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The Power of Nostalgia: A Tiktoker’s Rise To Global Popularity

Posted by Tatum Dahl on August 3, 2021 at 8:30 AM

TikTok is for EVERYONE

TikTok is taking over the world, there’s no doubt about that. With nearly 700 million users active on the short form video app, TikTok has garnered immense global influence and has begun to attract users from all walks of life. Because of its global popularity, TikTok serves as more than a marketplace for video content. In recent years, TikTok has become a machine capable of skyrocketing the careers of content creators to unimaginable levels.

TikTok’s algorithm is unmatched by other online platforms and is coveted for its ability to make a “nobody” into a “somebody” overnight. For 21-year-old Canadian content creator William White (@Whiteyy18) this was just the case. In less than two weeks, White shot from 200,000 to 1.4 million followers and earned verification on TikTok. Unlike many popular creators, White has been carried by a demographic comprised of middle-aged women. In this blog, Hollywood Branded explores the TikTok career of William White and the power nostalgia has played in his rise to online stardom.



The Power of Nostalgia A Tiktoker’s Rise to Global Popularity

TikTok: An Origin Story

TikTok wasn’t always TikTok. The app as we now know it was born out of former short-form video platform “Musical.ly” in an acquisition by Chinese company ByteDance in 2017. One morning, Musical.ly users simply opened their phones to a surprise as they were greeted by an entirely new logo and app interface. Existing Musical.ly users were instantly integrated into the new app and transitioned to new TikTok accounts. With that, TikTok was officially born.

Since its rebranding from Musical.ly, TikTok has been popularly accepted as an app for younger users. However, as the app has grown in global popularity and relevance, it has attracted members of all generations. According to a March 2021 study by Statista, nearly 30% of Tiktok users are now over the age of 40, a massive jump since its rebranding in 2017.

U.S. TikTok users by age 2021 | Statista

Whether this be because of TikToks’ overall growth, or because parents are beginning to tap into their children’s social platforms of choice, there is content to be found for everyone on TikTok. Creators are beginning to tap into this and are reaping massive results. 


Finding Your Niche

Those that do the best on social media are often known for something. Consider some of TikTok's biggest stars: Addison Rae as well as Charli and Dixie D'Amelio. They are all known for their abilities to harness massive audiences through TikTok dance trends.

White followed a similar path. Like many people in their early twenties, White hopped on the TikTok train in early 2020 with hopes of passing the time in quarantine. Now, just over a year later, he’s making headlines. But what launched his popularity so fast?

The answer is simple. He found his niche: Nostalgia.

By taking one glance at White, it’s clear he has the looks- and looks are important on TikTok! In fact, there is a name for this so-called special treatment conventionally beautiful creators enjoy on social media: “pretty privilege."Pretty privilege is the idea that people who are deemed more attractive based on societal beauty standards have an upper hand in the world. 

Who Is William White and How Did He Take Over TikTok?

But White's looks aren't the only reason he is blowing up. Tiktok is home to an over-saturation of beautiful creators, but not all are experiencing success like White. He's got that something special that's sending women well older than him into hysterics. A combination of his overall aesthetic and his choice in music picks up on key memories for many in their 40s and 50s emphasizing on the power of nostalgia.


Throwing It Back

With a low-key mullet, outfits consisting of leather coats and bomber jackets, and convincing lip syncs to 80s classics, White is igniting something some had long forgotten. One middle age TikTok user was quoted commenting “he’s like all the heartthrobs of my generation! The kid is genius for clueing into the music and style that he has. Watching his content makes me think of growing up and the crushes of my early adolescence”. 

Tiktok fun @whiteyy18 - YouTube

Whiteyy18 posts videos of himself lip-syncing to classic 1980s hits, such as Chicago’s If You Leave Me Now and Prince’s Little Red Corvette. His videos have been dominating TikTok’s “For You” page and he's accumulated over 17 million likes for his content.

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The Cringe Can Be Good

Creators like White who post lip sync, "Point of view" acting videos and dance trends often times are met with some flack. Those that spend a lot of time on TikTok will often accuse creators like this of a lack of creativity or of posting overly "cringey" content. It doesn't take much hunting to find harsh critiques in some creators' comments.

However, the cringe can be quite good. In fact, many people absolutely eat up "cringey" content. Take the #cougartok hashtag for example. The hashtag itself has already racked up over 296 million views on TikTok and is home to plenty of middle aged users. Many argue it played an incredible role in propelling White's content into the spotlight, creating an instant search feature for those seeking his account. 

At the end of the day, there is a lesson to be learned here. If the power of nostalgia is able to propel a 21-year-old to online stardom, what else can it do, and additionally, what can it do for brands?


Learn More On The World Of Influencer Marketing And Social Media

Want to learn more about Influencer Marketing? Be sure to check out other blogs that Hollywood Branded has written about influencers! 

Think you've got what it takes to be an influencer? Learn all there is to know about influencer marketing through Hollywood Branded's very own Influencer Marketing School! 

Hollywood Branded Influencer Marketing School

Topics: Social Media Strategy, Digital Marketing, Impact Of Influencer Marketing, Influencer Marketing 101, brand exposure, TikTok