TikTok’s biggest names now have millions of followers, but digital celebrities need management – which is where Timothy Armoo comes in. The 24-year-old is the founder of Fanbytes, a social marketing agency which has a talent management arm, Bytesized Talent.
Armoo set up Fanbytes after selling his first business, Entrepreneur Express, a media publication that he set up when he was a teenager, for a six-figure sum. “When you’re a 17-year-old and someone says, ‘Here’s some money for something you’ve worked on for 11 months’, and you’re living in a council house, you’re like, ‘Yep, I’m taking that’,” he says. His time with Entrepreneur Express convinced him of the power of social media to build an audience; seeing his family members being influenced by digital creators into buying the latest products only helped push him further.
Established during his second year of a computer science degree at Warwick University, Fanbytes first focused on helping groups like McDonald’s, Samsung and the UK government connect with generation Z. By the end of 2019, Armoo says, the company was turning over several million pounds in revenue through marketing campaigns on Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok.
While YouTubers and other influencers have support teams, many of the nascent creators on TikTok Armoo approached were one-man bands, brokering their own brand deals and liaising with advertisers while also keeping their audiences happy with a steady stream of content. They started asking Armoo for help in managing their affairs. “At the beginning we were saying ‘that’s not really the business we’re in’,” he recalls. “Then when we started to realise the [audience] share these guys had, and that taking brand deal money wasn’t the be all and end all.”
Instead, Armoo planned to turn TikTok creators into mainstream entertainers and build brands around them, including merchandise and product licensing. And so, Bytesized Talent was formed. Today, five of the top TikTokers in the UK are exclusively signed to the company. Some of the creators ByteSized Talent represent joined the Bytehouse, a London collective where they live together producing content, appearing in each other’s videos, and growing their individual fanbases by building crossover appeal.
“We want to be able to take them from being individual stars and bring them together in order to build a packaged brand,” says Armoo. Today, the Fanbytes suite of companies has 44 employees, and has doubled in size every year for the last three years. It’s attracted more than £2 million in investment, allowing it to operate in seven different countries outside the UK, including the Philippines, the United States, Australia and Canada. “We’re profitable, as well,” says Armoo.
Some of that money has been ploughed into a fund to promote Black creators in the online space. The FanBytes Fund is a cause close to home for Armoo. “Quite early on I was asked to speak at these conferences of 500 or 600 people and I’d be the only Black guy there at an advertising conference,” he says. “I became acutely aware of that. I’d always been thinking something needs to be done, but I didn’t quite know what exactly.” The Black Lives Matter movement crystallised his thoughts: he began to grow concerned that Black influencers were overlooked for advertising campaigns, despite data showing that they have a 2.3 times greater success in click through rates on adverts. “We’ll fund influencer campaigns for Black-owned businesses using Black creators, predominantly,” says Armoo.
Alongside that, the company will continue to grow. There are plans to open offices in the United States, and acquisitions of other influencer marketing firms on the horizon. The Bytehouse is about to launch a TV show, and its residents have signed a book deal. “The big opportunity of doing more stuff in the owned and operated space is where we’re trying to go,” says Armoo. “From the brand and influencer perspective, having this keep growing every single year is important.”
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