Inside Tik Tok’s Money Machine by Neil Andersen

 In Blog, Directors, Elementary, Lessons and Ideas, media literacy, Neil Andersen, Resources, Secondary

Inside Tik Tok’s Money Machine

Many students aspire to become influencers. 

Is this a realistic aspiration? 

How might someone achieve these goals? 

How much work should they anticipate?

How much income should they anticipate?

This Australian Broadcasting Corporation post is as interesting for its form as it is for its content, so it’s a great example of teaching through & about. 

As well as explaining many of the mechanics of Tik Tok influencing, the post describes what it terms a ‘battle’ and—possibly—a little-known Tik Tok live streaming feature. A ‘battle’ consists of a head-to-head live-streamed contest between 2 influencers’ followers gifting them with pre-purchased ‘coins.’ The influencer who receives the most coins wins the battle and later redeems the coins for money. The battle is really just comprised of each influencer exhorting their followers to give them more and more ‘coins.’ There is no skill-testing question, no swimsuit competition, no talent show. Just gimme-gimme-gimme. TikTok takes about 60% commission on any ‘gifts’ users give to influencers. Gimme-gimme-gimme.

The post is also compelling because of its presentation. Rather than a series of paragraphs as we see in most news items, the post uses animations and graphic designs to enhance its entertainment value. This design provides students with opportunities to consider form & content, or about & through. See the frame grab below.

The post also addresses another important issue: online addiction. Some Tik Tok users have gifted influencers thousands of dollars. What is their payoff? It seems to be a sense of belonging to a group. Some influencers likewise have a sense of addiction, specifically to the virtual company of their followers. So the possible take-away is that social media provides a sense of identity and belonging: in the case of the influencers, a sense of celebrity and obligation to entertain their followers; in the case of the followers, a sense of group-membership.

Questions for students to consider:

  • How might the post’s designs enhance its effectiveness?
  • How might the post’s designs enhance readers’ ability to better understand Tik Tok?
  • What other news topics might be enhanced by similar designs?
  • What useful information about Tik Tok influencers and influencing does the post provide?
  • What are users getting for their money?
  • Why might users be willing to gift influencers thousands of dollars? 
  • I.e., how might the Tik Tok battle environment impact their actions?
  • How might Tik Tok justify taking 60% commission? 
  • Do you think 60% is a fair commission? (Apple takes 30% on items sold in its app store; Uber takes 30% on food deliveries.)
*feature image from:

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