As people find new ways to connect throughout the coronavirus pandemic, ByteDance-owned TikTok — a platform that allows users to create short, 60-second videos — went from being an app on the rise to a stay-at-home staple. In fact, its popularity has exploded — in the month of March alone, 28.8 million unique U.S. users flocked to the app, averaging 858 minutes of viewing each, according to Comscore Inc. data.
Comedy, dancing, lip-syncing and other forms of talent have become the sweet spot for most content creators that have built up significant fan-bases on the platform. For consumers, it's no surprise that the lighthearted nature of that content has given TikTok its moment. And for creators, it's built a massive opportunity — one such user is making $10,000 per month from being on TikTok just four hours a day.
"There's an enormous amount of people watching right now," says serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk. "I took advantage of the moment in time that TikTok is in right now, which is a little more positive, pro, happy, lighthearted, and I thought the momentum would build."
And it did. While TikTok has proved to be a profitable side-hustle for many users who have leveraged their following and landed sponsorship deals, it's also become a tool for doing good throughout the pandemic. Earlier this week Vaynerchuk, who has just over 4 million followers on the platform, orchestrated a live 12-hour TikTok telethon where he raised $2.3 million for the "All-In Challenge" benefiting Meals on Wheels. A roster of celebrity guests joined him throughout the 12-hour live-stream, including Howie Mandel, Paris Hilton, and the D'Amelio sisters, who have become perhaps the most influential young celebrities on the platform since its inception in 2016.
"It reshuffles the deck of who is a leading influencer," Vaynerchuk says of TikTok. "When new platforms come, new influencers emerge ... no different than when HBO pops up and who becomes famous changes, or cable, or pay-per-view. It's a shift in attention that leads to opportunity." However, Vaynerchuk is also quick to emphasize that the opportunities being created by TikTok is less about it being "social media" and more about the "plumbing of communication."
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"Become a practitioner. Please don't underestimate the social network ecosystem … it's communication. It's not social media," he says. "Communication is fundamentally how the world turns; and I implore this audience to triple down on their efforts of being a written, audio or video communicator on the platforms."
While small businesses have been ravaged and unemployment has reached astronomically high levels at the hands of the pandemic shutdown, many have tried to heed Vaynerchuk's advice of tripling down on platforms like TikTok. As a result, the serial entrepreneur offered a bearish tone toward reopening efforts throughout the country.
"You can't win in the business world if you don't have your health," Vaynerchuk says. "So many of us love business and entrepreneurship and operations and economies and things of that nature, but health over everything."
When asked what he's particularly bullish on, the early Uber, Snapchat and Twitter investor says, "the internet," adding that these difficult circumstances are all about "a mindset of attacking what you can control." He highlights small businesses that have pivoted to alternative methods of doing business, such as delivery and direct-to-consumer sales, in order to stay alive throughout the downturn.
"It's devastating if your business is dwindling away and you can't reopen," Vaynerchuk says. "At the same token, control what you can control. The only thing that's not going to work is dwelling and crying about things you can't control."
Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.