TikTok is now the second most popular platform for influencer marketing. As it continues to invest in creator tools and programs, including its $200 million Creator Fund—expected to grow to over $1 billion in the US in the next three years—the platform is quickly evolving from a platform where people go for pure entertainment and escapism into a community of tight-knit micro-communities. Here we explore a few.
The Tourette community on TikTok, for example, boasts 4.3 billion views of #tourettes, 1.4 billion views of #tourettesawareness, and 1.3 billion views of #tourettesyndrome. Creators in this group utilize the intimacy of the platform to highlight their struggles, including those associated with the neurological condition that are either overlooked or given shallow treatment by popular media. As sensitivity and education around disabilities become even more important, TikTok’s micro-communities humanize those disabilities and inspire compassion. Acknowledging and working with micro-communities like this can’t be overlooked as consumers increasingly prize value-alignment and social awareness from brands.
Zara Beth, the creator behind @zeezee25, is a 16-year-old Tourette syndrome advocate with 1.7 million followers. A video of Zara attempting to take a COVID-19 test went viral and generated 83.4 million views, 14.3 million likes, 132,000 comments and about 698,000 shares. Since then, Zara’s videos have consisted of normal, everyday activities that for her are anything but. Zara’s disposition is light, funny and genuine; traits that have helped her earn the trust of her followers. Although not technically a micro-influencer, the TikTok community in which Zara operates treats her like one, like a personal friend rather than a celebrity or mega-influencer.
Another TikTok creator and Tourette syndrome advocate is Evie Meg, also known as @thistrippyhippie. Far from a micro-influencer standard, Evie has 13.3 million followers and almost 438 million likes. Evie understands the importance of depicting the struggles of living with her condition. Her sometimes confessional tone reminds the community that they’re on TikTok, upheld as a judgment-free zone where curiosity and learning give rise to empathy and understanding.
Another community that’s gained traction thanks to trends around self-improvement is Study With Me, a subset of TikTok where users invite their audience to do just that: study. As the #studywithme hashtag approaches 1 billion views on TikTok, #studywithmee and #study_with_me together hit just over 55.7 million. Study With Me videos are characterized by creators studying at home or in the library, sometimes with a calming ASMR effect and other times with lo-fi or classical music playing. Hacks, tips and tricks are also very common elements. At a time when young adults are hit hardest by loneliness in the pandemic and when many people’s main source of companionship occurs online, it’s no wonder why the Study Web, as this micro-community is sometimes referred to, is so popular among Gen Z and Millenials who are looking for connection and accountability. Recent Harvard research found that 61 percent of those aged 18 to 25 reported high levels of feeling lonely “frequently” or “almost all the time or all the time.
Well on her way to becoming a breakout star among her Study With Me peers is @medical_kat, a Dublin-based medical student with a Discord, TikTok, YouTube channel and Instagram. Her videos consist of tips and resources for students, study motivation and other concepts native to TikTok like pranks and Q&As. With almost 190,000 followers and 3 million likes, her focus on studying and supporting others with similar goals has created an intimate community where members uplift and motivate each other. This micro-community provides a valuable lesson for marketers about empowering consumers. In fact, a Fuse Media report showed that brands must successfully empower young consumers if they want them to spend, advocate and engage with their brand.
While 60 percent of TikTok users are Gen Zers, that doesn’t mean women in their thirties aren’t shying away. In fact, they’re loving it. According to App Ape data via Statista, women in the US aged 30 to 39 are the second largest group of monthly active TikTok users and represent about 14 percent of the app’s user base on Android devices. That’s good news for brands as more than 1 million millennials are becoming moms each year. They’re also the highest spending generation, with $1.4 trillion in disposable income in 2020.
These women are beyond the politics of Twitter and the polished facade of Instagram; they crave a social media app that shows not everyone is perfect and lets them be their unfiltered selves. It’s also worth noting that this cohort grew up with social media, so adopting a new platform doesn’t require much effort. As a result, the #30somethingoftiktok hashtag boasts 13.8 million views while #30stiktok has 7.1 million. The hashtags #tiktokinyour30s and #over30stiktok aren’t too far behind.
There are countless micro-influencer women in their thirties. Take Chelsea Aberkane, for example, the woman behind @borealis_beauty. She has earned over 15,000 followers and more than 50,000 likes through primarily beauty-focused content, but peppers in humorous and inspirational videos as well. A quick scroll through her comments highlights the bond members of this micro-community share, namely women supporting one another, offering advice on beauty products and sharing personal stories to relate to.
Another thirty-something creator worth watching, Yoko Okumura, is a director, writer, performer, and the magic behind @directoryoko. She creates videos for over 17,000 followers and has earned almost 290,000 likes. Yoko discusses her job, new hobbies, film and how to romanticize getting older, all while wearing her age proudly.
While some users flock to TikTok to discover the next hot beauty trend, others use the app as a launchpad. Artists and art collectors love the raw, unrefined and unlimited number of 60-second—and now, three-minute—opportunities they have to showcase or search out new art. A few TikTok-famous artists have even made the app their main source of income and exposure. Even so, TikTok fame for artists doesn’t come without its own set of challenges, as the New York Times recently reported.
Matt Chessco has created a new way to display his paintings in a performance art sort of way under his @mattchessco TikTok profile. His videos are short and engaging and his portraits depict pop culture icons whose fame has undoubtedly helped Matt in his rise up the ranks of TikTok. With 2.6 million followers, the young visual artist went viral snd before he knew it, he had his own online shop and was raking in $2,000 per painting. Nevertheless, copycats started replicating every aspect of his work, from his painting style to the way they’re shown on TikTok, even down to the music he chooses for each video.
Another visual artist, 19-year-old Ben Labuzzetta, AKA @artboy200, has been experiencing a different type of strain on his goals for TikTok. Ben’s rise to internet fame came after he received 29 million views of his videos depicting Kobe and Gianna Bryant after their fatal crash. Around 10,000 people flooded his inbox in one day and ultimately, he chose to stick with TikTok at the expense of admission to the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Ben has earned a solid income and several collaboration opportunities in the last year, though he now feels limited by what has earned him money, views and followers, he told the New York Times. Branching out may cost him, but it’s a risk he’ll have to take.
The allure of TikTok is so that anyone can speak into a camera without rehearsal, makeup and without even getting fully dressed and still connect with potentially hundreds of thousands of people on an intimate and filter-free level. That creative freedom to be vulnerable is fostering a network of micro-communities on TikTok that brands can—and should—partner with.