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Sunday, April 14, 2024

How I Monetized My Viral Baby Yoda TikTok Account

I was ready to record. My ring light was propped up against pillows illuminating my two diva Baby Yoda dolls. I fixed my phone on a tripod that took up half of my tiny New York City apartment. I tapped the round, red button at the bottom of the screen. The timer began. 

10 … I checked my phone screen to adjust the framing of the shot. 9 … I zoomed in just enough to focus the camera on the dolls. 8 … I got down on my hands and knees, going through the bag of beauty supplies on my floor looking for lashes and glue. 7, 6, 5 … Found them. 4 … I slowly sat on the side of the bed, careful not to cause the dolls to topple over. 3 … I inched towards the dolls, ready to apply makeup to their rubbery eyelids. 2 … Let’s do this. 1 … Beep!

While many people go viral on TikTok, not so many make money from it. The video-focused social media platform has made it possible to achieve internet fame, with viral short video clips reaching thousands to millions of likes, views, comments, and shares. But most users do not know how to monetize their posts.

My TikTok triumph started in early November 2020, as I paced around my NYU dorm room searching for a place to store a wig I’d worn for days before Halloween. I couldn’t find anywhere to put it. Looking at the Baby Yoda doll on my desk, I thought it would be cute to put the wig on top of its green, plastic head. I admired my creation, filming a clip of her to Ariana Grande’s “POV.” That initial video racked up 40,300 likes almost instantly. Combining my great passions, beauty and the Disney+ hit series The Mandalorian, I became the momager of two fully glammed-out, “yassified” Baby Yoda dolls.

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It was exciting seeing my follower and view counts increase after posting my first makeup application video. Complete with mink lashes, colorful wigs, extravagant makeup, and glitzy bling, “Baddie Yoda” and “Baby Yoda Gothie” amassed a fan base of 89,500 followers and accumulated 754,700 likes since @BabyYodaWiggie’s inception. Within a year I was cashing out upwards of $100 prizes from the TikTok Creator Fund on my recreational Baby Yoda account.

TikTok has a surprising number of ways to monetize your account on its platform. For those over 18, once you reach 1,000 followers, you gain the ability to livestream. That means you can accept LIVE Gifts—diamonds that can be converted into actual money—from viewers. Fans purchase coins to then obtain gifts to award creators. They can buy anywhere from 65 coins for $0.99 to 16,500 coins for $249.99. Diamonds are worth 50 percent of a gift’s coin value, and then TikTok also takes a 50 percent commission. Basically, if you get awarded a gift worth 5,000 coins, you’ll receive diamonds each worth $0.50. Over time, these funds add up. 

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The next step is joining the TikTok Creator Next program, which adds access to the Creator Fund and TikTok Creator Marketplace. To be eligible, you need 10,000 or more followers on TikTok, obey community guidelines, and have active analytics. Through the Creator Fund, based on video view accumulation, you can get paid for your content. In Marketplace, you can seek endorsements and brand deals to make more money. After reaching 100,000 followers, fans can give financial tips and diamond gifts on your video content. Under the Creator Tools tab in your settings on TikTok, you can see how much money you’ve made from these services under Balance. You can withdraw your earnings, which are protected through Google Authenticator, and transfer cash to your connected PayPal account.

Wanting to learn more about cashing in on TikTok, I spoke with micro-influencer Siena Moran (@see.en.uh). She has 174,800 followers and 9.5 million likes on TikTok; the pinned video on her profile has more than 2.3 million views alone. She is a musician and third-year student studying the music business at NYU. Inspired by fashion, music, Harry Styles, and fangirling, her viewers are mostly young women and are a reflection of what she loves. “I am my audience!” Moran says. According to her, the income she gets from TikTok comes from ads and brand deals. She explains that she’s collaborated with Everlane, Paypal, and Splice, and she profits off her page mostly through one-off deals, as opposed to long-term ambassador programs. Moran also prefers to take on brand deals only with brands she truly loves. She advises others who want to make money on TikTok to consider only sponsored posts that do not conflict with their content, in order to avoid spamming their audiences—and to not expect to rely fully on the Creator Fund, as brand deals are more lucrative.

Speaking of brand deals, many of those companies offer creators discount codes where they can earn a percentage of sales, paid advertisements, and ambassadorships. To get these deals, you can reach out to a representative, or they may contact you directly. TikTok also offers sound promotions, when music labels pay influencers to promote an artist’s song on TikTok either individually or collaboratively with other users. You also can capitalize on your account by leaving the partnerships and brand deals behind and using your own online presence to create and sell products to followers.

Cooper Noriega (@coopernoriega) has 1.6 million followers and 85.9 million likes on TikTok. He is a Gen Z creator who makes lifestyle content and vlogs about his main interests: skateboarding, fashion, and comedy. He has been making money off social media since 2020 and does brand deals as well as sound promotions that he calls solid passive income. Noriega has collaborated with the clothing brand Boys Lie as well as services like IRL and Poporazzi. Additionally, he has worked with labels such as Interscope, Atlantic, and Empire Records. He has even been on tour with Machine Gun Kelly and Jxdn.

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Noriega and Moran agree: To create a profitable account, it helps to sustain engagement in order to capitalize on your videos. According to both of them, the keys to consistently making money from TikTok can be simplified into three essential elements: create an online persona, manage your account, and consistently create content.

Since passion projects are the most successful, finding your niche can open the door to going viral. To start, pinpoint what you are interested in creating and find your unique take on your topic of choice, identifying what differentiates you from like-minded creators. In my case, combining Baby Yoda with beauty products and applications led me to fans within my niche. Understanding who is consuming your videos makes virality natural, as pleasing your audience increases your popularity and your revenue.

Managing an online persona requires consistency, interaction, and playing the part. You have to figure out what level works for you. “Someone who makes more curated videos is not sustainable; you’re destined to burn out. I think you set the tone for your audience about how often to expect videos from you,” Moran says.

“If you want to be big and known for something, being extremely consistent is definitely a power move and is something you need to do,” Noriega adds. This also takes form in what you create and how you interact with your fans. It all comes down to catering to your audience in order to earn social and monetary currency. To interact with them, you can reply to and like their comments, follow fans, produce livestreams, support like-minded creators, or align your content with follower requests. Noriega is active in chatting with fans and openly offers his support to his viewers if they are in need of mental health assistance or work advice. For me, playing the part meant fully immersing myself in my online persona. To Noriega, managing his online persona comes easily for him. It serves as an extension of himself as he “likes to be himself and not fake.”

Successful content creation on any platform can be narrowed down to cultivating and pleasing your audience, and trend analysis. Your followers will expect you to be in line or ahead of trends. Whether it be on or off the clock, we spend hours analyzing trends daily. Creators scroll through TikTok, looking for repetition in regards to what is going viral. You see this from other creators who also go viral, in meme formats, trending audios, and content that racks up likes and engagement. Moran adds that even for the most digital creators, going out in the world phoneless can inspire you to create, rather than follow, trends.

Immersing myself in my Baby Yoda online persona has been beyond rewarding, teaching me how to tap into the creator economy and financially compensating me while doing so. Carving out my own niche, posting, and staying active with audiences has set the precedent for getting paid for my internet popularity. May the force be with you, fellow TikTokkers. Getting paid—as the Mandalorian would say—is the way.

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