A Canadian teen created a TikTok account on a whim for his 87-year-old grandmother. Now, she's gone viral and amassed over 400,000 followers.

Skylar KrupaJenny Krupa, who goes by @its_j_dog on TikTok.

TikTok isn’t just for Gen Z, and Jenny Krupa, an 87-year-old TikTok star, is proof.

Krupa stars in videos produced by her 19-year-old grandson, Skylar Krupa, created at the farm where they live in a small town in Alberta, Canada.

While 2019 is only the first full calendar year TikTok has existed in the United States, it’s quickly become popular enough to worry competitors like Facebook, which tried to buy the company’s predecessor, Musical.ly, in 2016. Now, the app has become a fixture in teen culture: it has 1.5 billion downloads, and is the top free non-gaming app in the US. The video platform is likely closing in on Instagram and Snapchat in terms of active users – Instagram reached 1 billion monthly active users in 2018, while Snapchat has over 300 million.

Although TikTok stars have had less success so far monetising popular accounts than their YouTube and Instagram counterparts, TikTok has proven itself as a platform where users can gain followers and fame in a short period of time – songs like Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” for example, made the leap from TikTok popularity to the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100.

Here’s how one grandmother and grandson duo is using TikTok to have fun and create a new kind of influencer.

The Krupas started posting on TikTok in late August 2019 when Skylar realised Jenny had the potential to star of some funny videos.

Skylar Krupa told Business Insider that he was aware of TikTok before he downloaded it, but he mostly associated it with the “cringey lip-syncs” of Musical.ly, a TikTok predecessor that was purchased by ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company.

Then he saw a compilation of funny TikToks on Facebook and decided to make an account for his grandmother, whom he calls Baba. Krupa started posting videos privately, sharing them only with cousins and other family members.

According to Krupa, he accidentally posted the above “Perks of being old” video publicly, and it reached 1,000 views in about 15 minutes. He “freaked out” and called his cousins, but ultimately decided “this is why I made the account, for her to get big on the app.”

As videos started getting more attention, Skylar had to figure out a way to explain TikTok and internet fame to his grandmother.

At first, the videos were just for family, so Skylar didn’t feel the need to explain the intricacies of the platform to his grandmother. Plus, he had long taken Snapchat videos of her, so the TikTok videos were nothing new.

Once the videos started getting thousands of views, Skylar said he needed to better explain to Jenny what was happening – he described it as “almost like TV,” where people scroll through channels.

However, Skylar said his grandmother hasn’t quite grasped the concept yet. Jenny knows how many views and followers the account has, but “we’ll get 5 million views, but she doesn’t care,” Skylar said.

Because his grandparents don’t browse TikTok themselves, making videos and explaining trends can take a while.

Skylar described the filming and editing process to Business Insider.

“I’ll come up with an idea, then explain it to them, we practice word for word, then shoot,” Skylar said.

He said that it often takes many tries to get the video, and every time his grandmother messes up, she thinks it’s hilarious. His grandfather, who sometimes makes appearances in the videos, usually only needs one take, according to Skylar.

Skylar said that the reactions have mostly been positive, but some of the “dark humour” videos have gotten negative responses.

“Most of the comments are super nice, like ‘I want you to be my Grandma,'” Skylar said. “Others are not mean, exactly, but they think that you’re forcing them to do it [make videos].”

Skylar said that despite comments like “blink twice if you’re being held hostage” or “this is evil and disgusting,” his grandparents are just having fun, and the account happened to get followers. Skylar said that he has always been close to them, and he visits them most days anyway, but now they also make videos.

“People think it’s her running the account, and I play along in the comments,” Skylar said.

Skylar handles the logistics of managing the account, even getting into character as his grandmother to respond to the comments.

Skylar said he hopes to grow the account to the point where Jenny is an influencer, and they can make money off the account.

The most common way creators make money on TikTok is by livestreaming, when viewers can send them money through digital coins, although TikTok is not at the same level of monetisation as Instagram.

That could change soon: TikTok is testing social commerce features that could make it easier for users to make money off of their accounts, and Vanessa Pappas, general manager of TikTok North America and Australia, told the New York Times that the monetisation options are a big area of growth for the company.

“We’re at the beginning stages of exploring different models and ways we can connect creators with brands and opportunities,” Pappas told the Times.

So far, the Krupas have managed to make money from TikTok twice in the form of being paid to use a song in a video. Skylar said that he charges $US25 per 25,000 followers. With about 439,000 followers, that works out to roughly $US440 to use a particular song.

“We have to say no a lot, but for the ones that we use, I’ll think of an idea, see if the song fits, then let the person know,” he said.

You can check out more of Jenny and Skylar Krupas’ videos here.

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