60 million TikTok views in a few days: How a South Florida auto body shop’s videos went viral

It all started with a seemingly innocuous TikTok video of an enormous black cat doing a silly bouncing dance, emerging from the roof of a South Florida auto body shop.

Drawing just as much intrigue was the video’s caption: “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.”

The public ate it up: The shop became a social-media sensation in less than seven days, in part thanks to a video of that dancing cat. The goofy cat video drew more than 23 million views. And with more videos, the views only skyrocketed: The @clancysautobody account’s posts overall have resulted in more than 60 million views.

How exactly did a local auto body shop think up the idea? “The public loves the layman,” said Joel Velazquez, 29, the business’ social media manager, referring to the shop’s behind-the-scenes humor. “They are on the worker’s side, and I wanted people to relate to a person rather than a corporation.”

The series of viral TikTok videos took off in ways no one could have predicted. The longtime business has grown so popular, TikTok viewers now jokingly call themselves “Clancy’s Cult,” a way to signal their support. Some of the shop’s TikToks are hitting well over a million views each.

“We weren’t expecting it to blow up,” said Hooman Rafiee, the owner of the body shop. Of teaming up with Velazquez, he said, “We are good buddies, and we started thinking about how are we going to increase the presence on social media.”

Drawing attention

Clancy’s Auto Body, a collision repair shop, has been around for over 20 years in Broward County.

There was never an exact plan for becoming an overnight sensation on social media; Rafiee and Velazquez just knew that they wanted eyes on the business in a clean, wholesome way.

So they turned to TikTok, figuring the chances of videos getting more attention there were greater than platforms such as Instagram or Facebook. TikTok is known for its many short videos, often set to music and featuring a goofy style. Clancy’s Auto Body fit right in with its posts.

Velazquez officially posted the first TikTok on Clancy’s Auto Body shop on Feb. 20, a Monday, featuring Maxwell, the well-known meme of a black and white tuxedo cat. And in the comment section of the first video, the reaction from viewers is overwhelmingly positive:

“This commercial now lives in my head rent free.” “This is top tier content.” “10/10 should be super bowl ad.” “I don’t even have a car and I’d come to Clancy’s.”

The subsequent TikToks went along with the fun theme, offering a lighthearted look at the various employees at the auto body shop.

Higher-performing posts include a video of Rafiee busy on his cellphone: The video, with 14.2 million views, is captioned to say “BossMan” has been trying to reach Google “all morning” to address the influx of reviews that TikTok fans are leaving them.

Tongue-in-cheek TikToks about how much salary the social media manager makes for the type of work he does have garnered upward of three million views, while a video joking about customers who show up hours early, and featured the famous Maxwell, racked up another two million views.

One video shows the outcome of a friendly wager: “Told the body man that if I get a million views on the shop TikTok, I get to touch his beard and he said “sure.” 1.5 million views later he has to deal with this.” The video shows said beard being touched, a moment set to symphony music.

Velazquez said some, if not all, of the creative ideas come in a flash.

“It’s off the cuff,” Velazquez said. “It just kind of writes itself. It might be that I have an idea or I saw a TV show I like. With TikTok, if you are thinking too hard, it probably won’t work.”

It wasn’t his first foray into managing social media: He said he manages his own social media startup company, but it was the first time he saw such a big explosion in terms of exposure.

Now, Clancy’s Auto Body has over 200,000 TikTok followers, with 7.7 million likes on their videos.

Rafiee and Velazquez have been parlaying the popularity into merchandise with the brand’s name, and TikTok users flooded Google reviews to leave positive comments about the business.

“It’s too early to tell if it’s translating to more clients, but we do get calls from people who live in the area that we are their choice if they ever need car work,” Rafiee said.

Rafiee and Velazquez have plans to expand on the traction that they have. They’ve turned to Instagram, where their posts may take a slightly more serious tone. They want to also pivot to YouTube, where Rafiee can do car-related, question-and-answer sessions.

“We just want to engage the younger audience and we want to put out to regular people that not every body shop is the same,” Rafiee said. “We want to put out that there is an auto body shop that is willing to be helpful and give you the right information.”