Words: Tshiamo Seape
The outlets through which young influencers can access large, engaged followings are only increasing in number and relevance. As Instagram and Facebook reach saturation point, brands are looking for new avenues to mine creative talent. As content creators look for new platforms to express themselves there is a perfect confluence of need with each group finding satisfaction in the other.
Amid the deluge of Internet social media apps vying for every bit of our attention, Tik Tok – the social media app du jour – is so finely tuned to viral readiness, that it has become the fastest growing app for Android and Apple users over the past 18 months. Depending on what age group you fall into, you’re either a diehard fan or blissfully unaware of what will soon become a mainstream success flowing from the fringes into the popular consciousness.
Tik Tok’s somewhat roundabout origins begin in China, where the app is known as Douyin, spread its wings out of the east and began its global takeover after re-branding as Tik Tok in western markets. Currently boasting 500 million monthly active users – which surpassed Twitter’s 336M and Snapchat’s 186M – and 50 million downloads in the U.S. alone, according to vox.com Tik Tok has surpassed Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat in monthly installs in the second half of 2018.Where the app is showing its strength is in the personas it creates. Like Vine, whose stars flocked to and cashed in on YouTube, Tik Tok is tailor-made for creating future stars.
Where Vine was somewhat unfriendly to casual observers, Tik Tok’s huge library of preexisting sound clips makes for a much more gentle learning curve for people not immediately familiar with the app’s particular “language of comedy”. Fans of the now-defunct Vine will find all of this quite familiar, but where Vine concentrated on comedy, Tik Tok is still primarily a music platform. The interface is similar to preexisting apps with users having the ability to add 15 second sound clips (music and sound bites) from the app’s library. Add effects and filters and you have an idea of what is on offer.
A bonus for those still too tentative to fully immerse themselves in the lip syncing, dancing, lip dubs, and challenges department, is that you can watch videos without creating an account.
Another prerequisite of virility, collaboration, is also built into the functionality of the app. Users can perform “duets” with one another by replying to their videos, creating a split screen effect that feeds into the constant chain of reactions.Touted as the fastest growing app in the world, Tik Tok may not yet have the notoriety of Instagram or Snapchat but its popularity is impossible to ignore and is attracting increased attention. For now, Tik Tok does not feature ads on the platform, but the potential for monetisation is there. The platform offers an opportunity for aspiring influencers to make their mark.
Locally and abroad Tik Tok has not seen much buy-in from celebrities or even second-tier prestige personas; it is still largely the domain of regular folk. This complete lack of saturation (despite the immensely high download numbers) means there is still a lot of room for it to evolve and come into its own. Truth be told it will still be a while until we truly know the value of this burgeoning platform.YouTube is also providing fertile ground for micro influencers looking to expand their portfolios. Now that audiences have caught up to the trend of locally grown, YouTube talents and rewarded them with views and subscribes, brands, as they always do, have started to notice.
With a camera and a winning personality, or even just the willingness to portray one, there seems to be an abundance of ways to court brands of varying sizes into forking out for the privilege of making use of content creation services. Previously reserved for models and performers, Cosmopolitan SA’s March cover was graced by Mihlali Ndamase, Jessica Van Heerden and Nadia Jaftha, 3 of the country’s most prominent YouTubers Dubbed the “Influencer Issue” – with Cosmo declaring them the YouTube Class of 2019 – there seems little doubt as to the power of the social network and its stars. Collectively, the trio boast over 200 000 subscribers, an impressive number even when you don’t take into account their total social media following across Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
While these stars are on the higher end of the popularity spectrum and would not be considered micro on any scale, it’s still important to realise the heights that microinfluencers can aspire to.