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Financial advice blows up on TikTok. The narrative has changed.

InvestmentNews | Nicole Casperson | Feb 15, 2021

TikTok financial influencers - Financial advice blows up on TikTok.  The narrative has changed.

In the past, advisers viewed social media as a marketing tool that targeted only millennial and Gen Z clients. That narrative has changed.

Imagine having less than a minute to dispense financial advice while standing in a room of thousands, or even millions, of potential clients. Now imagine doing that alone from the comfort of your home, with a smartphone and mobile app as the only tools needed.

That’s what financial advice is on TikTok, the short-form, video-sharing app. Type the hashtag personal finance — #personalfinance — into the TikTok app’s search bar and thousands of videos pop up that provide viewers with financial advice and explanations of financial terminology in the form of 60-second videos.

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Financial influencers, some certified financial planners and some not, have leveraged society’s social media obsession to answer finance questions online ranging from “What’s a short squeeze?” to “How do I start saving for retirement?” in order to rack up followers and build a business.

These efforts are flourishing: TikTok videos tagged #personalfinance have garnered 3.5 billion views from the more than 1 billion monthly active users on TikTok, according to mobile data and analytics platform App Annie. By comparison, videos found under two other popular hashtags, #cookingtips or #healthtips, have 2.6 billion and 2.1 billion views, respectively.

While expanding financial advice to a wide range of young investors is a good thing, there is potential for bad results when mixing personal financial advice and TikTok, said Ritholtz Wealth Management CEO Josh Brown.

“Users should be aware that if you’re listening to people on social networks and not even bothering to Google them to see whether they have credentials and blindly doing what those people are saying, that responsibility is on the viewer just as much as it’s on the creator,” Brown said.

For example, some TikTok influencers create videos showing users how they invest in certain stocks to make money. One user, who goes by the TikTok username @Biaheza, shared a video with his 64,000 followers illustrating how he used the free trading app Robinhood to invest in “speculative” and “degenerate” trade options to make money, he said in the video. The user claims his strategy pushed his account value to $124,000.

While the financial advice may be risky, social media influencers with large followings can earn money through these platforms because advertisers will pay content creators to tout brand promotions and sponsorships to their thousands, or millions, of followers.

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In July, TikTok introduced a $200 million TikTok Creator Fund after the platform’s popularity “propelled thousands of creators into brand partnerships, sponsorships, and representation deals,” according to TikTok’s announcement.

Through the fund, TikTok users can apply to earn an income based on these criteria: Users must be 18 or older, have at least 10,000 followers, have at least 10,000 video views in 30 days, and consistently post original content in line with TikTok guidelines.

In the past, advisers largely viewed social media as a marketing tool that targeted only millennial and Gen Z clients. Clearly, that narrative has changed as the pandemic-fueled interest in finance has turned social media and financial advice into a full-blown business model.

INFLUENCER IMPACT

The focus on traditional ultra-high-net-worth clients typically steered advisory firms away from social media and younger investors. But millennials and Gen Z are expected to inherit $68 trillion, the greatest generational wealth transfer, over the coming years.

Younger generations are going to keep making decisions based on what they learn about finance from TikTok videos, she said. The way TikTok’s algorithm delivers content makes it easier to find random videos and introduces personal finance to a group of people who might not have been interested before.

One of the most popular providers of personal finance advice videos, with more than 1.5 million followers and 22.2 million likes on TikTok, is a former Merrill Lynch financial adviser turned social media influencer, Humphrey Yang, who’s known as @humphreytalks.

At 33, the San Francisco-based content creator snowballed on TikTok after he posted finance-focused videos on the platform. One video that went viral shows Yang scaling former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ net worth with rice, with each grain representing $100,000.

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