For years experts have been saying that video is the next frontier of social media. Platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest are prioritizing video content because it keeps users on the apps, and businesses, creators and marketers are being tasked to become video producers in order to be favored by the algorithm. The shift toward video is also partly to keep up with TikTok. The video-based app was created in China just five years ago, and by 2018 Americans were flocking to the platform to create dance videos, how-to content and comedy.
It’s no surprise that the Capital Region, home to a flourishing creative community of makers, entrepreneurs and artists, boasts an impressive crop of TikTok creators. They span categories like lifestyle, fashion, food, travel, comedy, self-love and crafting. On TikTok, the niches just get more niche.
Sacramento photographer David Suh has amassed 3 million followers since he began posting consistently to his TikTok channel, @davidsuh, in March of 2020. With a background in content creation on Instagram and YouTube, Suh says he’s long been in the practice of building a brand in tandem with a business and found his big audience on TikTok. Suh says he hasn’t formally written TikTok into some strategic marketing plan to gain exposure, but creates from a place of joy. “I’m sharing my dream job,” he says.
Joy emanates from Suh as he shares light-hearted video tutorials on how to take photos with boba or a blazer, how to pose “cool” or for a mirror selfie. Self-love is his secret sauce, especially when he “duets” with other users, splicing their videos side-by-side with his own and kindly workshopping their poses. The photographer often goes all in with his demonstrations, getting upside down on the floor or shimmying into a dress.
Just as committed to his craft is Stephen Anderson, the men’s fashion influencer behind the TikTok page @samisgoldie, where he shares his personality through voiceovers and streetwear ensembles. Since April of 2020 he’s been curating fashion content, like montages of R&B singer SZA’s best outfits, roundups of sneakers he deems “overrated,” and the occasional dance video where he dons a stylish OOTD (Outfit of the Day). About 10% of his content is sponsored, he says, as he partners with companies like Poshmark to promote the clothing items he styles.
Just before Valentine’s Day, Anderson went viral with an OOTD video where he declared in the voiceover, “I may be single … but at least I can dress.” The video has been viewed over 416,000times, and the sound has been used 30,900 times — TikTok allows its users to build their own content using audio clips from other users. “It was so cool seeing other people’s interpretations of my audio. I even had top TikTokers and celebrities doing my trend, like (the Spanish singer) Rosalía and Shaq’s son.” Anderson says he’s using his TikTok personality to build his brand, with plans to seed content to his YouTube channel, and eventually launch his own clothing brand, podcast and networking collaborative for influencers, which might meet on Zoom or in person to talk shop.
Taylor Cottingim, a Latinx, bisexual woman in tech — known to her 539,500 TikTok followers as @itzabennie — describes herself as a “charisma-based creator,” and her channel as a “coming-of-age story.” She says she’s thankful to have cultivated a community on TikTok, where she aims to uplift others through her content. “I’m here to bring value and meaning to other people,” she says. “My ‘why’ is discovering how to love myself and showing my growth journey on the internet in hopes of empowering and inspiring other people to thrive as their authentic selves.”
Cottingim started creating TikTok content in spring of 2020 as an outlet for self expression after she was laid off from her tech industry job in employee experience and pivoted toward freelance product design. She’s established a relatable internet presence through her honest approach to dating and self discovery and her quirky talents, and has been featured on shows such as “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and “The Kelly Clarkson Show.” “A lot of people talk about (the importance of having a) niche … but I’m breaking all the rules and just being my weird self on the internet and (sharing) dating content.”
Her top viewed video is a sketch in which she plays two people dating — one ready for a relationship, the other skittish about commitment. “I want to share my lessons and encourage others to share theirs in the comments. … The comments sections in my videos are incredible,” says Taylor. “It’s like a little community, I feel really grateful for that.”
Lorenzo Garcia, a veteran food influencer on Instagram, started his TikTok channel in 2020. “During the (early) pandemic,” he says, “I was trying to post at least five times a week. That encouraged me to support restaurants.” For Garcia, part of the joy of TikTok is the attention he’s able to attract for the businesses he highlights. “People are telling me either ‘we sold out because of your video’ or ‘people are coming in from your video.’”
Garcia’s TikTok page — which has 46,900 followers — is a smorgasbord of Sacramento cuisine. His videos usually include an establishing shot of the exterior and a pan over a table full of food. Sometimes his order is as simple as a slice of cheesy pepperoni (seen here at Pizzasaurus Rex); sometimes he’s all about the novelty with a sprinkle-rimmed cocktail or waffles topped with Froot Loops. In one year, his TikTok page has garnered as many followers as his Instagram account. Garcia suggests three things: “Have a niche, be consistent and have good transitions with songs.”
“Add this to your list of things to do in Sacramento,” exclaims a text-to-voice audio clip over a video of Sacramento’s River Cruise, complete with shots of the wine slushies and cheese plates visitors can buy on board. The video is one of many local travel guides you’ll find on the lifestyle TikTok page created by Maddy Eccles, a Sacramento-based family and lifestyle photographer.
Eccles started creating travel guide content on Instagram in 2018 and took a similar approach to TikTok in March of 2020. She says her TikTok account, which has 23,400 followers and is “big on brand awareness,” has helped her book photo shoots with prospective clients. She also creates content for her photography client, Sacramento River Fox Train, and posts videos of their rides through the Sacramento countryside to her own page. The photographer’s top two videos are montages of the Sacramento River Fox Train’s railbikes experience; one of them has over 2 million views. “I think it just went absolutely insane because people in Sacramento are looking for something fun and different to do.”
Embracing TikTok’s irreverent spirit is key to “just having fun with it,” she says. “My mindset with TikTok is to embrace the saying, ‘done is better than perfect.’ If you want to make a TikTok… don’t worry about it being this beautiful masterpiece.”
Claire Curley is on a mission to “make art as accessible as possible, to as many people as possible.” Her “art studio with a purpose,” Broad Room, is all about providing community care to Sacramento creatives, and its TikTok account — full of design tutorials, tours of the Broad Room studio, and advice on where to find artist grants — is an extension of that mission.
For Curley, TikTok is a way to extend Broad Room’s ethos, “art as a human right,” beyond the local. “It’s a really cool way to connect with people outside of Sacramento and talk about our mission,” she says. Much of her content teaches viewers how to serve communities with free art supply closets. Curley is currently helping a viewer who reached out from Pennsylvania to start their own.
While Broad Room’s following is modest at about 2,800, some of its DIY videos gain traction for their skill sharing appeal. Its top-viewed video, watched over 46,000 times, demonstrates the print-making process behind an art print with the message, “Community Care is the Future.” “I got sales of the print from all over the country through that TikTok, so it’s definitely been a tool to get reach beyond people who would come into Broad Room and attend events,” Curley says.
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