The grey-haired granfluencers slaying on social mediaOctober 2023
Grandma Droniak is 93 and, like any eligible single lady, she is having quite the time on the dating scene. In one of her TikTok videos, she gives each of her many exes a rating out of 10. One of them never opened the door for her, so she gives him 4/10, but he gets an extra point because “his funeral was fun”. Ouch.
Grandma Droniak is one of a growing band of older influencers or ‘granfluencers’ making TikTok a more diverse, colourful and fun place to be. According to research, the number of accounts belonging to users aged 60 and older with millions of followers is growing at the speed of an out-of-control souped-up mobility scooter.
And it’s not just TikTok. Older social media influencers on Instagram have more than 10 million followers between them – that’s enough to make up the state of North Carolina.
Those followers aren’t all silver surfers, either. Old Gays, an account belonging to four fabulously camp men in their 70s, has 11 million followers — many of whom belong to Gen Z. Tattooed fashion granfluencer Lonni Pike, a relatively youthful 59, says 92% of her 1 million TikTok followers are women between 18 and 35.
Fierce, feisty and authentic
So what’s the appeal of granfluencers?
For one, it’s the element of surprise. These elders are busting out of the stereotype in spectacular fashion.
Dr Reuben Ng, an academic who has researched the presence of older people on social media, said in a Guardian interview that most TikTok granfluencers are women who “fiercely resist common stereotypes of older women as passive, mild-mannered and weak, instead opting to present themselves as fierce or even foul-mouthed.”
What’s also refreshing about these content creators is that they’re not pretending to be young. They embrace old age, poke fun at it – celebrate it, even.
Then there’s the fact that they have got the authenticity box well and truly ticked. Unlike the youngsters who’ve grown up knowing how to build a “personal brand” on social media, with carefully curated tweets about their facial yoga regimes or whatever, the oldies tend to see their physical selves as separate from their virtual personas. Their content tends to be more unpolished and they post sponsored content less frequently – all things that social media audiences love.
The oldies getting the goodies
That’s why brands, who have traditionally been obsessed with youth, have become increasingly keen to work with older influencers. Take the example of Gym Tan, 62, of San Francisco. She started doing OOTD (outfit of the day) posts on TikTok and In three months, she had 10,000 followers.
Now she has more than 200,000 TikTok followers, a talent agent and a modeling career, and she featured in a recent global ad campaign for Clairol.
Not all granfluencers make a handsome living or amass huge followings, of course. But that means there are opportunities for older content creators, because there is less competition, and for marketers, there is a talent pool out there, ripe (and wrinkly) for the taking.
Let us introduce you to some more of our favourite senior social media stars:
The dapper Günther Anton Krabbenhoft is a 70-something former cook and enthusiastic clubber, who treats his 278,000 Instagram followers to philosophical musings on life along with lessons in effortless style. He is by far Berlin’s hippest pensioner.
Instagram 2.2 million followers
TikTok 17,4 million followers
Youtube 9.13 million subscribers
Third-generation Japanese American Lyn Davies launched Cooking with Lynja on TikTok during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her down-to-earth, downright hilarious cooking videos have attracted 17 million followers, making her one of Forbes’ top 50 creators.
Four old gay men, who started with a video on Grindr and ended up with…wait… a billion followers on social media. They’re starring in a new docuseries, they’ve written a book, and they slay all the way.
Sister Wang is coming
Instagram 113K followers
To see just how the ‘granfluencer’ world is growing, head to China, where social media is ruled by retirees ripping up the rule book. Meet the cleaver-wielding lovelies, ‘sister wang is coming’. They started posting their cookery videos on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, but their fame has spread across social media. We use the term ‘cookery videos’ loosely. And we have no idea what they’re saying, but we do know that come the apocalypse, we want to be on their team.
Lillian Droniak, aka Grandma Droniak, became a TikTok sensation with a video showing her getting ready to visit her ex’s grave. “He cried like a baby when I dumped him, so I’m gonna wear baby earrings.” Join her 2 million followers for “casket-ready” make-up videos, rules for potential dates (be a good kisser, don’t be a water sign) and some very funny life advice.
Illustration: Leandro Chaman