Meet the TikTok Influencer Behind the Latest Trend in Social Media: TikTok Cults

by Jeremy Spirogis

TikTok isn’t precisely the place the place you’d anticipate finding cults. The standard video-sharing app is understood for social media influencers like Charli D’Amelio and Loren Gray, who danced and lip-synced their approach to online-celebrity standing. But for one TikTok creator named Melissa Ong, her journey to virtually 2 million followers was a lot totally different. Ong now considers herself the chief (or “mother hen”) of a TikTok-based cult named the Step Chickens.

TikTok influencer’s cult, the Step Chickens, spreads throughout the Internet

The TikTok brand | Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto by way of Getty Images

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The New York Times reported lately on the rise of TikTok cults.

Much just like the ‘stans’ of pop figures and franchises, members of TikTok cults stream songs, purchase merch, create information replace accounts and fervently defend their leaders within the remark sections of posts. The greatest distinction is that TikTok’s cult leaders usually are not independently well-known. They’re upstart creators constructing a fan base on social media.

The Times additionally interviewed TikTok influencer Melissa Ong about her very personal rise to fame — which she defined started lengthy earlier than the app was round.

“Before TikTok I would spend all my free time looking at memes on Reddit or Instagram,” the creator mentioned. “It wasn’t like this came from nothing. It came from spending 10 years of my life in the deepest corners of Reddit, cultivating this personality.”

Once on the app, Ong started posting oddball comedy movies — a lot of which actually resonated with TikTok customers. As Ong defined n her YouTube video “A Brief History of the Step-chickens:” beginning in late 2019, she posted a number of TikTok movies in a rooster costume, hoping followers would affiliate her account with that picture. Eventually, Ong satisfied her followers — soon-to-be cult members — to interact in varied pranks on the app.

Then, Ong’s TikTok avatar, a selfie of the 27-year-old influencer, turned “nearly ubiquitous on TikTok, as tens of thousands of users have changed their avatars to show their loyalty to its subject,” The Times defined. And what began as area of interest rapidly unfold to the mainstream:

The Houston Rockets, the Tampa Bay Rays, the Kansas City Chiefs and media organizations together with The Washington Post and Adweek all modified their profile images to Ms. Ong’s face.

The account ‘chunkysdead’ launches the Step Chickens cult

Ong isn’t essentially the primary TikTok cult chief:

TikTok customers have been forming cults (of persona) and armies (the nonviolent variety) for months now, borrowing ways from remark raid teams on different platforms.

TikTok | Costfoto / Barcroft Media by way of Getty Images

But the Step Chickens are actually putting a chord with younger folks. One of Ong’s TikTok followers, 16-year-old Danny Nguyen advised The New York Times why he was a fan of Ong’s.

I believe that on this social media era most youths battle with low shallowness. They see these seemingly good creators, carbon-copy after carbon-copy. The Step Chickens, to me, is the antithesis of that. Our neighborhood relies on embracing our individuality and quirks that make us really distinctive and stand out.

How Ong’s TikTok cult bought its personal app

Sam Mueller, who based “Blink Labs, a tech company that recently built a social networking app,” is a friend of Ong’s from Google (the place they each used to work). Amid Ong’s TikTok success, Mueller determined to “[rebrand] Blink around Step Chickens to capitalize on Ms. Ong’s popularity and give her fans a place to connect.”

The New York Times stories greater than “a hundred thousand” app downloads because the rebrand. Mueller advised the publication why he believes Ong did one thing particular together with her TikTok cult.

“I really believe Melissa has tapped into the zeitgeist of bored teens in quarantine and given them a purpose,” he mentioned. “As strange as it sounds, that’s what’s going on. It keeps getting bigger and bigger because it captures the moment.”

Though Ong’s strategies are unorthodox, her objectives are clear. The Times reported:

She lately signed with a administration firm and desires to make use of her fan base to start out making content material on new platforms. Her final purpose is to have her personal comedy present on HBO or Netflix, much like Nathan Fielder’s Nathan for You, the place she will be able to construct out the persona she has spent a decade cultivating.

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