TikTok’s wacky videos can capture you your 15 seconds of popularity

Gil Croes (right) and Jay Croes speak onstage at TikTok's US launch celebration

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Gil Croes (right) and Jay Croes speak onstage throughout the TikTok United States launch event at NeueHouse Hollywood on Aug. 1, 2018, in Los Angeles.

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Gil Croes utilized to work as a salesperson in Aruba, however his heart wasn’t in it. Instead, he imagined ending up being a carrying out artist.

So Croes and his more youthful sibling Jay started making videos and publishing them on Musical.ly, a social networks app that later on ended up being TikTok. The videos were brief — 15 seconds or less — and included the muscular and tatted Croes dancing or lip-syncing as he bent his face and body.   

Soon Croes was acquiring fans. With 18 million fans, he’s amongst TikTok’s most popular developers. Croes’ big following brought in sponsors thinking about promoting their films or music, and he now earns a living on the social networks platform.

“We were just making a lot of videos, and the likes started going up and up,” stated Croes, 25, explaining his abrupt fame. “Everything was happening so fast, and it’s like you can’t believe what is happening.”

Croes and his sibling are amongst the countless acts whose brief, off-beat videos, typically including lip-syncing or dance-offs, have actually made TikTok among the most popular apps in social networks. Like YouTube and Instagram stars prior to them, a brand-new team of influencers is bring in the attention of audiences all over the world and generating numerous countless dollars, if not more.

The unique videos triggered users to download TikTok more than 660 million times in 2015, surpassing downloads of Facebook-owned Instagram throughout the duration, according to SensorTower, an app analytics company. TikTok has actually now exceeded the 1-billion-download mark. And while it’s still far behind YouTube in regards to breadth of material or audience, it’s ended up being a platform that’s attracted countless users. 

Once they have actually seen the wacky videos, individuals are connected. TikTok supposedly stated in July it had more than 500 million month-to-month active users throughout 150 nations and areas. That’s more than Twitter’s 321 million month-to-month active users, half of Instagram’s base and a quarter of YouTube’s users. The competitors has actually kept in mind: Snapchat included TikTok to a list of rivals, and even Facebook, which has 2.3 billion month-to-month users, felt challenged enough to launch Lasso, a short-form video app.

“It’s that same type of consumable, fun, quick-hitting medium, and I think that really works for younger people,” stated Joe Gagliese, co-founder and handling partner of influencer marketing firm Viral Nation. The average TikTok user is 28, and approximately 30% are listed below the age of 25, according to SensorTower.

‘Vibrating noise’

ByteDance, the Chinese business that owns TikTok, began as a news aggregator. Based in Beijing, ByteDance states its vision is to construct “global creation and interaction platforms” that are powered by expert system which benefit from mobile innovation.

Tik Tok media App Illustration

TikTok app.

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The business, which is now the world’s most important start-up, released TikTok in late 2016. In China, the app is called Douyin, or vibrating noise, however it brings the familiar trademark name all over else. The app lets you shoot and modify video. You can include music and other noises together with Snapchat- and Instagram-like filters to lighten up an image or include feline ears.  

In November 2017, ByteDance gotten Musical.ly, a Chinese social video business with a workplace in Santa Monica, California, for around $1 billion. TikTok and Musical.y were integrated, and development rapidly followed.

“TikTok has created a global community that connects through the language of short-form video content, and our mobile-first technology inspires millions of creative, fun, positive and inspirational videos daily,” Stefan Heinrich Henriquez, TikTok’s head of worldwide marketing, stated in a declaration.

TikTok promotes budding stars with a series of services to assist them reach a larger audience.

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Its Next Level Program includes analytics and access to early features for its creators, and promises events at which they can meet each other. TikTok says its engineers will respond within 72 hours if they encounter a technical problem.

Zhang Yiming, the 36-year-old entrepreneur behind Bytedance, gives few interviews, and the company didn’t make him available for this story. In a 2017 interview, however, Zhang said TikTok allowed people to share their lifestyles, a practice he took to heart.

“For a very long time, I was merely watching TikTok videos without making any myself,” he told interviewer Hans Tung. After Zhang posted some of his own,  the company made it “compulsory” for the management team to make videos too. If a video doesn’t get enough “likes,” the creator has to do pushups, he said.

The power of weird

Alaska resident Mychal Chapman, 22, found out about TikTok after seeing ads for the app on Instagram and Twitter. Then a friend texted her TikTok videos with comments about how funny they were.


TikTok also includes augmented reality effects that allow you to transform your face. 

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One night, Chapman had trouble sleeping, so she downloaded the app. It didn’t help with her insomnia; she spent four hours bewitched by TikTok’s bizarre videos. By the time she put her phone down, it was 3 a.m.

“It’s stupid entertaining,” said Chapman, who opens the app when she’s looking to kill time and particularly enjoys a user who rants about eveything from his high school life to crushed potato chips. “It will be like a quick five minutes at work when it’s really slow.”

It’s hard to overstate the weirdness of TikTok videos. Open the app and you’ll see a puppy leading a procession of ducklings, cucumbers sliced to a rhythm and a group of people pranked into resetting their iPhones. Background music is often essential to set the mood. Dialogue is limited or nonexistent. Some will have you laughing out loud, others will leave you cringing.

The off-the-wall nature of TikTok has attracted the attention of celebrities such as Jimmy Fallon, who challenged viewers of The Tonight Show to post videos of themselves rolling around like tumbleweeds to the strains of western music. Last month, actor and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger posted a video of himself riding a mountain bike behind a miniature pony as a country tune twanged in the background.  

The mainstream recognition has only reinforced TikTok’s popularity, analysts say, giving people more reason to talk about the app, if they haven’t already downloaded it. “That creates a viral moment as well where people start to see it and hear about it from their friends,” said Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst at eMarketer.

TikTok has also been compared to now defunct short-form video Vine, which Twitter bought and shut down. But ByteDance, valued at $78 billion, has more resources to pour into TikTok, Williamson said.

Featured video

Kristen Hancher, who lip-syncs and dances on TikTok, hit paydirt when curators chose her first post as a featured video. The selection of the Canadian teen’s video ensured she’d rope in followers fast.

2017 Streamy Awards - Red Carpet

Kristen Hancher is one of TikTok’s most popular creators. 

Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

At the time, Hancher was juggling high school and part-time jobs as a restaurant hostess and gymnastics coach. Now the 19-year-old has 22 million TikTok fans, making her one of the app’s most popular performers. Hancher, who is also on Instagram, YouTube and other social media sites, said she’s been able to ink deals with brands for between $50,000 and $300,000 each.

TikTok doesn’t display paid advertising, but companies such as Universal Pictures, Guess and Sony Pictures have partnered with the app and its influencers. Sometimes music labels pay creators to use their music in order to promote it.

“I’m really grateful for the position I’m in right now,” said Hancher, who moved to Los Angeles and is also pursuing a career in music and fashion. “I would be nowhere without my supporters and everyone who’s helped me along the way.”

TikTok’s rise hasn’t been without problems. Like other social media platforms, it faces questions about the data it collects from users. With a user base that skews young, that’s already generated friction with regulators. In February, TikTok agreed to pay a $5.7 million fine to settle charges with the Federal Trade Commission that it illegally gathered personal information from children.

TikTok has also been criticized for hosting offensive, violent and hateful content, just like Facebook and Twitter.  A state court in India asked the country’s federal government to ban TikTok for “encouraging pornography” and the app was temporarily pulled down in Google and Apple app stores in that country, according to a Reuters report. Cyberbullying and the spread of neo-Nazi propaganda have also been problems for the app, according to media reports.

The company has rules against hate speech, nudity, harassment and other offensive content.  Unlike some social media sites, whose community standards sections run for dozens of screens, TikTok’s is just a few screens long. “If you wouldn’t show this content to your parents or children,” reads one line, “please don’t post it here.” TikTok also released a series of educational videos called “You’re in Control” to teach users about topics such as its community standards.

Honing his style

It took Croes, the Aruban social media star, a little time to hone his TikTok style.

TikTok US Launch Celebration

Here’s a taste of the atmosphere during the TikTok US launch celebration at NeueHouse Hollywood on Aug. 1, 2018 in LA.

Joe Scarnici / Getty Images

The aspiring performer and his brother posted early videos to Facebook and YouTube but they weren’t well known outside of Aruba. Croes figures that’s because his native language is Papiamento, a Dutch creole, and his English needed work.

As he and his brother experimented, Croes took inspiration from Jim Carrey, Charlie Chaplin and other comedians who use exaggerated expressions and over-the-top gestures to convey sentiment without relying on language. In 2016, Croes posted some videos to TikTok and found his comedy struck a nerve.

Like with Hancher, TikTok featured Croes’ video, an endorsement that sent him more followers and money from sponsored content. The brothers started an online shop selling branded merchandise, including hoodies and beanies.

The success has also helped Croes refocus his dreams. He’s now set his sights on becoming a film director.

Fans react with likes, follows and comments, rather than applause or cheers. But he says performing in front of a social media audience is like performing at a stadium.

“It’s bigger than a stadium actually,” Croes said.

The story originally published at 5 a.m. PT. 
Update, 1 p.m. PT: With additional background. 

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