During quarantine, many UNC students remember spending hours scrolling through their TikTok "For You" pages, discovering new trends from whipped coffee recipes to dances to Doja Cat’s song “Say So".
Sophomore Ainsley Edwards and her brother, Alex Edwards, first went viral on the app when they made a video related to the spring 2020 Timothée Chalametfan edit trend.
Even after quarantine trends faded away, Ainsley Edwards continued producing content.
After the initial video, their page began getting more attention, and they still to make comedy videos together to pass time during the pandemic. When the pair first started, they did not intend on TikTok becoming a big part of their lives, Ainsley Edwards said. Now, her page, @insleyy, has over 240,000 followers.
She often makes videos on-campus that include quick-witted jokes and one liners.
“My brother, and my whole family, all kind of joke around with each other,” Ainsley Edwards said. “So it's kind of nice to show that side of myself to other people who might only see me in class where I'm more serious. It’s fun to be creative, and I'm really glad that other people enjoy watching them and can get a laugh out of them.”
Money with Mary
Although many users and content creators get on the app to get a good laugh, some, like first-year Mary Eva Esposito, use the platform for educational purposes.
Esposito, whose username is @moneywithmary, started her account in October 2021 but gained popularity in March 2022. During her gap year living at home, Esposito did not feel like she had anyone to talk to about her interest in finance.
She initially downloaded the app to meet like-minded teenage girls who were also interested in the subject. However, once her videos started to get popular and she received questions about budgeting and investing, she pivoted to a new mission of increasing financial literacy among young women.
For Esposito, TikTok has allowed her to create a personal brand by making videos about personal finance, stock investment and budgeting — all targeted toward younger audiences. She said her favorite videos are when she interviews UNC students on campus asking how much money is in their bank account.
“It's interesting because money is such a taboo topic," she said. "Especially talking about how much money people have is what really intrigues me.Those videos do tend to perform well because I think it's just a taboo topic and people are just curious.”
Esposito monetizes her account through several avenues. She participates in sponsorship campaigns for brands, works with companies to post her videos on their social media pages and consults with brands to help them grow their own TikTok presence.
“I take sponsorship posts so that I can be funded to continue putting out this free, accessible educational content for everybody to view,” Esposito said. “So, I'm charging the brands for it instead of my audience.”
Day in the life with Malaika
Sophomore Malaika Khumalo started her TikTok account last winter break when she was stuck in lockdown in her home country of South Africa. She decided to make videos to update her friends back at UNC about her life at home.
Now, she uses her TikTok page, @malaikitalot, as a “brain dump” to talk about music, make funny videos and create daily vlogs about her life at UNC. Since much of her audience is South African, she is able to show viewers what university life is like in the United States.
“I think it's a way for me to show South Africans that you can go to school in the U.S., and what it's like to go to school here,” Khumalo said. “I had a picture that was completely false about what it meant to go to school in the U.S. and so it’s just a nice way to show people what it actually is like to be here.”
Sophomore Briggs Edwards first posted on TikTok as a dare last year. His dancing videos — available at @briggsedwards with#pledgetok — were filmed in his fraternity house and have garnered millions of views.
One of his dancing videos now has 8.6 million views, leading him to become easily recognized on campus.
"I was at the (football) game and I just had people turn around and tell me 'your TikTok’s at half a million,' 'hey your TikTok’s at a million,' which was really surprising but also pretty funny,“ he said.
Because of his success Briggs Edwards has had the opportunity to make a TikTok with UNC basketball forward Armando Bacot, receiving free tickets to a Carolina Panthers game in exchange for a dance advertisement and even a partnership with Snickers to make videos showcasing their product.
Although his fame was accidental and he no longer posts regularly, he said he still enjoys having the platform to continue to post a fun video every now and then.
“While I did it, I enjoyed it a lot,” Briggs Edwards said. “It created a lot of cool opportunities for me that I wouldn't have had otherwise."
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.