TikTok’s Winning Formula Starts with the Algo, but Thrives thanks to the Creators
The evolution of content continues at warp speed due to pure individual creativity
By now, the open algorithm, where a new account can blow-up in the first week because videos are not pre-judged by past performance or prior stats is well known and a huge draw to creators.
The apps and filters and tricks that are provided by the software are also extremely enticing. There are many videos (“TikToks”) that feature how-to and DIY tips for using various hacks to get SFX into your clip.
But, by far, the biggest draw and quality that most sets TikTok apart from virtually all other social media is the character of the creators themselves. And the diverse and unique spectrum of what can be perceived as successful and popular on the app is a creation of the creator and user community itself.
Links to the creators in this article:
The contrast with Instagram and Facebook couldn’t be more extreme
After sampling 20 hours of TikToks a year ago and comparing those to today, what stands out most is how the same qualities that seemed like a blast into a different universe a year ago, compared to what came before, are now much more developed and refined, if a concept like refinement can be applied to absolute quirky free expression.
What stands out is the level that creators are embracing the platform, not just to get seen and build stats, and possibly influence earning potential, but to communicate. With sometimes almost shocking honesty what they really believe in and and especially who, exactly, they are. That confidence is contagious and gives the experience an addicting quality, and yet, it’s a more positive addiction than any other social media experience.
Most intriguing, from a journalists point of view, is how highly intelligent, mostly self-educated creators are devoting enormous energy toward propagating highly valuable, yet often overlooked, insights about society, finance, internet business, wealth and, well, life itself. All without concern for an immediate reward.
There’s an electric feeling that, once given a platform and a megaphone, the chance exists for a world of information and constantly changing ideas to be rescued from the bland pit of ignorance and convention that is the weakness with most of media product.
A faint echo of hope, bouncing back from the dream of a better future
News and media web sites, that bend and contort content choices out of fear of revenue reductions, are rightfully lambasted and called-out for lack of coverage in areas that are critically important and yet given scant or negative coverage.
The ethos of being yourself, with or without glamor, and still be accepted, or even rising to the top echelons of stat-killing influencers, is not just a theoretical fairytale but is a visible reality all across the community.
You just have to look at what is popular, or even just showing viewer interest generally, and you’ll see incredibly creative people who made the choice to double-down on their uniqueness, rather than trying to conform to some social standard of bland attractiveness or fake charisma.
Because of the emphasis on the “content” of the content, for the most part, rather than slick visuals and production values, or a fake self-aggrandizing fantasy image bolstered by props like mansions, hot cars, make-up and wardrobe, etc. there’s a feeling that great clips will be rewarded for authenticity, more often than not.
The ethos and attitude that pervades the experience as a passive user is an organic outgrowth, in part, of the openness of the algorithm, and appears to be a more honest reflection of what people will “like” if not manipulated with dark patterns and all of ‘Zuckerbergian’ tricks.
Don’t mess with the recipe: just let it grow and evolve
Of course, no app or community is perfect and the best of what is happening on TikTok could disappear at any time. On the whole, however, it seems like the app is now locked into a situation where if TikTok were to lose that “magic”; the magic created by the community of creators themselves, it would destroy the actual formula that built the success of the platform.
And, hopefully, that reality will therefore prevail and will continue and allow millions of creators to grow, share insights and evolve together into a force that could, one day, make the rest of social media adopt at least some of those positive qualities, in order to maintain their own fan base and popularity. Or they will just disappear, to be replaced by a new type of online exchange that has not yet been conceived.
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