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Tiktok Is Changing the Way We Create Content and These Influencers Are Sparking the Movement

TikTok may be everyone’s app-of-the-moment, but there’s more to this DIY video machine than dubs and dance trends.

by Nicole R. Cruz | May 22, 2020

We’re transitioning into a digital space where anyone and everyone has a chance to become content creators—and that’s pretty powerful.

“Are you on TikTok?” is a question that, if directed to a millennial like myself, is often met with mockery. How can it not when the short-video application, that bears much resemblance to the now-defunct Vine, is associated with dancing teenagers who bop to trendy pop tunes clad in midriff-baring tops, as they stick their tongues out or make pouty faces. “That’s just for Gen Z,” my peers are most likely to respond with a scoff.  

While the aforementioned is a legitimate theory posited by a few observant users, the popular mobile app is more than just the go-to pastime of the youth. The skeptical-yet-curious millennial will be surprised to find out that 50% of TikTok users are under the age of 34, with 41% aged between 16 to 24. There’s even a small percentage of much older users who actually come up with pretty good content. In the United States, the number of adult TiKTokers grew by as much as 5.5 times, and it’s safe to say that the same can happen in the PH, too, considering the number of women over 40 that have populated the app, like TV personalities Sunshine Cruz, Aiko Melendez, and Amy Perez.


So, if TikTok isn’t a generational thing, then what has made it a hit? Tech users will say that the mobile app, which was created by Chinese tech company ByteDance, is a piece of technological innovation, as difficult as this is to believe. The app was previously, which ByteDance acquired in 2018 and later on combined with what can be called Tiktok’s predecessor, China’s own lip-synching app, Douyin. Putting together the fun functions of each app—music and dubs—and you have a fraction of what Tiktok is all about.

Essentially, TikTok is a social media platform that streams short videos, ranging from 15 seconds to a full minute. Users not only get to enjoy these videos but also create their own material using its audio (sometimes music, sometimes dubs) and/or effects, and that’s what distinguishes it from those nostalgic Vine videos that are hinged on their comedic value. In this sense, Tiktok is an evolving collection of “remixes” that users can riff on to create their own videos.

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It’s this social way of creating content that sets it apart from Vine and YouTube. But aside from this, the bulk of Tiktok’s secret sauce is the special algorithm that makes it so highly addicting to browse—it delivers an endless feed of entertaining clips selected for your personal enjoyment. Although ByteDance naturally hasn’t disclosed the specifics of this algorithm, The New Yorker mentions that the company’s advanced artificial intelligence (A.I.) recommendation research is touted as “computer vision” with “short video recommendation system” as a sub-category. It’s a mystifying algorithm that has the uncanny ability to anticipate which videos you’re interested in… without you even knowing it yourself.

The app was introduced at the right time, too. Research conducted in November 2018 by Global Web Index revealed that netizens have begun to prefer “passive browsing” on social media for entertainment over-sharing personal missives—something that's missing in the oft toxic Twitter or FOMO-inducing Instagram. Plus, users are now more adept at video editing than they were back when Vine was still around, so they’re more likely to be game enough to produce their own content.


So in tune with the times is TikTok that its numbers continue to climb unknown territory. It was announced last April that the app has amassed over two billion downloads (and counting), the first non-Facebook-owned app to do so. The news follows its Q1 achievement of raking in 315 million downloads, the most downloads of any app in history within one quarter alone. Although the surge in downloads is largely attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, with people finding more ways to pass the time at home in quarantine, there is much more to TikTok than it’s entertainment factor that has users hooked—and non-users intrigued.

Of remixes and original videos

There’s a wide variety of content on TikTok that’s much more diverse than just dance trends. Videos range from seemingly snarky comedic skits inspired by real-life scenarios to lifestyle videos on fashion, beauty, and food, that aren’t just the “show and tell” format you’d find on YouTube.


While most established TikTokers come up with their own video concepts and upload their own audio, many of their videos also ride on current TikTok crazes that one can stumble upon in the “For You” page, the manifestation of ByteDance’s mysterious algorithm. As most of these trends are inspired by pop culture, the algorithm essentially makes the “For You” page a hodgepodge of pop culture trends for you to feast on for hours before you could even remember to look away.

Unlike other social media apps, however, you not only get to discover new things on the app but engage with them on a more personal level because you can “remix” them as you deem fit. Take the “Pew Pew Pew” audio, for example, which was (probably) popularized by Colleen Ballinger a.k.a. YouTuber Miranda Sings. You could tap on the button to use the same music and the exact same filter that she used, which in this case, is the “Big Head” filter that makes you look like a bobblehead. You could recreate Colleen’s video with the same effects, or you could conceptualize something different while using the same audio. It’s like putting your own spin on trends, and that’s exactly what catapulted the Filipino TikTokers we’ve featured in this cover story to stardom, as evidenced by their high engagement on the platform.


Nava Rose creates fun fashion videos that have raked in 22.2 million likes as of writing. She’s now got a clothing line in the making and she’s also the host of her own crafting segment on EllenTube!  

It's a creative exercise

There’s Hawaii-based Filipino Nava Rose who ingeniously rehashes trendy audio or challenges into fashion content. A good example would be how she rode on the whole costume play fashion challenge where people dress up as different personas. She did a Disney princesses version, where she reimagined Snow White, Princess Aurora, and more as modern-day women. She also does lip sync videos where she styles herself to the beat of the song or according to the nature of the dub.

Nava Rose has been a full-time fashion content creator for three years now, with a large following on Instagram and YouTube. She’s known for her insanely on-point outfits that are often inspired by every millennial’s nostalgic era: the early 2000s. She’s also quite the talented DIY fashionista, and she shows her skills through upcycling videos where she refashions her old clothes or that of her family’s (like her uncle’s old basketball shirt!).


Her TikTok content is an extension of this Instagrammable fashion that netizens crave for, albeit bite-sized, and then some. “I'm able to show more types of content that my followers wouldn't normally be able to see on other apps,” she says.

Actress and singer Ylona Garcia uses TikTok not only to express herself, but to also keep her fans engaged with her music. She was able to rake in 1.1 million likes and counting! 

That said, TikTok isn’t just a form of entertainment but a platform where creativity can be honed, as TikTokers are challenged to reinterpret pop culture. But aside from this, research also shows that the app can also be a channel for their feelings and emotions, in the same way that sharing your Spotify tracks on Instagram captures your state of mind at that particular moment.

18-year-old actress and singer-songwriter Ylona Garcia not only participates in typical TikTok trends but uses the app as a way to further articulate her emotions by breathing new life to her songs. You’ll find a lot of singing videos edited for a retro, vignette vibe, almost like a mini music video. She also has a ton of unfiltered jamming sessions where she simply belts out a tune in her home—a glimpse of her raw talent.


“All the songs I release are about my experiences, books I read, movies I’ve seen, and I try to look for ways to apply that to the videos that I create for TikTok.” Another way she enlivens her music is by getting her fans engaged—she once launched her own dance challenge to her single “Space” that resulted in a slew of “entries.” She also reposts videos made by fans that feature her songs, like “Lie So Well.”

Suffice to say, Nava Rose and Ylona see TikTok as extensions of themselves that they could develop and explore in a creative way, what with the accessible plethora of audio and visual material on the app.

A space where everyone is a content creator

While these short clips aren’t any different from self-expressive (and often cathartic) posts on Facebook and Twitter, as well as the entertainment provided by YouTube, one defining element of TikTok that it can proudly claim as its own is its built-in editing feature—a space where sound and scene combine. TikTok clips only last for 15 seconds to a full minute, but they’re more difficult to create than it seems.


The magic of an amazing TikTok video lies in its execution. A few seconds of an imperfect dub, a premature reveal of an outfit, or a badly timed punchline totally kills the wow factor. Although TikTok allows you to film and edit simultaneously using transitions and special effects, it takes an acute sense of timing, an eye for editing, and creativity to bring a concept to life. But that isn’t to say that it requires professional skills. In fact, a lot of self-made content creators launched their “content careers” on TikTok.

Fynest China is known for his relatable videos on Filipino culture that not only resonate with those living in the US but here in the PH as well. He’s nearing 500k followers and has racked up 4.3 million likes so far.

There’s Fynest China, another TikToker based in Hawaii, who became internet-famous after releasing a few Instagram videos poking fun at his mom’s “Filipino tita” mannerisms. Some of his videos also follow a “what Americans do” vs. “what Filipinos do” format, providing his kababayans with relatable fodder that reminds them of home. “I joined TikTok to showcase what I do on my other social media and to connect with my co-Filipinos/Asians out there who can relate,” he shares.


His videos cover topics like “how Filipino moms scold their kids” or “how Filipino kids ask permission from their parents” by creating his own skits (dialogue and all!) from scratch. It’s a one-man show where he plays the role of Cassandra, a fictional Filipino teen, and the role of “typical Filipino mom.” Sometimes, he plays more than two characters, requiring different costumes and a lot of camera takes.

Yanyan de Jesus emerged as the champion at last year’s TikTok All-Star Southeast Asia 2019 under the Talent Category. He has managed to reel a whopping 6.2 million followers and 193.2 million likes.

Closer to home is Yanyan de Jesus whose TikTok content initially focused on comedy, until it broadened to showcase more of his talents like makeup and dancing—and he’s always stylishly decked out in hip streetwear. He’s also done plenty of “duets,” a special feature on TikTok that allows you to use existing content to create your own video in a split-screen diptych. Another TikTok concept that he frequently creates is the point-of-view video or “POV” where Yanyan dreams up a scenario and plays a role where the first person POV is the viewer—a tricky concept that Yanyan pulls off. 


The breadth of his talent was probably what made him stand out at last year’s TikTok All-Star Southeast Asia 2019 contest. Out of an overwhelming 320,000 submissions, Yanyan emerged as the Grand Champion for the Talent category. “I joined Tiktok out of boredom and didn’t expect it to get this far. Everything is still surreal for me,” he says of his newfound popularity.

Unlike other social media platforms where users are merely sponges of information, TikTokers are proactive users that generate their own material. In other words, TikTok is a creative space that essentially makes everyone a video content creator. Couple that with the fact that the enigmatic algorithm gives all TikTokers the chance for life-changing exposure because anyone can literally end up on the “For You” page.

Beyond the discovery page

Consume and create is the creed of TikTok and this cycle has spawned a sub-culture where the pop culture references (that have now been meme-fied) now stand on their own, resulting in the “meme factory” that The New Yorker pointed out and that one TikToker called “a big inside joke.” It has to do with the fact that more than half of TikTokers not only engage with videos by liking or commenting but create their own in response to them, making TikTok one big community of active content creators.


Laureen Uy makes her cool sartorial sense come to life through mind-blowing transitions and witty scenarios that put the fun in fashion.

It’s this novelty that has attracted the likes of Camille Co and Laureen Uy who are already established content creators in the country. They love the hacks and helpful tips that reflexively inspire them to share their own. “I personally love the ‘For You’ page where you get to discover a lot of entertaining videos from people that have similar interests as you without even following them,” Laureen shares.

Fashion bloggers like Laureen and Camille, who have been around since the dawn of the local blogging scene, are not only inspired by this fast-paced TikTok universe but are challenged by it, too. “TikTok is totally different from my old blogging ways. Before it was all pictures for me—then I got into vlogging, which I guess made filming TikTok videos easier. It's fun doing transition videos because, to be honest, it's something new to me and it keeps my creativity flowing,” Laureen posits. Aside from her usual styling videos, Laureen has been successfully creating fashion videos with cool transitions, like literally jumping into one new outfit after another.


Camille Co not only shares cool outfit inspirations on TikTok but helpful hacks, styling tips, and even posing pegs that make it easy for anyone to look on point.

While Camille is also fascinated by the “world of transitions” (which she might incorporate into her YouTube vlogs soon), she also thinks that this TikTok sub-culture can influence things beyond its own little bubble. As observed by fashion lovers who may or may not admit to being addicted to the app, dance-crazy TikTokers have a distinct way of dressing, which even led to Vogue writing an article about it. In fact, Camille herself has sniffed out some of these defining features in a TikTok video: cropped top, bra slightly peeking out, and sweatpants that make it easy for one to move and dance. Baggy shirts and cycling shorts (that are not dead after all!) are also key pieces to ace the pro-TikToker look.


Aside from having its own set of emerging fashion trends, the app can also influence the fashion scene by making it more digestible. Hitting the search button immediately introduces you to game-changing content like style hacks and outfit tips, and soon enough, you’re down a rabbit hole that broadens your fashion know-how.

“People who don’t normally follow fashion accounts still have the chance to stumble upon fashion content and then eventually learn something new about it! It’s definitely made fashion more accessible,” Camille ascertains.

And it’s not just fashion. Those interested in beauty, acting, singing, dancing, cooking, and baking, can also dip their toes via TikTok. In fact, a slew of lifestyle hacks—especially food ones—have not only been a welcome respite for those in quarantine but a chance to form new hobbies to keep. The same goes for those pillow challenges that may have inspired fashionistas to get crafty with what they have.


That said, TikTok’s shared content isn’t quite “one big inside joke” because its effects are far-reaching. As much as it draws inspiration from pop culture, so can it influence pop culture itself—just look to those catchy songs “Savage” and “Supalonely” that became popular because of the app, as well as the many quarantine cooks that it has produced.

David Guison shares his wacky side on TikTok through comedic skits that are creatively executed. “What happens in TikTok, stays in TikTok,” his bio reads.

It’s is all about having fun

Although TikTok’s inimitable crowdsourced content and algorithm have launched many fresh-faced content creators and challenged current ones to explore their skills, the one poignantly refreshing virtue of the app is that it’s carefree and simply a lot of fun. And, it’s also ironic that the exact same technology that can garner anyone millions of views, is the exact same thing that lets them breathe a little easier.


Another OG blogger, David Guison, shares that for him, TikTok is a place where there’s no pressure to rake in the likes because sooner or later, it’ll happen organically. “I just love the non-competitive atmosphere of the app. The power of recommendation algorithms makes users feel welcome and considered. It’s very refreshing and encourages you to post more videos,” he says. Even though his 15-second videos take two hours to film (that’s normal!), it’s the app’s “anything goes” culture that makes it so freeing to participate in. David’s TikTok videos range from hilarious transition videos, styling videos, to random original sketches.

“I always make sure I stay authentic in all my platforms but I see my blog as something inspirational, my Instagram as aspirational, my YouTube for entertainment and my TikTok for letting loose. Even though I am new to TikTok, it is the one app I can be my real, crazy self.”


Maureen Wroblewitz’s candid spoofs and jokes prove that at the end of the day, the app is all about letting loose and having fun.

The same goes for model/host Maureen Wroblewitz and actress Sanya Lopez who see the app as a way to freely show their fans unfiltered versions of themselves. “I thought it was a good idea to show my supporters another side of me. A side that isn’t planned out like my Instagram feed. I think it’s the perfect platform for that,” Maureen shares. Most of her videos are Vine-y comedy, as she had been a fan of the now-defunct app, the nature of which is a stark contrast to the posh, fashion character that her followers are used to seeing.

A lot of her videos depict real-life scenarios that women her age will find relatable. You know, like “waiting for your crush to reply” or “when your mom asks you to showcase your talent in front of family and friends.” Her main co-stars are her cat, dog, and her boyfriend whom she placed makeup on while he was sleeping.


Sanya Lopez' videos, that have reeled in 2.6 million followers and 9.7 million likes, prove that she has mastered the oft-overlooked art of creating dubs and acting videos.

As for Sanya, who’s been a GMA actress since 2012, she likes how TikTok has a lot of material that she can direct herself. “[The app] gives me a freehand executing them,” she says. Naturally, Sanya’s videos are mostly dubs of iconic movie lines or original audio from other Filipino TikTokers. It’s leisure comedic acting but it’s a mark of her talent nonetheless—no wonder she has over 9.1 million likes and counting.

Perhaps a good example of her TikTok creativity is how she created a duet to popular audio from the film Four Sisters and a Wedding… with herself! She’s also a fan of ‘kilig comedy’ audio like those hugot lines said by someone with a really high-pitched voice, that Sanya perfectly matches with ace acting. There's a video, probably taken when she was bored at home, of her dubbing to funny self-deprecating audio asking if she has a boyfriend. "Akala mo lang wala... pero wala talaga," the punchline goes—and she's got a ton more of that kind of stuff.


The sunny side of social media

So, why should anyone, Gen Z or not, pay attention to TikTok? One could dismiss all this dubbing and dancing as a passing trend, but if there’s anything that points to the app’s staying power, it’s everything the app represents right now. In this time of COVID-19, TikTok has served as an escape for those cooped up at home. It has democratized content creation, providing equal footing for aspiring and established creatives alike. It continues to shape our interests and our lifestyles at large.

And, with all the overwhelming events happening around us that inevitably seep social media, perhaps letting loose and having fun can go a long way. TikTok has been therapeutic, and for now, that’s the meat of its merit. But even when all this blows over, maybe people will be less afraid to step out of their shells, to create as they please, and to share their talents with the world. That’s the looming legacy of TikTok.


So, the next time someone asks if you’re on the app, perhaps you could show your best dance moves in response.

Photos courtesy of the cover stars

Produced by Maura Rodriguez and Nicole Cruz

Art Direction by Bacs Arcebal

Fashion Direction by Maura Rodriguez and Nicole Cruz

Beauty Direction by Nicole Arcano

Video animation by Bacs Arcebal (Maureen, Yanyan, Fynest China, Nava Rose, and Ylona), Mart Francisco (Maureen, David, and Laureen), and Carlo Maala (Camille)

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