“TikTok made me buy it:” The effect of advertising on TikTok

The influence of TikTok is undeniable. The app has over 1 billion users worldwide, and has been downloaded over 200 million times in the United States, according to the app itself. Its influence is only growing.

Many know the app for its dance videos and lighthearted atmosphere, but that is only a small piece of the puzzle. It has turned into a cultural powerhouse — one that has an effect on music, food, current events, politics and how people live their lives.

Through this, TikTok has affected something even more influential: how people spend their money.

Daania Adeel


Clothing, beauty products, cleaning products, tech accessories, toys and appliances have seen sales skyrocket after becoming TikTok sensations. In fact, 49 percent of TikTok users said they’ve purchased something after seeing it advertised, promoted or reviewed on the app, according to an Adweek-Morning Consult survey.

Bissel’s Little Green Machine can be used as an example. The portable steam cleaner has been for sale since 1997 but its sales have almost doubled according to Bissel. It garnered millions of views on #CleanTok, one of TikTok’s most popular communities.

Another prime example is the Lululemon Everywhere Belt Bag, which was released in 2020 for $39. It gained steam in summer 2022 when it suddenly became out of stock and very hard to find, according to Yahoo Style. The belt bag was even being sold by resellers for sometimes upwards of $80-90. This hype can be traced back to TikTok, with the hashtag #lululemonbeltbag achieving 61.9 million views.

Products like these achieve great fame from TikTok, but how can seemingly normal items become necessities for millions of people in mere weeks?


Behind the scenes, many companies and corporations– whether you realize it or not – give you a push to buy their products and merchandise through social media content.

“Social media marketing is highly psychological,” said Mr. Bill Reichert, a marketing teacher at LHS. “It’s extremely effective and extremely calculated in the way it’s executed.”

In 2022, the total social media advertising spending by US companies is expected at just under $63 billion, according to Oberlo. And It’s expected to rise to over $88 billion by 2026.

Many think of traditional ads straight from companies; however, these are largely ineffective in getting people’s attention because we have become resistant to traditional ads, billboards, and TV commercials.

“[Companies] just want it to not seem like marketing,” said Mr. Reichert.

Because of this, companies have been turning to what is dubbed the “new home shopping network” to promote their products: the network of TikTok influencers, according to the New York Times.


“The less obvious and more effective way of TikTok marketing is obviously the influencer,” said Mr. Reichert.

Influencers on social media are people who have built a platform based on their knowledge and expertise of a specific topic.

“It’s someone that you relate to, someone that shares the same values as you and someone that you’ve come to trust,’’ said Mr. Reichert. “They can be either explicit or less explicit about a product and you are just like a sponge ready to soak that in.”

Influencers are tasked with promoting products to their audience and are often paid by companies to do so. For example, Amazon offers influencers the option to have a storefront, in which they link products they promote for people to buy “from them.” They end up receiving a commission from Amazon for every product they sell.

This creates an incentive for Influencers to promote products, whether they like them or not. Many influencers have been accused of promoting companies with poor quality, value, or even morals.

“Influencers will post things and hype it up more than it really is,” said senior Emily Wilson, a social media promoter for the clothing store Rock N’ Rags in Highland Park, Ill. “They will give a different opinion just because they’re getting paid.”


Many TikTok users open the app expecting to scroll through their “For You Page” (FYP) for a couple of minutes until it becomes hours and hours of mindless scrolling.

The content that TikTok pushes out to you captivates you in a way like nothing else, as the FYP plays similar content to what users like, comment, or share.

Since the FYP shows TikTok users similar content to their interests, this can create a false sense of reality. This can lead to the belief that something is more important or “viral” than it actually is.

“[Influencers] will be like ‘get it before it’s gone,’ even though most of the time things will come back in stock,” said Wilson.

This “rush to sale” created by influencers leads people to jump on products and buy potentially unnecessary items, driving consumerism on the app.


Buying products as a want, not a need, is nothing new, but TikTok opens a whole new door to consumerism and spending in the 21st century.

“[Corporations] are trying to expose people who have never seen their product and hope that they want it,” said Mr. Eric Rogers, an economics teacher at LHS. “They’re trying to create demand for something.”

It should be noted that growing consumerism does have benefits. Some positives include the increasing competition between companies, which allows a large variety of products, thus increasing economic output.

“The more spending, the more jobs will be available,” said Mr. Rogers. “If you’re spending more money [corporations] will have to hire more people to make more products.”

The creation of jobs is a positive of consumerism, and it will cause short term growth to the United States GDP.

“[Consumerism] can impact the growth of investment in the United States,” said Mr. Rogers. “The more you lean towards consumer goods, the less long term growth you have.”

However, consumerism can neglect long-term growth that’s vital to the resilience of the economy.

“Something that looks really good right now on paper is the consumer part of the GDP is going up. But if it’s taking away from growth in long-term investment that could hurt [the United States],” said Mr. Rogers.

TikTok is no longer a harmless app exclusive to dancing and silly trends. It has formed into a more powerful and consequential app that is now affecting our thoughts and actions. TikTok’s Influencers will find a way to influence you.