Some social media influencers appear to lead lives that seem too good to be true — and now it turns out that that’s actually the case.
Over the past eight months, entertainment startup FourFront has created 22 fictional “TikTok influencers,” hiring writers to craft their scripts and real-life actors to play them.
Each day, the actors upload new videos to the respective TikTok accounts, detailing their characters’ latest fictional exploits for hundreds of thousands of followers.
Collectively, the characters have amassed a whopping 281 million video views, Insider reports, with FourFront creating a new frontier in scripted storytelling on the social media app.
The way TikTok functions lets followers partake in interactive storytelling, liking and commenting on the content posted to these accounts.
However, some followers may not realize that the “influencers” are simply made-up characters, brought to life through video segments that fall somewhere in between real-life dance tutorials and travel clips — two popular genres on TikTok.
But FourFront co-founder Ilan Benjamin said that the company is not trying to deceive anybody who is using the app and argues that many users are aware that they are watching scripted content, happy to follow the characters’ daily dramas as if they were watching bite-sized soap operas.
“The more that people know this is fictional, the more that they can just get lost in it and be entertained by it,” he said.
The 22 “influencers” are interconnected and they often reference one another, with FourFront creating their own kind of fictional universe, which functions in much the same way as the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The character of “Tia” — who has learned in recent videos that her boyfriend is a wealthy prince from an African nation — is played by 29-year-old Cameisha Cotton.
Cotton, a budding actress, has a full-time job in social media, and told Insider that she records the TikTok videos when she’s not at work.
She also told Fast Company that playing “Tia” gives her a sense of agency and creative freedom.
“I appreciate being able to be a part of the creative process because I get to improv,” she explained. “I get to come up with what Tia is wearing and what her makeup is going to be and how she’s wearing her hair.”
Given FourFront’s success, it’s likely that more scripted storytelling will be coming to TikTok very soon.
In the meantime, Benjamin says that FourFront’s characters may soon move to other social media apps, such as Instagram, where they will be able to make money through sponsored content.
“We can see them working with the traditional creative economy, expanding to YouTube, Instagram, and other platforms … that would allow them not only to continue to generate more content, but also to monetize that content longterm,” he told Fast Company.