Mundane table calculations and an app aimed at getting teens to shake a leg. That combination seems like a match destined for failure. American Kat Norton, however, would like a word. “Miss Excel” launched an influencer career on Tiktok making videos where she gives Microsoft Excel tips. Since she started, she’s amassed 676,000 followers on TikTok and another 552,000 subscribers on Instagram. With an array of Office software courses on offer, she probably will crack 7-figures in revenue this year. Today, OMR is breaking down the formula driving her success.

Norton started out at Protoviti, where she provided bank clients consulting services on security issues. While at Protoviti, she even put together and held an Excel course for her co-workers. Then in early 2020 after she had to cancel all of her business trips due to Covid, she decides to use the extra time on hand to make a few TikTok videos with Excel tips. At the time, Norton is 27, living with her mother and had not only never made a TikTok video, she didn’t even have the app on her phone.

From her bedroom to the For-You page

“I ordered a green screen and a ring light and set it up in my childhood bedroom,” Norton said in the Decoder podcast. “I moved the furniture out of the way and started recording videos after work.” The formula hasn’t really changed since: The upper part of the screen features a screencast of an Excel table, captions explain which Excel trick the video is about (for example how to neatly format an entire table with just a few hotkey combinations and at the bottom of the screen is a well-humored, dancing Norton.

A couple of days later the CEO of a tech company contacts her about her videos and asks if she’d be willing to make an explanatory TikTok for Google’s line of office products G-Suite. Norton accepts. “It’s day six on TikTok, and I’m already making money.” Her Excel TikToks are also performing well and it only takes 9 days for one of her videos to crack 100,000 views. Two weeks later comes the breakthrough with one of her videos landing on the For You page and going viral. The video has now generated over 3.6 million views.

Tiktok more lucrative than consulting

Spurred on by then President Trump’s threats to ban TikTok, Norton expands to Instagram, where she uploads her TikTok videos as Reels and only includes an additional thumbnail in Instagram style. After a somewhat sluggish start, one of Norton’s videos goes viral auf Tiktok within a few weeks and brings in 50,000 followers. Now her Reels outperform her TikTok videos on average in terms of views.

Norton is still just making videos for the sake of sharing insights and has no end product that she can sell to her audience. That changes in October 2020, when she produces her first video course on Thinkific and starts selling spots on Black Friday. “Then, by January, only two months later, the course was already making more money per month than my day job”, says Norton. Two days after the realization, she quits he consulting job. In April, she releases her second course. Today, she has several courses and packages on offer for Excel, the entire Microsoft Office Suite and Google Sheets.

Ein Einblick in das Kursprogramm von "Miss Excel"

A look at “Miss Excel” courses (Source: screenshot from Miss Excel on Thinkific)

37 million views on Tiktok

Recently, Microsoft added Norton to its list of “Most Valuable Professionals.” Norton works with an agency to run ads on Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin and a few weeks ago she topped 6-figures in revenue on a single day, she says.

Her Reels on Instagram average anywhere from 150,000 to 250,000 views; on Tiktok that figure is 30,000. All told, she has uploaded 215 videos and amassed a total of 36.8 million views; on both platforms, she has top-performing videos with impressions in the millions.

The packaging, not the marketing

When asked about key factors in her success, Norton is quick to point out that it’s the packaging and not the marketing. “The way I run my business is different from a lot of the strategies you’ll probably see on social media where the advice is typically to use certain hashtags and make the content a certain length in seconds,” she says. Instead, Norton focuses on ensuring all her videos have one thing in common: joy. “I create videos that you are going to learn from; however, you are also going to have a smile on your face.”

Another decided advantage she has is that as an individual creator on TikTok, she is permitted to use any song she chooses in her videos—something company and brand accounts cannot. This is a crucial advantage as sound in general and music specifically play a decisive role in a video’s success as these can trend and go viral on the platform. The Tiktok algorithm prioritizes showing users videos with sounds and songs that they have viewed before. Audio also acts as a calling card for creators that can keep users from swiping on to the next video.

Post, post and post again

Norton also says she aims to transpose aspects of the song lyrics or the underlying thought of the audio meme to an Excel function. Her most successful video, with 5.3 million views on Tiktok and 7.2 million views on Instagram, features “The Assignment” by Tay Money, whose hook is “I understood the assignment.” Norton’s video here shows how to quickly format figures in the table and make them legible after just a few hotkey combinations.

Another one of Norton’s top-performers users a clip from “Level Up” by Ciara, which went viral on TikTok. “Miss Excel” is also not above reusing videos that work by reposting them later. In the case of her interpretation of “Level Up,” the first version received 3.6 views, the second 210,000 views and a third 1.2 million views.

From obscurity to the spotlight

Today, Kat Norton is not only a successful entrepreneur, but she also says she has also become more at ease with herself. “Before doing these programs, I never wanted any attention directed at me. I wouldn’t even have a birthday party,” she said in the Decoder podcast. “I was so incredibly shy. Now I’m dancing to dumb TikToks about Excel functions for a living and I love every second of it. I feel so confident.”