#FAIL: How TikTok Stats Fool Hollywood
Execs, agents & marketers value stars based on followers. Data casts doubt on those numbers
Do you watch The D’Amelio Show on Hulu? Don’t worry if you don’t; not many folks do. I guess I should ask an even simpler question:
Have you even heard of The D’Amelio Show?
Again no judgement if you haven’t! I write a weekly report on streaming ratings, otherwise I never would have. Well, strike that, I wouldn’t have until Disney+ put not one, but two of the D’Amelio family members (mother Heidi and daughter Charli) on the latest season of Dancing With The Stars. (I’m team Wayne Brady/Vinny if you’re curious, while my daughter is team Charli…)
So far, you might be wondering, “Who cares about a reality TV show I don’t watch and may or may not have heard of?”
Because, by a few different metrics, Charli D’Amelio — the recently-turned-18-year-old dancer — is the second biggest TikTok star in the world and the most popular American, with 148 million followers, and with an account that is now a paid endorsement machine:
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But when the second season of her show came out on Hulu on Sept. 28, it failed to make the weekly Nielsen charts in either of its first two weeks. If you’re running the numbers, then, at max, 500,000 people in America are watching The D’Amelio show every week. In reality, I’d guess the actual number could be as low as 50,000 per week, and probably around 100-200,000 each week. The IMDb scores are fairly atrocious too, at a 2.6 on a measly 1,600 reviews.
So… 148 million global followers converts to… a couple hundred thousand people watching a streaming TV show? Charli D’Amelio was able to convert — at best— less than 0.5% of her followers into viewers? Even assuming half of her followers are global… that’s still probably less than 1 percent of her followers watching.
Doesn’t it seem a little weird that someone with allegedly millions of followers who can publish videos with billions (with a “b”) of views somehow can’t get even a tiny fraction of them to watch her show?
Actually, it doesn’t to me. Because I don’t trust TikTok’s numbers. At all. This doesn’t mean that the biggest stars aren’t the biggest stars: just that self-reported numbers on likes and views don’t appear to add up.
My goal today is to convince you to share my skepticism. And then, once you don’t trust TikTok’s numbers, to stop using them in your line of work. Whether you’re a development exec, marketing professional, data researcher, business strategist or journalist, you’ll see TikTok numbers and be tempted to use them or think they’re accurate.
In today’s article I will cover…
Why video views across social media likely are exaggerated
The Chipotle case study
Why bots are a big problem on social media…
…and how TikTok may have the worst bot problem among social platforms