Startup Kangaroo Indicates Plans to Close; Roblox Rewards CreatorsRead More

Art by Clark Miller.
Art by Clark Miller.

The Million-Follower Factory: TikTok Is Making Everyone Famous—But Few Creators Are Cashing In

For TikTok’s growing army of influencers, “fifteen seconds” of virality doesn’t count for what it used to.

Art by Clark Miller.
July 22, 2022 9:05 AM PDT

Three years ago, Owen Holt was finishing up his junior year of high school in Orlando, Fla., when his older sister encouraged him to try his hand at TikTok. He posted a video of himself in the bathroom, lip-syncing to an a cappella cover of Justin Bieber’s 2009 hit “Love Me,” and then he went to bed. The next morning he woke up to 10 million views and tens of thousands of new TikTok followers.

“I had no idea how social media worked,” said Holt, who is now 20 years old and has 4 million TikTok followers. “I was like, ‘I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m basically TikTok-famous now, so I’m going to roll with this until I can’t anymore.’” He kept on posting, and soon expanded his reach onto other social networks, eventually climbing to 124,000 followers on Instagram, 10,000-plus subscribers on YouTube and a hosting gig on Paramount+’s “Next Influencer,” a reality competition for up-and-coming creators.

For Holt, timing was everything. If he started posting on TikTok today, he says, he wouldn’t break through in the same way. “TikTok is becoming so saturated,” he said. “There are so many [more] influencers and micro-influencers than ever before. It’s so much harder now to use it as a stepping stone.”

Get access to exclusive coverage
Read deeply reported stories from the largest newsroom in tech.
Latest Articles
 
Exclusive Venture Capital Startups
Blackstone Plans to Back Tech Startups in $2 Billion–Plus Lending Push
Viral Patel, global head of technology investing for Blackstone Credit. Art by Clark Miller.
Private equity giant Blackstone is gearing up to make its first major push into lending to startups and technology companies—joining a corner of the debt market that’s quickly heating up. The firm expects to invest at least $2 billion in technology debt deals over the next few years, including venture debt, deals with pre–initial public offering startups and deals with...
Latest Briefs
 
Warby Parker Slashes Revenue Guidance, Moves Forward With Brick-and-Mortar Expansion
China Investigates Executives at Big Semiconductor Investment Fund
SoftBank Expects $34 Billion Gain From Sale of Alibaba Shares
Stay in the know
Receive a summary of the day's top tech news—distilled into one email.
Access on the go
View stories on our mobile app and tune into our weekly podcast.
Join live video Q&A’s
Deep-dive into topics like startups and autonomous vehicles with our top reporters and other executives.
Enjoy a clutter-free experience
Read without any banner ads.
Data Point Google Facebook
Why Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai Are Worried About Productivity
Executives at Facebook parent Meta Platforms and Google parent Alphabet are feeling the pressure, so they’re giving employees a kick in the pants.
Art by Clark Miller
The Big Read
‘He’s Making Up a World He Wants to Attack’: How Vivek Ramaswamy Became a Right-Wing Culture Warrior
Riley Moore had never met the man seated next to him. The state treasurer of West Virginia, Moore had come to a conservative retreat in the state’s storied Greenbrier resort in May 2021 to talk about a letter he and 14 other Republican state treasurers had just written to the Biden administration’s climate envoy, John Kerry.
Illustration by Jesus Escudero.
Exclusive Venture Capital Startups
Debt Is Back for Startups Shut Out of IPO Market
Tech startups that had been eager to go public this year have been forced to put those plans on ice amid the market meltdown.
Art by Clark Miller.
Venture Capital Startups
Venture Capital’s Limited Partners Warn of Fundraising Slowdown
The era of easy money could be over for venture capital firms. Although VC fundraising has so far matched last year’s brisk pace, limited partners—the people and institutions that invest in VC funds—say a slowdown is afoot.
Enterprise Power List Venture Capital Enterprise
Introducing The Information’s Enterprise Tech Power List
The biggest battle in tech is happening where most consumers can’t see it: the cloud. And a new cast of executives and investors are increasingly calling the shots—making decisions about the future of the battle with trillions of dollars at stake.
Photo by Alaska Air Group.
Facebook
For Meta’s Next CFO Susan Li, Metaverse Dreams Mean Real-World Challenges
When Meta Platforms reported its first-ever quarterly revenue decline last month, the Facebook parent company also made a key promotion with little fanfare: 36-year-old finance executive Susan Li would become chief financial officer in the fall, replacing longtime CFO Dave Wehner, who held the role for eight years and would transition to a strategy role.