this is Understanding TikTok – your weekly 🪡 TikTok update. My name is Marcus. You do remember this TikTok Kitchen idea (#65), right?! Well, TikTok’s marketing chief Nick Tran has been ousted after blindsiding top management with a series of increasingly bizarre campaigns including the kitchen idea. Sorry to inform you that you might not be able to get your feta pasta (recipe) delivered to your door any time soon.
Today we talk about:
🧶 Fast Fashion
💣 The War is coming
🎤 The Duet
🧶 Fast Fashion
OMG, tweeted Zoe Scaman. Because things escalate quite fast around here. In the last newsletter (#66) i covered Francis Bourgeois - 2.2 M Followers 37.5 M Likes - a guy spotting trains. The 21 year old actually named Luke Nicolson was “unmasked” right before signing a global management deal.
Fast forward a couple of days and Francis is the main character in the latest Gucci North Face collaboration with a huge story on Highsnobiety. Well, he probably was a model before going viral on TikTok. At least the comment section underneath a Taylor Lorenz TikTok suggests that. But 🤷. The point here is that the fashion industry keeps embracing TikTok culture. Some might prefer the expression sucking it out like a starving vampire 🦇.
It is that time of year again. Fashion week. GQ is doomscrolling. And tells us more about Jonathan Anderson’s TikTok infused inspiration: “When I asked him why he decided to make a plastic pigeon bird purse—he had one 3-D printed for the show, but now has to figure out how to produce on a larger scale because so many people want to order it—he laughed and said he’d seen those videos from Gen Z conspiracy theorists who believe birds 🐦 aren’t real.” Let’s go back to Taylor for a second. Yes, this is her article on the whole Gen Z conspiracy theory (NYT). By the way: The Harry Styles cardigan by JW Anderson that went viral on TikTok (Vogue) is an NFT (Hypebae) now. Certainly.
Rewind. In 2020 Charli D’Amelio was at the Milan Fashion week as well (I went to Milan Fashion Week! YouTube Version), walking the walk for Prada. Now she is a top-earner (Forbes) making more money than many of America’s Top CEOs (WSJ) trying hard to keeping it real (get ready with me!!). More fashion coverage: #48, #47, #30.
💣 The War is coming
Let me spell the word. L.i.t.e.r.a.c.y. And now let’s talk about the war. Let’s talk about disinformation. And let’s talk about Elisabeth Braw, Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute a conservative – some say right-leaning – public policy think tank in Washington D.C.Braw has written an article for Defense One: ‘War Is Coming’: Mysterious TikTok Videos Are Scaring Sweden’s Children.
The article includes wild speculation and surprisingly little evidence or sources for the claims it makes. Braw quotes a swedish newspaper article by Aftonbladet - a paper more on the yellow press side of the media landscape (In late 2006, the paper's own journalist Peter Kadhammar criticized the paper's treatment of the love life of Swedish tabloid celebrity Linda Rosing as equally important to the war in Iraq, says Wikipedia).
According to that swedish article social worker Marie Angsell from BRIS, a children rights NGO, got calls by anxious kids and teens talking about TikTok videos promoting the idea of a soon to happen russian invasion in Sweden. Without linking to actual examples (a quick search i did only let to videos published AFTER the article) Angsell warns about TikTok’s effective algorithm with kids ending up overwhelmed by fear.
Braw in her article now writes that “someone is trying to weaken Sweden’s resolve by frightening children…Russia has a clear interest in sowing fear and confusion in a country that has in recent years begun to rebuild its defenses.” That is wild. Lots of speculation without giving any sort of a proof. Chris Stokel-Walker (“Embarrassing, this”) and Abbie Richards (“you have no evidence”) have thankfully called out Braw on Twitter.
In another article for FT (January 22) Braw has written that “a citizenry able to distinguish truth from falsehoods is vital” and that it is necessary to teach “the public how to verify information.” True that. Given the fact that there is obvious disinformation happening on TikTok. Compare #59, #56, #33. I want to dig a bit deeper into the Internet Research Agency, their tactics and their disinfo campaigns soon.
🎤 The Duet
There are, there have been and there will be great duets. One of the core functions of TikTok. They can be used to debunk misinformation #12, to spread political activism, for doing interviews. And of course music. Do you remember the Grocery Store Musical? Or the soup girl stitch/duet? Or this gem?
Okay, and now let’s talk about Sadie Jean. Yet another young person on this planet who likes to sing. Or as Sydney Barragan puts it in NYU’s independent Student Newspaper: Jean’s first single, “WYD now?”... represents the culmination of a life-long passion for music and big dreams that Jean fostered as a child.
Here is the single. It is okay. But the thing is: On Thanksgiving, she issued an “open verse challenge,” a reliable TikTok gimmick to boost a song’s virality, writes Jon Caramanica for the New York Times (How Big Can a TikTok Duet Get?).
The sheer amount of different takes and the wide range of interpretations, including amongst others Lil Yachty an American Rapper with 175.9 M Likes on the platform, is great. You can have a good time scrolling through the entire WYD Now Open Verse Challenge (currently 18.9K videos). I liked this one and this one and this one. Oh, here is the Lil Yachty version.
🥡 What else?
Ten days ago Reuters Institute published Journalism, media, and technology trends and predictions 2022 – an extensive study of what is probably to come in journalism based on a lot of interviews with executives and industry people. To cut it short: Publishers will – amongst various things like trying out VR goggles at conferences – put more effort into TikTok.
Data driven approaches to music are a thing now. Griffin Haddrill is a founder of VRTCL. Here is his portrait in the NYT.
During the short and almighty Alt TikTok phase Creators became Companies. Mimicked them. Now the tables have turned. Companies become Creators. Sometimes it works out. Duolingo anyone? Here is Protocol.
Speak soon. Ciao.