Nyah was scrolling through TikTok last September when a video caught her attention. The 19-year-old had been working as an ‘independent consultant’ for a cosmetics company, selling products to friends and family to make some extra money while she studied. She was beginning to feel uneasy about the role. She watched as the video discussed how little money others doing her job were earning, despite the long hours they were putting in. Nyah’s fears were confirmed. She was part of a multi-level marketing (MLM) scheme. She wanted out.
Welcome to TikTok’s anti-MLM movement.
Multi-level marketing companies (you might also hear them called ‘network’ marketing companies) like the one Nyah was working for sign people up to sell their products (which they must first buy) in return for a commission. The products range from skincare to makeup, leggings to health shakes. At the same time, salespeople are financially incentivized to enroll others to do the same job. Most MLM companies refute the claim that they are thinly disguised pyramid schemes (MLMs have a product to sell whereas pyramid schemes are more about the recruiting) but after analyzing the earnings data of 350 top MLMs, the Federal Trade Commission in the US estimates that only 1% of MLM members walk away without making a loss.
The video Nyah stumbled upon is one of the thousands of anti-MLM posts circulating on TikTok. Hattie (@hattie.louise), a 23-year-old from Warwickshire who posted the clip, has amassed 37,000 followers and over 1 million likes by creating this kind of content. The aim, Hattie says, is not to criticize the individuals drawn into MLMs but to educate them about the ‘unethical’ …read more