Trevor Merchant: The content creator watching TikToks so you don't have to
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Imagine having the attention span of a goldfish. Thanks to the rise in video content online, consumers’ attention spans are shorter than ever—eight seconds to be exact, according to The Statistic Brain Research Institute. Technically, a goldfish has an attention span of nine seconds, but still, that’s very close. Now more than ever, creators and influencers are competing for visibility on digital platforms, and many are going to great lengths to drive engagements like views, clicks, likes, or shares. However, even with data-informed social media tactics, creators still have to find creative ways to reach their audience. Sometimes that leaves a lot of gray areas for what “creative” actually means. From random acts of kindness being shown on film to CEOs posting photos of themselves crying on LinkedIn, there is nothing that’s off limits.
Clickbait, often sensationalized content designed to entice clicks or views, has been the subject of discussion for decades, even described as a product of yellow journalism dating back to the early 1900s. Today, it runs rampant on the internet so much that it’s engrained into the content we see daily. There’s even a Netflix drama series titled Clickbait based on the concept. Social media platforms have put community guidelines into place to protect their users from potentially harmful content; however, not all clickbait is necessarily dangerous. Often, it’s really just annoying. So, how do users protect themselves from fruitless content that has no intention other than causing a reaction or enticing a view?
Insert Trevor Merchant. Also known as @timesaver9000, Trevor condenses other people’s often clickbaity or unnecessarily long videos so you won’t have to waste time watching them—hence the username. Trevor has over 2.7 million followers on TikTok and a growing community of fans who feel he is saving lives (on social media, at least). No, really. They’ve said that. With concerns around social media’s impact on mental health and overall well-being, that doesn’t feel like a stretch.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Trevor to learn more about how he became a time saver and how he creates content for his community.
How Trevor Found His Niche
Self-dubbed the “CEO of Cutting To the Chase,” Trevor has become almost like a friendly, neighborhood TikTok superhero, saving his fans from agitation, boredom, and wasting their time. Still, before he found his path to content creation, Trevor was in the space of self-discovery. After all, every superhero has an origin story.
Trevor grew up in a city just north of Raleigh, North Carolina, called Wake Forest. While attending North Carolina State University, he pursued his Business Administration degree while working part-time as a real estate agent. Even though a path for his post-graduate career had revealed itself, Trevor still had doubts about what he felt most enthusiastic about.
“Truthfully, I had no idea what I wanted to do for the rest of my life during this time. I was interested in everything and tested various careers. I was selling houses and helping my mother out at her fabric store, but I hadn’t found my true passion.” says Trevor.
In the process of helping the shop build awareness online, he acquired many digital skills, including social media marketing. Feeling inspired, Trevor began posting content on his personal Instagram and TikTok in the hopes of becoming a creator.
“I have always wanted to be a content creator. My brother was interested in film and had me assist him with creative works he made growing up. I just never knew how to break into such a competitive industry,” he says.
Trevor had been testing various types of content based on his interests—construction, woodworking, and even embroidery. In fact, a video showing how he built a floating bed frame gained quite the visibility on his Instagram. Still, he was finding it hard to establish his niche in a space where many creators were building their brands and communities. It wasn’t until a two-week COVID-19 isolation period that he had his lightbulb moment. Ironically, what inspired it was his symptoms.
“I was isolated in my bedroom for two weeks. During this time, my symptoms were mild, but what stood out the most was the foggy brain feeling, where it’s difficult to pay attention to things for an extended period of time. I describe it as the same feeling I get when I read a page out of a book and think to myself, ‘what did I just read?’
I also spent countless hours on my phone, TikTok especially, and came across many videos that took forever to get to the point, if there even was a point to get to. That’s when I decided to give a straightforward, to-the-point delivery of a video for the first time. When I realized that this was something that many others struggled with, I knew I was onto something that would provide meaningful and impactful content,” says Trevor.
For my superhero fans, we can consider this the part of the story where the hero discovers his abilities. Now, with powers fully honed, Trevor works as a content creator full-time and is tapping into his community to help bring his content to life.
Creating Content and Building Community
Remember in middle school when our teachers assigned us books to read at the beginning of the year? If you were anything like me, a professional procrastinator, I relied on CliffNotes and SparkNotes to finesse my way through book reports instead of doing the required reading.
Consider Trevor’s content as the two helpful studying resources but for social video content. That said, you can't imagine the amount of video content that Trevor watches. Between you and me, it’s a lot. So far, he has covered over 400 videos from other creators. That’s more than a week’s worth of content, according to his Instagram and TikTok bios. However, Trevor doesn’t take the task of time-saving lightly, nor does he do it alone. He relies on his built-in community of sidekicks to source the content he wants to cover.
“Typically, I’ll go through my mentions and see all the requests, and there are usually over 300 requests a day. Many of them are repetitive, which I’ll cover, especially if I know it’s relatable. Even the videos that I watch and find to be unnecessarily long, I’ll do those, and if it’s clickbait, I’m probably going to do it because I get so frustrated with that kind of content,” says Trevor.
Being that the creator economy is a competitive space for creators, many could perceive what Trevor does as stealing. However, he ensures that is not at all the goal.
“My intention is not to steal likes or followers or downplay the original creator’s content. It's simply to help share their stories and save people's time for those who don’t have much time or prefer a quick rundown. I do extra research to validate, correct, or give additional information to deliver an honest, truthful, to-the-point product to a community that benefits from instant information,” says the creator.
So far, only one creator has asked him to take down a video, which he quickly obliged. Others enjoy seeing their content re-purposed in a simplistic way. He’s even become friends with many, further building a community of fellow creators that have helped him navigate how to partner with brands and handle the operational aspects of being a creator, like filing taxes.
Additionally, he has received high praise from individuals in his community with disabilities like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or neurodiversity. For Trevor, time-saving is a joy and a way to help people while doing what he loves. However, even superheroes can’t carry the weight of the world on their shoulders, even if that world is just an app on your phone.
Often, creators who find success on social media feel pressured to post frequently, which means more time spent online. Thankfully, Trevor is making sure that he is prioritizing his mental health and doing all that he can to avoid burnout.
“I enjoy making my videos, but at first, I was on such a time structure. I felt like I had to post at least once a day and eventually burned out. I took a trip to Arizona for a friend’s funeral, and after that, I took a week off. That’s when I realized that I only want to do this when I want to. I don’t want [content creation] to feel like a burden and burn out again. I don’t want to feel forced to make content,” says Trevor.
While Trevor has only been a content creator for a little over a year, he’s learned how to establish boundaries and has a great handle on his newly acquired influence. Humbly, he’s just grateful for the journey and his relationship with his community.
From The Desk Of The Creator
From The Desk of the Creator is an ongoing series in my interviews that includes direct insights from creators on how brands, influencers, and creators can work better together.
- What advice would you give creators or influencers wanting to partner with brands?
“Reach out to brands rather than waiting for them to contact you but ensure they are the right fit for you. You don’t want to lose focus on why your community follows you just for a free product or money. Always understand your value and know your worth.”
- How can creators stand out on social media or other digital platforms?
“Try to be unique, provide value to your audience, and interact with your community. Interaction with your community goes a very long way, and you wouldn’t be where you are without their help and support. I also advise people to research what others in your niche are doing and see what videos do well and what don’t. Research the topics and hashtags on different platforms and compare.”
- What have you noticed in the content creation space that you would like to see improved?
“I would like to see an improved monetization structure. I think that Facebook really took over the monetization game when they implemented all of their creator bonus programs. Programs like this incentivize creators to focus their time and energy on their platform rather than any other. This is where Tiktok lacks.
Another thing is that the various platforms all have pretty poor creator support regarding communication. It is almost impossible to contact any support team to discuss violations, app bugs, etc.
As far as creators, a lot of the time, you’ll see people repost, stretch videos into multiple short videos, or provide the most valuable information at the end of a long video so that they can boost engagement and views. This can also be perceived as a fault of the various platform’s algorithms rewarding watch time over other components. If creators could take one thing away from the @timesaver9000 page, I would hope it would be that you are perceived as more trustworthy when you respect other people’s time.”
What’s Next For Trevor & Where To Find Him
Like any great superhero, Trevor keeps his eye on the prize—his support system.
While he continues to build his community and create quality content, he is focused on collaborations with other creators and currently has a few in the works. Soon, he will partner with fellow time-saver Alex Yoon (@heyitsyoon_) and pop culture content connoisseur King Asante (@king.asante). Now that he has found his place in the creator economy and has the support of other creatives, Trevor is on the path to becoming a household name. It’s only up from here—up, up and away.
Click the links below to follow Trevor and see more of his content.