We have seen surging demand for Instagram reels and TikTok in a couple of years time span among youngsters and even in mid-age people. These platforms have given rise to many influencers, Savitri and Sanatan are some of them. This brother and sister duo from Jharkhand started uploading videos on TikTok in 2018, and there they have realized that here they can earn more than what they used to earn in their village. This duo became Tiktok influencers in no time and this brought them money as well as fame.
They used to upload their dance videos based in a village setting which eventually went viral. And over in the short period, they summed up to have 2.7million followers on their TikTok.
According to the report of an India-based digital agency Watconsult, this duo can easily make 150k per month from the brand partnership as compared to 10k per month which they used to earn as a farmer.
If you ask people about the content on Tiktok, then many people would say “cringe“.
In Google, if someone searches the term cringe Tiktok, will find many articles and videos roasting TikTok. Despite that in 2020, before TikTok was banned in India company claimed to have over 20 crores in India. Tiktok allowed many creators from villages and disadvantaged communities, but it all changed last year when the Indian Government released the order to ban Tiktok and other Chinese apps due to the Galwan valley border clash with China.
We have seen earlier that Tiktok banned in India is widely celebrated by many celebrities and social media personalities, saying that they would no longer be subjected to cringe content.
After the Tiktok ban in India, Instagram rolled out its reel feature which was a direct substitute for Tiktok. But many believed that Instagram is nothing like Tiktok. Divya Kandukuri, an anti-caste activist from Andhra Pradesh pointed out that “Tiktok was a canteen, Instagram is a Cafe”.
Casteism on Social Media.
In 2019, a reporter from the Print media went to Delhi’s Connaught Place to cover a story on Tiktokers and saw some of the boys there were making their Tiktok videos and on the other hand, there was a group laughing at them. And when a reporter asked a boy from the group the reason for the laughing he replied that ” These jokers are lower-caste people and no one from the upper caste would ever make such videos”.
And we have seen many people saying that Tiktok is for the lower caste this mindset was very rampant in India.
We can understand this mindset from this tweet which went viral but now has been deleted, where the user categorized Youtube and Instagram as ‘Brahman’, Twitter under “Kshatriya” Facebook under “Vaishya”, and Tiktok under the “shudra” category. It’s sad to see such comments and the mindset of people even in 21 century. But u know what is the irony is, that these platforms market themselves, to offer equal representation to every section of the society. And we can see that this is not going as they say.
Now let’s understand the reason behind such opinions of the society, about the Tiktokers.
One possible reason could be that the backdrops of these videos were rural.
And this division of class between these platforms resulted in Internet War Tiktok Vs Youtube. We have already been aware of it. But we have seen many popular Youtube creators who not only criticized Tiktok content but also verbally attacked Tiktokers.
Now the important question arises – Why is the class divide visible over social media?
In 2019, a study was conducted by Lokniti-CSDS and found that social media is dominated by the general category whereas we can see many small percentages of Dalits and Tribals. And Tiktok managed to change that in India which made them one of the biggest social media in India.
However, the domination of Tiktok came to an end, with sudden regulatory changes in government policies. And made Tiktok influencers migrate to different alternatives as an uncertain environment regarding TikTok had begun to develop. Whether the Tiktok app would make a comeback or not.
How Tiktok became popular.
Lokniti CSDS studies have told us about the low representation Of Scs and Sts on social media. So, how Tiktok was successful in making creators like Mahto very popular?
According to the report of the Kalagato, showed that Tiktok has expanded its reach to 30 % of all Indian smartphones within a mere 18 months of period.
Aman Kumar chief business officer of kalagato says that “A majority of Tiktok’s users come from tier 2 and tier 3 cities.” Whereas other famous social media platforms such as Instagram can be usually found in major urban cities. Moreover, Kumar says”Approximately 52% of Indian Tiktok users earn less than 25k per month”. We can note 2 main factors which lead to semi-urban and rural Indian communities creating content on Tiktok.
First Tiktok’s interface. And we all have seen Facebook and Twitter we’re built around for making new friends and adding followers whereas, on the other hand, Tiktok made its community realize that they also can have a huge fan following only by creating 15-60 seconds of content on their platform. And for their content consumers, have developed their special Ai-driven interface which suggests users content of their choice without even searching for that. Which made users spend more and more time on their platform.
They have integrated many features for the creators which made their video creation easier, and these features were not available on another platform such as Instagram, YouTube, or Facebook. Tiktok also reduced the language barrier in their app and was very easy for the creators to sync music.
Users don’t need to have expensive equipment to create videos in Tiktok. Arman Rathod a 29-year-old boy from Gujarat was a car cleaner. He was not using any expensive phone or camera to shoot his videos, despite that, he managed to gain 2.7 million followers on Tiktok.
He also said that Tiktok allowed him to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a dancer and even bagged an entry into a popular Sony Tv show.
Tiktok also had many popular songs which also included regional Indian songs, which made rural areas creators come and make content in their platform.
Slowly as Tiktok and its creators became popular, the mainstream brands also started to advertise and support them. Shail Shah at Watconsult says that “Tiktok democratized the creator economy and gave economic opportunities to marginalized groups.”
Now from the time Tiktok was banned from India, its competitor Instagram reels have started taking the limelight.
After the TikTok ban, Instagram reels had grown rapidly and has more than 21 crore, active users, who uploads 60 lakhs short videos daily. But the launch campaign of Instagram reels did not attract Tiktok creators but promoted itself through a set of influencers from well-off backgrounds. Dr. Rabul Advani a research fellow at the University College of London said ” There is a clear difference between Reels and Tiktok. Reels are for more upmarket space.”
Author Anurag Verma wrote that Instagram Reels are designed in such a way that you feel like you’re entering an expensive restaurant and a subtle form of casteism can be seen in such an environment. In Instagram, there are stricter requirements to make reels than TikTok. Instagram revealed in its latest guidelines that it wouldn’t recommend blurry videos, bear a watermark or logo, or have borders around them. This raised the barrier for the entry of creators who cannot afford expensive equipment. And we can see the same case with YouTube.
Sanatan mahto said that as he cannot afford an expensive phone and camera for recording and for uploading videos and this results in that he couldn’t upload a YouTube video.
The users in Instagram have a very different taste than the audience of TikTok, they want to have more beautiful and aesthetic videos. This is not possible for rural people to achieve and this is the reason which made Tiktokers struggle and even some of them failed on Instagram.
What Indians have lost post Tiktok ban.
Sahil shah at Watconsult said that creator’s from tier 3 and tier 4 have lost in Instagram. He said that Instagram is becoming popular and some Indian apps have also been created to replace Tiktok, for ex Moj, Mx takatak, and many more, but tiktok creators are finding it hard to connect with these platforms.
We have seen that influencers from rural areas are not been able to connect or a coup with the trends in Instagram.
The brother and sister duo which we have discussed earlier had garnered a following on youtube and Instagram but the number of views has not managed to climb which is affecting their earning.
And despite the growth in followers and subscribers, on YouTube and Instagram, it remains unclear whether people on this platform consider them as “creators or not.”