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TikTok Excel influencer composite
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TikTok tech: The rise of the Excel influencer


With Excel content racking up billions of views on TikTok and Instagram, Gen Z social media platforms have proved an unlikely ally for accountancy’s most-used software tool.

3rd Feb 2022
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Booming baselines, gaudy graphics and extravagant dance moves might seem more in keeping with the latest music videos, but browsing social media they’re just as likely to accompany tips to clean up data from an untidy Excel table, latch spreadsheet cells together or create an automated checklist.

Welcome to the world of the Excel influencer.

Many of the most-viewed posts belong to American Kat Norton, who goes by the alter ego of Miss Excel. Norton is part of a growing number of Excel influencers bringing video tips to a predominantly Gen Z and millennial audiences via platforms such as TikTok and Instagram.

With over a million followers across both platforms, Norton uses the social media channels as a marketing funnel for her pre-recorded spreadsheet training courses, and in a recent interview, said she regularly generates “six-figure months” in passive income off the back of this business model.

Gen Z hungry for Excel knowledge

If Norton’s numbers seem too good to be true, it’s worth putting them in context. TikTok claims that 60% of its one billion users are from the Gen Z demographic born between 1997 and 2012. With this generational cohort now moving into the workplace it’s perhaps unsurprising they are looking for information on common office tools using platforms with which they’re familiar. 

Spreadsheet tips on the TikTok app featuring the hashtag #excel have garnered more than 1.9bn views. Along with Miss Excel, other popular accounts include Your Excel Friend and Excel Daddy and numerous examples in other languages. Ecuadorian Excel teacher Francisco Terán sports a phenomenal 1.7m followers for his Spanish spreadsheet tips.

‘A way to make an impact on the world’

When the pandemic struck, Norton found herself back in her childhood bedroom working from home as an Excel trainer for consulting firm Protiviti. Feeling “bored and restless”, she struck upon the idea of leveraging her Excel expertise as a side hustle by posting bite-sized tips to TikTok. And the rest is social media history.

Her fourth video, explaining Excel’s new data-searching XLOOKUP to the DMX hit X Gon’ Give It to Ya reached 100,000 views in just a few days, and today Norton pulls in more than one million followers and was recently elevated to the lofty heights of Excel MVP.

Norton told Accounting WEB she had “no idea” the posts would change her life so radically: “I just created my content because it was something I loved to do. It has been a creative outlet for me and a way to make an impact on the world.”


Excel the ‘mortar between the bricks’ of business software

While seasoned spreadsheet aficionados may doubt the efficiency of studying a complex program such as Excel via 30-second video clips, critics of the phenomenon miss the point, according to Excel experts.

“What people like Miss Excel and others have done is show the huge depth the program is capable of,” said David Lyford-Tilley, Excel specialist and ICAEW Technical Manager.

“Excel is the mortar that fits into the bricks of dedicated software but businesses often don’t take it seriously,” he continued. “Even if they’ve had IT training at school or university, most people don’t get a great deal of spreadsheet education until they get into the workplace and even then it’s often self-taught - learning from colleagues or Google etc. There’s a massive demand for information because it’s so widely used and there’s a general awareness among users that there are a million dials they never press.”

Excel trainer and author Simon Hurst agrees: “I find the whole thing quite encouraging. We’ve been subjected to the ‘Excel is dead’ narrative for so long this is quite refreshing. For somebody to create the interest she’s generated with a young audience is great - it demonstrates Excel’s enduring popularity and shows it’ll be around for a while yet.

“She doesn’t claim she’s going to make you an Excel MVP by watching TikTok videos,” said Hurst. “The message is ‘take a proper course and you’ll get better,’ which is fair enough.” 

Quick tips or tricks

ICAEW’s Excel Community has also experimented with social media via several Instagram Reels, and Lyford-Tilley said he enjoyed the challenge.


“There are some topics that can’t be covered in the format,” he said. “It was tricky to find things that work for phone-sized presentation, but it’s good for quick tips or tricks. I find it’s the little ideas that can make a huge difference - things like keyboard shortcuts or new formulas are potentially a real time-saver.”

During the pandemic, Hurst uploaded videos of his training courses - although he is yet to make his debut on TikTok. While he is looking forward to the return of his in-person Excel sessions, he commented it’s unlikely there will be quite as much dancing as the Miss Excel clips.

Replies (3)

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John Stokdyk, AccountingWEB head of insight
By John Stokdyk
04th Feb 2022 12:50

I'm glad to see David and Simon being so appreciative of the TikTok influencers' efforts to engage a new generation with spreadsheets.

We all know how much Excel means to accountants and I have to admit to a bit of envy when I heard about the six-figure sums Miss Excel was generating with her TikTok posts. Granted they are linked to more grown-up training content, but I feel a bit of sympathy for the original "Mr Excel" Bill Jelen. I wonder what he feel about Miss Excel's income and instant MVP status?

Having plied these waters myself - and worked with Simon and David on a lot of tutorials - one of the 20 principles of the institute's good spreadsheet practice guide is to recognise that your approach to spreadsheets needs to be quite disciplined and based on a clear understanding of the data structures you're building and the purposes to which you will be applying them.

Can you really get all that methodological depth across in a series of 90sec videos? I am getting on a bit myself, but I still like a bit of hierarchical organisation and structure when I'm exploring a new tool (or consumer electronics product for that matter after a recent manual-free purchase). The random access "go and Google/TikTok it" approach can generate instant answers, but I'm not sure it gets across the broader landscape for something this complex.

Thanks (3)
Replying to John Stokdyk:
Simon Hurst
By Simon Hurst
04th Feb 2022 13:34

Hi John, you make an excellent point, particularly in widening the discussion to the use of Google searches to find ad-hoc solutions. Without the structure and understanding that you talk about, a piecemeal approach can lead to the discovery of a solution that is the worst possible of many potential solutions. But, then, as someone used to delivering 3 hour lectures and full-day, hands-on training courses, I would say that wouldn't I?

However, I do think that even very short Excel tutorials, whether accompanied by dance moves or not, can be valuable in generating awareness of just how many ways there are of doing Excel better.

Thanks (2)
By ourpetsheadsarefallingoff
10th Feb 2022 09:22

I have been avidly watching the content of self-professed accountants on TikTok for a year or so now and must say it's quite superb.

Thanks (0)