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TikTok is now a shopping channel - and Gen Z is bored of it 

Plus: Why your Instagram sucks...

Welcome to another edition of our Curious Creator Newsletter. This week may seem like a bit of a Debbie Downer as we question the strength of the creator economy and whether it can keep up with its self-created evolution as well as the evolution of Gen Z’s tastes. A good read if I say so myself…

Why your Instagram sucks 

TikTok creator and creative freelancer Mel, @freelancecoachmel, is letting us know that our Instagram sucks. Mel consistently posts content under the category ‘Freelance Bootcamp’ which promises to help freelancers become a “consistently booked, well paid and highly favored freelancer” in the creative industry. 

Her latest video guides us on how to make more money through curating an attractive instagram page. 

Here are some highlights: 

  1. Update your @ and name (aka SEO bar) 

  2. Add a Category to Your Page

  3. Optimize your Bio: Break it down into three lines; what you do, who you do it for, a call to action. For example…
    Creating social videos for global brands
    Trusted by Nike, Tinder, Urban Decay +
    Link to Editing Enquiries + more below

  4. Organize your Highlights
    Let’s start with the base three; Services/How to Book, Previous Work, Client Testimonials. 

  5. Profile Pins: the top three posts that appear on the first line of your page.

    1st pin: intro to you. An attractive friendly picture of yourself with a good caption, maybe even a video of you in action

    2nd pin: Portfolio highlights pin. Make a Reel with the highlights of your work in action!
    3rd pin: Your most proud work. 

TikTok is now a shopping channel - and Gen Z is bored of it 

TikTok just isn’t what it was in 2021… Gone are the days of fun-to-learn dances, hilarious copyable sounds and super educational videos. I feel like everytime I open the app I’m bombarded with advertisements showing me products I don’t even want to buy - literally every 10 seconds. TikTok creator Manrika Khaira agrees with me. 

In a video posted last week, Khaira, who has over 600,000 followers, said the platform used to be more fun — a place filled with cool trends, dynamic discussions between creators, and hilarious jokes. "I'm seeing some of my favorite creators promoting products that they know don't work or they know don't do what you are saying they do," she said.

Another creator named CeeVan said that influencers now want to be influencers "for the brand deals" so they can get "nice free stuff [...] And we see through it now”. 

With the cost of living skyrocketing and people's disposable incomes shrinking, CeeVan's resentment reflects the anxieties many Americans have about money.

A disillusionment with what influencers are selling may have more to do with their relatability tanking when it used to be something that set them apart.

Back in 2021, being an influencer was more about passion than profit. Now content creation is a full-fledged career built on subscriptions and commissions, which has changed its dynamics.

Do Gen Z even want to use TikTok anymore? 

TikTok’s average monthly users between 18 and 24 declined by nearly 9% in the US from 2022 to 2023. In plain English: TikTok's audience is no longer growing…

Hannah Getahun, a writer at Business Insider, says that TikTok used to take up 7 hours of her week. She deleted the app two weeks ago, saying that she now has time to ‘do fun things’. 

She does acknowledge the addictive grip the app has on many of us; “before deciding to delete, I spent 1-2 hours a day scrolling [...] Despite being painfully aware that another cute dog video would not materially improve my life, I would keep mindlessly moving on to the next clip.”

Getahun isn’t alone. 20-something Keilah Bruce told the Journal she neglected chores like laundry and dishes to scroll on TikTok. Another, Gautam Mengi, a film student, saw his grades freefall, and he couldn't even take out the trash without the app open.

Interestingly, upon quitting, Getahun found that “TikTok dupes — like Reels or YouTube Shorts — are not satisfactory replacements. I do find myself scrolling through them for a few minutes a day to get that fix, though.”

To conclude; “now I do fun things, like go outside and touch grass. I even encountered a rattlesnake on a hike last week (not as fun). Doing these things is even more enjoyable than watching them. Who would've thought?” 

Regarding a TikTok return “I'm divided on whether I even want to rejoin the app” she said. “TikTok is a wonderful place to find young people doing inspiring things [...] However, it is also full of hate speech and trolls, and I would argue that the comments can be just as toxic as X at times.”

Is the Creator Economy dead? Plus how to keep up with its own evolution: 

Considering a growing trend in deinfluencing, and various failed brand collaboration instances, now is a good time to reflect on how viable the creator economy is – both for brands who intend to reach wider audiences through influencer marketing, and the content creators who have the platforms with those sought-after communities. 

Are the main takeaways: 

  • Authenticity Isn’t Going Anywhere: Brands and influencers should prioritize authenticity in partnerships, ensuring alignment of values and messages to maintain audience trust and engagement. Audiences quickly notice and respond negatively to inauthentic collaborations.

  • Clarity in Objectives: Brands must clearly define objectives and ensure alignment with influencer partnerships. A famous face may create awareness, but effective campaigns require synergy between creator and brand, leading to conversions.What’s the specific intention? 

  • Evolution of Influencer Culture: The rise of "deinfluencing" and AI influencers reflects a shift in audience expectations towards ethical engagement and authenticity. Creators and brands need to adapt to changing consumer preferences and consider the role of AI in the influencer landscape, balancing innovation with authenticity.