Teenagers used to aspire to become astronauts, firefighters, footballers or pop stars, but times change and so do career goals. Today, more than half of millennials and Generation Z-ers – those aged 13-38 – in the US aspire to become social media influencers, according to recent research.
The Chinese viral video app TikTok is the platform of choice for young people seeking to monetise their talents because it seen as rewarding anyone’s ability to entertain, whereas Instagram or YouTube tend to reward those who already have celebrity status.
And for a very lucky few, taking to TikTok could be a seriously lucrative career option. Marketeers reckon that the most popular TikTokers could currently charge close to $200,000 (£155,000) per post if they promote and collaborate with brands. Researchers at Morning Consult, a US tech research group working on behalf of the games company Online Casino, argue that TikTok is growing so fast in popularity that some influencers might even be able to charge nearly $1m per post by next year, The Guardian says.
Loren Gray, a 17-year-old singer from Pennsylvania, is said to be the most marketable current TikToker, with researchers estimating she could charge as much as $197,000 (£152,000) per post.
Gray has more than 38 million followers on TikTok – which posts videos of between 15 and 60 seconds in length – making her one of the most-followed accounts. Gray has used her popularity on the app to secure record deals with Virgin Records and Capitol Records. She posts daily on the platform and her posts have received over 2bn likes.
Last year, the US fast food chain Chipotle paid Gray to participate in a “guac song dance-off”. The hashtag challenge – an official TikTok campaign in which a creator uses a specific hashtag for a sponsored video – was called #GuacDance. The campaign centred on a song about guacamole from the children’s music artist Dr Jean, and went viral.
Morning Consult estimates that popular TikTok stars could be paid up to $0.005 per follower for sponsored posts, which means a star like Bhatia could charge $973,000 per post if she reached the 194 million mark.
TikTok, which is owned by the Beijing-based tech company ByteDance, was valued at $75bn in 2018 when Japan’s richest man – Masayoshi Son – invested in it via his SoftBank venture fund. It claims to have about 800 million active users, which would make it more popular than Twitter and Snapchat combined, but trailing Facebook.