TikTok don't stop: Meet the London stars of this year's viral social media app

Amelia Heathman
-/AFP/Getty Images

Earlier this year, a goose named Cuthbert became a surprise social media star.

Based at Caenhill Countryside Centre in Wiltshire, Cuthbert didn’t rise to fame with his own perfectly curated Instagram account.

Instead, he had a star turn in the regular morning “rush hour” as his owner Chris Franklin calls it: the short videos Franklin posts on social media app TikTok every day of animals waking up on the farm, which 89,000 fans tune into regularly (@caenhillcc).

Cuthbert’s individual videos regularly hit over 1,000 likes.

It’s not just Cuthbert that’s making waves on the short-form video app. Among the algorithm-driven feed of trending topics and challenges, you might find Reese Witherspoon dancing with her son (@officialreesetiktok) or Liverpool FC players hugging trophies in the locker room (@liverpoolfc). The big challenge this week focuses on Avengers and pools — it’s easier just to look it up.

TikTok started life as Musical.ly, a Shanghai-based app which allowed users to create and share short lip-synch videos. After being acquired by Chinese tech giant ByteDance, eventually Musical.ly was absorbed into TikTok and has swiftly achieved social media world domination. TikTok has collected one billion global users in just over a year, and recorded a whopping £5.7 billion in revenue in the first half of the year.

But what is it about this app that is so addictive and has teens across the world (41 per cent of TikTok users are aged between 16 and 24) regularly logging in for up to 52 minutes per day, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg worried? The company is currently testing Lasso, a “short-form video app” in Mexico, one area TikTok hasn’t managed to dominate yet.

We spoke to some of London’s most popular TikTokers to find out about life on this year’s most viral social media app.

Anna Bogomolova, 21

2.1 million fans @anna

Speciality: Art and comedy

Anna B, 21, has 2.1 million fans on TikTok

Currently studying fine art in London, Anna B, as she’s known, hails from Russia and has made a name for herself on TikTok with videos raising awareness about the effects of global warming (which have received over 2.3 million likes and 18.9 million views), her drawings, and comedic skits featuring herself and fellow TikTokers.

Anna B has been using the app for more than three years and her first video was a lipsync to Elle King’s song Ex’s & Oh’s. She sometimes posts two or three times a day, alongside Instagram and YouTube too. “Studying and being on social media simultaneously is definitely not easy, but it is all about time management,” she says. “I study during the day and create content for TikTok and other platforms at night.”

What’s the pull of TikTok, then? It’s all about the short form. “The extreme compression of information in such a short space of time makes the video a lot more intense and effective than it would have been otherwise. The internet audience needs entertainment that they can perceive rapidly.”

Luca Gallone, 23

4.9 million fans @lucagallone

Speciality: Magician

Magician Luca Gallone, 23, has 4.9 million fans on the app

Being a certified magician is an unusual career, but Luca Gallone says he owes a lot to TikTok. He started using it at the end of last year, posting tricks on the platform, and is now the biggest magician on the app, and was even on The Ellen DeGeneres Show earlier this year as a result.

“TikTok has been instrumental in growing my profile on a global scale. I have one video on there that has 115 million views — one of the highest viewed videos the app has ever seen. It’s very hard to get views like that on other platforms,” he says.

His advice for starting your own profile is consistency when it comes to posting, and to start now. “Create content, try different styles and over time you’ll find your niche. The app is blowing up so now is the time to jump on and build an audience.”

Amber Doig-Thorne, 24

254,700 fans @amberdoigthorne

Speciality: Comedy

Actor Amber Doig-Thorne has over 254,000 fans on TikTok

Alongside her day job as an actor and influencer — she’s currently shooting two films — Amber Doig-Thorne uses TikTok to post short comedy videos, after a friend mentioned she should join the platform. Like any influencer, she likes interacting with her fans on the app and watching videos from American creators, such as King Bach and Amanda Cerny.

It’s the effortless nature of the platform that she enjoys, particularly as it only takes about 15 minutes to make a video. “I’ve found that the videos that I record in one take and accidentally made some mistakes do far better than expected,” she says.

“There are so many genres of content on TikTok and you don’t have to stick to just one. I do comedy, though I also regularly create travel, dance, blog and food content.”

Read more

Chinese video app TikTok has taken over Musical.ly