Katie Beiler started rowing in middle school with aspirations of going to a Division I school to compete at a high level. She achieved that goal. Now a Louisville Cardinal, Beiler has leaned into TikTok to show what goes into a sport many people don’t know much about.
Millions of people started using TikTok during the COVID-19 pandemic. They were at home and wanted to create and consume more content. Beiler admits she was late to the TikTok game, not joining the platform until December 2020.
“Biggest regret of all time,” she exclaimed.
Beiler began posting for fun and her account grew steadily. Her TikTok presence is now over 16.6K followers and 2.1M+ likes. In September 2021, she started the University of Louisville Rowing TikTok channel to highlight the team and show what rowing is all about. The team channel began to take off, eventually surpassing her personal following with 42.3K followers.
From learning about rowing to showcasing the team, the account has a wide-ranging audience. Some of the most important followers are recruits.
“Coach tells me all the time that they (recruits) find out about our team through TikTok,” she said. “That’s been a huge success.”
Beiler shared another story from a race in Florida.
“At one of our races in Sarasota, we had a high school rower come up to us and ask to get a picture with us,” she said. “She introduced herself and explained how she’s such a big fan and her dream is to go to the University of Louisville after seeing the team on TikTok.”
Rowing is a tight-knit sport and TikTok has allowed Beiler to connect with other rowing student-athletes across the country.
“I’ve met so many girls from other teams in college that I wouldn’t have necessarily met otherwise,” Beiler said. “They have platforms, or they know my platform, and we meet up at regattas all the time. It’s great I get to meet all these girls.”
For Beiler, it’s also changed the way she approaches the experience of races.
“It’s really changed racing for me,” she admitted. “Typically, you go race and then pack up to leave. Now it’s more of an experience. I get to go around see people, connect, and interact with girls on a much larger level.”
The rowing community is so strong, it can even extend to conference foes.
“At one of our races, the Syracuse team and I did a collaboration. That made my whole year.”
Since day one on TikTok, Beiler’s teammates have encouraged her to keep creating content and growing her following. They’ve supported her to develop her skills as a creator. They have helped keep her going and thinking of outside-the-box ideas, like sharing when she was isolated in a hotel room.
“There was one point where I got COVID and had to isolate in a hotel room for 10 days,” she remembered. “I was supposed to be making videos and didn’t know what to do. So, I made the best of that situation and started making videos about being an athlete who was isolated. I was up (sick) at four in the morning, and I bought a microphone thinking, ‘Let’s see if this works.’ I started using that on the U of L account and that’s really helped it blow up.”
Beiler wants to pursue marketing full-time after graduation, and she is always looking to learn more about how to grow her accounts. She follows other creators to learn more about the tactical side of social media. And she attended an Opendorse education session to learn more about her audience, and how to continue growing her personal brand.
“We did an Opendorse education session and that was super eye-opening and helpful. We went through the Opendorse profile, and checked our social media score which I thought was really cool to do.”
Beiler and her team are examples of how athletes can use TikTok to grow an audience fast with the right strategy, tools, and commitment. The platform has brought immediate value to Beiler and her team, and there’s no slowing down now.