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What will happen to Tarrant County creators if TikTok is banned? Three weigh in

Tarrant County TikTok creators from left to right: Shawn Warner, ItsErnie and Pearl Frazier, told the Report about how the app contributes to their pocketbooks and what they think about a potential TikTok ban.
Courtesy photos
Shawn Warner, ItsErnie and Pearl Frazier
Tarrant County TikTok creators from left to right: Shawn Warner, ItsErnie and Pearl Frazier, told the Report about how the app contributes to their pocketbooks and what they think about a potential TikTok ban.

TikTok changed Shawn Warner’s life before he posted a single video.

The Arlington fiction author and Army veteran caught the attention of a shopper at Kroger, where the author had set up a table to promote his book.

Jerrad “Red” Swearengin, who goes by @internetfamouslol on the app, stopped by the table, started a conversation with Warner and started filming.

“I imagined all the times I worked so hard and never got any recognition,” Swearengin wrote in the TikTok video that has garnered 25.6 million views to date.

The viral video helped launch Warner’s book sales, propelling it to bestsellers lists at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and USA Today. The author is now a regular fixture on the app, boasting 225,000 followers as he livestreams book signings and posts writing tips and giveaways.

Warner is far from the only person who can credit TikTok for boosting his creative career. The app is used by more than 150 million users nationwide and has helped several Tarrant County creators grow a following outside of North Texas.

However, TikTok’s future in the United States is uncertain.

In March, members of the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly supported a bill that would require the app’s China-based parent company, ByteDance, to sell the app or face a nationwide ban.

Of the six representatives with portions of Tarrant County in their districts, half voted in favor of the bill while the others either marked themselves as present or abstained. None of them voted against the measure.

TikTok contributes $24.2 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product, including $14.7 billion in revenue to small businesses, according to the firm Oxford Economics’ recent study, which was funded by TikTok.

Texas is among the top five states pulling in revenue from the app, and the prospect of losing that revenue stream has some local creators worried — but not all.


Local musician and content creator ItsErnie, who goes by ItsErnie online and on the stage, said TikTok has been influential in boosting his career.

“I’ve gained a lot of fans on TikTok. I’ve been recognized in public, like, ‘Hey, you’re that guy from TikTok,’” he said. “It’s given me opportunities for shows in different cities. I connected with someone in Houston (who said) I saw you on your TikTok. We met and then he booked me for the show. I’ve also created a lot of relationships with people in the industry.”
Ernie estimates that money from brand partnerships, direct marketing and the TikTok Creator fund, which rewards some creators for driving traffic to the app, accounted for about 40-50% of his income last year.“I’ve gotten probably the biggest contracts on TikTok (based on) amount,” he explained. “I think Facebook is the most consistent. I think Instagram pays well too, but TikTok has been the most … substantial.”

Each app has its own distinct audience, he said. Some posts that do really well on TikTok might not take off on Instagram and Facebook, or vice versa.

“If TikTok got banned, it definitely would hurt, and I’d be disappointed because that’s where I found success,” he said. “But I can transition to Instagram and Facebook, and I know Twitter and YouTube have opportunities, too.” 

Pearl Frazier

Last month, Pearl Frazier was able to quit her engineering job and focus full time on content creation and running her influencer marketing and management agency.

Her pet-centric account, @PearlsRagdolls, has 2.6 million followers and over 207 million likes.

“I had no previous experience with social media until TikTok,” she said. “When I started, (it) was October of 2019, and it was easier to go viral back then. I think it was like my fourth post was a semi-viral post, and then I just kept posting every day since that one took off.”

Frazier’s agency, Cats of Fame, works with 10 content creators and upward of 50 brands, but said she isn’t concerned about a ban happening anytime soon.

“I would be more concerned if brands were starting to pause all their campaigns, but the fact that business is still continuing as normal and more campaigns are coming out every day, that kind of gives me the implication that TikTok is still going to be around,” she said.

However, that doesn’t mean that she isn’t ready to pivot, if needed. She just enjoys making short-form content best.

“I think really the main thing that I take away from the potential ban is just how important it is to diversify and post on multiple platforms,” she said.

As for recommendations to a newer creator, she said, “I would say, as soon as you start an account on one of the platforms, just post on all four (YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok). … There’s a different audience on all four of the main platforms.”

Shawn Warner

Warner said he owes a lot of his success to TikTok and Swearengin, who posted the video that changed his life.

“I’m forever grateful for the kindness that Jerrad showed when he made that video. I never expected to be on “The Today Show” or … I was recently asked to be a guest host on a cruise along the Danube,” he said. “Those kinds of things certainly weren’t pouring in. My book sales went from pretty much nonexistent to over 100,000 books sold, worldwide. So the impact has been just incredibly huge.”

Breaking through and finding your audience is one of the hardest things to do as an author, he said, and TikTok has helped him make those connections online.

While the app has given him a major boost, it is not a huge financial driver for him. Instead, book sales from Amazon, his publishing deal and business from Goodreads are where the author brings in the most money.

“I’m not into TikTok for the money,” he said. It is “more to connect with my fan base and to honestly express my gratitude and thanks for the kindness they showed me. (That’s) the biggest reason I’m there is because it has been a huge, life-changing event.”
Despite the U.S. House voting overwhelmingly to support the bill, it’s unclear if it has enough support to pass in the Senate, which has yet to schedule a vote. Even then, the law would likely face litigation from ByteDance before it could go into effect.

Given the size of its user base, whatever happens to TikTok will be inherently consequential, Warner said, but he is not afraid of a ban.

“There’s, like, millions of people who are using that app. Something that has that significant footprint in our society does not just simply evaporate. Alternatives would come up,” he explained. “I don’t share the horror of everything dropping out. I think for example, if I had to transfer platforms, would I lose some followers? Yes, but they are called followers for a reason. They would find (me). … That’s kind of the attitude that I think people need to have. (It) isn’t the end of the world.”

Marcheta Fornoff covers the arts for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

This article first appeared on Fort Worth Report and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.