By Kevin Nance
If you want to be a star on TikTok — the
short-form video app that’s taken the world
by storm since it became popular in 2018 —
there’s some insider information you need to
make your reels go viral. That’s where 18-year old
Nicholasville native Parker Pannell and his
mom, Lexington realtor, Whitney Pannell, come in.
Parker, a budding TV sitcom actor with a
whopping 2.6 million followers on the platform,
and Whitney, who’s none too shabby with 83,000
followers, will be sharing their expertise in a
talk for the Professional Women’s Forum, “What
Makes TikTok Tick?,” on January 5 at Copper Roux.
Parker, known on the platform as a fresh-faced,
outgoing, outdoorsy kid with a signature
haircut that juts out from his forehead like a
visor, will offer tips on content creation. His
mom — who often plays an upbeat, hammy
version of herself in many of his videos along
with her husband, Rick, and their daughter,
Lucy Boone — will focus on how the business
community can use TikTok to increase their
potential client bases.
Some of the most important TikTok tips
will come from Parker, who now lives in Los
Angeles and is a recurring guest star on Warped, a new live-action comedy series premiering January 20 on Nickelodeon. (Parker plays Carl, “a super loud-mouth, abrasive jerk,” he says in a recent interview at his parents’ home. “He’s the
character you love to hate.”)
Parker has been learning the ropes on
TikTok since his debut on the platform in
October of 2018. He quickly built a huge
audience with his entertaining skits showing
him dancing, goofing around with his family
and friends (including a girl named Page who
posed as a girlfriend although they weren’t
actually dating), and performing semi-athletic
stunts like diving into a lake.
He now earns a substantial income — he
recently bought his first truck, paying for it
himself — through live-streamed “gifting
battles” with other TikTokers and as an
influencer, with sponsorship deals with
companies including A&W Root Beer, the Cash
App, and the clothing line Psycho Bunny.
The keys to success on TikTok, he says, are
to keep things fun, to develop a niche and to
follow the platform’s trends, usually involving a
few select pranks or comic situations.
“When I was slowly growing and trying to
rise to the top, I would watch the trends and
take notes on what other people were doing — I
would take some of their ideas and put my own
little twist on it,” he says. “Recently I’ve been
trying to make more original content, and I’ve
noticed that those videos don’t perform as well.
Especially on TikTok, you have to really focus
on the trends. If you don’t, then you’ll notice
that your views will start to drop.”
If that sounds like lemmings jumping off
a cliff — or maybe, as his mom suggests, like
penguins leaping into the sea — so be it. “I
think I would consider myself a lemming, or a
penguin, or whatever,” Parker says with a smile.
“Unless it’s really, really unique, your content
is not going to perform that well if it’s out of the
Staying in your lane, niche-wise, is also
important. “I’ve seen people creating National
Geographic kind of content where they’ll go
out into the desert or the rainforest and take
pictures of really rare animals that you don’t
see on a daily basis,” he says. “I tried to create
a video like that one time. I went to Costa Rica
and I saw a sloth. It was beautiful. And I had a
really, really good video of it, and I focused in,
super high quality. But it didn’t perform as well,
just because that’s not my niche.”
But aren’t sloths kind of, you know, quiet and
sort of boring — not really TikTok material?
“People do love sloths,” Parker says.
But they don’t move around much. That’s why
we say lazy people are slothful.
“Still, they’re pretty cute animals,” he insists.
“But the point is, once you create a niche, you
have to stay within that niche. You’re kind of
stuck with it, actually, for a long time. That’s
what your viewers are expecting from your
channel, so you have to keep producing that
kind of content.”
Tik Tok crossed the one billion monthly user
mark in September of 2021. According to
the New York Times, “TikTok also told one
agency that 48 percent of millennial mothers
were on the platform, and that women ages 25 to
34 spent an average of 60 minutes on the TikTok
app a day.”
So how does the fun, comedy-centered
content on TikTok lend itself to the goals of
business? Most of Whitney’s own wacky videos
on the platform are much like her son’s — only a
few deal directly with real estate — but in their
upcoming talk, she’ll discuss how TikTok can be
an important business development tool.
“The idea is to become more noticeable in
your profession,” she says. “But if you want to
just do real estate TikToks or attorney TikToks,
it’s probably going to be boring. So I’ll talk
about how you can make it creative, how to
engage with people. Every once in a while, I’ll
do something on real estate, but really not a lot.
Because if all I did was real estate on TikTok, I
don’t think I’d do very well.”
How does that translate into a business
advantage? “It’s helpful to my business because
so many people will call me and say, ‘Oh my
gosh — I follow you on TikTok! I know you’re
a realtor — we’re thinking about selling our
Warped, a new live-action comedy series,
premieres January 20 on Nickelodeon.
This article also appears on page 10 of the January 2022 print edition of Ace.
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