COVID-19 pandemic propelled TikTok into being the most popular app in 2019 and 2020. It was downloaded 693 million times in 2019 and 850 million times in 2020, has 1.7 billion monthly active users in 2023 and is expected to reach two billion by the end of 2024. TikTok generated an estimated $9.4 billion in revenue in 2022 and has been downloaded over 3 billion times.
Regrettably, TikTok has only one Black executive, Yvette Banks, who is the Global Director of Event Management. Banks is the sole diverse voice bringing progress to an already embattled TikTok.
Yvette Banks graduated in Communications from Southern University and A&M College- Baton Rouge and Associate of Arts (A.A.) Communication, General from the Georgia Perimeter College. She was the Digital Account Manager and acting Supervisor at AT&T, National Account Coordinator at InterCall, Digital Media Consultant at SuperMedia LLC and Account Manager at CEMEX.
Banks was the Senior Business Development Manager at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, Head of Events and Engagement at Reprise Digital and Head of Events at FCB Global.
While at FCB Global, she worked with the executive global team, new business, and HR learning & development to deliver top-notch event programs. Banks also created, designed and implemented programs, events, and summits like the FCB Global Leadership Summit, FCB CEO Summit, and FCB Never Finish Speaks Series, among others.
In June 2020, Banks joined TikTok as its Global Director of Event Management amidst the pandemic. Here, she is tasked with overseeing and executing a global portfolio of events for TikTok’s global business solution’s key industry tentpole events, overseeing global event strategy in partnership with global business marketing partners, managing TikTok owned event portfolio like TikTok World, TikTok Canada Summit, NA Evolve, Culture Drivers Summit among others.
However, TikTok has issues of crediting Black content creators. Copying Black creator’s original content without giving recognition, denies them a chance to get brand deals and business promotions. It contributes to the erasure of Black culture, whitewashes the choreography’s history and context, and robs Black creators of the opportunity to profit from the attention their content receives. Understanding the importance of crediting and amplifying the voices of Black creators, Banks’ team created the crediting tool where users can directly tag, mention and credit a video or sound. TikTok also introduced the Originators Series to grow a culture of credit.
Following allegations that the social media app suppressed Black Lives Matter-related content, Yvette Banks, a Black Lives Matter supporter’s input was vital in how TikTok handled the issue. The app initiated the Black Creatives program, a three-month incubator to support 100 creators and advance their careers. Additionally, TikTok awarded 10 Black creators $50,000 grants each to enable them to engage in larger projects and cover the costs of equipment, staffing and other supplies. Black content creators have since met with TikTok and entertainment executives who have trained them on transforming their platforms into brands.
TikTok has also initiated the Creator Spotlight Series featuring and highlighting Black creators across the platform and the Trailblazers Lists to amplify diverse voices through cultural celebrations like Black History Month. Furthermore, the app introduced the Creator Diversity Collective and launched BlackTikTok as a means of spotlighting and celebrating the creativity and diversity of the Black creator community.
TikTok’s #SupportBlack initiative donated $500,000 to the Accion Opportunity Fund to provide relief to businesses impacted by COVID-19. They also provided financial support to non-profit organizations fighting for racial equality and justice, and made contributions to historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and Black museums that are working to preserve Black stories and history.
Yvette Banks arrived at a TikTok that did not know how to appreciate Black culture and managed to make it more inclusive. She might be the only Black executive at the app, but she is committed to ensuring Black voices are ably represented.