🔥 burner, she wrote

how DAO you like me now?

You are cordially invited to this week’s brew of High Tea, your dispatch of 🔥 internet culture served piping hot. This week: the burner account with 5 million followers, what this means for the future of finsta and why we bow to the DAO.

Drink up! 🐸☕

p.s. if you’re not a paid subscriber, here’s what you missed from this week’s Bucks Fizz: our Thursday dispatch covering the best of TikTok’s unsigned and emerging talent.

🥂Ethel Cain, Maddie Zahm & SEB

What we’ve been sipping on: long live the burner account 

Finstas (aka “fake Instagram”) and rinstas (aka “real Instagram”) ain’t nothing new, with mainstream headlines trying to make sense of it all (“why your kid’s secret Instagram account is a big deal”) appearing as early as 2017. In fact, celebrity spam accounts have been hiding in plain sight for a hot minute, away from the curated feed of picture perfect posts, where valuable grid real estate is reserved for securing brand deals...and the bag that comes with them. Lest we forget Lorde’s secret account for reviewing onion rings...which is why we’re still waiting for the next album, right?

While social expression for millennials, who were raised on a diet of MySpace and Bebo’s “top 8” (an IRL friends first policy), is very much “what you see is what you get”, it’s no secret that Gen Z have been broadcasting their many identities online with alt accounts from the jump. Grab your nearest teen and ask them how many accounts they’re sitting on, and realise how much of a normie you are with your “main” and that forgotten travel account you made in 2016. 

Now, in a world away from a social landscape long stagnated by avocado toast flatlays and #nofilter facetune, finstas have been joined by a multifaceted, multi-account approach on TikTok (are we surprised?). While alts are part of the furniture on TikTok, this week there was a certain burner account that had the fyp up in flames. Let’s dive in. 

Coming to a for you page near you

Charli’s main account (via TikTok)

ICYMI: Charli D’Amelio is the most followed person in the world on TikTok, with 113.8 million followers. Now, if you’re deep into TikTok like us, you’ll know that there’s an in-app rumor of sorts when it comes to Charli: she’s never, ever on the fyp. Seriously, think about it...before this week, did you ever see Charli on your fyp?

This is the kind of ammunition TikTok conspiracy theorists crave, since the for you page is the holy grail for most creators on the platform; it’s often how your content is distributed to audiences outside of your immediate following. But this week, Charli did appear on our fyp...from yet another burner account. Time to investigate. 👇

This ain’t the first time Charli D’Amelio has created an alt account, inventing an alter ego “Barley D’Amelio” in June 2020, uploading across the span of 48 hours and accumulating 4.9 million followers. The account has been untouched since June 19 2020. Then, in August 2020, another alt appeared from Charli, this time a spam account for the same character of Barley – the Poot Lovato of the D’Amelio sisters, if you will. The account has since been deleted, but you’ll find plenty of opportunists eager to play the imitation game, in a temporary bid to associate with the clout of such an account – a recurring trend we see surrounding the culture of spam accounts. 

Fake @barleyspams accounts 

Last Friday, Charli added another string to her TikTok bow when the account @user4350486101671 appeared out of nowhere. Though Charli is absent from the very first TikTok, fans were quick to realize they’d found Charli’s secret account despite the notable absence of name, bio, captions and hashtags. Brand and talent managers everywhere are ~shaking~ . After hitting one million followers in under 24 hours, we can confidently say Charli’s burner is the worst-kept secret on the internet. 

Charli’s not-so-secret burner, via TikTok

For a wild 48 hours, the account was used to share behind-the-scenes glimpses of Charli’s trip to Atlanta for the Jake Paul Triller fight. Of course, this comes as no surprise as the entire D’Amelio family are involved in a non-exclusive deal with the rival platform, including a leased Rolls-Royce for Charli with a “TRILLER” vanity plate. Did Charli make this burner to create content during the event while evading the small print in her Triller contract...because...who in their right mind is actually on Triller? *TikTok voice* I guess we’ll never know. 

Among the stadium dressing room antics ahead of the fight, we can draw a common theme of Charli’s burner content: teens just being teens, tbqh. These TikToks, which have drawn views to rival Charli’s main account (with ~20x the following) and a head start of almost 2 years, feel as disposable, intimate and fun as watching a friend’s private story. This represents a wider content shift we’re seeing on TikTok (à la Victoria Paris & co), where creators are abandoning the curated and adopting a more throw-shit-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks approach. We simply love to see it. 

Comments from Charli’s burner account, via TikTok

So...what does it all mean? There are many lessons we can take from Charli’s burner case study – namely the reaction of the influx of new followers, which now total 5.4 million, amassed over 9 days.  To say they’re lapping up this “new Charli”, free to exist in multitudes, would be an understatement. These are followers who likely migrated from Charli’s main account and have literally grown up with her, since the creation of her TikTok back in June 2019. For outsiders looking in, it’s easy to view Charli through the lens of “that 15 -year-old who got famous for the Renegade”, but take a closer look and you’ll see a young woman on the cusp of adulthood (fyi, our Taurus queen turns 17 next week). 

It’s clear that Charli’s content is evolving as she continues to pave the way for the identity she’s carving out in real time, across increasingly diversified social spaces. It’s notable that this time round Charli doesn’t need a pseudonym to hide behind when it comes to expressing herself, in a move that feels decidedly less performative. With no alter ego necessary to legitimize this extension of her online presence, expect to see other creators follow suit with burner accounts centered around events; created and dropped in a single weekend. TikTok for the transient? Sign us up. 

Why does this mean for social and community? 

Charli is proving that current social platforms aren’t built to befit the needs of an ever-changing, multi-hyphenate, no matter how much IG encourages users to ‘create another account to stay in touch with a group of your friends’ – really?

It also shows Charli’s ability to capture the attention of her die-hard following (those who have high-affinity for her brand, personality and intentions) vs only accelerating the growth of her legacy 113M+ main TikTok account. We can imagine mid 00s influencers quaking in their UGG boots at the mere thought of starting over their social followings. For many it has taken years of hard work to build 50K+ and starting from 0 again sounds like a form of social suicide. For Charli however, there is no fear. She knows a subset of her audience will follow her wherever she goes – granted it is larger than average subset but now a highly, highly engaged one. Proof of this? It only took her 24 hours to reach 1 million followers on her most recent burner. 

Every time Charli adds another anonymous profile, she effectively further separates the wheat from the chaff of her following. If this holds true, Charli will end up with a smaller highly-engaged supporter base that (1) she knows has made an attention (time) investment in her to thrive (2) she can build personal relationships with (3) can be galvanized to support her long term endeavours and (4) she believes are not going to turn away as she continues to experiment with identity. She is building the ultimate fan base stronghold. 

Where is all this going? Community 3.0.

As we peep the intersection of a expansive creative expression and turbo-charged communities, we cannot go any further without mentioning the seemingly natural progression towards building creator-focused decentralized protocols, as put forward by Patrick Rivera in his article on Crypto x Creator Economy. Rivera references the creation of crypto economic networks that move beyond today’s mantra of "come for the creator, stay for the network" and become "come for the creator, stay for the economy”. Building community-first folks, is now the real d€al for everyone. 

“Creators will have ownership stakes in the internet economies they're building. They'll be incentivized to hype up other creators. To invest in the community. To direct traffic. To provide support. Fans, curators, and community leaders will do the same.” – Patrick Rivera of Mirror, a decentralized, user-owned, crypto-based network

You’ve heard of creators monetizing via crypto-native products such as NFTs but what about building their own DAOs (Decentralized Autonomous Organizations)? 

“These days it seems like every top creator is starting their own VC fund. In web3, I could see this model evolve where top creators start grant programs and allow their community to decide how the funds should be allocated.” – Patrick Rivera of Mirror

We’re excited to watch these trends evolve over the next few months  – special thanks to Benny for giving us our initial primer on DAOs!  

kettle’s on: ones to watch