1 December 2023

Influencer Thumper makes a video on the app Douyin, about the opening of a clothing store in Shanghai, China, August 15, 2020.

In the middle of a living room decorated with pink wallpaper with large flowers and a dark wooden table, Sanshui sways frantically. It’s one of the hallmarks of this energetic influencer, who is also a pop dancer for music videos when the opportunity arises. On Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, she connects sketches of a few tens of seconds, often featuring her long-haired cat, and her grandmother, a little lady with short hair, who often attends her performances with frowning eyebrows. .

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“My family is quite atypical: my mother and my grandmother watch videos of handsome kids on Douyin”, says Yu Jiamiao (Sanshui is his stage name), 20, who wears the same mischievous smile in real life as in his videos. Thanks to her activity on Douyin, she earned around 800,000 yuan (107,000 euros) in 2022, enough to bring her mother and grandmother to Shanghai from their hometown, Harbin, in the northeast of China.

While TikTok is under fire from critics in the United States and increasingly scrutinized by European governments, Douyin, the Chinese version of the application, is more popular than ever in China, with 730 million monthly users claimed. in November 2022, i.e. more than one in two Chinese.

Real teleshopping

The two applications were developed in parallel by ByteDance at the end of 2016: to avoid censorship problems in China, the company immediately designed two almost identical platforms, but whose content is hermetically separated. The result is a different ecosystem, sometimes a bit ahead of TikTok when it comes to monetization, but also a more tightly controlled environment for Douyin.

There are several ways to earn money on Douyin: live video sessions (live streaming), allow you to exchange directly with your fans, who do not hesitate to express their gratitude by sending sums of money in gifts, sometimes thousands of yuan, to their favorite stars. Sanshui regularly offers one-hour sessions. She chats, dances, or eats in front of her smartphone. Another source of income, advertising, provided of course to seduce advertisers with its content.

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“We try to show Sanshui more often in shopping activities, to develop its image as a high-end consumer”, explains Li Luxian, who took Sanshui under her wing in 2021, seduced by the energy of the young woman. His company, based on the outskirts of Shanghai, manages the careers of around twenty stars on Douyin, taking care in particular of finding them partnerships and writing the scripts for the videos.

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