What could be cooler than (nearly) getting banned by the president? That’s where the video-sharing social network TikTok found itself in late 2020. But the ban never happened, and TikTok’s 100 million American users continue to consume bite-sized videos, contributing to a $35 billion annual revenue for TikTok’s owners, ByteDance Ltd.
Still, Bytedance aren’t the only ones who held their breath waiting to see if the ban would occur. The app’s users are also making a buck from TikTok. A generation of young TikTokers has adopted that look of calm authority shared by millionaire influencers across the platforms, their features digitally smoothed, like emojis with visible roots. And RaveReviews has identified 62 of them who made a six-figure-plus income from the app in 2020.
How do TikTokers make their money? In old talk: advertising. In today’s words: influencing. Companies pay TikTok stars up to $0.005 per follower for product placement and sponsored posts. We’ve taken that figure and multiplied it by the number of followers and ads for nearly 100 top TikTokers in 2020. Here is RaveReviews’ guide to TikTok’s highest earners.
● TikTok’s highest earner is Michael Le, who made $20,378,000 from 92 ads in 2020.
● Michael Le also made the most ads (92), 30 more than the next most-frequent advertiser, Joe Albanese (62).
● The TikToker with the most followers, Charli D’Amelio, earned $18,224,000 from 34 ads in 2020.
● The highest-earning fitness TikToker is Demi Bagby, who made $3,266,500 from 47 ads in 2020.
● Abby Roberts made $1,736,500 from ads in 2020, making her the highest-earning beauty & style TikToker.
Who Are the Highest-Paid TikTokkers in the World?
Here are TikTok’s 24 highest earners plotted on a graph. Lower earners are on the left, starting with Savannah LaBrant, who earned just under $1 million in 2020.
Michael Le is only the ninth most-followed TikToker in our study. Still, his openness to sponsored posts has made him TikTok’s biggest earner, with a haul of $20.4m from 92 ads last year. Le is a TikTok veteran, having started on the platform’s predecessor Musical.ly in 2016. And the dancer and choreographer can thank years of hard work building a following on YouTube for his present popularity.
TikTok’s biggest star, Charli D’Amelio, has become a pop culture phenomenon after less than two years in the public eye. D’Amelio has two-and-a-half times the number of Michael Le’s followers but earned $2m less than him ($18.2m), optimizing just 34 of the 1040 videos she shared in 2020. Still, her branded Charli merchandise, forthcoming reality show, and burgeoning movie career mean the 16yo dancer is unlikely to want new ballet shoes any time soon.
Top 3 TikTokers Earn $53m from Ads
The top three TikTok earners rake in more than the next 10 combined. But there is plenty to go around. We found 83 TikTokers earning five figures or more from ads, including 39 on six figures, and 23 who earned $1 million-plus in 2020 alone.
Want to see more? Explore our ranking below, clicking the category tabs to switch between genres.
Michael Le and Charli D’Amelio are the top earners, as detailed in the previous section. But they are joined in the eight-figures club by Addison Rae, who was named last year’s highest-paid TikTok star by Forbes. The 20-year-old dancer bolsters her ad revenue (for fashion labels like Reebok and American Eagle) with her own make-up line, Item Beauty.
Michael Le and Bella Poarch At Opposite Extremes of Advertising
Michael Le may be the highest earner, but he’s only the eighth-most followed TikToker in our study. He makes it to the top of the earnings list by virtue of making significantly more sponsored posts than anybody else: 92, next to second-placed Joe Albanese’s 62. Albanese made just shy of $9m from ads in 2020, despite having ‘only’ 28m followers.
Below you’ll find the full breakdown, showing the number of ads each TikToker posted in 2020. As with the previous table, you can use the category tabs to switch between genres.
Bella Poarch is the million-dollar TikToker who made the fewest ads. The 20-year-old (or is she older?) scored the biggest viral hit of 2020 with her expertly face-choreographed ‘M to the B’ lip-sync. But Poarch restrained herself to just seven sponsored posts, earning around $1,907,500.
TikTok has made a major splash on the social media and influencer landscapes. By extending the popular formula of the 6-second Vine to 15 seconds or more, TikTok caters to today’s goldfish attention spans but leaves more room to share a message – such as an ad. Impressed by the numbers? Get TikTokking!
METHODOLOGY & SOURCES
Next we scraped all the videos each TikToker published in 2020 and extracted the hashtags and mention tags from those videos. We labelled all tags as commercial or non-commercial (for example, #ad is a commercial tag) and calculated the number of ads per TikToker in 2020.
Following the Guardian’s estimation that TikTok stars could be paid up to $0.005 per follower for sponsored posts, we calculated how much each TikToker could charge for one commercial video and finally calculated total earnings by multiplying cost per post and total number of ads.
The data was collected in January 2021.
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