Like many restaurants in the fall of 2021, Lakewood, Colorado-based Clawful, which serves Vietnamese Cajun seafood, was on the verge of closing for good. Then a 22-year-old with 700,000 followers and a penchant for TikTok changed everything. 

After hearing from a friend about the restaurant's plight, Eli Stone, the founder of Bouta, a Gen-Z consulting firm based out of Denver, volunteered his services to Clawful's owners, Korean immigrant couple Sam Han and Maria Song. What followed was a 57-second emotional appeal to save the family-run business. The video shared the 59-year-old owners' story of why they started their restaurant -- and the miserable timing of its opening, just a few weeks before the pandemic took hold of the U.S. in March 2020. The video also detailed how Covid had left them reeling and in need of customers -- stat.

After its posting on October 6, 2021, the TikTok video reached more than 580,000 people, with over 450,000 views just in the first 48 hours. While the video didn't contain a specific ask, people came from all over to eat at the restaurant, say the founders. That weekend alone the business generated $24,000 in revenue. The next week it generated $18,000, and the third week roughly $15,000. Prior to the video, the founders say they were lucky if the restaurant generated $700 to $1,000 a week. 

The impact of this campaign stunned everyone involved. Stone originally hoped the video would garner 10,000 views, maybe 15,000 if it really took off. The Clawful founders themselves hadn't originally put much stock in social media, but now they're converts. 

"We couldn't believe this situation was happening at all," says Han. Although the business's sales have slowed since the viral video, he is hopeful that it will continue to make the rounds with would-be customers

While fleeting, the experience serves as a testament to the influence TikTok can have on small businesses. Here are a few key takeaways from Stone on how other businesses can see similar results:

1. Reach out to influencers.

Whether you are old, young, immigrant, or native, Stone recommends reaching out to TikTok creators. They "love helping where they can," he says. Stone notes that he also turns to other creators for ideas and advice. In devising a strategy for this video, for example, Stone says he tapped a lot of friends who watch TikTok for additional advice on what approach to take. Once he had a story outlined and scripted, he sent it to a fellow content creator for additional feedback. 

2. Decide on the format.

If you are planning to use TikTok, it's important to decide early if the type of content you're looking to create is entertainment or a story, says Stone. Entertainment on TikTok is content that leans more on comedy, a talent, or something not entirely driven by a purpose. A story, on the other hand, has a clear objective, such as selling, spreading awareness, or sharing something intimate. 

3. Research what works.

Every business is different, of course, but it can be worthwhile to see how businesses similar to yours have succeeded with the medium. In the case of Clawful, Stone saw that, in his research, many people related to immigrants moving from a foreign country to America to provide a better opportunity for their kids.

He also happened upon a successful use-case: a video about Sushiya, a sushi restaurant in Dallas. The owner's grandson, Andrew Kim, made a TikTok video asking people to come to visit his grandfather's restaurant because it was struggling due to the pandemic. The video amassed over 6 million views, and the response from the community was incredible, so Stone knew that it was possible to mirror that type of success. 

4. Ask for help.

It is difficult to engineer a viral video. You can have all the ingredients that make a great video and still not go viral. Creating authentic content, especially content that is purpose-driven and capable of resonating with people on a broad spectrum, won't guarantee virality, but it can boost your chances for success. 

Stone adds: "Our initial strategy was to tag, and get [other] people to tag, one of the biggest food influencers on TikTok in Denver specifically, and during this time we were also DMing any people we could find [who were] publishing articles or blogs regarding food." Stone was aware that these outlets would provide additional exposure for the video. The initial strategy was a success because @denverfoodscene, a TikTok page dedicated to promoting Denver's best restaurants to over 450,000 followers, ended up resharing Stone's original TikTok as well as creating a video of its own. In addition, both WestWord, a local news source in Denver, as well as 9News published pieces about Clawful and the TikTok video.

"People obviously resonated with the story, and that's my passion, getting people to authentically resonate with things. As long as that touches them, that's all that matters to me," Stone says.

You can find Stone's original TikTok post here and below: