Even Alix Earle once struggled to get views.

“I downloaded TikTok my freshman year of college when it came out, and I was trying a ton of different things on there — I was dancing, I was using the audios — I knew I loved the app and wanted to be successful at it in some capacity, but nothing was sticking for me,” said the 22-year-old influencer and recent University of Miami graduate in conversation with WWD executive managing editor Allison Collins.

When Earle began gaining traction on her livestreams in which she showcased her pre-night-out beauty regimen, she realized she may have found her niche. “I turned those [livestreams] into ‘get ready with me’ videos — I gained some following from there,” said Earle.

While those get ready with me videos have indeed become a widely loved staple in Earle’s content, it was last summer when Earle endured a severe bout of hormonal acne — and documented it on TikTok despite reservations in doing so — that her platform suddenly began to take off.

“I decided that I couldn’t just stop posting, because I loved [posting], so I would just post about my skin journey,” said Earle, who returned to college that fall for her senior year and began posting videos demonstrating how she would cover her blemishes. “Those started to do really well, and it was just a snowball effect from there,” said Earle, who counts more than 5.8 million followers on TikTok today.

As for the kind of content that draws Earle in as a TikTok user, “when people are storytelling and showing their personality, that sticks out to me — that’s kind of what I’ve taken it upon myself to do,” she said.

A swipe through Earle’s TikTok page depicts her showing her mother how to use Zara’s self-checkout technology, chatty videos and post-event uploads in which she attempts to remove glue-in faux bangs (that moment escalated into a three-person process).

And she believes brands can leverage the laid-back nature of TikTok to their advantage, too.

“I like when brands [use Gen Z slang] — it’s kind of like they’re speaking your language, literally,” said Earle, adding that not only is it permissible for brands to get in on the fun — they almost need to in order to resonate with younger consumers.

“Gen Z is smart. They’re over the typical commercials, they know when [something] is an ad — these traditional styles of marketing aren’t really going to work anymore,” she said, adding that brands need to factor in Gen Z’s short attention spans when structuring content and campaigns.

“If you’re stringing along this 30-second, one-minute video — no one wants to sit there, people will just keep scrolling,” said Earle, suggesting brands demonstrate the result of the product they are marketing within the first five to 10 seconds of a video in order to keep consumers engaged.

“I also think it’s important for brands to understand the younger generation and the kind of trends they’re following. If brands can kind of do these ads in a way where it’s like the videos their target audience is already liking and watching, that’s what I would say [works] for branding with Gen Z,” she said.

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