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The Best Lobsterman on TikTok

The crew of the Rest-Ashoar, a lobster fishing boat operating off the coast of Winter Harbor, Maine, had a busy day. Captain Jacob Knowles and his crew hauled up 400 wire traps over 10 hours and pulled legal-size lobsters from each baited cage. As they worked, they filmed a video for social media.

Over the past two years, Mr. Knowles has gained a large audience on social media by sharing snippets of his workday with his 2.5 million followers on TikTok and nearly 400,000 followers on Instagram. In a Grundens rubber fishing bib and coat, he gives tutorials about lobster reproductivity and removing barnacles from the shells of crabs.

Mr. Knowles added a fourth crew member, videographer Griffin Buckwalter, to edit footage on fishing trips. Mr. Knowles is part of a group of blue-collar workers who use social media to offer a glimpse into their lives. Other examples include Adam Perry, a tree trimmer in England, and Hannah Jackson, a shepherdess. Ms. Jackson has turned her online success into a best-selling memoir and sponsorship deals.

The audience for these creators includes people who do their jobs from their desks. Michael Williams, who runs A Continuous Lean, follows the social media accounts of a mechanic, an electrician, and a long-haul truck driver. These blue-collar influencers have little in common with the earlier online influencers who built their followings by showcasing their personal style or by offering beauty, decorating or parenting tips.

When TikTok took off, its short-form videos were rawer, more unfiltered, and people could go viral just because they were able to say interesting things to the smartphone camera or had an unusual lifestyle. That’s where we’re getting these blue-collar influencers,” Professor Marwick said.

Authenticity seems to be another draw. The blue-collar creators don’t live in content houses in Los Angeles, their feeds aren’t cluttered with sponsored posts, and they don’t appear to be using social media as a springboard to internet fame, given that they have dedicated years to working a trade.

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

Mr. Knowles is a veteran on social media, having started posting videos to YouTube about his hunting and fishing adventures in northern Maine as a teenager. He recently signed with Greenlight Group, a talent management company. The agency represents creators who are homespun and blue-collar, like Jacob, said Doug Landers, a founder of the agency.

Mr. Knowles is wearing a black heavyweight hoodie by American Giant — his first significant brand partnership. He has also recently signed deals with BetterHelp, a mental health platform; CapCut, a maker of graphic design tools; and AG1, a nutritional supplement.

He stumbled into viral fame in 2020 after posting a TikTok video explaining the meaning of “egger” — an egg-laden female lobster that, when caught by a fisherman, is given a V-notch in its tail in an effort toward keeping fisheries sustainable.

He and his wife have three young children, so he has welcomed the money from sponsorship deals, he said. Besides, his TikTok sideline makes the monotony of long days on the water pass more quickly. These days, the captain and his crew dream up ideas for TikTok. Their videos have become more goofy and semi-scripted as their following has grown. If more brand deals come about, and if his following continues to grow, he may soon earn more for his posts than for his catches. He would become a kind of actor, then, playing the role of a rugged Maine lobsterman. And that would be fine by him.

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