From preteens, teenagers, and college students to grandparents, medical professionals, and even A-list celebrities, its popularity has become so intense that nearly every age group and demographic has taken a stab at finding internet fame. Each demographic is dancing, lip-syncing, and producing comedic videos in hopes of appealing to the masses; TikTok has truly taken hold of the world. The app’s concept is simple — users create and share short video clips ranging from 15 to 60 seconds. The platform started as an outlet for mostly lip-syncing to popular songs and media clips, but as its popularity has grown, so has the breadth of its videos.
Some of the most common videos are centered around comedic observations, obscure pop culture or geographic references, interesting talents, cooking, or musical covers. What makes it stand apart from Snapchat or the now-defunct Vine is one crucial difference: the closely guarded algorithm that produces the app’s opening dashboard. Unlike other apps, this home screen is not full of people you are following. That is because the algorithm searches for new clips rather than pushing already popular ones. This means that you do not need lots of followers to go viral. It is possible to buy tiktok views, but not necessary.
So who are TikTok’s biggest stars?
The app’s popularity has turned everyday people into pseudo-celebrities. One of TikTok’s biggest stars is Charli D’Amelio, the teenage girl taking the dance world by storm. She has accumulated over 100 million followers and generated 8.7 billion likes for her videos, most of which consist of dancing. Her breakout success has led her to a spot in Hype House, a cameo appearance in a Super Bowl commercial, and a contract with a premier talent agency. Now, her family is getting their own documentary TV show on Hulu in 2021.
Her sister, Dixie D’Amelio signed a contract with a major talent agency alongside her younger sister in late 2019, and has released two singles — “Be Happy” and “One Whole Day (feat. Wiz Khalifa)” — in 2020. Addison Rae — as 20-year-old Addison Easterling is known online — quickly rose to fame after joining TikTok in the summer of 2019. She regularly draws hundreds of thousands of views on videos where she dances and lip-syncs to popular songs on the app and hosts a Spotify-exclusive podcast called “Mama Knows Best” with her mother, Sheri Nicole.
Rising to fame on TikTok, Josh Richards is a well-known social media star and actor with over 20 million followers on the video-sharing app. Originally from Canada, Josh resides in the USA, and in 2019, he became a member of the collaborative social group, Sway House. Posting videos of himself dancing and lip-syncing to popular songs, Josh’s success on the app has led to numerous brand collaborations. Bella Poarch is quickly becoming one of the most well-known TikTok stars. She went viral after posting a TikTok video of her lip-syncing to Millie B’s ‘M to the B’ song. The clip is currently the most-liked video on TikTok with almost 34 million likes. Bella is 19 years old and most of her videos involve her lip-syncing to viral songs.
During the lockdown period in June, TikTok announced it had around 800 million active users, and it announced it had 315 million downloads by the end of 2020’s first quarter, setting a record for the best quarter for any app, ever. The promotion of trends on TikTok has gone hand in hand with its creation of the audio meme; the mass reproduction of the same sound to all of these magical trends. Sometimes the sounds are from well-known artists, some of whom deliberately court TikTokkers to try and boost marketing on the platform. But what has been a distinct component of TikTok culture this year has been the virality of unknown singers and artists who have been lifted from obscurity to views and listens in their millions.
YouTube turned many people into content creators through their computers – and now TikTok is turning even more people into content creators via their phones. YouTubers have to shoot with editing for the platform in mind – but TikTokkers whip their phone out often on-the-go or in a spare moment at the home, film, and edit in-app and then instantly upload. This is color-by-numbers content creation – you are offered up trends either in the For You Page or the Discover page and you can start making videos straight away. The burden of making it look like a videographer shot it disappears – as does the pressure of having to come up with content ideas.