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When Uyen Ninh downloaded TikTok onto her phone, she never intended to actually post videos there.
Her plan was to use it solely as an editing tool, then post the finished products to Facebook.
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The thing is, she hadn’t really intended to post videos to Facebook, either. Her first foray into creating content was a text blog she started during the first COVID lockdowns. She’d just moved from her home country, Vietnam, to live with her German boyfriend and attend university in Germany. That whole life change was exciting and overwhelming, but lockdowns were decidedly not exciting. So, she had the idea to entertain herself by sharing her experiences on the internet, documenting cultural differences she’d noticed.
She thought she’d use Facebook as an old-school text blog–but she struggled with writing.
Then the rise of short-form video began.
Ninh says she feels like short-form content was “born for me.”
“Is that weird?” she laughs. “How do I express this? I feel like I was very lucky that I was at the time when they roll out short-form video, because it fits my personality, my working style, and also my creativity so well.”
Just like her Facebook text blog didn’t work out, the idea of just using TikTok as an editing tool didn’t work out, either. Both those things were ultimately positives, because Ninh’s shift to video and subsequent decision to try posting her videos on TikTok (and later YouTube) instead of Facebook resulted in skyrocketing growth for her content.
Ninh has over a million followers on TikTok and is swiftly approaching a million on YouTube, where her videos regularly bring over 100 million views per month. Her uniquely comedic spin on mixed-culture couples has drawn audiences across platforms and from around the world, but she’s found a special audience on YouTube.
We’ll let her tell you all about it below.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tubefilter: It’s so nice to meet you! I’ve been watching your videos for months. I’m from the Midwest and my partner is a Russian immigrant, and it’s funny how many similarities I see between your videos and my household in terms of cultural differences.
Uyen Ninh: Thank you. You guys are my target audience. Mixed couples. There’s something different between cultural differences, even though you don’t come from the same culture, as long as they’re two different cultures, I bet they would have different things that are similar.
Tubefilter: Exactly. For readers who maybe aren’t familiar with you, could you just give me a little bit of background about you and where you’re from, and how you ended up in Germany?
Uyen Ninh: My name is Uyen Ninh. I’m 27 years old. I’m from Vietnam and I’ve lived in Germany for three years now. In 2016, I met a German guy in Vietnam. Then we hit it off and we became a couple after a while. After we doing a long-distance relationship for three years, I decided to move to Germany to live with him and also pursue my education. What is that called? My dream of studying in Germany too. Let’s go like that. That’s how I end up in Germany two years ago.
Tubefilter: That’s amazing. That’s a huge leap of faith to move countries like that.
Uyen Ninh: The thing is sometimes I think about it, and I thought to myself, if I met him at this time when I’m 27 now, I don’t think I would do that because I would be too worried and too experienced and wouldn’t trust him enough to move to Germany. I’m very glad I met him when I was 21, very naive, and not really have so much negative experience. I was 100% trust in him and then 100% invest in a relationship. That’s why I decided to move. Lucky that I was naive enough, which is not a good thing in general, but it turned out into a good thing for this case.
Tubefilter: I get it. It’s like when you’re that young, you’re a little bit more daring, I guess. That can be good and that can be bad. It can work out!
Uyen Ninh: This time it worked out, luckily.
Tubefilter: What gave you the idea to start pursuing video?
Uyen Ninh: It was the first lockdown in Germany in 2019 and I was really, really bored because we basically cannot go out and we don’t have anything else to do. I thought of like, started to share my experience of live in Germany for other people on internet. I start with a blog on Facebook, actually. I write things down, although I’m very not good at words, but I’m not very confident to show my face, so I start writing things down on blog. Nobody reads it because I’m not good at writing. [laughs]
I thought, maybe I should try different approach. I start making video on TikTok to post on Facebook, but nobody watch it on Facebook still. The video that I make for my Facebook post, I still keep it on TikTok and it start blowing up out of nowhere. That’s why I was thought, okay, I could try it out, and I started to make the same content but for different audience. People in Germany and people who live in Germany who has the same experience like me, and it actually doing very well. That’s why I started to do it since then.
Tubefilter: Very cool. Your original plan was just to use the TikTok editor and post it on Facebook?
Uyen Ninh: Exactly. Didn’t work out.
Tubefilter: When you say that you changed your target audience, what did you do with your content to target people in Germany, or target the people that you actually wanted to reach?
Uyen Ninh: At first I was using Vietnamese to make videos. I don’t know why somehow it doesn’t reach. Maybe because the location as well. I’m in Germany, so it reached mostly German people first, I guess, with the algorithm. After that I decided, then I switch to English. A lot of people in Germany speak English, so it’s easier. I start to mainly focusing on things that basically people who live in Germany or have a little bit of experience with Germany would understand, those kind of inside job like that. More people in Germany and people who live in Germany started to watch the video, relate to it. Then that’s how it started to blow up.
Tubefilter: Got you. Did you grow up bilingual, or did you learn English later?
Uyen Ninh: I learned English seven, eight years ago in the university.
Tubefilter: Now you’re learning German?
Uyen Ninh: Yes, I’m learning. Learning German is way harder than learning English, actually. I learned English for two years, and then I met my boyfriend. Then my English start to be very, very…What is it called? Developing very fast after that because we speak English all the time. With German, it’s not working like that. I’ve been learning it since that I am here. It’s been three years. I just get my A1 certificate, which is the beginner one. It’s such a slow process. It’s really, really hard language. Really hard.
Tubefilter: That surprises me, because I always hear that English is one of the hardest to learn.
Uyen Ninh: English is not that hard actually. Once you get used to it. Compared to the German language, the Germans have 100 times more with the grammar rules, and their rules are also all over the place, but at the same time very logical. It’s very hard to explain it. It’s very hard to learn.
Tubefilter: You’re doing it, though! Congrats on your A1.
Uyen Ninh: I’m trying to. Thank you.
Tubefilter: You originally were on TikTok. When and why did you expand to YouTube?
Uyen Ninh: I’m doing basically short-form video, so I wasn’t thinking that I’m going to have an audience on YouTube, because at the time, when I’m starting, YouTube was still like a platform for long-form video and it’s horizontal. Wait, vertical or horizontal?
Tubefilter: Horizontal. You’re right.
Uyen Ninh: Horizontal. I thought that there is no place for me on YouTube. After a while making TikTok and have a bit of more audience there, I thought of making some more YouTube video, long-form video. I post YouTube video from time to time on YouTube, but mostly only my TikTok audience and my Instagram audience see it, so it was not even doing that well. Then YouTube started to produce, roll out the shot program.
That’s where, I thought it’s my time, so I started to repost my content from TikTok and Instagram to YouTube Shorts, and it started to blow up from there. At the moment, I also started to learn how to do long-form video on YouTube too because it’s YouTube, so, better to have both of them at the same time. It’s been doing pretty well because now I also have audience from YouTube Shorts who can watch my long-form video to support me at the same time.
Tubefilter: That was going to be my next question actually was, do you notice a lot of audience crossover between TikTok and YouTube, and then between your long-form and your short-form? Or do you feel like they’re entirely separate?
Uyen Ninh: Oh, honestly, I don’t really feel like…This is just my guess. I cannot show about that, I’m not good with analytics, but I don’t feel like a lot of my TikTok audience found me on YouTube or something. I feel like on YouTube I have my own community there, because a lot of content that I repost from TikTok, none of them will ever come in like, hey, I saw this one on other platform like TikTok, like on Facebook, like on Instagram. Most of them are like, oh this is cool, this is the worst thing first time I saw it, and it was very cool. Also, I feel like on YouTube we have a little bit better sense of community somehow.
On TikTok, also because of the algorithm, on TikTok, people see you once and then they swipe, and then they never see you again. On YouTube, I feel like they see me more often and they have a little bit of more personal connection with me. The community, whenever I post something, I always have more comments compared to the same video on TikTok. Also the comments are very funny, also personal as well. It’s a very nice community there on YouTube.
Tubefilter: Absolutely. That was one of the things that drew me in about your videos, was not only do I relate to your experience, but I was seeing people in the comments who are very similar to my partner and I, so it’s like, “Oh hey, there’s millions of people watching these videos who also feel like this.”
Uyen Ninh: It’s a very, very nice community. It’s very nice to read the comments over there. Sometimes I feel like the comments, things that are funnier than what I’m talking about in video. It’s very funny.
Tubefilter: I don’t think that’s true. Your sense of comedy is so good.
Uyen Ninh: Aw, thank you.
Tubefilter: I don’t know how you do it every single time. Did you set out to make comedy videos at all? How did your sense of comedy develop while you were developing your videos? Because it’s insane.
Uyen Ninh: That’s a good question. I never thought about it. Honestly, I never see myself as a funny person until I started to make TikTok video. It’s not like my personality trait at all, but I don’t know, it just come pretty naturally. I watch a lot of comedy content on TikTok, so I thought that’s something I could do. Then I try to do and it works, I don’t know how to explain that to you, but it just works. Just something naturally that I do.
Tubefilter: Your comedic timing and your pacing is really good. Do you do all your own editing for it?
Uyen Ninh: Yes. Editing, I do it by myself. At the beginning, I use it, I think, with TikTok and then edit there, but now I’m more advanced now after years, I edit it on CapCut. It’s actually not that difficult. It’s a very easy app to learn. You just need to do a little bit and then bam, you have a video. It’s not that hard.
Tubefilter: Gotcha. I know you have a manager, but do you have anybody else working with you behind the scenes?
Uyen Ninh: Yes, I have my boyfriend. He’s sometimes helping me with filming videos. I have my manager. The manager team have other people too. Assistant and stuff like that. That’s it.
Tubefilter: I did want to ask, and you can feel free to not answer this question, but I know that you’re very protective of your boyfriend’s privacy.
Uyen Ninh: Yes.
Tubefilter: I was wondering if you wanted to talk a little bit about why that’s so important to both of you.
Uyen Ninh: The thing is, I think, I’m not sure if it’s a German trait, but I’m pretty sure a lot of Germans I know, they are very protective of their privacy on internet. As you know, a lot of them use fake names for even Facebook or Instagram, for their friends as well. My boyfriend is the same. He’s a bit paranoid of people seeing his real face on internet and then they would know his personal information.
Also, he has a job outside of the internet as well, so he just doesn’t feel that comfortable for people at work to see his face on internet for millions of people. He said, “I’m not very comfortable showing my face.” I said, “Okay.” Because at the end, it’s my decision to have my journey, and he’s there to support me so he can do whatever he want, and he choose not to show his face. I was like, “Okay, we’ll try to make it work somehow,” and it works.
Tubefilter: I didn’t realize that that was a cultural thing, that a lot of Germans are like that.
Uyen Ninh: They’re very, very, very protective of that. You’re not allowed to take pictures of people over here, even in public. There’s a lot of other rules to protect their data privacy over here.
Tubefilter: Is this your full-time thing right now?
Uyen Ninh: Yes. I’m actually a student too I’m trying to finish my last exam to graduate this year. After that, this will properly my full-time job.
Tubefilter: What is your current schedule like in terms of production? Are you aiming to post a specific number of videos per week? How much time do you spend filming?
Uyen Ninh: In terms of production, I want to make one short video per day so that I will post on TikTok and Instagram. With YouTube Shorts, I still repost all of the video that I made for the last two years, I still have a lot of them. I’m still choosing the best one that I repost on my channel. Also, every week, I will make one long-form video, hopefully. At the moment it’s my plan, but at the moment, reality is 10 days per long-form video. Each long-form video took two to three days, four days to film and edit.
Tubefilter: Interesting. Do you have any plans or goals that you want to talk about for this coming year? Anything that you’re looking forward to?
Uyen Ninh: I really want to be like…What is it called, a true YouTuber? I really want to try to learn how to make long-form video. It’s a completely different thing compared to short-form, compared to what I’m used to. Because with short-form, I’m used to make those short and funny, and 15, 20-second video. With long-form, it’s a 10 minutes video and it’s pretty, pretty different, so I’m still learning how to do it, how to edit it. I’m still learning how to edit video with the laptop. That’s my plan for this year, planning, trying to make long-form video on YouTube.
Tubefilter: Can you talk a little bit about what kind of content you’re aiming for with long-form? Do you aim for it to have the same voice as your short-form, or are you aiming to do something different? What are you thinking?
Uyen Ninh: That’s a good question because I’m actually still pretty lost. There’s a lot of field to explore and I’m still just at the beginning of trying. I was doing vlog too, I was doing cooking video because I like cooking. The last video I was doing is like comedy content with six minutes of six different skit belong to the same topic. I’m still trying to see which one works the best. The last one works the best because it’s comedy and it fits with my channel. I guess I will start doing that more. At the end of the day I made a lot of short video about culture differences, life in Germany. I was thinking of just expand those topics into long-form video and add comedy into that.
Tubefilter: For the record, I do feel like you are already a true YouTuber, but I get what you mean about long-form content.
Uyen Ninh: Thank you. YouTube is a very overwhelming place, though, because I really thought that being a YouTuber is like you need to be very skillful and stuff like that. I’m still trying, I’m still learning.
Tubefilter: I do feel like short-form has alleviated that stress a little bit and made it more accessible to be a creator. Definitely long-form still has that stress. Do you feel like you would have gotten into content had short-form not become a thing?
Uyen Ninh: Seriously the short-form, I feel like it was born for me. Is that weird? How do I express this? I feel like I was very lucky that I was at the time when they roll out short-form video, because it fits my personality, my working style, and also my creativity so well. You don’t need to be very good at writing. You don’t need to be very good at acting. You just need to have an idea, and you can be anyway, anyhow. Doesn’t matter how you look, it doesn’t matter how good your camera is. You just need an idea and then you can make it and then it’s popped out.
It’s not working out like that in the past. In the past you need to be all…For example, on YouTube you need to have good camera, good ideas. Then even the production teams on Instagram, good pictures, which I’m not good at as well. I feel like short-form, it’s a very super, super good trend for me. How does it call? It’s easy to access, it’s easy to make, and anyone can do it. It’s really, really cool. I don’t know if you understand what I’m trying to say.
Tubefilter: I absolutely do. That’s definitely the vibe that I’ve been getting from a lot of people. A lot of people who especially have been building their channels during the pandemic and also started their stuff because they were bored at home during quarantine. A lot of them have said that they would never have felt like they could be creators, especially on YouTube, had short-form not become so popular.
Uyen Ninh: Exactly. When I watched YouTube, when I was just a normal user and I watched YouTube, it’s always like people who have been in YouTube for years and they have super, super cool studio room to film, and then very high-quality productions, I couldn’t even imagine myself starting with my crappy phone to film on. It’s impossible. It’s good that there’s short-form video.
Tubefilter: I wanted to ask one more question about the development of your community on YouTube. Obviously they’re involved with you on YouTube and in your comments, but have you tried to build relationships with your community outside of comments, or is there anything that you’re doing?
Uyen Ninh: I saw that they add a function on YouTube that you can post a community post or a story post. I haven’t tried out that much yet. What I’m trying to do is I’m trying to making videos that is not only about cultural differences and stuff like educational video. I’m trying to make video that is personal about me too so that they know more about me and not just thinking about me, oh, the girl who make cultural differences stuff, I can go there to learn about culture.
I want them to remember me as, this is Uyen Ninh. Here is my life story of going to Germany, and here’s my boyfriend, and stuff like that. We could connect in a personal, personal level. That’s why I’m trying to make long-form video, because I feel like if they spend five to 10 minutes with me instead of 30 seconds every day, that would be better to get to know each other.