How help from a social media-savvy employee and a giant cat helped a Florida auto shop go viral on TikTok

No need for polished copy or fancy shoots in today’s social media marketing landscape. When it comes to attracting Gen Z’s attention, anything goes — including a giant cat filter and a plea for help.

That’s exactly the kind of video that skyrocketed a Florida auto shop’s TikTok following from 0 to more than 200,000 in a week and a half.

“Guys I lied on my resume and got a job doing the social media of this body shop, please blow this up so I don’t get fired,” read the caption on Clancy’s Auto Body’s first-ever TikTok video, which amassed millions of likes in a matter of days.

Suddenly, fans were eager to join #ClancysCult, the online following that spawned overnight as the Fort Lauderdale auto shop charmed viewers around the world.

But Joel Velazquez, the 29-year-old social media manager behind the shop’s viral success, didn’t actually lie on his résumé. He’s just a millennial who took a Gen-Z approach to humor, which tends to favor content made with the least effort.

“One of the trends right now with young people is that they’re lying on their résumé and everything, so I mixed that with a cat,” Velazquez said. “I didn’t know the combination was going to be so explosive.”

The virality of the video shocked the shop’s founder, Hooman Rafiee, who appears in several subsequent videos as “BossMan.” Even though Rafiee has no social media experience himself, his video responses to commenters have racked up nearly 200,000 likes total.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Rafiee said. “I thought it was going to die down, but it just kept going. I was shocked.”

Velazquez said the strong personal relationship he and Rafiee have built over the years fostered the kind of comfort and trust that encouraged full creative freedom as they looked to build a TikTok brand. The secret to their success, they said, is the authentic ability to just mess around without trying too hard.

Their virality has made Clancy’s Auto Body a case study on modern social media management within the brand marketing community. Tommy Clark, who writes a newsletter on social media and brand growth, took notice of the video’s “unhinged” humor when it popped up on his For You Page.

“The best social media strategies are very platform-specific,” Clark said. “That humor might not work as well on Instagram or on other social media platforms, but on TikTok, that humor’s very relevant to what users want to see.”

Clancy’s videos have been so successful that positive reviews have been pouring in on Google — from viewers who had never visited the shop. At this point, Rafiee said, they can no longer tell which of the reviews are real.

As part of their show of support, members of #ClancysCult have also been requesting branded merchandise from the now-TikTok-famous auto shop. Velazquez said that merch is still in the works but that fans can expect Maxwell the giant cat to be featured.

Rafiee said he hopes more community members around the Fort Lauderdale area will pay a visit as the shop’s success is reported by local news outlets. But any noticeable increase in customers will have to occur over the long run.

“I think it’s too early to tell, because we’re an auto body shop. You have to get in an accident to be looking for us,” he said. “But we did have one customer that specifically said she came here because of TikTok.”

As the views kept growing and media requests began rolling in, commenters began to call for the brain behind the TikTok videos to get a raise. It’s something Velazquez also hinted at in a recent video after NBC News reached out. According to the BossMan, that will come soon.

“Now that we’re doing all these interviews and all these things, we got to upgrade our website and everything, so [Velazquez is] definitely going to be involved with that,” Rafiee said. “So yeah, I want to say there will be a raise.”

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