Tips for a foreigner to become online celebrity in China

By Bryan Michael Galvan
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, May 17, 2018
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Money is flowing into the pockets of internet-savvy content producers through the growing popularity of wanghongs—internet celebrities in China. Amy Lyons, an Australian content creator has joined the ranks of such figures, gaining popularity among Chinese internet users by posting videos of her travels, exercise routines and more while speaking Mandarin.

On the video editing and sharing platform Meipai, Lyons has gained around 86,000 followers.

Lyons told about her decision to come to China and start her career in social media despite having worked at a bank in Australia for 2-3 years before moving. "It was the job I had always pictured for myself and something I was always working towards, and then I found that when I got in there, I wasn't so happy," said Lyons. 

"I just realized things about myself—that kind of job wasn't suited to me and I kind of reevaluated my passions, interests, because people are always saying 'do what you love'... all I really knew at the time was that I loved being in China."

Lyons then decided to return to China to study the language and ended up pursuing internet fame.

The number of Chinese people seeking access to entertainment sources online has grown in tandem with China's burgeoning population of internet users, which reached 751 million in 2017 according to the China Internet Network Information Center.

While Western internet celebrities may use a variety of social media platforms such as Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, analogous sites and apps such as Sina Weibo, Tencent's WeChat, and Douyin have exploded in popularity among Chinese users.

Reflecting the surge in attention received by new internet users, in 2016 the internet celebrity economy was valued at 58 billion yuan (US$9 billion) based on figures by CBN Data—more than China's movie box office revenues in 2015. The market is set to surpass 100 billion yuan in 2018 according to Beijing-based research agency Analysys.

"Now there's this big craze for short videos," claimed Lyons, who pointed out the popularity of Douyin, a platform designed to allow users to create and share short videos with music effects. "It's like Vine on steroids," she said, referring to short-form video hosting service acquired by Twitter in 2012.

The Chinese-made application, also known as Tik Tok outside of the country, was downloaded 45.8 million times in the first three months of 2018 and has become the world's most downloaded non-game application on the Apple App Store according to U.S. research firm Sensor Tower Store Intelligence.

"I'm learning as I go," stated Lyons, underlining the importance of staying relevant to her audience. "I think being an influencer you really need to be keeping up with the new trends... you need to be making content, but also taking in the trends."

"If you're not engaging with Chinese people, you don't have Chinese friends, or you're not watching Chinese TV, it is very hard for you to know what [the] trends are."

Lyons claimed that Chinese users are looking for a variety of content online. "You can't expect to be a foreigner and speak really good Chinese, and for that alone to be enough to make you big here. Now Chinese people want to see foreigners who speak Chinese but are also interacting with their culture, talking about the shows that they like, and the sayings that they're saying—it's a new wave."

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