost his communication skills, he says he binge-watched children’s TV shows. Instead of searching for fame, fame seemed to find him. At one point, the actor Idris Elba contacted him about making a sponsored TikTok post. That led to a $750,000 payday for Lame.
Post regularly so that audiences are looking forward to your next post
A final key to Lame’s success was being able to post regularly on a single platform, thereby building up his audience on TikTok. Fans began to wait eagerly for his next video, and they knew exactly where to find him. They also began to put together tribute video montages, so that their friends could easily watch videos from him. And Lame did not try to branch out to a large number of social media platforms at once – he honed his work on TikTok.
With his videos, Lame also perfected a certain shtick, just like a comedian with perfect timing and a recognizable style. Lame plays the role of the “everyman” regular guy who is trying to make sense of an insane, post-pandemic world. While his videos tackle different issues and topics, they are all seemingly interconnected. It’s almost as if the world is trying to blind us with smoke and mirrors, and Lame has figured out the simple truth of how everything works.
A rags-to-riches story
As the #1 TikTok influencer in the world, Lame now has 150 million followers online (time of published). He has gone from being a laid-off factory worker to being an online celebrity. He has turned an apparent weakness – a lack of fluency in English – into a strength. People love him for his soulful looks, his charming gestures, and his puzzled expressions. If there is anyone in the world who has earned success in social media, it’s Khaby Lame. He is a true rags-to-riches story for the social media era.