Wow Zach, This Blog is Lit!

Oh, hello there. How are the 1293 people who read this blog over the last 31 days blog doing? If you have been a regular reader of ZachBussey.com, you know this unusually quiet for me. Over the past 6 years, I’ve generally published a lot more frequently than ‘monthly’. As I sit here with the ‘Add New Post’ page open for the 30th day in a row and nothing getting done, I thought… just write you idiot! So… that’s what this is. If it’s tough to read, I’m sorry… it’s a flow of consciousness. This post will also likely be deleted in the new year and is acting more as a placeholder until then haha.

There are two questions I want to address… and make no mistake, this is just me asking them of myself haha.

  1. Am I still writing?
  2. What’s next?
  3. Also, add in a tl;dr

Am I Still Writing?

YES! Lately, I have been writing more than ever. At the beginning of the year, I made a concerted effort to find a focus for my personal blog. After some deliberation, I realized that my passion was for social media, marketing, and influencers. It’s always been something I wrote about for many years but it was mixed in with the ‘lifestyle content’ that I created. The one problem I was finding pre-2016, was focus… I am a person who is terrible at focusing on ONE thing. I am a Jack of All Trades… so when the year started, I realized that if I wanted to find focus, I needed to get rid of the content that didn’t fit. Thus the lifestyle content went away.

Scotch Camp. October 5, 2016. Caledon, Canada. (photo: Vito Amati/Ryan Emberley Photography)

After finding focus, my business as a writer exploded. You see, lifestyle blogging has never paid my bills. Instead, I’ve always freelanced creating content about various topics for clients. Since focusing on social media and influencers, the demand for my writing spiked. I’ve also been doing a couple speaking gigs here and there, again on the topic of influencers. Doing these things is great, but it does drain the inspiration pool when I’m creating my best stuff for major sites that are paying me. Where I *DO* find writing inspiration is GuyMaven.com, which has largely become me reviewing tech and gear.

Casey introduced me to a tool called Grammarly that edits and tracks your writing on Google Chrome. Over the last month, I’ve averaged 31,000 words per week. If we’re talking about 500-word blog posts (the average blogger post length), that’s 62 of them. If we’re talking full out 3000-word essays, that’s 10 of them… a week. Granted, some of that is emails and Tweets, but the lion share is writing articles for clients. So am I still writing? Yes, a lot. And some of the projects I’ll be able to share soon because it’s the kind of content you would normally read here.

What’s Next?

In addition to writing, I’ve been falling more and more enamored with YouTube. My personal channel has gone through the same thing my blog did – finding a focus. That focus has been BEST LABS, a series dedicated to finding the best of things in a comical, entertaining and silly way. It’s not always serious but it’s definitely resonated with an audience. It’s still random enough to keep me engaged with it, but not so random that it’s just a mess without focus. I also launched a YouTube channel for GuyMaven, where all of my unboxing videos can live instead of them being on my Best Labs channel. Creating a consistent message is so crucial on YouTube.

I also want to revamp this site to deliver more tentpole content that is easily found, launch a small paid product that I’ve been working on, and make a section to better see what I’m up to. There’s also an outside chance that I turn all the written content on this site into video based content moving forward… would you watch a video on blogging? Haha.

That will likely all come in 2017. But first, I need to focus on TECHMAS! Yes, my 2nd annual Tech unboxing + giveaway series is back this year and this year is going to be even bigger. Some really incredible brands already committed, and a few final ones being discussed right now. Make sure to subscribe to this email list to be alerted when it goes live!

tl;dr

  • I write a lot for clients about social media, YouTube and influencers.
  • I write lots of reviews and previews over at GuyMaven.com.
  • I created a YouTube series called BEST LABS about finding the ‘best’ of things on YouTube.
  • I created a YouTube channel for my unboxing videos (and possibly reviews).
  • Will ZachBussey.com be active again? Probably, but not until the new year.
  • Techmas is making a return!

YouTube NextUp Comes to Canada

YouTube NextUp

Canadian YouTubers with between 10k and 100k subscribers rejoice – your opportunity to be part of YouTube NextUp has arrived! If you’ve been paying attention to what YouTube has been doing over the last couple years, then NextUp should not be news to you. That said, what IS news is they are now offering the program in Canada at the new YouTube Space Toronto. If you have been living under a rock, here’s exactly what the program is:

  • An opportunity to spend 5 days at a Creator Camp at the YouTube Space in Toronto. The camp includes education on lighting, camera gear, sound editing, and additional coaching on how to grow your audience. This first running of NextUp goes from November 28th to December 2, 2016.
  • An opportunity to meet and work with previous NextUp grads. Presumably, because this is the first Canadian one they will bring in grads from other cities – probably New York, but don’t quote me on it.
  • A $2500 voucher to purchase equipment. YouTube will designate a specific retailer that you can get gear from.
  • You get access to partner management – something that is for creators with 100K or more subscribers.

YouTube NextUp Requirements

If you’re intrigued about the program and want to apply, you can do so from this page by accepting the YouTube NextUp rules, and the filling out the form. There are several requirements that you will need in order to be eligible. Below, I’ve outlined the bullet points on eligibility, however, you can view the full contest document here.

  • Be a legal resident of Canada.
  • Be the age of majority.
  • Apply as a Solo or 2-person team.
  • Have more than 10,000 subscribers, but less than 100,000.
  • Have access to a webcam.
  • Be available during the 5-day creator class (November 28th to December 2, 2016).
  • Have a channel in good standing – no copyright claims.
  • Have an active channel – at least 3 videos in the last 90 days.

There are a few other requirements but for most people, those are going to be the most important. Once you confirm your eligibility you’ll need to fill out a contest form that includes details about yourself, about your channel, why you’re entering into the contest, what you plan to do with your channel over the next year, what skills you want to improve, and how you heard about the contest (if you’re reading this, you can say from me – maybe they’ll send me a nice tweet for referring such a wonderful YouTuber haha).

Why Should You Do YouTube NextUp?

Beyond the prize of $2500 in gear, and the personalized training – you’re giving your channel an edge over others. You get to hear directly from the source ways in which you can improve your channel, your content and your relationship with your audience. Perhaps most importantly, you’re also making yourself known to YouTube as a whole. Sometimes just showing up is more valuable than the actual stuff they are providing you. Honestly, if you’re a channel that meets the requirements – apply! The worst that can happen is your not picked and besides a little time, you’ve lost nothing.

So go submit your application immediately as it closes on October 9th, 2016.

Why the YouTubeIsOverParty is Nonsense

YouTubeIsOverParty

YouTubeIsOverParty is trending on Twitter, it’s on Facebook and it’s all over Reddit. If you spend any time looking at the hashtag and the commentary, you’re going to see that something major happened. YouTube is OVER! Well, at least that’s what you might walk away feeling if you trust the mob. Now, in all honesty, I don’t know ALL the details because this is something that just started happening in the last 24 hours. So I’ll do my best to break it down and offer a little context.

As we all know, YouTube allows all creators the opportunity to post and host videos they create on their website. As an added bonus, YouTube gives you the ability to run ads alongside that content and get a cut of the revenue. On a grand scale, it works out to about $3 per 1000 views. That money comes from the advertisers who pay to place their brands alongside or in front of your content. It’s a business move for the brands who want to advertise, and a nice perk for creators. Over the last number of years, that has resulted in thousands of people creating new careers in video creation – YouTubers. Ad money has made it possible for people to make it a full time thing.

What did YouTube Change?

Yesterday, YouTube started un-monetizing videos that they deem ‘unfriendly to advertisers’. As a business, YouTube has likely been under pressure from their advertisers to not put their ads up against say… racists (see Evalion) or sexists (see Sam Pepper), or videos put up by ISIS. Obviously. “Hey guys, today we’re going to chop off an infidel’s head, but first a word from our sponsors at Razor Blade Co!” As a blogger, I have known full well that advertisers NEVER want their ads alongside anything that’s outside of vanilla. I’m really surprised it took this long for YouTube to make this change.

According to YouTube, this is what constitutes unfriendly content to advertisers. Honestly, it’s a standard content guidelines for ad money.

#YouTubeIsOverParty

Why YouTubeIsOverParty is Nonsense

YouTube is changing a lot lately. They are having issues with harassment, scaling, copyright and much more. They are changing because the world is evolving, and what YouTube was in 2010 is not what YouTube wants to be in 2020. Hell, YouTube doesn’t even make money yet! A billion people visit the site and they can’t even break even! Some of the changes have been fantastic, for example H3H3 noted that a copyright claim against their video was believed to be Fair Use by YouTube, or the change to how monetization works when being copyright claimed. Great moves, proud of you.  If you don’t fit within the guidelines as posted above, there’s a chance your video will not appeal to what advertisers want and thus – no monetization.

 YouTubeIsOverParty

But Zach, if I create videos where I say ‘fuck’ a lot while playing Minecraft, and they won’t run ads beside my content – they are censoring me and stopping me from making these videos!

No, they aren’t. You can absolutely still create all the fucking Minecraft videos you want. You can even say shit, or ass, or the dreaded c-word. Hell, use racial epithets, talk about murder and treat women like objects with your pick up techniques if you want.  That’s all going to be just fine to upload to YouTube – but, don’t expect to be paid for it because advertisers (the people with money) don’t like it. It’s not censorship, it’s business. < THAT’S IMPORTANT!

Zach, how can I keep putting out this content if YouTube advertisers aren’t paying me? This is my career! YOUTUBEISOVERPARTY!

That was a mistake on your part. You should never rely on a third party service to make or break your career. I’ve been an entrepreneur throughout my life, and a freelancer, and I’ve worked regular day jobs. The ONE MAJOR TAKEAWAY I HAVE IS: Never rely on tomorrow being the same as today. One day you have the job, the next you don’t. One day, you get a nice chunk of cash, and the next an unexpected bill comes in. Always remember that tomorrow is not today.

So then, what can I do? I’m only good at creating videos. 

You can start immediately thinking like a business owner – in fact, you ARE a business owner, and your main product is YOU and your VIDEOS. Assuming you have an audience, that means you have potential to sell them on something that you do. Perhaps it’s a matter of setting up a Patreon and hoping your biggest super fans will support you. Maybe there is a government grant willing to give you money to create more content. Maybe you can sell T-shirts, or hats. And while traditional advertisers might not want to advertise alongside your content, there are non-traditional ones who will: ie. Draft Kings, or Me Undies, or Dollar Shave Club who are totally cool with edgy content. Start selling your OWN ads and cut out YouTube!

Look to Howard Stern re: YOUTUBEISOVERPARTY

YOUTUBEISOVERPARTY

Howard Stern made a career on being controversial. Whether it was giving women orgasms, or convincing a handicap guy he was on the moon, or talking about sex, drugs and bodily functions, he was always controversial. NO ADVERTISERS WANTED TO PUT ADS ALONGSIDE HIS SHOW. Until he had an audience, then his internal team was able to sell ads to alcohol companies and dating sites. He built a bigger business around himself with MULTIPLE income sources including a best-selling book, an award nominated movie, a TV channel and now his own radio station on Sirius XM that pays him hundreds of millions (because his fans pay each month – Patreon?). The point being, once he learned that he wasn’t going to make money from Pepsi, Duracell etc, he BUILT A BUSINESS around his product – himself and his radio show.

Sound familiar? You and your videos. Adsense is EASY because you click a button and boom – a very tiny bit of cash. While building a business is work, the monetary payoffs can be huge – much larger than even the best months of Adsense. Is YouTube over for the controversial creators?

Nope, not at all. It just means it’s time to build a business around your content!

ALSO: WATCH THIS VIDEO BY H3H3!

Canadian Influencer Marketing Laws

Canadian Influencer Marketing Laws

It’s amazing really – just two weeks ago, I wrote a post about the influencer marketing laws around the world. In that post, I noted that Canadian influencer marketing laws should exist but currently there was no enforcement. Late last week, the Advertising Standards Canada (ASC) announced they are working on new guidelines. The new suggestions will apply to Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, blogs and any other situation where you are being compensated (either with cash, product or otherwise).

“Endorsement or testimonials must disclose any material connection between the endorser, reviewer or influencer and the entity that makes a product or service available,” says Janet Feasby, vice-president of standards at ASC.” – Marketing Magazine

Now, that said, this warning is little more than a paper tiger threat. Janet Feasby, Jani Yates and the rest of the ASC unfortunately have very little power to actually do anything. The ASC is a self-regulating group that has no direct tie to the government. As such, enforcement and punishment will be… well… non-existent. In the past, whenever the ASC has found someone violating the rules, they send them a note asking them to cease. Bigger entities generally comply with the request. However, because there is no enforcement, influencers can ignore it if one is sent their way and nothing will happen.

No Canadian Influencer Marketing Laws Yet*

Again, in my previous post I noted that the Canadian Competition Bureau COULD apply their rules for endorsements to influencer marketing. They ARE a government agency and could certainly enforce their rules. Perhaps, they will follow in the footsteps of the ASC, but that remains to be seen. For now, while it’s a step in the right direction – it ultimately changes little in terms of setting new Canadian Influencer Marketing Laws. PS. The BEST policy is always disclosing your relationship with a brand. Also, this post should in no way be constituted as legal advice.

Canadian Influencer Marketing Laws

UPDATE September 1: Competition Bureau Response

I contacted the Competition Bureau of Canada to get some idea on how they look at influencer marketing and if they plan on updating their laws or improve enforcement. Here’s what they said:

Thank you for your enquiry regarding influencer marketing. The Competition Bureau (the “Bureau”), as an independent law enforcement agency, ensures that Canadian businesses and consumers prosper in a competitive and innovative marketplace. The misleading advertising provisions of the Competition Act (the “Act”) prohibit advertisers from making a representation, by any means whatever, that is false or misleading in a material respect, and further provide that the general impression conveyed by the representation be taken into account. Section 74.02 of the Act addresses this conduct.

For more information on the Bureau’s enforcement and recent activity in this area, please visit the following links:
The Deceptive Marketing Practices Digest, Volume 1 (section 3)
Don’t buy into fake online endorsements
Bell Canada reaches agreement with Competition Bureau over online reviews

How to Start a YouTube Channel

Start a YouTube Channel

If you have ever considered starting a YouTube channel, there is literally no better time to start than now. Video has experienced rapid growth in the past few years leading to global YouTube stars like Lily Singh, Pewdiepie and Casey Neistat. With 2,267 channels with over 1M subscribers (via Socialblade), it may seem like the opportunity to become a Gold Play Button YouTuber has passed, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, Facebook expects to be nearly 100% video by 2021, meanwhile 70% of all mobile web traffic will be video that year according to Google. We really are at the tip of the iceberg for video based content. So, no more questions – do it!

While I am certainly not a YouTuber with millions of subscribers (I just hit 2,000!), I have spent thousands of hours watching, hundreds of hours learning directly from YouTubers themselves and taken YouTube provided courses as well. With that in mind, I wanted to share some of the things that you should do when starting to give you a great start. I also got in touch with some of my favourite Canadian YouTubers to get their insight as well!

Decide on an Idea

The very first thing you should do before uploading to YouTube is to decide what you want to do. It seems an obvious step, but many just create videos with no real idea of what they want to be known for. YouTube channels need to select a niche/single style in order to be successful. You may need to put weeks, months or more likely years into creating content before you’re going to have consistent success with each upload. As a result of it being a long road, you should do something you love and have a passion for. Figure out that thing and develop an idea around that. It needs to be something you can do for years – so make sure the idea also has longevity.

YouTube Canada Finding what you love most and sticking to it. If I had known sharing every single one of my different passions would cause me to get lost in the mix, I would’ve stuck to beauty and makeup from day one. My other videos don’t do as well since my viewership is looking for that specific niche. – Camille Co

Start Filming

It takes a long time to get used to talking into a camera and coming off naturally. This is why you’ll see a lot of new YouTubers looking off camera rather than into the camera lens. Before you post anything to your channel, get familiar with your camera and the concept of talking to it. It won’t come overnight, but if you start doing it before you upload to YouTube, your initial videos will connect better. Also, in terms of camera gear, while you don’t need the best camera/mic gear, you do want some kind of quality. Smartphones are a pretty good starting point (especially if they have some advanced controls). Eventually, you will want to invest in a higher end DSLR for your videos.

YouTube Canada I wish I would have learned how to use my camera better and understand things like ISO and Aperture because the quality of your video is so important. Other then that I personally did things a little backwards where I studied YouTube for months before actually beginning my channel. – Rachel David

Create a Content Calendar

Once you have your idea and you’re ready to start filming, you now need to think about a content calendar. YouTube audiences like consistency, so set a schedule and stick to it.  Your content calendar should cover you a month in advance and include major events for tentpole content. Tentpole content is where the video ties into a major event. The idea being that people are going to be especially interested in that topic at that time (both existing and new audiences). December? Christmas. End of Summer? Back to School. The World Cup? Soccer.

Canada YouTube One bit of knowledge that would have helped me greatly before starting YouTube would have been knowing the importance of consistency. Very much like Television shows, viewers on YouTube expect to see content coming out regularly from their favorite channels. When I started I thought it would be okay to upload an episode or two a month. In reality it harmed my channel greatly, uploading consistently keeps people engaged and excited for that next video! – Shane Luis

Monetize Your Channel

Now that you’re gearing up, you should verify your channel and become a “YouTube Partner”. This will enable ads to run ahead/during your content by connecting your account with Adsense. There are some that say you should NOT monetize your content from Day 1, but I beg to differ. YouTube is the one platform that everyone is used to (and accepts) ads before the content. In fact, I’m convinced that most people think it’s just part of the platform rather than opt-in. That said, people who love your content will be happy to support you by watching those ads.

Anon Canada YouTuber I started monetizing my content in 2013 and I made $11 that first month. It felt cool to be paid to be posting silly videos. Three years later it still excites me and has become my full time job. I’ll make 6-figures this year. Every dollar is an additional incentive to keep posting. – Requested Anonymity

Collaborate

YouTube is a collaborative and social environment. Audiences absolutely love seeing collaborations between different YouTubers. Not only is it great for your audience, but it exposes both audiences to each others channels (and a chance at new subscribers). Once you’re up and running, your best bet is to find channels with similar content and a similar size audience to work with. Those channels can best benefit each other. That said, you may also find a much larger creators open to collaboration as well. Considering YouTube is a common experience (everyone started with zero subscribers), you’ll find some bigger, established channels are open to working with you.

YouTube Canada I’ve been on YouTube forever, but it was only very recently I decided to take it seriously. The one thing that I wish I knew when I started, was to be more social, and communicate more with others. For the longest time I thought to stay “solo”, but I only really found myself, when I was working with others. Essentially, be social, reach out to people and be more open to collaboration. Boom. – Canoopsy

Keep Going

I won’t lie – YouTube is a very SLOW build. There are going to be days (weeks/months) where you’re going to feel discouraged. It’s in those moments of weakness, you have to remember to just keep going. Keep pressing record, keep editing, keep experimenting. Every time you record, edit, and post you’re going to learn something. Your content is going to get better. And if you keep improving in all aspects, eventually you’re not only going to be creating great content but an audience will find you.

YouTube Canada When you’re just starting out on YouTube, the world is your oyster! It gives you the freedom to experiment and test out different styles, themes, formats without the set boundaries that an existing audience would impose. Not only is experimentation important for developing your online presence or brand, it’s also important from a technical point of view. Things such as lighting, camera angles, settings, backgrounds, props, set, are all things that wont be perfect right off the bat and take time to develop. Simply taking the time to experiment and develop your craft will go a long way in establishing you, your brand and your voice. – VivaLaWatts

Influencer Marketing Laws Around the World

Influencer Marketing Laws

In 2014, an Oreo campaign that hired UK YouTubers to engage in ‘lick races’, had all the videos taken down after an advertising watchdog found a lack of disclosure. The UK has very strict influencer marketing laws, which require disclosure within the video and not just in the description of the video. That same kind of enforcement is coming to the US this year – the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced they will start strictly enforcing the rules they implemented years ago (to date, enforcement has been lax). Transparency and disclosure is absolutely crucial if you want to maintain your audiences’ trust, but not only that, it’s part of the law in the US. You can hide a brand deal by not disclosing it, but it will only hurt you in the long run.

I was curious about the kind of laws that exist around the world, so I set out to research them. This blog post does NOT constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is solely designed to give you an idea of the kind of laws that exist (or do not) around the world. I have always preached that strong, open and direct disclosure is the best policy for both yourself (legally) and your relationship with your audience.

United States

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) defined clear influencer marketing rules several years ago. Content creators must disclose on each platform the content is shared (example: a blog must include disclosure, but a tweet sharing that blog must as well.) #ad is sufficient for Twitter as long as used before a link. While disclosure at the bottom of a post is okay, if it’s not clear and conspicuous, it may not be sufficient (small fonts/hidden under comments etc).  The FTC has announced that Enforcement is about to become very strict.

Canada

Canadian Influencers

Canada is behind in updating the laws to include influencer marketing, but there are some existing laws that do apply. Canada’s Marketing Code of Ethics requires disclosure of the connection between a marketer and someone endorsing their product. The Canadian Competition Bureau requires that you disclose if you have been paid or given something free to promote a product. Also, there is a law requiring that you have used the product and can be considered an expert in it before you can publicly promote it (Astroturfing). There has been little done to enforce this though.

United Kingdom

The UK has clear requirements set for content creators.  If any content is paid for (either with cash, or product) you must disclose that fact. They issued a direct letter to all content creators as a warning. The laws are covered in two pieces including one related to unfair trading and another about advertising practice codes. They also have additional rules for video creators. Enforcement is increasing in 2016 and beyond.

Australia

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is a federal body that protects consumers. In their Competition and Consumer Act 2010, it says disclosure is necessary if it would be deceptive or misleading not to. As it stands now, the interpretation of that is somewhat open – and as such, disclosure is a good idea but it’s not strict (at the moment). Several court cases involving paid influencer will better define those rules soon.

China

Earlier this year, China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce (AIC) updated their laws as they related to online advertising. One of the specific requirements was that paid ads must be clearly marked. They also added that any ‘celebrity or endorser’ can be held liable if they endorse a product with false advertising.

Spain

Influencer Marketing Laws

Spain has pretty clear laws surrounding influencer marketing. It must be made clear to the reader/viewer that there is a relationship with the brand. That does not mean that every image/second needs to be tagged as such though. The rules become especially strict if an influencer’s main audience is under 18. The document is as one of the best when it comes to setting clear expectations for influencers.

Thailand

There are currently no laws that relate to disclosure and influencer marketing. Also, in researching this I learned that there will never be laws surrounding it for one reason: “ทำอะไรตามใจ คือไทยแท้.”

European Union

Some member states of the European Union have some kind of law related to endorsements. However, there has yet to be an overall guide. The European Union is working a new set of laws and guidelines that will directly effect influencer marketing. You can see some of the plans here as they relate to misleading ads.

South Africa

Influencer Marketing Laws

The laws that exist can be interpreted to apply to influencers, but that is unlikely. As such, there are currently no requirements for disclosure.

India

There are no rules that are directly mention online influencers, but they are working on them. One law that may apply is on ‘celebrity endorsement’, which could hold the endorser liable for damages or even jail time if they endorse a product that does not deliver – false advertising.

Singapore

The Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS), just released a new set of guidelines as it relates to influencer marketing. The new rules go into effect in Singapore on September 29th and are pretty detailed. First, you need to disclose if there has been any kind of compensation as soon as possible into a piece of content. Accepted disclosure includes the use of #adv, #sponsored or #endorsed. Secondly, they make it against the rules to inflate engagement by paid likes/followers/comments. There are additional articles that include fake reviews, negative campaigns and more. Check out the full list of rules here.

Influencer Seppuku

Influencer Seppuku

They say that any press is good press, and up until the advent of social media (and the social media influencer) I think that adage held true. But social media changes things. Perhaps it’s that you can destroy your life in a single tweet and the media will gobble it up. Regardless, Influencers have a different set of rules where good press is GREAT press and bad press is TERRIBLE press. I want to share a little story before I get into what this post is actually about…Media Piece

Back in late 2010, I was emailed by a journalist from the Wall Street Journal – she was doing a story about Klout, and my name had come up when she was searching for an expert. We had a little back and forth because I needed to know what the intent of the article was as there was a tiny bit of curious wording. She got me on the phone and put my fears to ease about the article. I gave her a long detailed interview about my experiences and this new concept called ‘influencer marketing’. I was excited to be sourced as an expert by the Wall Street Journal!

And then the article came out… “Wannabe Cool Kids Aim to Game the Web’s New Social Scorekeepers”. I remember the sinking feeling of that headline, and then reading the article only confirmed my disappointment. It painted me as the headline ‘wannabe’, instead of someone who was experimenting too see the cause-effect of these new tools. Most know me as quite the experimenter. On Twitter I lamented about the headline, and I never shared the article on Facebook. Yes, it was cool to see my name printed in the Wall Street Journal… but it wasn’t good press.

Yesterday, I read an article called “No More Likes: Are the Days of the Style Influencer Numbered?” and later changed to “Peddling Influence”. The article is directed at style/fashion influencers, but the overall piece is a commentary on every content creator. I certainly cannot argue the fact that the article is very interesting and well written (credit to Anya Georgijevic), but it is certainly not good press. It’s especially bad for one blogger quoted as the expert who commits what can only be described as influencer seppuku.

I have known Jay DeMaria aka Jay Strut’s name for years now – he appeared on my Toronto Twitter Influencers list, and despite our lives being vastly different we often find ourselves at the same events and, ironically, media pieces. All that said, I’ve never met the guy. I assume, like I do of most people, that he’s probably a nice person which gives me some hesitance in even writing this. But I’m not one to bite my tongue when I think there’s a lesson to be learned. I think he just made one of the biggest mistakes of his life – he admitted to the world that any brand that works with him… get nothing in return:

“There isn’t one guy in this whole restaurant that’s going to my website and saying, ‘Oh, I’m gonna wear those tights, that low tank top and that gold chain. And women aren’t coming to my page and saying ‘Yes, I want to look like that tomorrow,’ … But, there are aspects of me – the freedom I have in my expression, my attitude towards things and my overall aesthetic – it’s not relatable, but it’s relatable.”

The author adds ‘He doesn’t sell clothes; he sells the fantasy’. It is the most unbelievable quote I’ve ever read from an influencer. Here is a guy that is given luxury products… to promote; is flown to foreign destinations… to promote; and is paid well enough to buy a condo through gigs that are… to promote the brands involved. Meanwhile he’s admitting that he has no influence over anyone’s purchasing decisions. It’s exactly why influencer marketing is getting such a bad wrap lately – you’re paid for a service you can’t deliver.  “Jay Strut is flown around the world to hype up designer labels, but even he’s questioning the future of social buzz.” You’re right, it’s over.

It’s Influencer Seppuku

The article goes on to discuss the recent Digiday ‘anonymous social media exec‘ tirade, makes reference to an article that talks about how Toronto fashion bloggers are garbage titled “Sophie Grégoire Trudeau vs Wannabe Influencers“, and then mentions Justine Iaboni’s post called “The True Cost of Blogging“, which offers the only counter balance to an otherwise lopsided ‘influencers should be paid in yogurt’ article. As if the authors bias wasn’t evident enough, she closes by saying she’s going to be ‘sticking to her day job’, which she should remember is in journalism.

Digital Seppuku

Make no mistake, influencer marketing is about generating a return on investment. I do think that a lot of influencers charge too much and deliver too little to the brands they work with. I think it’s especially true in the beauty/fashion/lifestyle genres where the supply is excessive. It’s also not entirely their fault – brands/PR/marketers are still trying to figure this all out and as such, play a bit of a guessing game in determining who to work with and what the ROI of working with them is. Experimentation leads to a LOT of mistakes.

But I also think that all WORK has a price tag attached to it. Bloggers are still offering a service – content creation/promotion through their own channel. EVERY creator HOPES that millions will want to read and then buy the product mentioned. It doesn’t often turn out that way, but the intent and desire is for it to be a huge success. No creator is trying to rip anyone off, especially not the brands taking a chance on them. As such, it behooves the creators to only talk about the great things they have done, improve their social and traffic numbers, and do their best to create great content.

There world of influencer marketing is still in its infancy, and much like a child learning to walk, it takes time to find footing. But through all the weird partnerships, over payments, ineffective content, brand deals that didn’t make sense for the influencer and all the other mistakes being made, slowly we’re all starting to figure it out. Once we get through this rocky phase, those that survive and can actually deliver value will thrive. Until that point, creators need to keep putting their best foot forward – and try not to tell the world how non-influential you are.

Blogger Mistakes

Blogger Mistakes

Over the years, I have personally made so many blogger mistakes. If given the opportunity to go back and fix them, I would in an instant. Some of them are minor with no real consequence other than making life a little bit more difficult than it had to be. Others were truly massive issues that have hindered my success as a creator. That said, every mistake is an opportunity to grow and do better – but those lessons don’t help others. As I look at my fellow bloggers, some new, some veteran, I immediately recognize that they are making some of the same mistakes that I did. Today, I’d like to share some of those mistakes!

Blogger Mistakes: Consistency

Audiences like consistency when it comes to content. They want fresh content that’s expected and regularly shared, whether that’s daily, multiple times a week or weekly. I have had a horrible history when it comes to consistency on my blog. I wrote consistently for two years and built a strong, loyal audience. Then I wrote for a different blog, then did a podcast and only shared that content, then I came back to my blog. It fragmented the audience and was counter productive. I should have always been regularly producing content for my blog – at least once a week. Had I done that, I wouldn’t be constantly having to re-capture my readers attention.

Blogger Mistakes: Creating Content I Didn’t Love

My blog is MY space that I can do anything I want with – why would I spend ANY time creating content I didn’t love? I have created content that didn’t meet my own standards over the years. The audience recognizes when my heart isn’t into a post (as is evident by the traffic/time on page analytics). If you’re not loving the content, don’t post it as it only serves to hurt.

Blogger Tips

Blogger Mistakes: SEO

One of the things that it seems EVERY blogger could stand to do a little better is their SEO. For years, I did nothing SEO related – I didn’t use alt tags, I didn’t target a keyword and didn’t write in a way that web crawlers would ‘love’ my site. As such, I didn’t bring in the number of people who would have probably loved that content. I’ve been working a little bit every day to go back and optimize that content, but I WISH I had done it from the beginning. A plugin like Yoast can help immensely at simplifying the process.

Blogger Mistakes: Me vs Everyone

Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made as a blogger has been my mentality. I’ve always felt competition among my fellow bloggers, and that’s entirely the wrong thing to do. Instead of seeing the value in working and building our audiences collaboratively, I’ve actively tried to ‘beat’ everyone else around me. While naturally, there will be others who I don’t like at all, the reality is that many know exactly what it’s like in the ‘blogger trenches’ and as such are perfect allies. Collaboration as a creator is far more beneficial for everyone involved than trying to be the top of the pyramid alone.

Speaking of Collaboration…

I reached out to a bunch of bloggers who I respect and think are some of the best, asking them if they have made any mistakes and would be willing to share. Their responses have taught me a few things already, and it really goes to show that collectively, we have immense knowledge! I encourage you to also follow these bloggers on Twitter and check out their blogs as well – you won’t be disappointed.

The BIGGEST mistake I’ve made as a blogger—and still DO—is that I need to do everything myself, thinking no one else can do things as good as I do them. And that’s stupid. Part of balancing out blogging with the rest of your life is figuring out the pieces you’re willing to hand off to others so you can FOCUS on the parts you do BEST. – Casey at CaseyPalmer.com

 

As a PR professional and social media strategist by day, my biggest mistake as a blogger is not following my own advice. All the things that I’d advise my clients to do – creating content calendars, being consistent, answering emails in a timely fashion – are things I often neglect to do for my own site. Also – doing more of what works. If something is getting engagement and stirring up the interwebs, do more of it! – Stephanie at StephanieFusco.com

 

Looking back over the last four years of blogging, I’ve made a ton of mistakes. By far the biggest one was working with brands I didn’t care for. I’d see dollar signs and instead of asking myself, ” does this fit my brand?” I’d say “yes” and scream “show me the money!” – Brock at BrockDMclaughlin.com

 

When I first started blogging, I didn’t focus on a niche. I wanted to talk about anything and everything. I quickly realized that it was easier to create content on things that you are really passionate about and your audience will see that! – Janelle at NelleCreations.com

 

Since I started blogging, I recently learned how important it is to have the same filter on all of my Instagram pics. I never realized how much of a difference it makes on the whole look until I starting looking on other bloggers Instagrams. Consistency is the key! – Deanne at MyFashAvenue.com

 

Looking back the one mistake I made when I first started blogging is not promoting my blog content on my social media, or not promoting my content in a creative way which would bring readers to my site. Especially in the beginning when you are building your readership, ensure you promote your content to create awareness about the existence of your blog. I would suggest finding the right balance where you promote your blog posts on social media, but do not go overboard with promoting. – Eleni at Bijuleni.com

 

When I first started blogging, I had decided on only one thing, the fact that I wanted to blog. I prattled on about everything from cocktail recipes to tips for houseplants, and nothing was really connected. Obviously, this was not a successful approach. Why didn’t it work out? There was no passion! Then three year’s later—after I had given up on writing about how to care for your ficus tree—I found a niche I finally felt comfortable writing about. So my advice for new bloggers is to write about what you love, nothing more, nothing less (and avoid all plant related posts, unless you’re a Phytomaniac).” – Stephanie at WetHauteTech.com

When Your Influence is Written About in Books…

Influence

One of the projects I don’t talk often about was my 2013 social media experiment “A Sponsored Life”, where I lived an entire year using just social media influence as a tool for survival. Despite the experiment being one of the most ambitious things I’ve ever accomplished, I don’t talk about it. I’m not very good at being proud of myself. I feel guilty when people say nice things about me. A friend once said something very poignant about my self deprecating sense of humour… “You like to put yourself down because you worry you’re not relatable. But the fact you think that, makes you more relatable than the self deprecation humour does.”

I suppose there is truth in that, but I still downplay my successes. The few times I have talked about my big wins, I often get hit with ‘humble brag’, or ‘blogger life’, or those that insinuate I haven’t worked hard enough. It’s a terrible mindset because it creates a kind of negativity spin that encourages me to avoid being successful. I’m trying to break that habit and start being proud of my accomplishments. If I can influence myself to enjoying my successes, perhaps I’ll be more successful. So, if you see me start to talk about them… understand I’m NOT trying to boast/brag about them… I’m just trying to actually appreciate myself and the work I put in.

Influence Zach Bussey

My Influence in a Book

I write this with the intent of starting today… because what better day to start than one when you learn you’ve been written about in a book. Page 194, the opening paragraph of Chapter 11 in a book called “A Companion to Celebrity“:

Zach Bussey InfluenceIn January 2013, Canadian blogger Zach Bussey began a year-long effort to live an entirely sponsored life. He cleared all his belongings out of his apartment and attempted to live solely off the perks he generated by his social media influence alone. Bussey offered different promotional services, such as special dedicated blog posts, twitter mentions, Tumblr images, and YouTube videos to those brands and companies who would provide him with products or perks. While many people have used their bodies to promote products and services, Bussey appears to be the first person to offer his entire life as a platform for marketers (Bussey 2013). Zach Bussey embodies a new kind of worker subjectivity that has emerged from the data stream: the SMI, or social media influencer.

It’s weird when I think back on that project because I have so many conflicting thoughts on it. On one hand, it gave me insight into the world of influencers before it was what it was today (or perhaps I was just on the forefront of what it is today), but it also forced me to live it on an extreme scale. My one massive takeaway was that trying to live that world exclusively was soul sucking. Spending each and every waking hour talking to brands/marketers about how I could sell myself was hard. The content I created wasn’t great – but it was necessary to survive. And survive I did.

I had fully intended to write a book about the experience shortly after the project had concluded (and in fact, have all the notes from what that book was going to be about) but now I’m thinking of maybe chopping it up into a bunch of blog posts considering it’s 2.5 years later at this point. We’ll see I suppose, but in the meantime, it’s time I start priding myself better in my successes.

See What Facebook Thinks You Like

Facebook Thinks Ads

Ever been curious about what Facebook thinks you like? Sometimes their ads are dead on and it scares the hell out of me – while other times, they are so off base that I don’t know how they got that idea. One thing is for sure, Facebook is getting smarter and starting to track us more than ever. They have rapidly been working to improve and expand their tracking of users for a variety of reasons. The main reason is money. The better that Facebook knows you, the better they can monetize you.

In years past, the most obvious ways for them to learn about you was from the data you personally shared. Every time you mentioned a brand, or talked about something, or liked a page or shared an image, they could collect data based on that to learn. After nearly 10 years of tracking your content and conversations, they have a pretty clear picture on who you are. However, that’s not enough and Facebook is actively seeking and developing more (quietly) invasive tracking programs.

Facebook Ads

Facebook Thinks I Like Swamps…

All that said, they still have the years of information that they have collected already to base their ads on. In order to see what Facebook thinks you like, all you need to do is visit the ad settings and preferences option found here. On that page, you’ll find ad categories sorted into 13 different categories which include:

  • Business and Industry
  • Education
  • Family and Relationships
  • Fitness and Wellness
  • Food and Drink
  • Hobbies and Activities
  • Lifestyle and Culture
  • News and Entertainment
  • People
  • Shopping and Fashion
  • Sports and Outdoors
  • Technology
  • Travel, Places and Events

Under each category, you can see the individual things Facebook thinks you like – in my case, 276 different topics that range from Fido to Canon Camera, to Toronto Raptors, to Poland, and so much in between. In some cases, I understand why they think I’m interested in those things, in other cases… I have NO idea how they got that idea.

Some of the least accurate things Facebook thinks I like include the City of Bacoli, Grails, Ben Hill Stadium, Guy Berryman, Swamp, Bumblebeet, and B2W… mostly because I have no idea what any of those things are! But I am curious – what does Facebook think you like? Leave a comment below with some of the oddest things that Facebook has you pegged for!

Why Creators Should be More Like Donald Trump

Be Like Donald Trump

Before having read a word I’ve written in this post – is your mind filled with negativity? Does the title alone with it’s positive Donald Trump slant immediately instill thoughts that *I* must be a terrible person for saying that people should be like him? Congrats, you’ve proven exactly why creators should be more like Donald Trump.

As creators, the ultimate goal of doing anything – whether that’s blogging, or creating videos for YouTube, or taking photos on Instagram, is to give your audience a takeaway. Something that they can remember, or feel, or know from here on out. Perhaps as a blogger, that’s writing a review that will help someone decide whether it’s worth buying or not. As a YouTuber, maybe it’s to entertain and make someone smile on their worst days. As an Instagramer, maybe it’s about giving them a new perspective on something they’ve seen 100 times before, but never quite like this. This is how influencers are made – if you can repeatedly deliver an experience, education, message, or POV, you build a relationship with that person. Much like how marketers will talk about effective frequency (the number of times you need to see something before you’ll consider buying – Rule of 7), your audience needs to repeatedly get a positive experience from your content.

Donald Trump Content

Now the question becomes – why should creators be more like Donald Trump? While I don’t agree with a lot of the message, I can’t help but admire his ability to rally support and defying everyone’s expectations. How has he done that? By being entirely himself, speaking off the cuff, being unafraid of anyone and doing it in an entirely in a “Donald Trump” kind of way. The man knows about brand building, and he changed the world of politics as well.

What Donald Trump Does and How You Can Emulate It

As a creator, let’s list some of the things that Trump does that you should do:

  • Be Yourself – If there’s something YOU want to create content about – DO IT. Don’t restrict yourself to content that you think people will like and instead create content that YOU like. If you like it there’s going to be a passionate audience that loves it too. The days of pandering content are quickly going away.
  • Speak off the Cuff – Don’t carefully craft everything you want to say and instead just start saying it. There’s so much about building a relationship with an audience that comes from being unscripted and real. Reading from a teleprompter or being overly careful is a recipe for distrust.
  • Weather The Storm – If you DO get negative feedback: take the criticism, ignore the trolls and grow from the experience. The phony apologies don’t work and just serve to damage your reputation further. Your audience wants YOU, not you according to other people. (You’re also no one if no one hates you.)
  • Do it Uniquely – Do something that no one else is doing. That’s a big thing that sets you apart from the pack. Too many creators do what everyone else is doing, and it’s impossible to build an audience on that. There’s a reason Donald Trump is leading the pack – he’s not like anyone else.
  • Just Keep Going – Never stop creating content! Trump either has money, or he doesn’t… depends on who you ask, but he doesn’t care either way. If you’re not seeing traffic, just keep creating. This isn’t a short sprint, it’s a long marathon.
  • Ruffle Feathers – Don’t be afraid to shake things up and take down the status quo. It’s meant to change and improve – and while the people who are the standard won’t love you, they will fall behind. (And they still won’t like you.)

You know what content creator best compares to Donald Trump?

Casey Neistat

Casey is currently the YouTube golden boy – everyone knows his name, everyone knows his style, and everyone had to improve as a result of him getting in on the vlogging. To prove the comparison….

  • Casey is 100% himself. Weird, quirky, wears ripped clothing, spray paints his sunglasses… he’s just a character. But that character is him.
  • He ALWAYS speaks off the cuff, often using the wrong word or a word that doesn’t exactly fit… but you understand what he’s trying to say. He also swears a lot (not in the vlog, but at every off-vlog speaking engagement).
  • He’s weathered the (few) storms that have come his way. When he got grief for making fun of a cop and his car, he just said that’s what New Yorkers do… and moved on.
  • His style CHANGED the vlogging game. So many creators now emulate him (even massive creators with more subscribers than him!) It was something YouTube had never seen before and it was incredibly unique.
  • Casey started YouTube years ago and posted infrequently, but now he posts every day. In a year and a half of daily vlogging he went from a few hundred thousand subscribers to over 3.5 million.
  • Casey is no stranger to ruffling features – his first viral hit was a hit job on Apple. Meanwhile he’s happy to throw digital swings at other creators for stealing his style, or doing things wrong, or just being a detriment to the YouTube world. They certainly don’t love him, but he doesn’t care.

Be like Donald Trump. Be like Casey Neistat. There’s a reason they are popular, and you can be too.

How to do Brand Partnerships

How to do Brand Partnerships

The allure of doing brand partnerships becomes ever-present as you grow as a content creator. After having spent years building something, there will come a day where brands want to work with you. It’s actually a very important step in a creators digital lives because it’s a stepping stone from hobby to career. Working with brands is a great way to grow as a creator. It is also beneficial to your audience if you’ve done it correctly. Done incorrectly though and you risk undoing the thing that has taken years to build – trust with your audience.

There are a lot of positive things that can come from doing brand deals. Some of these things include:

  • They can often pay, which enables you to spend more time creating content/pay your bills.
  • They can offer product, which can enable you to create better content or exclusive content.
  • They can provide experiences, that can be interesting content (and memories for life.)
  • They can give you something to giveaway to your audience.

That said, your partners need to meet certain requirements. It ties back into the trust you’ve spent building with your audience. If they think you’re just taking any product that comes your way and promoting it… you’re going to be tuned out. To give you a general idea on how brand partnerships should go, I want to walk you through the steps. When any brand comes to me to talk about partnership opportunities, the end question I have to ask myself is ‘Does this create value?’. It seems an easy question, but it’s actually quite complex.

The Necessities of Successful Brand Partnerships

Brand Love

Love the Brand

The first thing you need when it comes to a brand partnership is an affinity for the brand itself. I’ve seen so many creators take on partnerships with brands they’ve publicly bashed and it makes me embarrassed for them. Whenever I’ve worked with a brand, it’s because I absolutely love the product that I’ve agreed to use/share/represent. Many years ago MiO came out, and I fell in love with it immediately – the lemonade one especially. When they came to me with a partnership opportunity, it was a no-brainer, I had been publicly sharing my love for it for weeks so it was a natural fit. Your brand partners should excite you and be the kind of thing you share without being paid/rewarded. If you wouldn’t spend your own money on it, don’t partner with it.

Alignment

As previously mentioned, it’s important for your values to align well with your brand partnerships. In my case, it’s important to deliver quality content that doesn’t betray your trust in me. Any brand that I work with needs to respect and understand that at the end of the day the audience matters most. Secondly, alignment is also about what the brand stands for. A year ago, a brand wanted to hire me to go to restaurants, eat/drink for free, and periodically use one of their vape sticks in the restos. There was no nicotine in it, and was simply heated and flavoured vegetable oil. Ultimately, it wasn’t a good alignment because I felt it was too similar looking to cigarettes. While it wouldn’t have the same effects of those cancer sticks, it emulated it – and I didn’t want to be part of that. Pick brand deals that align with your life and your beliefs.

Create Value

Delivering Value

This is where a lot of brand partnerships come to an end because of the negotiations. Delivering value is one of the hardest things to come to terms because everyone wants to get the most from it. The brand obviously wants value from the partnership – they want mentions, views and hopefully sales. The more coverage you provide, the more opportunity they have to get that value. Personally, a brand deal needs to have value for you too. Will the deal help you to create content, help you advance as a creator, help pay your bills or give you a great memory/experience? Balancing the value between the brand and yourself is hard enough – but here’s where it gets harder…

You as a creator also NEED to consider the value you will deliver to your audience. This is something too many creators forget and it’s why you see so much crappy content about picnics and booze – they don’t consider the end reader (are there even any?) Think about it deeply… will this brand deal provide value to someone reading? If you were a reader, would this help improve your life? I read so much content and immediately know if they care at all about the audience or not – the sad trend is they don’t. Not in Toronto anyway. If you’re not creating the same value for your reader that you are for the brand or for yourself, you are doing your audience a disservice and they are not going to want to read your future content. Deliver value to ALL parties.

Execution

The last thing that’s up for discussion when I do brand deals is the execution – I want to know the messaging they want me to share, and I want them to know that my words HAVE to remain my own. It can be a weird line to walk, but in order to maintain your trust with the audience, you DO need to be fair and balanced. This is especially true with reviews where you’re sharing your experience – if there’s a flaw, you need to let your audience know. If someone reading buys a product on your suggestion, and it turns out not to work as you said… gone is your integrity.

When doing brand partnerships, understand that you should be saying no to potential offers a lot more than you say yes. You should always think about your audience and the trust they have in you. Lastly, you should consider how your potential brand partnerships are moving the needle. Brand partnerships aren’t done at a whim, they require time, effort and proper consideration to execute correctly – so treat them with that in mind.