Get in the KNOW
on LA Startups & TechX
When Jamel Ajib was 13, he got hooked on YouTube videos of people backflipping on trampolines. The clips inspired the Clovis, Calif., native to try the tricks himself—and even though it took a while to land his first flip, he’s stuck with the hobby over the last five years.
Now 18, Ajib is the one performing flips, pranks and other stunts on YouTube, racking up more than 826,000 subscribers on the most popular of his multiple channels. And according to new data from Santa Monica-based Famous Birthdays, Ajib—who also goes by Juju—saw his popularity surge during the month of April.
“It's just nice to have this cool opportunity,” Ajib told dot.LA of his career in the creator economy. “Definitely super thankful for that.”
Famous Birthdays, which launched a decade ago as a sort of Wikipedia-for-internet personalities, ranks online influencers based on activity on its platform, which it says is visited by tens of millions of users monthly. Using that data, Famous Birthdays identified Ajib as one of 10 YouTube stars who jumped highest in its rankings last month; his ranking rose from no. 7,726 on April 1 to no. 2,467 as of May 6.
The rankings—largely driven by search queries on Famous Birthdays’ website—are an indicator of fan engagement and a real-time measure of popularity and culture, Famous Birthday founder Evan Britton previously told dot.LA. The company sells its data insights to social media platforms, talent agencies and brands looking for clues about influencers on the rise.
Ajib started making videos in 2018 on a backyard trampoline with his little brother, Nidal. The videos have since grown into more elaborate productions, with Ajib taking his flip “challenges” to eye-grabbing locations like massive trampolines and indoor sky-diving machines. He edits clips and writes scripts himself—often plotting to have his 11-year-brother beat him in a challenge to keep audiences guessing.
“We can get a lot of retention in the audience because it's really cool when me and my little brother challenge each other,” Ajib said. “If I won everything, it's not cool. No one is going to like it. No one is going to watch…But when they see a little kid [win] they’re like: ‘Oh, shoot. This is crazy.’”
When asked why interest in his videos is on the rise, Ajib guessed it might be because he records his flip clips in public locations. He said many kids recognize him at trampoline parks and ask for photos, with word of mouth spreading and others looking him up online.
Ajib, who just moved to the Dallas area, is now making flip videos full time and generating revenue from YouTube ads. But like other creators, he’s exploring new ways to make money. He recently bought property in Texas and wants to build a gym where people can do their own flips and work out. Eventually, he’d like to sell merchandise, too.
Here are 10 YouTube stars that had breakout months in April, according to Famous Birthdays (list sorted by highest jump in ranking):
- McKenna Walker posts videos about hygiene, beauty and fashion. May 6 ranking: 22,143. (April 1 ranking: 38,749.)
- Tonio shares videos about the NBA2K video game franchise. May 6 ranking 10,483. (April 1 ranking: 19,721.)
- Gawr Gura is known for sharing anime content. May 6 ranking: 24,458. (April 1 ranking: 29,937.)
- Juju Ajib makes flip and stunt videos with his brother Nidal. May 6 ranking: 2,467. (April 1 ranking: 7,226.)
- Michelle Khare initially became popular as a pro cyclist and BuzzFeed video producer before gaining a following on YouTube. May 6 ranking: 3,650. (April 1 ranking: 8,382.)
- Micah Morris is a professional golfer who shares tips and highlights on YouTube. May 6 ranking: 7,051. (April 1 ranking: 11,588.)
- Harjit Bhandal is a filmmaker and vlogger who makes relationship videos with his fiancé. May 6 ranking 7,712. (April 1 ranking: 11,956.)
- Dawood Savage is a comedy content creator and social media personality. May 6 ranking 3,302. (April 1 ranking: 7,129.)
- Denitslava is a makeup artist. May 6 ranking: 3,908. (April 1 ranking: 7,704.)
- Jeremy Hutchins is a YouTube star who posts videos of pranks, stunts and funny scenarios. May 6 ranking: 332. (April 1 ranking: 384.)
- TikTok, Influencer Panic and the Celebrity Economy - dot.LA ›
- These 10 TikTok Stars Broke Out In February - dot.LA ›
Sign up for dot.LA's daily newsletter for the latest news on Southern California's tech, startup and venture capital scene.
Two years ago, Clark recorded herself pouring cheaper mouthwash into an empty bottle of Listerine as a prank on her husband; the joke was that while he hates buying cheap products, he can’t even tell the difference. “White lies I tell my husband,” the caption read.
The video amassed nearly 1 million views and, along with some viral clips of her cooking, gave Clark a substantial TikTok following. The 35-year-old from Australia now has more than 1 million followers on the Culver City-based video-sharing platform. And according to new data from Santa Monica-based Famous Birthdays, Clark’s popularity continued to surge during the month of February.
“Every time I step out of the house, people are like, ‘Oh my god, aren’t you from TikTok?’” Clark told dot.LA. “It's still kind of hitting home for me.”
Famous Birthdays, which launched 10 years ago as a sort of Wikipedia-for-internet personalities, ranks online influencers based on the activity on its platform, which is visited by tens of millions of users monthly. Using that data, Famous Birthdays identified Clark as one of 10 TikTok stars that jumped highest in their rankings last month. Clark’s ranking climbed from No. 11,569 to No. 1,045 between Feb. 1 and March 1.
The rankings, largely driven by search queries on Famous Birthdays’ website, are an indicator of fan engagement, according to Famous Birthday founder Evan Britton. In Clark’s case, fans are not only watching and commenting on her videos, but are now taking time to look up her bio on Famous Birthdays, Britton noted. The company sells its data insights to social media platforms, talent agencies and brands looking for clues about influencers on the rise.
“They're a great real-time measure of popularity and culture,” Britton said of Famous Birthdays’ influencer rankings.
When asked what may have driven her climbing popularity last month, Clark noted that she recently committed to posting at least one video per day. In late January, she launched a new series of videos in which she styles her daughter’s hair, which racked up millions of views each.
“I think people love those videos because they're not scripted,” Clark said. “It's more just showing our personality, doing what we would do normally every day and just talking to the camera.”
In addition to the Famous Birthdays data, there is another sign that Clark is on the rise—albeit an unwanted one. In one of her most recent videos, she mentioned that fans had showed up to her house uninvited. “Please don’t do that ever again,” she pleaded.
Here are the 10 TikTok stars that had breakout months in February, according to Famous Birthdays (list sorted by highest jump in ranking):
- Farah Roushdy is a creator who shares stories about her life and close friends. March 1 ranking: 11,593 (Feb. 1 ranking: 40,582).
- Savannah Demers shares comedy, lifestyle and dance videos. March 1 ranking: 10,469 (Feb. 1 ranking: 25,311).
- Carol Castro is a Mexican TikTok star who posts lip syncs and dance videos. March 1 ranking: 10,369 (Feb. 1 ranking: 21,341).
- Kat Clark shares healthy recipes and funny videos with her daughter. March 1 ranking: 1,045 (Feb. 1 ranking: 11,569).
- Ski Mask Girl remains anonymous by dancing and modeling while wearing ski masks. March 1 ranking: 14,315 (Feb. 1 ranking: 22,944).
- Natalie Aguilar posts lip sync and comedy content. March 1 ranking: 9,924 (Feb. 1 ranking: 17,463).
- Eya Borja posts lip sync and dance videos on TikTok. March 1 ranking: 9,769 (Feb. 1 ranking: 15,896).
- Dylan Zitkus is a comedy content creator. March 1 ranking: 7,848 (Feb. 1 ranking: 13,024).
- Chris Olsen is known for posting “couple challenge videos” with his ex-boyfriend. March 1 ranking: 561 (Feb. 1 ranking: 3,120).
- Adrien Nuñez posts comedy and dance videos, often with his girlfriend. March 1 ranking: 2,719 (Feb. 1 ranking: 4,797).
- TikTok Signs Music Distribution Deal with UnitedMasters - dot.LA ›
- TikTok, Influencer Panic and the Celebrity Economy - dot.LA ›
- TikTok Stars Are Earning More Than Many S&P 500 CEOs - dot.LA ›
- These 10 YouTube Stars Broke Out In April - dot.LA ›
The age of the creator is upon us.
After years of gaining momentum, the creator economy has gone mainstream. Payment processing platform Stripe estimates the number of individuals who now see themselves as full-time “creators”—those who use online tools to sell digital content—grew 48% in 2021, while earnings across the industry are expected to soon eclipse $10 billion.
Major brands have taken notice, as influencers can garner loyal social media followings that outpace those of many Hollywood celebrities. Meanwhile, some top-tier influencers now make more than S&P 500 CEOs. As more Gen Z creators enter the workforce—looking for opportunities beyond traditional models—the industry is poised to grow at a breakneck pace. We talked with Famous Birthdays founder Evan Britton, whose platform tracks and measures the industry, as well as several emerging influencers about what to watch for over the coming year.
1. Gaming Influencers Grow
There is more gaming content now than ever. According to TwitchTracker, which catalogs streamers, 2021 was the most popular year ever for Twitch, which averaged more than 3.1 million daily viewers at its peak in May 2021. January 2022's numbers (2.9 million) are not far behind.
“Twitch streamers have highly engaged fans,” said Britton. He pointed to Twitter as an example of a platform where many brands and personalities find it “hard to get engagement,” yet where many streamers routinely manage to draw “thousands of likes and comments.”
“Their fans are so engaged with them because they’re watching them for hours on end,” he added. “They just want more content.”
Even though demand for gaming content is up, expect gaming creators to become more strategic about repurposing content in 2022.
“As a streamer, one of the biggest things right now is finding ways to continue to grow while being efficient,” said gamer and Twitch streamer Nick Bartels. In the past, influencers in the gaming world would commit many hours to livestreaming their adventures—but when the game was over, traditionally, so was the stream, and few did anything with the resulting content.
Expect to see creators looking for ways to funnel growth into platforms even when they aren’t streaming. Bartels said he’s looking to work with an editor who can repurpose much of the live content he creates.
“One of the bigger concerns is burnout over air time,” said Bartels. “It’s part of the grind initially, but the last thing you’re going to want to do after you stream is edit. You want to have some life balance.”
TinaKitten/ Famous Birthdays
2. The Blockchain Provides a New Source of Income and Experimentation
In years past, influencers relied largely on advertising dollars to monetize their massive audiences and provide them with an income. More recently, however, the blockchain—including cryptocurrency and NFTs— have stepped in, providing a new way to create community while growing revenue.
“The growth of cryptocurrency followed by the explosion of NFTs was a big trend in 2021 that will continue into 2022,” said Britton. “Last year, creators sold digital art and communities sold limited edition collectables offering unique access and clout. This year, offerings will become even more creative.”
Britton said one driver of this trend is entertainment and engagement. NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, provide a way for influencers to reward their most engaged users, as well as a way for audiences to literally invest in the creators they love. “I think it’s a fun way for people to get involved and be part of a community,” he noted. As creators build engaged communities of their own, NFTs could provide additional methods for them to monetize.
But there has been a dark side to influencers’ interest in crypto. Earlier this month, Kim Kardashian and Floyd Mayweather were among a number of influencers accused of taking part in an online pump-and-dump crypto scam. TikTok has since banned promotional content related to financial services, including cryptocurrency, by adding them to its list of “globally prohibited industries.”
While it remains to be seen just how effective NFTs will be as an investment tool, expect interest in the space to continue to grow.
Spencers/ Famous Birthdays
3. More Fun with Food
Food has emerged as a growing subset of the influencer economy, and several new platforms launched in 2021 looking to seize on that growing interest. Restaurants large and small have taken notice.
“One huge tailwind on TikTok has been creators offering up their unique recipes and fun takes on food,” said Britton, who expects this trend to build throughout 2022. “TikTok is about fun, short videos. Everybody loves food and a lot of people like making food. It just has a lot of natural product-market fit with TikTok.”
Videos showing food can be instrumental in convincing consumers to try new restaurants or menu items. In a survey by restaurant marketing firm MGH, 36% of TikTok users said they have visited or ordered food from a restaurant after seeing a TikTok video featuring that establishment.
Influencer Cassie Sharp found success in 2021 by creating bite-sized content around food challenges, like her popular “five random ingredients” challenge.
“I’m trying to find new challenges that garner similar engagement, and take short-form videos and turn them into long-form content so that I can take some of those views on my shorts and apply them on my long-form videos,” she said, highlighting a trend common among creators in all verticals: repurposing content.
“The greatest thing about short-form content is you can throw it out there and see what catches,” Sharp added. “If I get an audience for a specific short-form video, when I start making long-form videos people are already comfortable with it.”
Her biggest takeaway so far: Clear bowls are essential for creating engaging food videos. “It’s just more interesting to watch the butter and brown sugar melt together,” she said.
Lisa Nguyen/ Famous Birthdays
4. Social Shopping Upends Ecommerce
The pandemic helped cement ecommerce’s rapidly growing advantage over brick-and-mortar shopping. As more influencers take to livestreaming platforms, expect the nature of online shopping to change.
“Facebook, Instagram and TikTok each facilitate live-shopping and YouTube launched livestreams to promote shopping ahead of the 2021 holiday season,” noted Britton, who added that he expects live-shopping to become increasingly popular in 2022. “It took a while to get here, but it’s growing.”
Gen Z is certainly keen to buy in real time. Survey results from the 2022 Instagram Trend Report show 27% of users aged 13 to 24 shop directly on social media.
Instagram’s native affiliate tool is just one example of this trend in action. The platform began testing the tool in 2021, incentivizing creators to include shoppable content not just in their feeds but also in their Instagram Stories and livestreams.
Nathaly Cuevas/ Famous Birthdays
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Nick Bartels' last name.
- The Creator Economy and Social Commerce Will Boom in 2022 ... ›
- TikTok, Influencer Panic and the Celebrity Economy - dot.LA ›
- The Creative Economy Exploded in 2021. - dot.LA ›