Griffin Johnson on the 'Inevitable' TikTok Drama and How He's Using It to Build a Business

CUL PS Griffin Johnson
Courtesy of Griffin Johnson

"Social media fame doesn't really last that long, so I'm just using it right now to spin off into business and becoming an avid entrepreneur."

COVID-19 has impacted every facet of the workforce, including TikTok influencers who thrive on collaboration. "It's really hard because people want content," Griffin Johnson told Newsweek. Fortunately, Johnson, who has more than 15 million followers across multiple platforms, lives with other influencers as part of a group called Sway House. "We're all close, so I'm very blessed and fortunate." Of the influencers, Johnson was perhaps the best equipped to deal with the pandemic: before TikTok fame he was studying to be a nurse. "When it first started, I thought it would be something around the realm of the flu. But then it started getting really serious." For him, it's been about finding a balance. "I'm not perfect, but I try my best to restrict going out and being in contact with other people." Even so, Griffin still has "a bunch of stuff in the works," including a potential new reality show "based around taking viral content and adding inside jokes." At the end of the day, the key to making it is to "make sure you're doing something really, really different."

How do you handle it when people question TikTokers' authenticity?

To be honest, I do understand it. TikTok is a 15-second platform, where people can just dance or whatever, they don't really show personality or long-form content. So I get where some of Hollywood comes from. For me personally, I've converted this TikTok following to every platform, including businesses, YouTube and even some of our own shows and stuff.

How do you avoid the drama that so often haunts TikTok influencers?

I actually don't avoid the drama. I used to try, but it just got to a point when I got to a certain amount of followers that it was just inevitable. Everything you do is tracked so closely, and not only that, but people feed on the drama. So if you don't stay in it a little bit, then you don't keep your name relevant. It keeps your name up on the top of the charts and in people's mouths and that keeps them thinking about you. So now I just make jokes out of it. Like, I don't care at all. I used to care, and it used to bother me, but now it's just like, whatever, another day.

How are you turning your success in social media into other ventures?

So we've done a lot of investing, traded a few companies, there's a couple that I can't say because we're currently building them out. There's a bunch of stuff in the works. I also have a couple of YouTube shows that are coming out that I've been working on pretty diligently. I have a couple of podcasts that are doing really well. Definitely, a lot more is coming soon.

Before TikTok fame, you were studying to be a nurse? What inspired you to go that route?

I've always had a very strong interest in medical work. I actually wanted to do anesthesia, and nursing was just a part of the mission. I may end up going back. I was in it for two-and-a-half years and already have a pretty good understanding of it. So it's always a possibility.

Considering your nursing background, how did you respond when the pandemic hit?

There's been a lot of stuff in the news and press about people going out and partying. For me, I've been living in a house where there are some things that went down, some parties or whatever. I avoided all of it. I'm obviously aware of how serious it is. It's just about being safe. There are still meetings and there have been a couple of things—obviously, I'm not perfect—but I try my best to restrict going out and be in contact with other people.

CUL PS Griffin Johnson
Courtesy of Griffin Johnson

How do you create your content amidst the pandemic and the restrictions of the pandemic?

It's really hard because people want content, but at the same time, you make content and they complain. So it's lose, lose either way. Luckily, with Sway House, we have a group, we're all close and we all live together, so I'm very blessed and fortunate to have that, but it makes it very difficult for sure.

Where do you see your career in 10 years?

Obviously, the social media fame doesn't really last that long, so I'm just using it right now to spin off into business and becoming an avid entrepreneur and being well-known in the space of investing. I see myself being into venture or starting my own company and running it by then, or having exited and starting, hopefully, my second or third company.

You're working on an upcoming reaction-based show. Can you tell us more about that?

It's very like Tosh.0 meets Ridiculousness hybrid that's based around taking viral content and adding inside jokes and bring light to a lot of videos, especially on TikTok.

What sort of advice would you have for up-and-coming content creators?

I view TikTok as a business. A lot of people now are trying to become what Sway is now. The real answer is we found TikTok early and we were able to get in there before anyone else was in the market. We were able to plant our roots and build something in a fresh market. Now people are trying to do that in a space where there are 100 million-plus users every month. My best advice would be to make sure you're doing something really, really different. Because at this point, it's either A, luck, or B, because you're very, very different from anything anyone else has seen on the app. Like a very strange or weird idea that makes you one of a kind.