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For most people, there’s just about nothing more boring than an Excel spreadsheet. But the productivity influencer Miss Excel would disagree—and so would her 900,000-plus TikTok followers.

Miss Excel—real name: Kat Norton—puts out energetic, cheerful, short, song-backed, easy-to-follow videos that teach her multitude of viewers how to do things like add art to a bulleted list to make it look more visually exciting, remove empty columns in a spreadsheet, and fix a malfunctioning sum function. She also offers courses, each of which cost a few hundred dollars each, teaching folks how to make a PowerPoint and introducing them to Microsoft Suite. Her efforts are paying off—literally. Norton told CNBC she’s pulling in some $2 million a year.

Francesco D’Alessio, who hosts the Keep Productive channel on YouTube, predicts that Miss Excel’s success is just the start of productivity influencers’ … influence. “Over the last few years, including us [Keep Productive] the productivity software influencer market has doubled, maybe even tripled,” D’Alessio writes. “In the last 12 months, things have become even more interesting—with YouTubers discovering Notion and ‘desk tours’ the world of productivity has become much more popular with mainstream audiences worldwide.” The Notion that D’Alessio refers to is a productivity app. Desk tours are what they sound like—people giving video tours of their desks. Does this sound exciting and useful, or befuddling and new? It might be a little of both, though it’s not actually that new.

As long ago as January 2021, Vice was putting out articles detailing society’s then-growing obsession with productivity—and with a broadening class of productivity influencers, who are known to wake up early, then spend the rest of their day grinding away, doing whatever it takes to pack in all that is humanly possible, including by listening to audiobooks at 1.5 speed. At the time, this determination to do more, and do it better, and then do even more after that, was seen as an understandable response to the pandemic. “Staying productive takes the edge off some of the very difficult and challenging emotions we’re having to cope with right now,” psychotherapist Zoe Aston told the publication. “As a result, stress levels are lowered, we sleep better and feel healthier.”

Today, the pandemic may be over—we think?—but it’s not as if life is easy-peasy for most people. Yet some things have changed. Instead of boasting how much she fits into every waking moment, like the productivity gurus of yore (or of a few years ago), Miss Excel says she only works for four hours per day. She did find the time to provide Marketing Examined with some tips for marketers, which she’s picked up through her productive time spent on TikTok. They include playing off curiosity, highlighting a specific problem, and making sure to always create value for your viewers or customers.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why have productivity influencers become popular?
  2. What lessons can marketers learn from productivity influencers?
  3. What makes for a successful productivity influencer?

Sources:“How Miss Excel Creates Viral TikTok Content,”Marketing Examined, February 28, 2022; www.miss-excel.com, visited on April 17, 2023; Francesco D’Alessio, “Miss Excel Is Just the Start,”medium.com, August 24, 2022; www.tiktok.com/@miss.excel?lang=en, visited on April 17, 2023; Kat Norton, “‘I Work Just 4 Hours a Day’: This 29-Year-Old’s Side Hustle Brings in $2 Million a Year—a Look at Her Typical Day,CNBC, December 26, 2022; Claire Hubble, “The Relentless Rise of the ‘Productivity Influencer,'”Vice, January 25, 2021

Photo from: iStock.com/simpson33