Sydney teacher David Gulasi went to China with the intention of becoming an English teacher for only three months, and now, 7 years later, he is still in China, with 5 million followers on social media platform Weibo and is now turning his popularity into profit by selling advertising space on his Weibo page for as much as US$60,000.
David is just one of the growing group of Internet Expats Celebrity, except for his international background, the logic of his popularity is the same with many other local Internet celebrities.
An internet celebrity, cyberstar, online celebrity, or internet personality is someone who has become famous by means of the internet. China’s internet celebrity economy refers to the economic model in which online celebrities produce content on social media platforms and possess the advantage of communicative channel and a certain targeted marketing, they are supported by a large amount of followers and thus can turn their personal influence into productivity.
In recent years, China’s Internet celebrities, known as Wanghong (网红), have become such a phenomenon that brings with it a lucrative business. The value of China’s Internet celebrity market is tipped to surpass 100 billion yuan in 2018, nearly twice the 52.8 billion yuan in 2016, according to Beijing-based research agency Analysis.
How this phenomenon came through, and how was the the procedure of its development?
To make it simple, I may divide the development into three stages with a succinct summarization.
In 1997, the literature web site Rongshuxia was found, with the conception “literature is for the common people” and realized the conception through internet. In 1998, a romance of writer Cai Zhiheng swept all the big web sites. Many readers sent him e-mail to express their thoughts after reading his book. In this stage the Internet celebrities are mainly on BBS and some literature web sites. They become famous because of their online articles. The business model is homogeneous, that is to become author though the traditional way.
According to the report of CNNIC（China Internet Network Information Center），in 2009, the number of netizen is 384 million, respect to 79.5 million in 2003, has increased by 383%. The netizens gain information by means of pictures and texts. But their popularity wasn’t matched with a proper channel to be turned into productivity directly online.
Wanghong 3.0 2010-now
Sina Weibo, launched by Sina Corporation on 14 August 2009, and soon the newly born word Weibo (microblog) was listed the most popular in the world In the same year. In December 2012 it has 503 million registered users. Wechat was first released in January 2011. Multiple channel media represented by video have risen and the means of web communication were enriched, accompanied by decentralization. At the same time, models of e-commerce from Taobao are gaining fans through Weibo operating, leading the flows toward their Taobao Shops.
Another way to explain is as follows:
Before 2005, because of the constraint of communication network, the main method of communication online is depending on text, and the internet celebrities in this stage got famous because of their literature talent and excellent articles, with commercial techniques and business operation.
Since 2005, with the spread and acceleration of the internet, we came into a stage called the Era of Picture. A saying among the netizens no truth without pictures highlighted exactly the declination of text communication and the emergence of picture communication.
Since 2014, the wide spread of mobile phones, especially 4G network, has made the methods to attract followers unprecedented prosper. Besides Wechat, Sina Weibo, text and pictures, new forms like song and videos, in particular these live-streaming ones, has become the leader of the internet celebrity group. When we are talking about this “title”, we are no more talking just about a beautiful girl selling her Taobao products. Instead, they have become the focus persons in the topics of social media, opinion leaders and fashion pioneers.
I’m sick and tired of seeing foreign people come to China, earning the money here, living the life here, like, having so much freedom in China, and then complain about China. I want to tell those foreign people something. If you’re one of those foreign people, I want to tell you: Piss off! Okay? Piss off back to your country.
——a video of David Galusi
His alternative view as a foreigner, his familiarity with local cultural practices and customs as a foreigner, his clear and distinctive opinions and his satirical style, along with his “dancing brows”, made him David, and maybe are part of the reasons that made him the focus persons in the topics of social media.