TikTok Star Dulma Altan Talks Creating Content for Community Over Algorithm

Taylor Masket
Taylor Masket
Jul 19, 2023

In Ep. 88 of Earned, Conor sits down with entrepreneur-turned-content-creator Dulma Altan. The “Professor of TikTok B-School,” Dulma has accrued a fanbase of over 100k followers on the platform, thanks largely to her popular “Brand Breakdowns,” which offer thorough case studies on today’s top DTC and women-led brands—topics she explores in even more depth on her hit podcast, Due Diligence With Dulma


To start the episode, we learn how Dulma went from a career in tech at Google, to launching her own clean fragrance business, all before becoming an “accidental creator” during the pandemic, when she started spotlighting noteworthy, women-led brands in the DTC space on TikTok. We discuss how TikTok’s unpredictable algorithm leads to variance in content performance, and Dulma emphasizes why creators should prioritize building engaged communities rather than chasing views and virality. We ask Dulma how she cultivated her community, and she shares her tips for creating content that resonates with your target audience, before explaining why creators should test out different content ideas and formats to help prevent burnout. Next, we learn why Dulma has invested more heavily in her Twitter presence, and hear how she uses her social channels to support her podcast growth. We then dive into Dulma’s podcast experience, and she recounts her learnings from her 100 Day Challenge, during which she published 100 podcast episodes in 100 days. To close the show, Dulma reveals which 100 Days Challenge she’d tackle next.

We’ve included a couple of highlights from the episode below, but be sure to check out the full video above, or tune into the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts!

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The following interview has been lightly edited for concision. 

“I think it's a stronger long-term strategy to not just chase views and virality, but instead cultivate deep, engaged relationships with your core community”: Dulma Altan on Prioritizing Community Over the Algorithm 

Conor Begley: On TikTok, creators have a much wider variance in the performance of their content. From an emotional and mental perspective, talk to me about the challenge there. It feels like you're kind of mining for gold, looking for these nuggets. How do you cope with that? What are the challenges of not knowing how a particular video is going to do?

Dulma Altan: I think this variance in performance is to some extent an attribute of social media in general, and of these content platforms, but I think it's a lot more exaggerated on TikTok because the variance is a lot higher. It's a lot more unpredictable, and basically every other creator I've talked to has said, “sometimes I'll do a throwaway video and it'll get millions of views, and sometimes I'll spend days or even weeks on a video and it'll flop.” I think we've all experienced that, and it's so exasperating, it's so frustrating. It feels like banging your head against a wall because you think you’ve figured out the formula and then it doesn't work. It can also incentivize you to keep creating content, which is why I think TikTok almost gamifies that experience a little bit. 

When you do create a lot of content, and especially when you become a full-time creator like I did, it can lead to a little bit of burnout. You start to become so dependent on, “is this going to go viral?” but you can't control the outcomes.

So I've really had to reprogram myself to focus on the fact that I can only control the inputs, not the outputs. So I'm going to try to control the inputs. These days I'm creating more podcast and Twitter content, so I'm less consistent on TikTok. But in the beginning I was super consistent and I was publishing at least one video a day, and a lot of research went into them. That was no small feat. So I could control the consistency of my input and the quality of my input, and really engage the community and have that two-way dialogue with them. Those are the things you can control. 

So I think, yes, the variance [of content performance] can lead to burnout for every creator. If you create content long enough, you eventually reach some form of burnout, and then you have to figure out how to mitigate and manage that, and how to not fall into that trap. I think one way to do that is to always shift the focus. Your content doesn't need to go viral to have an impact. Especially once you build that community who loves your content anyway, they're going to see your stuff that doesn't pop, and they're going to appreciate it. And so not only does that help with the mental health side of being a creator, but I actually think it's a stronger long-term strategy to not just chase the views, the virality, but instead cultivate really deep, engaged relationships with your core community because they're going to follow you everywhere. They're going to want to meet you and they're going to be down for anything that you put out. And I think that is a better strategy for sustainability, because it's hard to be sustainable as a creator. 

“If your aim is longevity as a creator, then I do think it's good to resist the urge to just do what the algorithm is rewarding you for”: Dulma Altan’s Tips for Creating Content that Resonates and Preventing Burnout

Conor Begley: What type of content do you feel like really works well? What are the tips and tricks that you think work really well for creating good short-form video content?

Dulma Altan: Have one main idea per video, or one punchline, one general concept. Have a really strong hook. Get enough reps in that you understand what a good hook is and what that looks like for you. A little bit of clickbait, but not too much. 

Conor Begley: I think MrBeast says you have to have clickbait, but then you have to live up to the promise. Like you can have the clickbait, but then you have to deliver on the clickbait. 

Dulma Altan: Yeah. I mean, he's truly the master of that. But it's interesting you bring up MrBeast, because when you start to talk to YouTubers at the top of their game, you realize just how much time they spend trying to A/B test and land upon the right thumbnail image. Like it's all so important and it's become this science. I mean, MrBeast has really turned YouTube content creation into a science, and the equivalent of that for short-form video, whether it's TikTok or Shorts or whatever, is that in the first two to three seconds, you really need to hook somebody, and there are little ways to do that, but it really depends on the kind of content you create.

You can make use of text overlay for that. You can just have a compelling hook. Sometimes I like to do what I call leading with the punchline, but phrasing the punchline in a way that's evocative and interesting and kind of leaves them hanging a little bit, so they have to watch all the way through. It's almost like you lead with your thesis, so to speak, and then the rest of the video supports your thesis. 

Being consistent about your format, which I'm not very good at, is actually something that you should do. But I do think that on TikTok especially, once your account has a few videos that go viral with a certain kind of consistent format, when you try to veer away from that format, the algorithm dings you a little bit. It really likes when you stick to that format. For me, it's the green screen talking about business, and I can churn out a lot of that, but lately I've been trying to diversify a little bit and it's been hard, because you can tell the algorithm is trying to disincentivize that.

But going back to this idea that you have to make it sustainable for yourself as a creator and you can't burn out, a lot of creators, especially on platforms like TikTok, end up getting really boxed into a certain sort of niche, and then they want to diversify from their niche but find that it's harder to do. But I think if your aim is longevity as a creator, then I do think it's actually good to resist the urge to just do what the algorithm is rewarding you for, because you're going to box yourself in.

And the other thing is, once something starts to work, there are a lot of people who are going to start to copy that format and that style. And that's happened for me. Like nobody was doing these, “let's do a brand breakdown. Let's do a case study. Here's a green screen, let's talk about DTC brands, or women in business or whatever.” Nobody was really doing that before because TikTok was still kind of nascent as a platform. But now there are a lot of accounts that do that, and it's awesome and it's amazing that there's so much great educational content out there, but for me strategically it also feels like, okay, that's starting to get a little saturated. How can I diversify away from that? 

Even if it's harder in the short term, I think if you get really clear on, this is the person I'm talking to, this is what they need, and these are all the different facets of what they’re concerned about, I think that can be an interesting and different way to think about it.


Keep up with new episodes of Earned by following the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts, or subscribing to our YouTube channel. To catch up on our previous episodes, featuring leaders from brands like Revolve, K18, Instagram, and Roblox, visit our Earned Podcast page.