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Chinese TikTok: Growers become social media stars

Just like in the US, TikTok in China is full of funny videos, odd challenges and its own brand of stars. But strangely enough, growers are some of the most unlikely social media stars there, and they’re using their fame to sell their produce.

“It’s almost a more modern take on the old TV shopping,” said Mark Tanner, the founder of China Skinny, a marketing research agency based in Shanghai.

In TikTok one video, a farmer who goes by the name Northern Big Sis sits in her greenhouse and takes giant bites of the raw vegetables she grows on her farm. All of her videos are variations on this theme: She chomps her way through onions, garlic and other vegetables. The videos are strangely addictive. Viewers keep swiping just to find out what vegetables she’ll eat next.

A button above the video lets viewers buy the produce she’s marketing without even leaving the TikTok app, and in record time, boxes of fruit and vegetables are delivered straight to your doorstep.

Livestreaming is big business in China, and with everyone stuck at home earlier this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, companies large and small had a captive audience. Tanner said there was a 730% rise in brand livestreaming in February alone.

“It was already rising quite quickly; all of a sudden, with COVID [-19], it has just gone gangbusters,” he said. He’s been surprised at how much of a hit the farmers have been. Millions of viewers tune in to watch them sell their produce. “So, you're getting a large number of these farmers that have all of a sudden become minicelebrities.”

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