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How Did Charli D'Amelio Get Famous And Become The biggest TikTok Influencer with Over 130M Followers (8 min read)

Charli D’Amelio - a Connecticut teenager who posted dancing videos to TikTok. Right now, she’s the second highest-earning TikTok star and has over 130 million followers. All at the age of 16.

?Strategy & Tools

Charli D'Amelio History Timeline


  • May 2019 - Charli d’Amelio downloads the app starts posting her first lip sync videos to TikTok
  • July 2019 - Charli posts the first video that gets traction. It’s a duet with other user that gets her the first 2,000 followers.
  • Aug 2019 - Charli Tweets about her first 100,000 followers. She starts a YouTube channel.
  • Nov 2019 - Charli d’Amelio already has 5.2 million followers on TikTok and 758,000 on Instagram
  • Early 2020 - Charli d’Amelio is becoming a major TikTok star - she gets deals with Hollister, Dunkin Donuts, stars in a Super Bowl ad, becomes a guest on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show, and many more.
  • Apr, 2020 - first 50 million followers
  • Aug 2020 - Forbes names Charli d’Amelio the second highest-earning TikToker, having made $4 million in one year and taking as much as $100,000 per post
  • Sep 24, 2020 - Jennifer Lopez asks Charli d’Amelio to star in her new music video. That might be a dream come through for a young dancer but that’s business–J Lo wanted to attract Charli’s audience, not the other way around.
  • Oct 2020 - Charli d’Amelio already has 94 million followers on TikTok. That’s more than Rihanna has on Instagram.
  • Nov 16, 2020 - after posting a video (basically where she throws up  that was badly received, she loses 1 million followers
  • Nov 21, 2020 - Charli d’Amelio recovers to 100 milion

Charli d’Amelio – first TikTok

Charlie d’Amelio nailed the timing for her social media career. She started using the up just before summer. Her first TikTok from March 2019 was lip-syncing with another girl. All the teenagers had more free time to test TikTok, the new hyped app and this is exactly where TikTok goes viral for teenagers across the whole world (except Asia, they already had it). 

How old is Charli d’Amelio?

At the time of writing this text, Charli is 17 years old (born in May 2004).

It’s not that d’Amelio popped out of nowhere. Although she was only 15 at the time of her career booming, she was training dance since 3. She was a competitive dancer for 10 years already. And she chose popular tunes – that was enjoyable to watch and tailored exactly to the specifics of TikTok. Even though her first few videos were filmed horizontally.

Engagement – becoming a meme

TikTok’s algorithm could’ve randomly landed some videos on the For You page and if they picked up, they were shown to more people. It seems that people didn’t understand why do they keep seeing her videos. They posted reaction videos and commented, „I don’t understand the hype”. On the other hand, Charlie’s followers replied, why do they like her videos.

That engagement suggested the algorithm that Charli’s videos are worth showing to many other TikTok users and that provided her a constant flow of new followers.

Early adopters effect

Charli d’Amelio joined as one of the early adopters outside of China. That gave her the advantage of not competing with too many users for the viewer’s attention. Joining early can greatly multiply the return while in many cases all you’re risking is time if the platform eventually doesn’t pick up.

Breaking the algorithm with consistency

Apparently TikTok’s algorithm works slightly different from, say, Instagram’s. On Instagram, you can get a post go viral and that’s it. TikTok rewards you for continuous posting. First, you get some more organic views. A few posts later, you land on the For You page. Then, if you keep posting, you’ll keep landing on this For You page, getting millions of new followers.

Charli nailed the consistency part – even if she didn’t plan to. After the first video got more views, she kept posting, adding 5 million followers in less than 3 months.

Luck

Sometimes you need luck, especially if you didn’t plan for success. Charli d’Amelio had luck with timing but also with being favored by TikTok’s algorithm.

In the early days, musical.ly which later became TikTok aimed to allow some early creators to become famous – which was what many teenagers desired. Then, they acted as role models to drive new users to the platform organically. That’s a win-win for the platform and creators that build the surrounding community.

Riding the trends

Another strategy that made d’Amelio successful is dancing to the songs that were popular or trading at the time. It might seem natural, but that’s what also worked here – and it still works. The young dancer popped where the attention already was – she didn’t have to guide the audience anywhere else than where they’d already been.

How many followers dose Charli d’Amelio have?

A wise move of d’Amelio was to diversify her social media activity. She might have made her career on TikTok, but she also has (as of today, Jan 5th, 2022):

  • over 5 million followers on Twitter,
  • 9 million subscribers on YouTube,
  • and 37.9 million followers on Instagram.

Now, even if one platform shuts down or changes the algorithm to hide her videos–for whatever reason–she has different ways to reach her audience and keep posting.

?Psychology

Attractiveness Bias

Attractiveness can bias the creator’s credibility. Meaning – if you find someone attractive, you might view their abilities as superior to what they really are. That explains why most of the early supporters of Charli d’Amelio were boys and those who criticized her were girls.

Frequent exposure

Being frequently exposed to an influencer or a cultural group makes you more likely to accept it and eventually assimilate with this community. Hence, seeing Charli’s videos on For You pages frequently, made more people eventually like and follow her.

Relatability

Charli’s followers could relate to her–they were also teenagers who just wanted to have some fun during the summer break. That created the feeling of relatability that made many of them stay and consume more of her content.

Social proof

Having many followers is the ultimate validator that a creator is worth watching. The first 100,000 followers were enough to comfort further followers to stay and watch her dance moves.

Snowball effect

The viral effect is often a loop. More followers followed Charli because she was trending, and she was trending because more and more people followed her. That even made some users download TikTok just to check what’s the hype all about. This snowball keeps rolling even after 2 years now.

?Window of Opportunity

Social media platforms get saturated over time, but there’s a chance for you on your brand every time a new media raises in popularity. That’s why you want to stay on the lookout for the next Vines and TikToks that even if they’ll go dark after a few years (like Vine), you’ll still build an audience that can follow you to other platforms.

Other than that–plan and stay consistent. If there’s one thing that 100% increases your chances of gaining visibility, that’s definitely consistency in posting. This is the greatest play in this case.

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