Published on September 21, 2023, at 2:50 p.m.
by Morgan Perkins.
Food reviewer Keith Lee is changing the lives of small-business owners through his charismatic and earnest food reviews on TikTok. Lee demonstrates a powerful example of how social media can transform the trajectory of someone’s life and how public relations is at the core of the transformation.
Lee first began posting TikTok videos in 2020, but he only started gaining mainstream popularity in November 2022. From then to February 2023, Lee’s platform grew from 1.5 million followers to 10.5 million followers on TikTok. He now has 11.7 million TikTok followers, and his platform continues to evolve as his audience reach expands.
On Jan. 2, 2023, Lee posted a video reviewing Frankensons Pizzeria that followed his typical pattern of sharing the total price for his order, what items he ordered and how he rated the items on a scale from 1 to 10. Lee commented on the food’s flavor and the customer service he experienced during his interactions with the employees. His glowing yet honest review of the food caused the pizzeria to have an immense increase in sales that led to the restaurant hiring 23 new team members. It currently services guests from all over the world.
Through a five-minute TikTok video, Lee created a channel that allowed the pizzeria to go from minimal visibility with customers to having so much support the business was overwhelmed by the influx of orders.
Lee differs from other food reviewers because his intentions are grounded in his desire to impact others’ lives by being as transparent as possible. Lee often clarifies in his videos that he has no connections to the businesses and is not paid for his reviews. For example, in Lee’s review of The Pink Potato, his ratings ranged from 5 out of 10 to 9.8 out of 10. His ability to provide honest opinions increases his credibility with his followers and ultimately allows the businesses to flourish.
The Pink Potato sold out three times the day after Lee’s video and went from 13 followers on TikTok to 3,000 in less than 24 hours. Today, the restaurant has almost 17,000 followers on TikTok since Lee’s video on April 7, 2023.
Lee often discusses within his videos that the products and services are not the reason a business struggles; rather, the business’s visibility restricts its success. Lee acts as the vessel to provide opportunities for visibility through impactful public relations strategies. While TikTok is used for entertainment, Lee highlights how social media can also be used to kickstart change that leads to a ripple effect in someone’s life.
According to Because of Them We Can, the owner of the small business — Ella Livingston — shared, “Cocoa Asante is forever changed because we got so many orders. I can now afford to pay myself something so that I don’t have to work part-time to bring in income for my home. So Keith you have officially retired me from being a teacher.”
While Lee is humble about his role in the small businesses’ success, he acknowledges the power of branding. Understanding the difference between an unsuccessful product versus the absence of visibility will continue to transform businesses along with the lives of the people those businesses reach.