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    How niche communities on TikTok are rewriting mainstream culture

    Forget the mainstream – niche communities are the future of digital culture. Whalar’s Aime Hunter breaks down the changing landscape and identifies the five key learnings for going niche.

    Mainstream culture is changing as we know it. For millennials, popular culture and style was all about fitting in. If you were lucky enough to own a pair of low-rise jeans, know the lyrics to every Spice Girls song and have Friends on DVD, you could quite comfortably count yourself as trendy. Gen Z, however, is rejecting the homogenous and embracing the unique. Gone are the days when a select few dictate what is hot and what is not. And for this shift, we largely have TikTok to thank.

    TikTok has facilitated the growth of niche online communities through its ‘for you’ algorithm, where its users are constantly introduced to new hobbies and passions. Whether you’re into science, upcycling, cosplay, astrophysics, parkour or journaling, there is a growing community on TikTok ready to welcome you with open arms. These are gatekept not by a few elites at the top, but by every community member. Each person’s voice is as valuable as the next in helping to shape and evolve the subculture. 

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    Brands across every industry should be paying very close attention to the growing niche communities and subcultures on TikTok, and some major players have already taken note. Vodafone and Samsung enlisted graphic designer and cosplayer Zainab to help launch the Galaxy Z Flip 4. However, when working with niche communities, brands need to show up in the right way to avoid appearing gimmicky or inauthentic. This is especially true when working with a community that has historically been marginalized. Below are five key learnings for brands to consider before going niche:

    1. Find the synergy

    The collaboration should make sense. If you’re a telecoms company, for example, why not look at Vanlife creators or Urban Explorers? Witchtok, however, might not be your best bet.

    2. Champion alternative perspectives

    Gymshark has recently collaborated with creator Fats Timbo to bring out a digital series on disabled athletes. Through collaborations like this one, you can tap into a niche subculture and simultaneously champion communities that have lacked representation.

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    3. Operate in the culture, not the category

    Following in the footsteps of gen Z, it’s time to start rejecting the norms. If you want to resonate with younger audiences, it’s worth doing things a little differently from your competitors and forging your own path within the culture.

    4. Consider long-term partnerships

    Really want to cement your place within a subculture or community? Ambassadorships may be your best option. When a brand is there to stay, it proves its authenticity and commitment to the community.

    5. Take your shoes off at the door

    In the words of creator Bri Hall: “When a brand is entering a community, you are entering a home. Don’t forget to take your shoes off at the door.” Follow the rules, drop the ego and don’t leave with more than you brought with you.

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    Niche communities are here to stay, and the potential for brands is huge – if collaborations are done in the right way.

    Aime Hunter is the creator solutions manager at Whalar.

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