Blue-collar workers are the new social media stars

Blue-collar workers are the new social media stars

It was another busy day for the crew of the Rest-Ashore, a lobster fishing boat that operates in the waters off the rocky coast of Winter Harbor, Maine. The captain, Jacob Knowles, had risen at 3 a.m. on a brisk October morning and steered his ship 10 miles out to sea.

Using hydraulic haulers, buoys and ropes, Mr. Knowles, Keith Potter (stern man) and Coty White (third man) pulled up 400 wires of net over the next 10 hours. They pulled legal-sized lobsters from each bait cage – at least 3.25 inches but no more than 5 inches, from its eye to the back of its shell – and tossed the smaller lobsters back. As the boat ran aground in the surging waves, they threw the empty net back into the water.

While still doing the hard work of commercial fishermen, the crew was busy with something else: filming a video.

Over the past two years, Mr Knowles, 30, has amassed a large audience on social media by sharing glimpses of his workday with them. 2.5 million followers on TikTok And Nearly 400,000 followers on Instagram, Wearing an orange Grandense rubber fishing bib and a matching coat, he stands on the deck and, in a Down East accent, gives a tutorial about it, saying, Lobster fertilityor how to remove barnacles From crab shells.

In September, the rest-ashore added a fourth crew member: 20-year-old Griffin Buckwalter, a videographer. On fishing trips, he often sits in the cabin editing footage on a laptop.

Mr Knowles is one of many people in what are considered blue-collar jobs who use social media to give their lives a chance. Their videos are about as far as you can get from “get ready with meMakeup videos are a TikTok staple, resembling a social media version of “Dirty Jobs,” the long-running show on the Discovery Channel. In some cases, like Mr. Knowles, these hard-working influencers have signed sponsorship deals with brands, giving them an additional source of income.

Another popular online celebrity who works out adam perryA tree trimmer in England who has amassed 245,000 followers on Instagram by posting videos of him cutting trees with a chain saw and tying knots with names like Double Portuguese Bowline and Clove Hitch. There is also Hannah Jackson, who herds sheep in the hills of Cumbria, England and walks through the shepherd there He has 100,000 followers on TikTok. A recent post presented His new shepherd dog, Mick,

Ms. Jackson, 31, said her feed “attracts people who live in an urban environment.” “Maybe because I explain farming in a very simple way,” she said. “People feel comfortable enough that they can ask questions and not feel stupid.”

With her red hair and cheeky humour, Ms Jackson is a commanding presence, and has parlayed her online success a memoir It was a best seller in England. She has also appeared on the BBC show “Countryfile” and signed a sponsorship deal with I can doWhich makes off-road vehicles, and other companies.

“It really helps support the farm,” she said of the money earned through posting.

The audience of these creators includes people who do their work from their desk. michael williams, who runs a continuous inclinationMen’s style site turned newsletter, he says he follows social media accounts ArtisanOne electrician And a long distance truck driver,

He said he particularly likes posts from Robert Allen, a pilot with nearly 400,000 TikTok followers whose videos highlight the aviation industry. Mr. Allen, known online as captainbobis the founder of nomadic aviationA company that transports aircraft around the world when they are sold, brought in for maintenance, or converted from commercial airliners to cargo jets.

“He’s doing cargo conversion in all these weird places in the world,” Mr Williams said. “If you’re interested in that kind of thing, it’s very compelling.”

Lobsterman, Shepherd and Pilot have little in common with the young fashion and lifestyle creators who rose to prominence more than a decade ago. These earlier online influencers built their following by showcasing their personal style or providing beauty, decorating or parenting tips. The smartest among them turned online fame into cash through brand partnerships.

“When we think of influencers, we think of a blonde woman wearing a two-piece dress, holding a designer purse and standing on a hotel balcony,” he said. Alice MarwickAn associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, whose research focuses on social media.

This is largely because Instagram was well-suited to promoting aspirational lifestyle content when it arrived as a photo-sharing app in 2010. “It has an aesthetic quality that lends itself to beauty, lifestyle, travel, food – these very curated, highly visual areas,” the professor said. Marwick said.

A parallel form of social media fame focuses on male YouTubers like Jake Paul and mrbeastwhich relied on spectacle, quick-cut editing and showmanship to build a large following, especially among young men.

When TikTok started, its short-form videos were rawer, more unfiltered, and people could go viral just because they were able to say interesting things on a smartphone camera or because their lifestyle was unusual. “That’s where we’re finding these blue-collar influencers,” Professor Marwick said. “We know these jobs exist, but we don’t really know what happens behind the scenes.”

Ms. Jackson said that, while growing up, she did not know that farming was something you could do for a living even if you were not born one, and she had no female role models. She often hears from women from all walks of life who thank her for showing them their daily lives. “Women in general are a little bit braver and try things that society thinks they shouldn’t do,” Ms Jackson said.

Authenticity seems to be another attraction. Blue-collar creators don’t live in content houses in Los Angeles, their feeds aren’t (yet) filled with sponsored posts, and they don’t use social media as a springboard to Internet fame, given that That they have dedicated years to working in a business.

Mr. Allen’s videos often show a package of Peanut M&M’s somewhere in the pilot’s cabin. He calls the candy his good luck charm and makes sure he stocks up on it before boarding any international flight. Reached by video call in London, Mr Allen, 57, laughed off the suggestion he was being paid by candy maker Mars.

“M&M’s Needed Pay me,” he said, “I think they’re clueless.”

His path to TikTok fame was unlikely. He was an investor in a company that makes bug repellents, including a bedbug killer, which was launched when the pandemic hit and hotels closed. To help sell the product, he said, he studied social media marketing and joined TikTok.

“Nobody cared about these bedbug products, but they were asking me, ‘Where are you flying?’ ‘What do you do?’ ‘Show more about airplanes,” Mr. Allen recalled. “Apparently a lot of people are interested in aviation. I really had no idea.”

Many of his followers, he said, are people who, for various reasons, are unable to board a plane and see the world. And they see him as a normal person. “I’m eating terrible,” Mr. Allen said. “I am not getting proper rest. I’m getting my food from the convenience store. There are people like truck drivers who can relate.

Mr Allen’s account has also become an inspiration to some young aviators – and not just because pilots and crew members working for commercial airlines are barred by their employers from posting the revealing content he shares. goes.

When he recently landed a plane in Sanford, Florida, 21-year-old Drew Cripe, a pilot working toward his airline transportation license, greeted Mr. Allen like a celebrity.

“When you, like me, are still trying to put in the hours to go to the airlines, you know about the pay, you know about the daily flight from Point A to Point B, but you Never getting a behind-the-scenes look, Mr. Cripp said. “Bob is well known at my flight school because he provides such insight into that airliner world.”

It helps that Kentucky-born Mr. Allen is a natural in front of the camera, with an innate charm and love of aviation that comes through in his videos.

Joe Seppi, the longtime trucker who follows Mr. Williams, has found fame on social media, his stubborn personality and dry humor what endears him to his fans. Standing near his rig on the side of a busy freeway, the big-bearded, ball-cap-wearing Mr. Seppi will grumble about driving automatics instead of manual transmissions or some other workplace issue, then lobby with followers who leave comments. .

Despite his job and remote location, Mr. Knowles, whose family has been in the lobster business for generations, is an online veteran. He said he started posting videos on YouTube about his hunting and fishing adventures in northern Maine as a teenager. Three months ago he signed with Greenlight GroupA talent management company.

“We oversee creators who are homegrown and blue-collar, like Jacob,” said Doug Landers, the agency’s founder. The firm also represents gabriel fetosaand Jordan Howlett (known as Jordan Howlett), a dog groomer with 2.3 million TikTok followers. jordan the stallion), who has garnered 11 million followers on TikTok with videos about the fast-food restaurant where he once worked.

Mr. Landers said he is brokering brand partnerships for Mr. Knowles and helping him expand his “narrative bubble” beyond the decks of rest-ashore.

Sitting in the cluttered gang room of Winter Harbor Cops, the Fishermen’s office, Mr. Knowles was wearing a black heavyweight hoodie from American Giant – his first significant brand partnership. He also recently signed a deal with better helpa mental health platform; capcut, manufacturer of graphic design tools; And AG1A nutritional supplement.

He recalled how he rose to viral fame in 2020 after posting a TikTok video explaining the meaning of “.Egger” – An egg-laden female lobster, which when caught by a fisherman, is given a V-notch in its story in an effort to keep the fishery sustainable.

“Once she has a V-notch, it is illegal to keep her with her for the rest of her life,” Mr Knowles said. “When I posted that, it went mega-viral.”

He said he and his wife have three young children, so he welcomed the money from sponsorship deals. Plus, his TikTok sideline makes the monotony of long days on the water go away that much faster. “We have been out there for 10 hours and have nothing to do except talk,” he said.

These days, Captain and his crew are brainstorming ideas for TikTok. As his followers have grown, his videos have become more silly and semi-scripted. When Mr. White joined the boat as the third person, he tried to roll On a log floating in the cold ocean for his initiation video.

In fact, Mr. Knowles is on the verge of a problem that few, if any, lobstermen have ever faced. If more brand deals happen, and if his followers keep growing, he could soon be earning more for his posts than his catches. Then, he would become an actor of sorts, playing a tough Maine lobsterman. And he will be fine by that.

“It’s hard on your body, hard on your back,” Mr. Knowles said of lobstering. “I love it, and I’ll probably always do it, but I’d like to get to the point where I’m doing it for fun. It’s not like I have to wake up at 3 in the morning and do this.”

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