The day after he posted a TikTok with Richard Branson commemorating Virgin Galactic’s inaugural trip to space, Daniel Mac picked up the phone and promptly apologized for not answering on the first attempt to reach him.
Frankly, it was completely understandable. Between bouncing back and forth from his new place in LA and his primary residence in Dallas, while also creating content with some of the most influential people in popular culture today, he’s been pretty busy these days.
Daniel Macdonald – better known as Daniel Mac, the biggest car personality on TikTok – has amassed a community of 10.3 million followers on the platform. More impressively, he’s built his community by leveraging dedication and persistence to capitalize on one creative idea: find someone with a larger-than-life ride, then ask them what they do for a living.
A simple concept
The idea came to Mac in the fall of 2020, after the 23-year-old Tucson, Arizona native had moved to the Dallas area to pursue a career in finance. He had just graduated from the University of Arizona and landed a good first job at a large brokerage firm. TikTok, suffice to say, was not on his radar.
Though, after noticing some nice cars in the area, the thought materialized. It’s normal for the average person to see an expensive car or a beautiful house and wonder just how their owners could afford it. Mac, however, had the gumption to actually ask strangers about their occupations and film the entire interaction.
On Sept. 27, 2020, Mac uploaded his first video to TikTok, featuring a Lamborghini Huracan, Ferrari F12 TDF, an Audi R8, and their respective drivers. It was a simple, straightforward TikTok, sent out onto the platform with no real goal in mind, Mac said.
“To be honest, I had no expectations of blowing up on TikTok at all,” Mac said. “I had no ambitions of being a content creator in any way.”
Sitting at home with his roommate that September morning, Mac watched in awe as the notifications began rolling in in waves. As the views and likes continued to rise exponentially – the video stands today at 26.8 million views and 3.3 million likes – Mac said he realized he might have something special on his hands.
“I was shocked,” Mac said. “I knew right then that people were interested in it. There was kind of an untapped market there.”
Doubling down and putting in the work
After experiencing a viral moment, the standard protocol is to accelerate production and see if lightning can strike twice, and Mac was no exception to that rule of thumb. The goal now was to pump out as much content as he could, Mac said, to explore how viable this newfound success on TikTok really was.
In a nutshell, that meant formulating strategies, writing scripts and learning how to be a creator on the fly. It meant hours of standing around on streets in popular areas around Dallas, waiting for the right filming opportunities. It also meant tons of editing to distill hours of footage into short, attention-grabbing clips that could rake in views on TikTok. And it meant finding time to make all of this happen while still working at the brokerage that initially brought Mac to Texas.
It may have been feasible at first. But as the videos kept generating views – and the collaborations with huge names like Jojo Siwa, Jason DeRulo, Paris Hilton and more started to become a reality – it became increasingly evident that Mac had a choice to make. Running a wildly popular social media account was a full-time job, and for Mac, it was stacked on top of another, traditional full-time job.
One Monday morning after returning from a filming trip, Mac had the epiphany that had been building up for months.
“I woke up and thought, ‘I need to quit my job,’” Mac said. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it was a necessity.
“At 23 years old, you have to chase it. That’s what it boiled down to.”
Potholes on the road to success
While Mac is constantly posting content depicting awe-inspiring moments, like the time he hung out with the “Fast and Furious” crew, the road to making engaging clips hasn’t been the easiest to navigate. Beyond the uncertainty of quitting his stable job and devoting himself solely to content creation, there are plenty of challenges associated with actually coming up with a product that’s ready for the For You Page.
Only about five percent of the content Mac films actually makes it to his TikTok page, since he’s so self-admittedly careful about cultivating entertaining video. A good 10-15 percent of the people Mac approaches completely ignore his slice-of-life questioning. And on rare occasions, like a certain instance at a certain shopping center in Dallas, Mac said he was apprehended by law enforcement for allegedly “trespassing” on what was technically private property.
At the same time, Mac has had his fair share of memorable moments that seem to make the mug shot and uncooperative strangers more than worth it. Once, while driving a loaned-out Ferrari during a filming trip, a bystander pulled out their smartphone and proceeded to ask Mac the very question that turned him into a TikTok sensation: hey, what do you do for a living?
“I started that trend,” Mac siad. “I was on cloud nine (after hearing that). It was such a surreal experience.”
Advice for the ambitious and the path forward
Ten months ago, Mac took a good idea and ran with it. The result was a drastic shift in his trajectory, transforming a recent college graduate into an outrageously popular creator seemingly overnight. It’s the kind of story that young, ambitious creators dream of being the main character in. And, if you ask Mac, it’s the kind of story that doesn’t have to be unique to him.
“If I can do it, anyone can. It fell in my lap, a little bit,” Mac said. “TikTok is the platform where anyone can blow up.
“The barrier to entry is so low. If you have a good idea, you can do whatever you want to.”
As for Mac, he has plans to continue branching out from that initial idea and introducing innovative concepts into the fold. He’s already tried his hand at yacht and home-themed versions of his car content, with other similar ambitions on the horizon. The modern social media landscape is endlessly, relentlessly evolving. Because of that, Mac has to do the same.
“Things can die out pretty quick, so I’m just working on diversifying my content,” Mac said. “There are unlimited things I can do, and I’m constantly trying to adapt.
“Moving with trends is the move for me.”