What started as a hobby during the pandemic has turned into a side hustle for some Minnesota TikTokers.
ALEXANDRIA, Minnesota — From dance videos to viral challenges, TikTok has taken off with an estimated one billion people using the social media app each month.
As the pandemic forced people to social distance, it brought people together on TikTok.
“I got on there when COVID hit, when the world kind of shut down, and everything kind of got negative on social media,” said Janet Steward of Alexandria, Minn.
Steward kept receiving funny TikTok videos from a friend.
“I’m like, I’m not signing up for that… I’m too old,” said Steward, 40. “I saw a couple of videos and I’m like, well that looks fun; I think I can do that.”
Three months after her first post, a video of her baby went viral as part of the “squeaky challenge.” It now has more than four million views.
“That was pretty high and that was when I didn’t have any followers,” Steward said. “It made me realize how you could reach people even if you don’t have a ton of followers.”
Steward, who was living in Michigan at the time, goes by “yooperjanet” on TikTok. Yooper is a common term used for someone living in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
During an October snowstorm, her weather reports from the U.P. gained popularity and her follower count started to rise. Then her husband got a new job and the family of four relocated to Alexandria. Steward continued the weather reports. In one video, her family “froze their pants off” — leading to more than six million views and appearances on Good Morning America and the Weather Channel with GMA calling her the “Ice Queen of TikTok.”
Steward now has more than 211,000 followers.
“I had a viral video of my pants and now I’ve got extra money to go out to dinner with my husband or go on a date,” she said.
Steward is part of TikTok’s Creator Fund — open to those ages 18+ with at least 10,000 followers and at least 100,000 views in the last 30 days.
“You don’t really make that much money off of the Creator Fund but if you have a video that goes viral you do end up making money,” Steward said.
TikTok has not revealed how much they pay and it varies but creators have reported two to four cents for every 1,000 views.
Steward’s frozen pants video earned her about $500.
“For me… a stay at home mom, that’s just kind of fun because I’m like, ‘Oh wow, I’m just being a goofball on the Internet and I’m …….