1 min read

Musical.ly's Alex Zhu on Igniting Viral Growth and Building a User Community

Below are a few notes from this video where [[Alex Zhu]], the founder of Musical.ly, talks about growing and building a community.

Tiktok started as an educational platform- a chimera based off Twitter and Coursera.

Why It Failed

  • Content creation and content consumption have to be incredibly light
  • Education is a little bit against human nature. You're much better off creating something that you'd see on a subway passenger's screen: Entertainment or Communication
  • Lack of sneezers/super-spreaders (which they eventually found in American teenagers)


  • Start with utility, then build a community.
  • Create designs+wireframes and continously talk to users before you start any coding.
  • For new users,
  • Make posting/main behaviour as frictionless as possible (which Musically achieved- 25% of its users create content) as well as an easy investment. In this case, they sent out a notification asking users about their first post.
  • Put your best foot forward. Musically put user-curated content- the best of the best- at the top of their feed.
  • Show your main use-case as you make introductions
  • Establish a strong communication link between users and yourself. Zhu registered fake user accounts to interact with the content of his users, gaining their empathy and then asking them various questions about the product, their frustrations, etc.