tiktok
Local influencers Wian Van Den Berg and Chané Grobelar.
  • Short-form video giant TikTok recently surpassed 1.5 billion downloads.
  • Young South Africans have taken to the app enthusiastically, with many in a position to generate some form of income as so-called TikTok influencers.
  • The most popular accounts have in excess of 20 million fans.
  • For more stories go to Business Insider South Africa.

Short-form video giant TikTok recently surpassed 1.5 billion downloads, which makes it one of the world’s most popular social media apps - despite the fact that many people outside of their teens have never even heard of it

Young South Africans have taken to the app enthusiastically, with many in a position to generate some form of income as so-called TikTok influencers.  

Popular themes for local videos vary, but most tend to fall within sporting spoofs, acting out South Africanisms, magic tricks, or - as with most videos on the platform - lip-syncing to songs in bedrooms. 

The app is centred around short, sharp, videos under 60 seconds - sometimes they’re carefully choreographed and scripted, other times they’re simple, spontaneous, or seemingly off the cuff.  

Its popularity has exploded among teens in particular, as they attempt to outgun their peers with quirkier, more outrageous, or more suggestive clips.  

Increasingly, though, older users have also taken to the app - with actors, comedians, musicians, and magicians adding it to their arsenal of social media tools to help pull in more views from more fans. 

Much of TikTok’s growth has been down to an explosion of users in India - who accounted for 31% of the app downloads this year.  

But South Africans have also been quick on the uptake - even though the app only officially launched here last year, millions are now using TikTok to get some social media attention. 

Although it’s difficult to officially establish just how popular the platform is in South Africa, local hashtags offer some insight. #tiktoksouthafrica and #southafrica have amassed a combined 7,000 videos and 350,000 fans. Videos categorised with the hashtag tiktoksouthafrica already have in excess of 400 million views. 

And although South African users are yet to break into any global top 100 TikTok influencer lists, some, including former South Africa’s Got Talent contestant Wian Van Den Berg, are getting close.  

The 22-year-old Van Den Berg, who goes by WianMagic on TikTok, makes short street magic videos in the vein of David Blaine - tricks like turning chocolate packets into chip packets, pulling abnormally large straws from McDonald’s takeaway packets, “finding” R100 notes in lemons at Food Lover’s Market, and attaching rubber snakes to “unsuspecting” victims

He has 1.9 million followers, and his 120-odd videos, most of which are just a few seconds in length, have been liked by other TikTok users more than 20.1 million times. This puts him just outside of the global top 1,000 influencers - but comfortably in the top 1%. 

The size of his following, and the engagement with his posts, is enough to generate at least some income on the platform.  

One TikTok user with 880,000 fans told Business Insider US that she earns between R295 and R735 by doing a single TikTok livestream. And sometimes she can make as much as R1,400 with a single “live”, although  she says the app does take “around half” of the money she makes. 

According to TikTok ranking website TikRank, Van Den Berg currently has potential earnings of R419,401 thanks to his TikTok presence. 

Just behind Van Den Berg in the local rankings is Chané Grobler - a 19-year-old from Pretoria. Grobler has amassed 1.5 million followers on the platform with her thousands of videos - they consist mainly of bedroom choreography and lip-syncing to backing tracks.  

One of her most popular TikToks is a skit set to Katy Perry’s E.T., in which there appears to be some kind of suburban teenage love triangle - with the caption of “Oof that escalated quickly ????”. It has 858,800 likes, 2,800 comments, and has been viewed 3.4 million times. 

Her videos have generated 51.1 million likes and in excess of 300 million views - which, according to TikRank's calculations, is enough to generate potential earnings of R117,482. 

Although these local TikTok users may be achieving some degree of local fame, or infamy, in the context of the international rise of the platform they still have some way to go.  

Of the independent creators who gained notoriety from TikTok, the most popular accounts have in excess of 20 million fans

At the very top of the global TikTok list is 17-year-old Loren Gray, who also favours lip-syncing videos and skits - at last count she had 35.2 million followers.

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