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White House battle with TikTok sends creators (and their business managers) scrambling for a backup plan.
As President Trump threatened to close Chinese-owned TikTok in the name of national security, the app financed nineteen of its top U.S. video creators as a way to keep them on the platform, and avert potential interest from rivals who might try and poach them. The financing comes as a part of TikTok’s initial $200 million fund called The Creator Fund. Last week, TikTok published a press release which stated that the “fund will reach hundreds of thousands of creators, starting with $200 million and growing to $1 billion in the US over the next three years, and more than double that globally.”
The threat of closing the app has sent the users and influencers scrambling. Many of them have turned TikTok into a social setting where they interact with fellow peers, especially at a time when due to the pandemic physical interaction and attending bars or clubs has been limited, or non-existent.
Perhaps the most severe blow, however, would be dealt to influencers who use TikTok as a way to make a living. Hootie Hurley, 21, who has more than 1.1 million followers on the app told the New York Times that losing access to TikTok would be “particularly devastating right now” and that the app “has put food on our table.”
Some of these influencers, predominantly teens, have earned millions through the app. Earlier this month, Forbes published a list of the top 7 highest earning TikTok stars, who have cumulatively earned over $18 million.
With their source of income threatened, many have started exploring alternatives to maintain their relevance in the rapidly changing social media sphere by trying to diversify or partially migrate into other platforms. The most popular options: Instagram and YouTube.
The potential opening of the flood gates has also led other apps to experience a boom. Byte (cofounded by a Vine cofounder), Dubsmash, Triller and Zynn grew installations by a spectacular 361%, since Trump threatened to ban TikTok from U.S. marketplaces, according to data from SensorTower.
The potential closure of the company’s business in the U.S. has driven another well-known player, Facebook, to try and fill the gap. In early August, Facebook launched Reels, a TikTok counterpart that allows users to post short videos accompanied by music.
Taylor Lorenz, internet culture reporter for The New York Times, however, was not impressed, calling Reels “the most delusional product” she has seen, adding that it “doesn’t have anything that makes TikTok compelling.”
It is not the first time Facebook has copycatted a successful feature of a social media rival. In 2016, Instagram (owned by Facebook) released the ephemeral Stories, a feature that has been “copy pasted” from Snapchat — and since its launch four years ago it has found immense success. It remains to be seen to what extent Reels will be accepted by users, and whether it will turn into another cash cow for Facebook.