She wanted to help her mom's business. All it took was 10 seconds of social media

You want some hope as the year ends? Here's just a little.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer
Reviewed by Emery Wright
A mobile phone in the hands of a woman

One little video. One big impact.

Getty / Aleksandr Zubkov

I admit I'm coming over a little sentimental.

The year drifts to a close, the days are enveloped in a haunting gray darkness and the thoughts meander into next year, wondering what it'll bring. And what it might take away.

Many business leaders are fearful of recession. That, coupled with inflation, threatens angst, chaos and even desperation.

I wanted, therefore, to offer a tinge of hope. 

For this is the story of an Illinois taco shop that was struggling for customers. Taco Bout Joys in Glenview just wasn't getting any foot traffic.

Its owner, Joy Milan sat in the restaurant, utterly despondent.

I only know this because her daughter decided to do something about it. Or, perhaps, just to offer a gesture of solidarity with her mother.

She posted a 10-second video to TikTok, showing her mom staring out of the taco shop's window, wondering about, who knows, the vicissitudes of life.

The message accompanying the video was moving: "It breaks my heart to see my mom watching the door everyday waiting for a customer to walk in. I wish I could give her customers for Christmas."

There's no obvious reason why a TikTok video, posted to an apparently unsuccessful taco shop's TikTok feed, should suddenly capture imaginations.

At the time I write, we're talking 39 million imaginations.

As Joy Milan told ABC 7 Chicago: "I got the text from my sister. 'Hey, did you see that TikTok video?' And I'm like, 'what video?'"

What video? The video that brought customers from miles around -- some from an hour's drive away or more -- just to support Milan's business.

You might think this is merely a sweet tale of joy for the time of year. You might wonder whether, after the social media excitement has died down, Milan will manage to create a viable long-term business.

But I might offer you a few words of uplift.

For all that social media can be decried -- justifiably, too -- it does sometimes have a marginally magical way of reaching real people  with a truly honest message.

This particular TikTok video was clearly heartfelt. It had no artifice, merely relying on pure humanity.

Which leads me to muse that so much advertising still shies away from honest humanity and hides behind artifice -- and vast production qualities.

Here was a video that cost nothing to make and seconds to film, yet had more impact than a thousand ad campaigns I could think of.

The best ads have an honest idea at their core. They promise no more than they can deliver, but they also create feelings that make real human beings react and then want to act.

That's exactly what happened here. Helped, naturally, by the mysterious power of an algorithm.

As businesses look to 2023 and wonder whether to advertise, perhaps they should think a little harder about what they might advertise and how.

The message you put out -- and how you put it out -- doesn't merely say something about your brand and product, it says something about how you think about your customers.

Joy Milan's daughter offered an open, honest, human piece of marketing, even if she may not have thought of it that way.

I can think of one or two big brands -- some even in social media -- who might think of trying that.

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