TikTok Investors Is Holding FinTok's Cringiest Creators Accountable

How he educates Twitter by debunking and *mocking* the worst financial videos online.

Hey! Welcome back to Trade Secrets 🔓 

This week, we had a fun conversation with the founder of TikTok Investors! His (anonymous) account has racked up a popular following on Twitter, where he collects – and corrects – TikTok's worst and cringiest finance advice 😬 💸

In this Trade Secrets, TikTok Investors dives into his background, the origins of his account, accountability, what he hopes people take away from TikTok Investors, and much more!

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Love it or hate it – TikTok can get you to scroll for hours on the app (this guy still haunts my dreams). Whether you’re watching life hacks, catching up on the latest pop culture news, or learning how to fix your gut health, there’s no shortage of crazy, cringey, and addictive videos. 

One niche that has countless creators serving up some jaw-dropping advice is finance. (And not good jaw-dropping, more like Bernie Madoff hosting a Ted Talk and people eagerly taking notes jaw-dropping). The exciting, yet scary part of all this finance-related content is its abundance. The tag #finance alone has been used nearly 9 billion times.  There’s a large community that wants to learn and become more financial literate. 

Social media’s become an information one-stop-shop. According to a 2021 study by Magnify Money, 75% of Gen Z are younger than the age of 21 when they started investing and growing up in the digital age. 41% of Gen Zers get investment advice from YouTube, while 24% go to TikTok and 21% find it on Instagram. Large proportions of young investors flocking to social media for advice is dangerous because these creators aren’t vetted by the platform. This means their false, reckless advice could end up costing viewers thousands of dollars, without them even knowing it.

When the founder of TikTok Investors saw the influx of TikTokers giving inaccurate – and potentially dangerous – financial advice that unknowing people could follow, he decided to repost the funniest and cringiest financial advice and debunk them on Twitter – growing to a following of nearly 218,000.

Trade Secrets had the privilege of sitting down with the anonymous account to discuss TikTok Investors’ financial background, his account’s explosive growth, comparing content creation and engagement on TikTok and Twitter, why he chose to keep his account anonymous, accountability, monetization, and more.

Trade Secrets: What inspired you to become a creator, specifically in the finance space? 

TikTok Investors: I started creating finance content because that’s what I knew most about. I went to school and found a career in finance. Having a background in the space made it easy for me to identify videos with super outrageous claims and comment why they were wrong. People know I’m being sarcastic with my comments and know that the video I’m making fun of is wrong. The other aspect that I noticed after being in the industry for a while is that their personality was gone; it’s always just business. I didn't see half of my coworkers ever smile! So I thought providing some humorous context to bad financial videos, where the creators know nothing about financial markets, or have never been a part of a downturn, was funny and unique. I also have a dark sense of humor and my content translated well with that.

Trade Secrets: Could you talk a little more about your background and how you started your account?

TikTok Investors: I started during the pandemic because I was bored. I wasn’t thinking: “Oh man I need to do this – create a social media account and build a business around this.” At the end of the day, I realized I was sitting at home working and bored as hell when my Gen Z brother told me to download TikTok because it was funny. I started using TikTok and within 10 minutes on the app, the algorithm nailed down what kind of content I liked. From ASMR, to chiropractic, to of course, finance videos. I’d watch these finance videos where 19 and 21-year-old kids talked about the next greatest stock, and I’d just laugh. I’ve worked in the industry for nearly 10 years, so I was familiar with stock pitches, valuation, etc. Watching these videos, I had to laugh because they were unfounded and ridiculous. That’s where the idea of my account originated from.

Trade Secrets: Why did you make the decision to position yourself as an anonymous account? 

TikTok Investors: I stay anonymous because it allows me to say what I’m thinking more freely, without worrying about the repercussions of how people will judge me. I can be more real and transparent. Also, after a couple of months of posting, I started getting DMs from people I posted…they’d say things like “I’m going to find out who you are.” While I’m not doing anything wrong, I also don’t need any extra drama in my life. The rise of people that want to find me made it obvious that I should stay anonymous.

Trade Secrets: Do the threats scare you to not want to post in general?

TikTok Investors: For sure lol. People try hard to find out who I am. For example, I stopped posting about one particular person because they were super aggressive about finding me. I had posted about their content enough for people to realize he was a bad source of finance information. But, of course it scared me. I’m just doing this for fun - I don’t need people coming after me.

Trade Secrets: What did the beginning growth stages look like for TikTok Investors?

TikTok Investors: I started posting videos for a couple of weeks just because it was funny. I started responding to people’s comments and people would engage with my account more. Then TikTok Investors started growing and it took on a life of its own. I had no idea it would grow or get this big. I thought my content would translate well to Twitter because on TikTok people don’t really comment – they mainly scroll and occasionally look at comments. But, Twitter is far more conversational. So I thought if I posted on Twitter, then people could actually converse about how outrageous these videos are. This proved to be true because I don’t get a lot of likes, but I get a lot of comments.

Later in our conversation, we shifted to more of the nitty-gritty of what goes into being a successful Twitter creator and how platforms like TikTok and Twitter differ from each other.

Trade Secrets: What made you pursue being a hub of other creator’s financial content?

TikTok Investors: I pursued creating content that called out scammers. For example, I’ll single out a 22-year-old who created a TikTok on why you should sell everything in your 401K and put it into real estate and then they make a discord or substack where people pay them $50 a month for guidance. At the end of the day, their business is the substack, newsletter or discord. So when I see their video and post content that goes viral by calling them out, knowing they’re giving bad advice that’s impressionable on 18 to 20-year-old viewers that might not know any better than what they see on the internet – it ultimately hurts their business. People then realize the original creator is uneducated and recognize they shouldn’t support them or follow their advice.

Trade Secrets: What does the process look like for finding these TikToks? 

TikTok Investors: I try not to go on TikTok too much because it’s addictive and time consuming. I created a finance-based TikTok account that over the course of months, anything finance related that I saw, I made sure to watch, like, comment, or follow. I kept doing that until the account was just finance content – nothing else. This made it easier to scroll and find videos. Luckily, a lot of people send videos for me to post as well.

Trade Secrets: How does the content search process differ from TikTok to Twitter?

TikTok Investors: Searching on TikTok is difficult, and it feels purposefully done to get users to stay on the app longer. If I search on Twitter, the generated content is based on the current date or recent tweets, while TikTok will show the most viewed video on that subject. But that video could be from 2 years ago. TikTok makes it hard to search for content on the platform, so I stopped and just made a finance account to find content quicker.

Trade Secrets: How do you decide which videos to post and comment on?

TikTok Investors: I am pretty selective on what I post; I choose quality over quantity. There are a bunch of creators that have goals like tweeting 10 times a day so people can see their impressions and their account gets exposure. For me, I need to find content that will do at least semi-well because a lot of videos are so dumb that people won’t want to watch, which in turn actually hurts my account and engagement. I get DMed videos all the time, but when I look through I have to judge which ones will do well and which ones won’t. You have to have an eye for it. If someone is making a video about investing on margin or levering up to the max to invest in real estate, those are gonna do very well. If someone is talking about investing and they mess up the math, those videos will do well. There are subtopics that I am keen to and know that those posts will do well.

"Being able to decipher what will do well and what won't do well has become a skill learned through time."

- TikTok Investors

Trade Secrets: Have you ever had the original creators find that you posted about their video? If so, what was their reaction? And did their followers ever respond defending the original creator?

TikTok Investors: I have seen videos of TikTokers basically gloating about making it to TikTok Investors - thinking it's a badge of honor. Other creators post videos trying to discredit me by telling people not to listen to me. When the original creator has a negative reaction to my video, their fanbase mob usually defends the original creator in my comments. Typically, I don’t have to say anything in response because other people will respond to these mob comments and explain how idiotic the advice was. It strangely sorts itself out. Which ultimately is good for me because the more back and forth banter leads to more impressions. Going viral on Twitter is not based on how many likes you get. The most important thing is comments followed by quote tweets, retweets, then likes. This is one of the reasons why you see Twitter guru’s constantly ask their followers questions. More comments leads to more engagement.

Trade Secrets: When a big event or craze happens, like the GameStop saga, NFTs, Dogecoin, crypto, etc., do you see an influx of more cringe-y and not factual content? 

TikTok Investors: Yes, exactly right – like the Gamestop stuff was insane last year. To be honest, I have a love/hate relationship with my account. I love it because it's a fun diary that reflects on the craziness that happened during certain times. But at the same time, I am also searching for engagement, which everyone else is also doing. So people only post to capitalize on trending topics that everyone is searching for because everybody wants to go viral. With the Gamestop or Dogecoin madness, everyone was making TikToks about it, which naturally made it easy for me to find content to post. I also noticed that trends happen on TikTok before coming over to Twitter, then the prices of certain securities or cryptocurrencies will actually take off once it comes to Twitter.

Trade Secrets: What’s the scariest, most like red flag financial advice you’ve seen on TikTok? 

TikTok Investors: There is a lot of bad financial advice out there but what comes to mind was about Luna, a cryptocurrency that also had a stablecoin claiming if you invested your money into it, you could get 20% return of the money you put in per year. For quick math, you put in $100, then you get $120 by the end of the year. So there was a creator saying the best thing to do was take out a mortgage, put that money into a stablecoin, use part of that money to buy a house, and that stablecoin will pay the mortgage payment. Let’s say you took a 100K loan, used part for the down payment and put the rest into this stablecoin that offers you 20%. Then you can use that 20% to pay the monthly mortgage payment. Then you can rent the house out to get cash. Shortly after, the stablecoin went to zero. So if you had followed his advice, you were in trouble. Another red flag piece of advice I’ve seen was someone saying sell everything in your 401K and put it into real estate. Advice like that is pretty bad.

Trade Secrets: Is there any accountability for influencers giving this kind of advice?

TikTok Investors: People that recommend that kind of advice are influencers. They know how to capture attention. If you’re ignorant or don't understand finances, you’ll think it's good advice because the creator sounds well educated and smart. If you can sound convincing, people will naturally believe you. Which is sad because I guarantee people have followed influencers’ advice even though the influencer doesn’t follow their own advice. These influencers don’t care because it doesn't affect them. They just want engagement.

" If you work at Goldman Sachs and advise people to buy a certain stock and that stock goes down 30% the next day - you are now accountable for that. There is an accountability associated with that guidance."

- TikTok Investors

TikTok Investors: (continued) With an influencer, there is no accountability. People might be mad but the creator can just create a video explaining to people how it was good advice and why this is a better time to buy. Influencers have a better opportunity to manage their image. There is an accountability difference here, as well as on Twitter, which frustrates me a lot.

Trade Secrets: Is there any notable difference between the finance community on TikTok and on Twitter?

TikTok Investors: There's a correlation: One social media platform will push another platform to start talking about something that has a ton of engagement. In terms of creators, there are way more finance creators on Twitter. I think TikTok has seen a drop in the number of finance creators because of the bear market. People aren't posting about finance because they aren't making money anymore. So it's hard for creators to pitch a discord or substack when people have moved on from finance and are interested in other topics. The pool of finance creators is much smaller on TikTok, but I think 30% of finance TikTokers are good and 70% are full of sh*t. And since Twitter is so conversational, people can determine if a creator is being real or not because their thoughts are written down. On TikTok, influencers can entice viewers to listen to them based on their emotion, presentation or how they market themselves in the video. When I see those videos and creators, I don't trust them and I think other people are catching on too.

Trade Secrets: Do you think TikTok should be more accountable in flagging this kind of content that could potentially be dangerous if people take this type of financial advice seriously? 

TikTok Investors: 100% they should be more accountable. I don’t know what they should do, maybe if someone is going to post finance information then they need some credential like passing a basic finance course or something. If you’ve passed series exams, CFA, CFP, CPA, etc., there should be something to verify you know what you’re talking about. I think There are a bunch of methods they could try to increase the odds of people providing decent information. At the end of the day, TikTok creators have a second to grab people’s attention and they don't get paid based on providing good information. They’re paid based on how much engagement they can capture. I don’t think the incentive is right and it doesn’t align correctly. Especially when it comes to finance. If you're getting paid based on engagement/marketing and not based on quality information, people are going to watch the attention-grabbing accounts. I always said that TikTok won’t stop finance from being talked about on the app since it's one of biggest topics, in terms of overall engagement, but creators should provide a credential, degree or job experience to validate their advice. There has to be something to regulate advice. It's sad but necessary because I guarantee people have lost more money than they made by watching TikToks.

And of course, we had to get some “trade secrets” from TikTok Investors for any emerging creators!

Trade Secrets: Any advice for an up-and-coming creator who wants to post content using Twitter as their main platform?

TikTok Investors: The most valuable Twitter accounts are the ones that can bridge the gap between humor and value - the ones that do memes but also provide real information on a particular subject. Bridging that gap is important and based on that it’s important to recognize that not all followers are equal. A creator with 50k followers can have way more of an impact than a creator with a million followers just depending on what their objective is. Also, figure out how to monetize the platform you're creating content for. Whether that's through a newsletter or another format, new creators should think of how to monetize once they hit a certain level of engagement or number of followers.

Trade Secrets: How does monetization on Twitter differ from monetization on TikTok?

TikTok Investors: Monetization on Twitter is hard, while monetization on TikTok is infinitely easier. That’s because voice/camera make it easier to convince someone about subscribing to Patreon, Discord, or newsletter because viewers can see if the creators are really emotionally invested. People react more to emotion than logic. So TikTok is a much easier platform for creators and advertisers to monetize on compared to Twitter.

Trade Secrets: Has navigating monetization and receiving value for your work been the greatest challenge/lesson you have learned from your time online?

TikTok Investors: I started TikTok Investors because I was bored and thought it was funny. When a couple of tweets got thousands of likes and went viral, my endorphins just skyrocketed.I felt like I was on top of the world. After a month or so, I sat back and wondered was I just making conteing for likes and retweets? Luckily, I partnered with Brian Hanly and Bullish Studio which helped me monetize my content and make it worthwhile. Without Bullish’s help, I would have stopped content creation a long time ago. 

Trade Secrets: What has your experience been like working with Bullish Studio and what’s your take on what they are doing in the creator space?

TikTok Investors: Brian has insane energy and as a result, I really enjoyed what Bullish was doing and what they were going after. There's a market for it and they are doing really well in that market. It's easier for me to say yes to work with Bullish. Brian and the whole team have been really supportive and great with figuring out a bunch of avenues for me to pursue. In particular, Keaton Inglis has been one of the best people to talk about different ad deals, teams to work with and pairing me with opportunities that were a great fit.

Bringing awareness to the most ridiculous - and just plain wrong -  financial advice videos, with a twist of humor and sarcasm, TikTok Investors wants to get followers laughing, but also educate them so they don’t fall victim to bad advice that could cost them thousands.

Follow TikTok Investors to see the worst of the worst financial TikToks out there!

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