University of Iowa student highlighting locations in Iowa City gains following on TikTok

Ryan Price, who has almost 80,0000 followers, spends his days highlighting locations in the Midwest for students to explore during the pandemic.


Raquele Decker

Photo Illustration by Raquele Decker

Sabine Martin, News Reporter

After several months of making content on TikTok, University of Iowa junior Ryan Price had a surreal moment that changed his life.

Price was sitting in his bedroom in Council Bluffs, Iowa last winter when hundreds of likes, shares, and new followers flashed onto his phone screen from the app. Within the last two years, he said he has been focused on creating content across several platforms.

“I wanted that for so long,” the emerging social-media star said. “And then to finally get it, it was just, honestly, a crazy adrenaline rush that could not to relate to anything else.”

On TikTok, a video-sharing and social media platform, Price (@iamryanprice) has 79,100 followers and almost 800,000 likes from the short videos that he uploads. Using vibrant colors and smooth transitions, he said, his videos show interesting spots in cities like Omaha, Nebraska and Chicago, Illinois.

Most recently, Price, who transferred to the UI this year, featured Iowa City in two videos geared toward the local community.

The Iowa-based TikToks feature nature destinations and encourage viewers to get outside during COVID-19. The first video, a “quick day trip for anyone in the Iowa City area,” showed Price two hours away to Oglesby, Illinois on a hike at Starved Rock State Park.

The second video, a “quick adventure right off University of Iowa campus,” featured shots of Price walking on Woodpecker Nature Trail in Iowa City.

UI alum Dani McComas, Price’s girlfriend, also grew up in Council Bluffs and went to high school with him. She said he is gaining following in Nebraska.

“He’s getting super big in the Omaha area,” McComas said. “When you’re from Council Bluffs, you hang out in Omaha. So, everyone in Omaha would know him.”

McComas said she used her knowledge of the UI area to show Price the locations of the Iowa-centered videos and helped him film his TikToks.

“When we came here, I knew that was his passion. And so, I was showing him places that I thought he would like to go to,” she said. “As we kept hanging out, I thought that he loves doing this stuff.”

Price said he films, edits, and records voiceovers for all of his videos on his iPhone. He chose to record on his phone because TikTok is a platform where anybody can make content without expensive equipment.

“I know that there’s people that have way more likes, but I just want to make creative videos,” Price said.

 Price’s most popular TikTok drew in 1.3 million views and helped him gain about 15,000 of his followers on his account. It was part of a three-part TikTok series featuring Price and his friends investigating a tunnel sewer system in Omaha.

Although Price makes videos about cities in the Midwest, he has a global following with viewers from the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, and Canada, and 56.4 percent of his following is female.

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With a larger following, the TikToker said he has secured brand deals with the companies like, Gorilla Grind, an athleisure apparel brand. He said he posts and promotes his brand deals on Instagram, but the companies find him through TikTok.

“I would look at my videos and think that I’m, in a way, marketing myself,” Price said.

As a creator with over 10,000 followers, Price said he qualified for the platform’s Creator Fund Program. Price said that although it is a benefit from TikTok, it is not a sustainable living wage.

“When it comes down to a creator fund, I had a video that had like a million views and the fund paid like $20 for that,” he said. “So, unless you’re putting out a million view videos or multi-million view videos, it can be very hard constantly living off of that.

Price isn’t the only TikTok content creator on the UI campus. UI junior Albara Khalil, an Iowa City native and finance student, creates content about Iowa and the Midwest for students on the video platform. His profile, (@albuckets23), has over 8,000 followers and 300,000 likes on the platform.

Khalil said it is cool that both he and Price make content for students at the UI and are connecting people around them.

“I think it’s a great app for people who are willing to learn new things and to move forward,” Khalil said.

In the future, Price said he hopes to create a self-brand to open up more opportunities around social media influencing. He said his goal is to hit 100,000 followers on TikTok by the end of 2020.

“I mean, just whatever people think I deserve, you know,” Price said. “If people want to follow me, they will. I’d love to make this my job. I’d love to make a living off this.”