The next phase of social media is shopping and creators need to make a choice

TikTok’s home screen, aka the ‘For You Page’, recently became littered with TikTok shop posts. Every second or third post is an influencer hocking cheap dupes of the latest fashion accessory or yet another pickle kit. It’s a stark contrast to 5 years ago, when TikTok was almost 100% advert-free and the shop didn’t exist. Back in those halcyon days, I could scroll for hours without seeing a single promotion for any kind of product, it was bliss.

Over the water at Twitter, under Elon Musk’s tumultuous reign, the platform has begun to charge for blue ticks, quickly followed by Meta putting a price on coveted verifications for both Facebook and Instagram. Blue ticks give your account paid-for credibility, for example, if you want to sell something.

Social media companies are scrambling around for ways to make more money. Their new strategies might be a surprise to us, and many critics are saying it’s the death of them, but they know what they’re doing. Any organisation of this size is planning ahead, a long way ahead, and they’re ushering in their next planned phase of social media – shopping.

What does this all mean if you don’t want to become a face for a brand or sell products? 

TikTok is easy for quick fame and hitting big numbers. My first ever ‘viral’ TikTok went off in mid-2019, getting 100k views, which at the time felt like the world had seen it. It was a short, entertaining video that used some quick cuts to pretend that milk could remove the shells from an egg. It was silly, took very little planning or knowledge, and clearly entertained people. 

For most people, their viral posts are similar. They’re created with little forethought, an idea swiftly captured on video. The value created in those posts is pure entertainment – it’s not planned, or easily replicable. It captured a unique moment in a short video, and people were entertained. In that respect, TikTok is more like broadcast media. We go there to stare at a screen and be entertained by real people, rather than to engage with real people. 

This focus on pure entertainment comes at a cost. As a creator, it’s extremely difficult to base your entire platform on capturing unique moments. You need structure and planning, to deliver something new make every week, regardless of your mood, your schedule and the rest of life, while still getting the views.

Gurwinder’s recent blog squarely criticises TikTok as a weapon of mass distraction, citing how its dumbed-down content is a Chinese trojan horse, designed to stupefy the west. Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, has a focus on educational content and the app features time restrictions that prevent 2am doom-scrolling, quite the antithesis of our mindless entertainment. His point is that TikTok has been sent to destroy the west through 60-second dopamine hits that will eventually incapacitate our cognitive abilities.

With the new prominence of TikTok shop, it looks like we’re being herded into mindlessly consuming and purchasing too. As a creator, it’s time to re-assess your values and decide which direction you want to go. Do you want to sell, sell, sell? Or do you want to create real value for your viewers – because there will always be space for this. TikTok is offering the shop as a way for creators to make money, while other platforms still offer more significant monetisation for good content. Now, more than ever, is the best time to diversify across platforms. The rewards being offered for great content are way higher outside of TikTok.

YouTube now seems like the grand-daddy of educational content, with it’s long-form videos that are well planned and scripted, in comparison to the short, snappy, reels-based content on other platforms. YouTube is also renowned as the most lucrative for video creators, with a payment scheme that outshines all other platforms. Facebook also provides a decent fund for video content, once you reach a certain level of followers, and YouTube are really beginning to push Shorts with monetisation. Meanwhile, TikTok pays creators the least.

And as TikTok focuses on the shop, it’s evident that’s how they want creators to make money on the platform.

If you’re a creator and want to earn from that skill and make it sustainable, now is the time diversify, and focus your knowledge, skills, and abilities on creating high-quality content, consistently, across all platforms. 

Learn more by downloading my free ebook and joining one of my masterclass webinars!

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