This Week Was A Wake Up Call For Influencers
When the pandemic hit, everyone packed up their offices and went home, state-by-state. Jobs were lost. The economy came crashing down. But for content creators, their professional lives remained largely uninterrupted. Working in an online space proved to be weirdly pandemic-proof. But this week, influencers learned the real uncertainty in their profession may be coming from inside the app.
It all started when India banned TikTok after a brawl between its soldiers and China’s. TikTok’s parent company, Bytedance, is headquartered in Beijing, and this move piqued the interest of the U.S. government, which is currently dealing with its own rising tensions with the country.
"With respect to Chinese apps on people's cell phones, I can assure you the United States will get this one right too, Laura," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox’s Laura Ingraham when asked about India’s ban last Monday. "I don't want to get out in front of the President [Donald Trump], but it's something we're looking at."
TikTok assured the public that their data was not being given to the Chinese government, but still users prepared for the worst and grappled with a future beyond the app.
“The first thing I felt was sad for the millions of people who watch TikToks as their entertainment for fun, comedy, tutorials and so much more,” creator Ellie Zeiler, 16, who has over five million TikTok followers, previously told nofilter about the ban. “TikTok has become such a big part of people's lives, especially since COVID started, and I know in my family it's given us so many laughs and is a way of connecting with each other.”
Things like Amazon banning (and then, unbanning) TikTok for its employees and glitches on the app (including view counts temporarily going to zero) have kept people on their toes, but that’s not the only platform creators are now realizing isn’t foolproof. On Wednesday, Twitter accounts belonging to Barack Obama, Kanye West, and Elon Musk appeared to have been hacked, asking followers to send the prominent figures bitcoin. It wasn’t Obama, West, or Musk themselves who suffered the breach, but Twitter itself.
“We detected what we believe to be a coordinated social engineering attack by people who successfully targeted some of our employees with access to internal systems and tools,” Twitter Support wrote. One of their preventative tactics including blocking any verified users from being able to tweet for a number of hours, a function that has since been restored.
Luckily, those have just been blips (albeit big ones). On both Twitter and TikTok, creators can continue to post as normal. But they have been a terrifying reminder that influencers and other social media empires are built on a foundation that can go away with the click of a button. This has prompted some creators to begin putting their eggs in as many baskets as possible. Zeiler told nofilter that she’s working on a YouTube channel, and another popular TikTok creator, Boman Martinez-Ried, assured his worried followers he’d be doing the same.
Hank Green, creator of VidCon and longtime YouTube user, has different advice for worried influencers: Make a Patreon.
“Moving to a mature, crowded platform will be a fight every day, tooth and nail, for a tiny share of massive attention,” he tweeted about platforms like YouTube. “Moving to Crowd Funding is a way to connect directly with your most active community members, giving creators stability to build from.
TikTokers shouldn’t be pushing their audiences to YouTube and Insta, they should be pushing their audiences to Patreon.— Hank Green: A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor is Out! (@hankgreen) July 12, 2020
These past few months have confirmed one thing: Influencers are the future—but it turns out we just have no idea what that future will actually like.