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It’s not unusual for companies to pay people to watch content. In 2018, Netflix employed 30 people who just watched shows and grouped them into different categories. Nielsen has long paid their Nielsen Families—people who provide the company with data—with gifts. Most recently, influencer marketing company Ubiquitous plans to pay three people $1,000 each to spend 10 hours watching TikTok videos. The goal? Figure out what trends are about to take over the For You Page. Information that Ubiquitous says will then guide how they approach the company’s TikTok marketing strategies for brands, including Amazon, Spotify and Crocs.
“We want to hear from people who actually binge watching TikTok,” says senior director of growth Jeremy Boudinet. “Let's pay someone to do it, and then we'll get the insights from that.”
Using their pre-existing TikTok accounts, the selected scrollers will spend 10 hours observing different trends and styles of content. According to one 2022 study from digital intelligence company Sensor Tower, people spend an average of 95 minutes per day scrolling through their TikTok feed—nearly double the amount of time they spend scrolling on Instagram and Facebook.
Boudinet says the Los Angeles-based company will not monitor the people as they watch videos. Instead, their plan is to simply have an informal conversation with the particpants after those 10 hours are up to identify what they learned.
According to Boudinet, the ideal candidate already has a deep understanding of how trends ebb and flow on the app, and applicants should demonstrate this knowledge in the 50-100 word required essay.
“It's more than like a full day of work just watching TikTok,” Boudinet says. “You're really digging into it and getting stuff from it.”
In October, the company paid one Florida State University student $50 an hour to spend 12 hours on the app. Which is to say, this isn’t the first time Ubiquitous has paid someone to dive into TikTok. At the time, the marketing agency was interested in learning more about how quickly a key word search would result in changes to someone’s algorithm. According to Boudinet, Ubiquitous didn’t make any huge changes to its marketing campaigns based off of the information they gleaned from those experiments. But the insights did inform how it approached TikTok’s algorithm and how quickly brands would have to keep up with trends.
“This sort of stuff will be instrumental in telling us, okay, here's the content that's resonating,” Boudinet says. “We should build campaigns that incorporate these sorts of things, so we'll use it to build better campaigns for our clients.”
The application for the upcoming TikTok Watching job closes Wednesday. The last program received almost 10,000 entries, and Boudinet says they are on track to surpass that number for this one. To select participants, Ubiquitous will judge the applicants essay responses to determine how in-tune with the app they are. Additionally, Boudinet says people who promote Ubiquitous across different social media platforms will have priority consideration. As for why the company is expanding from one viewer to three, he says, that having more people participate will help diversify the amount of content being examined and provide a larger comparison sample.
This time around, Boudinet is hoping the TikTok watchers observe two trends in particular: sound campaigns and video lengths. From trending songs to audio clips, TikTok is known for its viral sounds, and Boudinet wants to figure out how these audios go viral. Ubiquitous researchers have also observed that TikTok might be pushing longer videos to the For You Page as a way to compete with YouTube’s long-form content. He wants to see whether the watchers experience that and how they respond to seeing longer videos on a platform famous for its short-form content.
“We'll look for those macro trends,” says Boudinet. “And then probably within the individuals we'll try to find relevant information we can pull out—what are the visual stimuli that can be applied to a broader product group.”
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