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The Toxicity Of TikTok Fame

These days, TikTok virality is the dream of most brands and social media managers. Now such a powerful platform, TikTok has come a really long way in the last 3 years or so. It seems like everybody is using it, whether they’re content creating or are a silent scroller. Plus, the app is not exclusive to just one demographic, though the majority of users are aged between 18 and 24, there’s millions of accounts belonging to people who sit outside of this age range. Clever algorithms mean that users see content that’s appropriate for them (probably why my feed is full of dogs, but, moving on…). The power of TikTok as a marketing tool is simply phenomenal.

But what happens when virality doesn’t work in your favour?

#BrownieGirl Goes Viral

That’s what’s happened to Bad Brownie Co., a London-based business that deliver brownies by post. The brand advertised that they were hiring for a social media role, which TikTok user @iamrosiehs applied for. She took to the app to post a video explaining that she was initially told she was too inexperienced for the role, but was welcome to change their mind. In a step up to the challenge, Rosie created her own promotional clip which was posted on the business’ Instagram feed. At the end of her TikTok video, she asked viewers to help her out by going to like the post. Today, that TikTok video has 2.1m views. Respectively, the post that she produced for Bad Brownie Co.’s profile now stands at 329k views (around 10% more than their last reel which had 33.1k views). Comments are unavailable.

So on the surface, this looks great right? Unfortunately, the reality is a little harsher.

What Happens When It All Goes Wrong?

There’s a reason that Bad Brownie Co. turned off the comments on their Instagram post and that’s because they were absolutely inundated with comments, not all of them nice. I checked the video two weeks ago or so, after seeing the original post on TikTok, and even then, there were literally thousands of comments which read along the lines of “if you don’t give Rosie the job you’re cancelled” and many more to that effect.

There were a couple of reasons as to why the brand got such a backlash following the post made by Rosie, they include…

  1. Many people didn’t like the way Rosie was asked to prove herself and give evidence of her work
  2. Unfortunately, TikTok is brimming with trolls who’ll take any opportunity to be a nuisance

This is the reality of virality, and more specifically: virality on TikTok. On the surface, your brand name getting that level of exposure sounds like the dream (and don’t get me wrong, I’m sure Bad Brownie Co. have certainly enjoyed this to some extent) but, when you read between the lines, this fame comes at a price.

Not all publicity is good publicity, after all.

Unfair? I Think So

So with all of this in mind, I have a few things to say. Though some would disagree, I’m team Bad Brownie Co., I don’t think they deserved to be thrown down the dark dark alley of TikTok-fame-turned-sour, and this is why…

  1. Going back to my first point as to why the brand has been trolled, many think that it was unfair of Bad Brownie Co. to ask for examples of work. Sorry, but I wholeheartedly disagree. I’m all for calling out dodgy job roles and unjust application requirements, however, showing a company what you can do is a pretty standard part of any interview process. The original email that Rosie – the TikTok user – posted to her channel seemed fair to me, the hiring manager was honest and said that the applicant didn’t have enough experience, but invited her to prove otherwise. This is absolutely fair game to me (even a good opportunity) and no matter how hard I try, I can’t bring myself to see anything wrong with it.
  2. I’m a lover of initiative and those who go the extra mile. I can’t fault Rosie for her drive and determination in going for the job. HOWEVER, the post that ‘blew up’, as it were, was not the video of the content she’d created for the brand, but the video she created afterwards asking people to go to the page and like it as a favour. Though an excellent example of using her own initiative and leveraging the opportunities that are on TikTok, the reason that the whole thing became famous was not for the original content she’d produced. Which, was the task set by the business. Is this simply a case of getting lucky?
  3. With the previous two points in mind… You already know my thoughts on creative CVs, I can’t help but think, what about those who have all the relevant experience and have put a lot of work in their applications be disregarded, due to just one viral video? I think we need to stop putting pressure on younger people in the industry and indicate to them that they need to do this kind of thing in order to land the job they want. Maybe that’s just me. You can call me old fashioned, I don’t mind.
  4. If the brand decides not to hire Rosie (allegedly they’re still considering her, but more on this below), then this doesn’t make them a bad company. If an applicant comes forward that’s a better fit for the role and has the relevant experience, then why should they be disregarded because of one TikTok video? Already, the brand has been getting negative feedback for NOT hiring the user in question – despite them actually not even coming to a decision yet! It may just be me who thinks this, but how is this fair?

Where We’re At Now

This story has been unfolding for a few weeks now, and earlier today I thought I’d check in on the account to see where it was up to. From this, I discovered that Rosie has actually been offered another job by Selfridges, who came to her directly through Instagram after spotting the viral TikTok video. Good for her and I’m sure she’s very happy with her choice. Unfortunately, having now taken this role and not (as far as I’m aware) yet being offered one from her original target, this means that the brand continues to bear the brunt of more negative feedback online. One recent comment read: “Bad Brownies are crying into their batter mix rn” whilst many others followed the theme of “their loss”, “condolences to Bad Brownie Co.” etc.

Further to this, every recent post made by the brand has been flooded with comments which generally consist of “you better make sure you’re hiring Rosie, or we’ll boycott you for good”, “this whole thing has put me completely off the company” and so on. It seems that though Rosie has moved on and accepted a new role that I’m sure she’ll flourish in, this brand will be left with the repercussions of that one video that went viral. Is it fair to give a company so much exposure like this, and then leave them to deal with the messy aftermath after you’ve moved on?

There have been no posts asking users not to spam Bad Brownie Co., or to ask to keep the comments kind. In fact, there seems to be no accountability at all from the user for the situation she has orchestrated.

The Lessons Learned

I guess the lesson to be learned here, is that there is a certain toxicity to TikTok fame, though it can be (and often is) a very successful marketing strategy for businesses, you have to be aware that you’re putting your brand into a very public domain, where people aren’t always going to be friendly. When you use other social media channels organically, your content is mostly seen by those who follow your brand, probably because they are an advocate of yours. TikTok just isn’t like that. Content can be seen by anyone and there’s no telling what might go viral. Though this wasn’t a campaign crafted by Bad Brownie Co., whether they like it or not they were put into that space. The reception isn’t always going to be negative (in fact, for the most part I’m a big believer in using TikTok to positively market your brand), but in this case it was. There’s no arguing that the company has garnered a huge amount of exposure from this debacle, much of which has translated into social media following, and even orders. But at what cost? For as long as the story remains relevant, they’ll be known as “the brand that didn’t give that girl a job” and I’m having a hard time deciding whether the impact to reputation was worth it.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this, I’m team brownie but I know many people who aren’t. Let me know either way in the comments below or on Twitter.

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