By Albert Bredenhann
When I initially decided to enter the world of TikTok, I thought it would be a short-lived adventure; a space where I share video content and have some fun.
But, as with so many things in life, it quickly became something that stretched beyond what I could have dreamed. Within a short period of time I built up an impressive following of 30,000 people. The urge to go a step further and “live”, however, gave a whole new twist to my TikTok journey.
One of the most striking aspects of live streaming on TikTok is the instant connections you form. You sit and stare directly into your mobile phone, but it feels as if you are in a room full of people who are spread around the world. This became especially clear when I participated in the “boxing match”, a unique interactive experience. Here, viewers spoil you with all kinds of virtual gifts – from roses to cars. What makes it so amazing is the reality that people are willing to spend real money to show appreciation for your content.
The diversity of people I was able to meet was truly amazing. Not only did I chat with creative artists and flamboyant showmen, but I also laughed with people pretending to be a paintbrush. However, the chats did not stop there. I had the privilege of connecting with celebrities such as Jo Black, Steve Hofmeyr, Francois van Coke, and Kurt Darren, as well as gaining insight into the lives of farmers from the USA.
A particular challenge I took on was to participate in the African ranking. Here I achieved 56th place in my second week. It was an intense experience, with days when I was on the platform for almost nine hours straight, and sleep became a rare commodity.
Another notable aspect of my TikTok journey was the deep connection I made with Nastassja Ras, the winner of Wife Bride, developed. The two of us quickly became a duo who regularly appear together on the platform. Our hour-long chats quickly became a hit among our followers. It was so popular that people even Albert and Nastassja-started making t-shirts!
This connection didn’t just stay with chats. Together we undertook several marketing initiatives, including the promotion of institutions such as Padstal and the Buffelsfontein Festival at the Voortrekker Monument. We gave away prizes to our community on a daily basis, which not only strengthened our profiles, but also shed a positive light on these institutions. This collaboration with Nastassja became a cornerstone in my TikTok experience, further emphasizing the power of connections and community building on the platform.
The fact that TikTok has grown so enormously in South Africa has strengthened my experience on the platform. According to recent data released by ByteDance, TikTok now has a staggering 11.83 million active users who are over 18 in our country. This means that a significant part of our nation is actively involved in this platform. TikTok’s advertising reach has also increased sharply and in 2023 will reach almost 29.6% of users over 18 in South Africa. As a comparison, the previous year’s figure was just over 16%. This made me realize, while I was talking to individuals worldwide, there were a large number of South Africans who were on the journey with me.
When I decided to go live on TikTok, one of my main goals was to create a space free of drama in a world often dominated by negativity and controversy. I wanted to create a place of lightness and humor. This drama-free approach has attracted a special community of supportive followers. One of the most memorable moments was when we, together with the community, hosted a fundraiser for a fellow TikToker who lost eight of his teeth.
Another unforgettable moment was our live concert for young farmers in America. These farmers, far from their beloved South Africa, often felt a longing for their heritage and culture. TikTok has built a bridge for these young people to bridge those nostalgic feelings and share a piece of South Africa with them, regardless of the distance. The fact that the broadcast took place at 3:00 in the morning South African time only emphasizes how important it was to create these connecting moments.
TikTok’s potential as a platform is further illustrated by South Africa’s own versions of popular programs such as Real Housewives of TikTok and TikTok Idolswhich both testify to the incredible variety and wealth of content and talent in our country.
So, looking back on my journey with TikTok, I realize that this platform is so much more than just a place to share videos. It is a space where people of all backgrounds and cultures can connect, collaborate, and build deeper human connections. It opened a window to a world of possibilities and became a medium where stories, culture, and experiences can be transmitted in a way that was previously unimaginable.
TikTok has not only served as a catalyst for creativity, but also as a bridge between different communities, and a light in a world that sometimes feels too dark. It highlights the incredible power of digital platforms in our modern age and their potential to bring us closer together, even across great distances.
- Albert Bredenhann is a writer and photographer.