How’s TikTok’s B-School Queen Is Expanding Beyond Social
Dulma cracked TikTok; a podcast and newsletter are up next
I’m OOTO this week but excited to share an interview with the queen of TikTok Business School: Dulma Altan!
If you’re not following Dulma on TikTok, she blew up on that platform back in 2020 after challenging herself to post 100 videos. Now, her audience of 100,000+ tune in for her in-depth breakdowns on business, finance, marketing and more; and she’s regularly featured in media such as WWD, Glossy, Morning Brew, BoF and The Information.
Fresh off her 100-day Due Diligence podcast challenge and the launch of her Substack newsletter, Dulma shares how she thinks about expanding beyond TikTok, why those email addresses are so valuable to her; plus why she’s (begrudgingly) focused on Twitter these days.
💫 BEYOND SOCIAL
Lia Haberman: What’s your primary social platform?
Dulma Altan: TikTok is my primary platform as far as monetization and what people know me for. My podcast is my primary platform as of the last few months in terms of time spent.
LH: Where else are you looking to connect and communicate with your community?
DA: TikTok is where I grew initially, then I diversified to a podcast and then after I started the podcast, I had somebody reach out who I've known for a while. She said, ‘Congrats on your success with TikTok and your podcast. Do you want to do a newsletter? I can help you summarize your interviews every week.’
I thought that would be amazing because everybody's been telling me I should do a newsletter and capture emails and have that as this diversified other channel, but I just don't have the bandwidth.
So she has been helping me with that. She listens to all the interviews, summarizes each one, gives the bulleted takeaways, and then I add a little bit of my own thoughts at the beginning of each. So it's a really easy workflow because she does the bulk of it.
She has been instrumental in launching and maintaining the newsletter. Without her, I would not do it because it just feels like too much of a lift for me right now. Technically, it’s the same amount of work, it just feels like the cognitive switching costs are really high and the learning curve of having to iterate and get the following to a critical mass just feels really daunting. So without her help, I would not have done it.
LH: If a creator wants to hire a newsletter writer, what should they look for?
DA: She’s a lot more organized than I am, thank God. She's a good, clear writer. Her writing is not so stylized that it sounds like her style. She's able to adapt to an approximation of my voice or a neutral-enough voice that I can embellish it and make it sound like me.
I would say the biggest thing probably is that she understands the content landscape, especially the business content landscape. She really is excited and she takes a lot of creative ownership over the newsletter. Not just as, ‘Oh, we're just banging out summaries every week.’ But she's always coming up with different ideas of what we can add, what we can do.
Ideally what you want is… either you have a very clear sense of what you want for a newsletter or for whatever kind of content you're diversifying to. And you just want to hand those instructions over to somebody who can execute. And you take on that burden of always having to think of how to make it better, how to improve, what strategies you can use to grow it.
Or, if you want that platform to exist for you, but you want to spend as little time as possible on it, you have to find somebody who can take a lot of ownership over it.
LH: How do the podcast and newsletter help you?
DA: I really would like to double down on the podcast because I like long form. It’s a slower burn as far as growing an audience because you don't have that virality, right? It's not as easily shareable as TikTok or even a newsletter which you can easily forward. But I think that the trust you build with your audience, it can potentially be deeper and more profound.
Honestly one of the big reasons I wanted to do the newsletter was because I wanted to see who was tuning into the podcast because you can't get the email addresses or the names of people who are listening. The newsletter is the closest proxy you can find for that, especially if the newsletter is basically derivative of the content in the podcast.
So I'm able to scroll down the list of Substack subscribers and see, ‘Oh, this venture firm is subscribed, this founder subscribed… this investor or this creator.’
Strategically, I can take that, package that up and go to an advertiser and say, ‘OK, let's do a whole package deal with two TikToks, four podcast reads, and two Substack mentions… these are the kinds of people we’ll be blasting you to.’
Just knowing who's actually listening, that was one of my goals.
LH: What’s your tech stack?
DA: TikTok is easy. It's mainly TikTok. For brand deals, I’ll use CapCut. It's just easier to download and send stuff.
For the podcast. I record the interviews in Riverside. If it's just a solo episode I'll use QuickTime player and I have my little mic and then I export that to Descript where I edit and then I'll upload and publish and host on Anchor, which is now called Spotify for Podcasters.
And then for the newsletter, it's just Substack.
LH: Are you monetizing these channels — what does that look like?
DA: I don't monetize the newsletter. I've barely monetized the podcast and I mainly monetize TikTok right now. In terms of revenue streams, it's almost all TikTok.
I'm not in a rush to monetize the podcast because it feels like the rates I would get for a podcast ad read are less than what I would get for TikTok right now.
So if I'm going to do any outbound, it might as well be for TikTok until the podcast gets to a point where it's worth my while because getting paid a couple hundred dollars for an ad read for me right now doesn't feel worth it to go back and forth with a brand and whatnot.
Plus, there's a certain critical mass of a body of work I want to create with really solid guests. And I have some really great guests coming up in the pipeline. And I think just being able to say ‘This is a new podcast, but these have been the guests, and I have a sense of who the listeners are and they’re people that a lot of B2B software companies or tech companies would want to target…’
So, I'm trying to get the podcast to a slightly more polished place, get into a groove with production and be able to do it in a high quality way and figure out the distribution where you have the video, you chop up the video clips, you distribute across all the short form platforms and figure all that out and then start to put together a media kit and a compelling pitch for advertisers.
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LH: What’s the percentage breakdown between time spent on social and your other channels?
DA: Most of my time is going into the podcast, like 20 to 30 hours.
And then the newsletter takes me two to three hours a week, most Sundays, because that's when it goes out. Just to edit and then add my thoughts to what Sandhya [Iyer] has already done. So that's the workflow.
And then for TikTok, I have a residual number of brand partnerships that I'm wrapping up. It's probably 3 to 5 hours on average. Moving forward, it might be a little bit more now that I finished my 100 day sprint with the podcast.
And then I actually spend a lot of time on Twitter. I really feel like Twitter makes me a worse person, but I spend a lot of time on it because it's been really instrumental in networking and getting the right guests on the podcast.
I've never been much of a Twitter person until a few months ago. One of my friends who has a podcast — his name is Danny Miranda — he told me he got Gary Vee and all these amazing people. And he was telling me Twitter has been really helpful.
So it's hard for me as a creator, sometimes the line between creation and consumption is so blurred because the consumption helps the creation.
And that's what Twitter is for me. Twitter is in that gray area where it does help my content because that's where I build more of a profile among tech people, VCs, e-commerce people.
And it's funny because sharing my podcast or even my newsletter on Twitter doesn't help in terms of numbers, but it helps in terms of the caliber of people who agree to come on as guests or subscribe or follow.
LH: What’s your BEST tip for other creators considering expanding the platforms they’re on?
DA: Everybody’s path is different but here are some tips based on my experiences:
One is don't spread yourself too thin, too early, just because people are telling you you should. You're never going to perfect a channel or a platform, but take the time to figure out your groove with a specific platform and then intentionally, thoughtfully, sequentially diversify to other platforms instead of trying to take on too much at a time because creator burnout is real and you're going to feel so spread thin.
So, don't rush to diversification just because people are telling you you should. Pick your platform based on where you think you have some differentiation and where you're excited. I think that is underrated because people go to all the platforms they think they should be on, but if you're not excited about it, it's not going to be sustainable.
Also people really can tell when you're excited about the content. Most likely if you're excited about the content, it probably means you're creating something that you think is special. So people are going to also appreciate it more.
People have told me, ‘You should be on LinkedIn.’ I would run screaming for the hills if I had to do LinkedIn, I would really rather not do that. So I'm not going to do it.
There's probably a way I could be more active in terms of posting to the feed on Instagram but I'm not an Instagram person. I don't do the curated looks. I don't do visuals that well.
Even TikTok for me often feels very unnatural. So, diversify to the platforms that are exciting to you and do it intentionally and thoughtfully. Don't rush.
And then the other tip I have is, when you get too caught up in whatever game works, whatever formula works on different platforms, you end up sounding like everybody else and it compromises how much you stand out as a creator.
This is a recent insight I had so bear with me here. I was listening to Colin and Samir’s recent podcast on the TikTok ban and they mentioned something offhand that I thought was really insightful because it put words to something that I've noticed about my own journey so far as a creator.
They said, ‘OK, if you're primarily on TikTok and you're worried about a TikTok ban, then try to build yourself as a creator such that people know you besides just as a TikTok creator.’
There are a lot of people who are just known on TikTok and not at all known in any industries, in any fields and any spaces outside of their content.
Instead of, ‘What does exist? What is working? How can I copy that playbook?’ Always be asking yourself, ‘What is the content I wish existed? How can I create that and create my own little market of one?’
And then eventually people are going to copy you if it works. But that's fine because you were the first mover and people see that. I think that is a really strong competitive advantage and it also helps you weather the storms of change amongst these platforms.
*This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity
📖 ON YOUR RADAR…
Facebook plans to expand its revenue-sharing program as it tries to cozy up to content creators — and avoid falling behind YouTube, TikTok, and others -Insider
LinkedIn rolls out verified badge to prove your identity and where you work -The Verge
Instagram’s new API will allow brands to easily reach creators in a priority inbox on the creator marketplace -Tech Crunch
YouTube is quietly shutting down a shopping program it had been testing that paid creators -Insider
TikTok quietly launched a GIF-like ‘video stickers’ feature for DMs -TechCrunch
To stay on trend, agencies are bringing TikTokers in-house -Marketing Brew
2023 Finfluencers to Watch -The Street
NPR and PBS stop using Twitter after receiving ‘government funded media’ label -CNN
The criminal behind Fyre Fest confirms Fyre Fest II is happening — please don’t go! -via Twitter
Biden's digital strategy: an army of influencers -Axios
Is There Life After Influencing? -The New York Times
Thanks for reading! And check out Substack’s new Notes section at substack.com/notes — it’s the Twitter-style feed that’s got Elon Musk freaked out, only a kinder, gentler version. As a subscriber to ICYMI, you’ll automatically see my notes there.
Interesting interview, can you follow with primer on how to make $$$ on ttiktok?