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).
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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 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
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.
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 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.
Let’s talk candidly about influencer platforms and their role when it comes to crossing the bridge between brands and creators. I have been working on a series of posts on making money as an influencer, and as part of that, I wanted to look at and review these platforms. After looking at more than 60 different platforms, I’ve got to say – there is a major problem here. It’s the kind of problem that’s only feeding the negativity surrounding influencer marketing right now, and it makes me feel like there’s going to be a bubble pop of sorts in the not to distant future. To sum it up into a sentence: Influencer platforms serve everyone, but deliver nothing to anyone.
That’s a big, bold statement but with the way influencer marketing is being done right now – I question how long it can last. I recently wrote a response to the anonymous social media executive, who spent an entire post laying into influencers like they were the worst people in the world. I’m beginning to wonder if his critique was meant to target influencer platforms instead, because if so – I start to agree. Let me try to lay this out…
Who Do Influencer Platforms Target?
In order to properly diagnose the problem, we first need to decide where the role of influencer fits in the marketing mix and who should be handling them. Creators (influencers) by their very nature are creatives – they spend their days creating new and unique things, and as a result, they have built up a following of people who trust their content and opinions. That audience is valuable to any brand wanting to get their product purchased. However, creators, more often than not, are not business minded. Most didn’t create their platform with the intent of making money, but as more and more brands want to work with them, they, naturally they want to be paid for it.
The de facto responsibility of handling influencers has fallen into the hands of Public Relations specialists (PR). It seems like a reasonable fit – they have experience dealing with individuals who create content on a daily basis (journalists and media outlets) and know how to get real business results. The problem with PR is that they have been dealing with journalists (or taught to deal with them) for such a long time, that they think the same tactics work with creators. Unlike journalists who are paid by their outlets, creators want to be paid by the brands they will be representing. It’s a natural monetization step, and it’s one that is fair and makes sense. Creators take a great risk when working with brands, so they don’t want to take that risk for free. PR, on the other hand aren’t always equipped with budgets to pay influencers. So we run into a problem – wanting to be paid, but no cash.
Who has the money? Marketers. They have money to spend on ads but lack experience when it comes to dealing with influencers. They are used to rate cards and media buys, not egos and audiences. So, step in the influencer networks who try to enable the ones with cash to get their hands on influencers. The result is a consistent buffet style platform – here’s the influencers, give us cash and we’ll give you some numbers. But influencer marketing is far different than AdSense or pre-roll commercials on YouTube – it’s personal and if done incorrectly, is immediately ignored. Audiences aren’t stupid – they recognize an ad the minute it pops on the screen and quickly tune it out. These influencer platforms don’t really care about the content or the results as much as they care about the money. According to a friend who works for one of these platforms, they add on as much as 100-200% when talking to marketers – if an influencer wants $1000, they’ll sell them at $2000-$3000 and pocket the difference, and if the engagement rates are low they boost them with paid views/engagement.
I suppose it’s not all doom and gloom. Influencer networks are seemingly trying to do something of value. Money going into influencer marketing is good. Creators getting paid is great. But the current execution is rather poor. To get better results, there first needs to be an overall agreement that PR people are best suited for the task of working with creators. They have been on the front lines since the beginning and they are getting it more than anyone else – the relationships are there. Secondly, their role needs to be backed with marketing budgets creating a kind of hybrid PR. Instead of letting marketers buy influencers ineffectively, putting those budget behind PR directed campaigns is going to be key to getting major results. GOOD influencer marketing isn’t a ‘here’s cash… do something’ kind of thing – it’s collaborative and involves planning/feedback. Lastly, CREATORS: Don’t sell yourself for the first dollar thrown your way – you’re creatives, not cheap escorts. You’ve spent years building something real (presumably), so respect the time you’ve put in and the audience that loves your stuff.
Influencer marketing can work for everyone (brand to creator to audience), and in the future I think we’re going to see it done exceptionally well. But what is abundantly clear to me is that these influencer platforms are unlikely to be the ones to enable it – they just don’t get it.
I want to pose some interesting (or not so interesting depending on your perspective) questions… How does one become an influencer? At what point can someone add ‘influencer’ to their LinkedIn profile, or their Twitter bio? What separates an average person from an influencer? Do you know how to be an influencer? They are important questions because the answer to almost all of them is a shrug of the shoulders right now. Anyone can consider themselves an influencer and unlike most other jobs, influencer doesn’t have a massive barrier to entry. Professional basketball players play for the NBA, professional doctors have degrees and work in hospitals, electricians are trained and go through an apprenticeship etc.
There’s a pretty clear list of things that set most professionals apart from everyone else, whether that’s education, experience, results or something else. But influencer doesn’t have those restrictions. That’s perhaps one of the reasons why there’s so many negative posts being written by the likes of Digiday, Gawker and otherblogs. The simple fact that anyone who wants to go buy a few thousand followers, likes, retweets, favorites, shares or views can be considered an influencer is a major detractor from the entire industry. If you can ‘fake it TO make it’ that’s a major problem (vs faking it till you make it). It’s those aberrations that need to be resolved before it can be treated seriously.
The term itself is a major part of the problem, and while I’ll continue to use it, it has an inherent distrust built into the word. The main purpose of an influencer is to influence people into buying the product being mentioned. It’s why I would never consider myself an influencer. I am a content creator. My primary purpose is to create content that the audience will enjoy, not influence the audience into buying something. The difference is minor, but the outcome is major.
Ahem, How To Be an Influencer
Alright, preamble aside, let’s assume that you’re reading this and wanting real advice on how to be an influencer. It’s likely a common question, and in truth… you CAN become an influencer. It is legitimately possible to become someone who influences for a living – if you start today, you could become a very popular influencer in as little as a year! No fooling. It’s going to take work, but if you do it right you can set yourself up for long term success!
Pick a Platform
The first thing you should do to be an influencer is to pick your main platform. While the biggest on each platform is able to diversify and build audiences on other networks, they all ultimately started with one. Viners are Viners. YouTubers are YouTubers. You get the point. Trying to be a multi-platform influencer is a recipe for mediocrity because you simply can’t put out great content everywhere. I think there’s a TON of room to make a name for yourself on YouTube, Snapchat and Facebook Live right now, and there are certainly going to be new platforms that break out in the coming years. Figure out what you’re good at, and pick a platform you can build on.
Build Your Content
Once you have picked a platform you need to develop content – good content and GREAT content. Content is king, and if you want to build an audience you need to regularly be putting out content that people want to share. If your content isn’t drawing an audience, there’s no chance to become an influencer. That said, you are also unlikely to become an overnight success. The top Viners have been on the platform for three or more years. Musical.ly stars jumped on the platform immediately in 2014. Most popular YouTubers started their channels around 2010-2011. Build your content slow and steady, find your voice and keep creating.
Nurture Your Audience
When people start following your content, sharing it and commenting, that’s when you need to really nurture them. Build personal connections with your early fans, and try to set the tone for the future community. Every YouTuber will tell you that replying to every comment is necessary when you are getting started, mainly because these people went out of their way to watch and then spend time writing something. Your community matters and will be directly related to your potential influence – if no one is watching, what kind of influence do you have? (Also, don’t ever buy followers/subscribers.) When it comes down to it, your audience are the ones being influenced, so having a relationship where they trust you is crucial.
Take Partnerships that Fit
Once you’ve come to a point where you have good content and an established, trusting audience, you can start to think about brand partnerships. There is no ‘wrong’ time to do a brand deal, but there is a wrong way to do them. Too many people just look at the $ amount and figure they can put out some average piece with a loose tie in to promote the brand. That’s a great way to turn off an audience. Your audience isn’t stupid, they will see a brand deal a mile away and are less likely to engage in it. If the sponsored piece feels forced (and you WILL know if it’s feeling forced compared to your other content), then don’t do it. The key to GOOD sponsored content is when it fits in organically and effortlessly. You also need to consider the trust that your audience has in you – if the brand sucks and you wouldn’t actually endorse it, DON’T! For the love of god stop peddling products you don’t absolutely love – trust is developed over a long period of time, and can be instantly taken away for small things. Influence is ultimately based around trust, so put some respek on it.
Wash, Rinse, Repeat
Now that you’ve done a well fitted brand deal, go back to your original content and create un-sponsored content. The trend right now for bloggers is to create an endless series of sponsored posts and I don’t know of anyone who reads that trash. Instead of building a sponsored content hub, spend your time building new, fresh TRUE content… nurture your audience… and THEN take a brand partnership again. The cycle is going to be shorter but it should stay intact. The 80-20 rule (or even 90-10) is a good guideline to follow – for every piece of sponsored content, you should be creating 4-9 non-sponsored pieces.
Lastly, if you want to be an influencer, you need to have a ton of patience. You’re not going to have a million subscribers overnight, you’re not going to get brand deals overnight, you’re not going to be trusted overnight. You really need to understand that strong foundations build strong houses – an influencer that buys their way into it, dies just as fast. If you have patience and dedication to what you do, you will get there but we’re talking years or more! Just keep building, keep creating, and keep stepping forward!
This is going to hurt a lot of people – but if you currently identify as a lifestyle influencers / bloggers / creators… you need to stop IMMEDIATELY. If you don’t want to read the rest of this, but just want to know euphemistically what’s coming: You are headed into a hurricane and your small boat is not going to weather the storm. Everything is working against ‘lifestyle’ influencers, and it’s going to get worse over the foreseeable future.
The Lifestyle Influencer
In the world of creators, influencers, bloggers, YouTubers and Instagramers, the appeal of being a lifestyle influencer is very high. Lifestyle is such a broad term that by the very nature of the name you can cover a wide range of topics. You can create content surrounding your personal life, you can mention events you went to, you can cover new restaurants, and try new products. You can even do some travel coverage, or talk about video games, or makeup or cloths and so on. That’s what defines the lifestyle influencer – nothing and everything. There is nothing specific about what they write, and they can write about everything.
Lifestyle influencers immediately rose to prominence when it comes to sponsored campaigns, posts, event invites and product launches because of the overall appeal of being the ‘every person’. Consumers would come to see what you were up to, read about a product, learn about an experience and so forth. Generally, the person writing was the appeal, but today’s digital content consumer is far more fickle than in years past thanks in part to so much content being created, and so much sponsored or even bad content souring them. That gravy train has been on the rapid decline as more is being learned about audiences and influencers themselves. Today, brands are better off targeting niche creators with a clearly defined audience – and that’s pretty clear when you look at some of the numbers.
Lifestyle Influencers By The Numbers
I conducted two different surveys recently – one surveying PR people who regularly work with influencers, and the second surveying influencers who regularly work with PR people. The results from both shed some light on the problem here:
What’s the Problem with Lifestyle Influencers?
If it’s not already readily apparent, the reason there’s a problem with lifestyle influencers is because it’s over saturated, the barrier to entry is exceptionally low (whereas a niche requires specialization), the opportunities to work with PR are certainly on the decline, and it is difficult to find a USP (unique selling proposition) that sets you apart from everyone else. Now that’s not to say it’s impossible, but the Swiss army knife approach to being an influencer won’t cut it moving forward. With competition rising and increased scrutiny from both brands and readers, you had better figure out exactly why people will want to engage with your content if you want to be/become/stay relevant in the future. The writing is on the wall – and there’s no mention of ‘lifestyle’ on it.
Influencer marketing is an industry that’s continuing to heat up and grow as more brands realize the value of people with audiences. It should come as no surprise really – marketers need to go where their customers are, and when it comes to content creators, there are influencers for every single category. If you’re a tech brand, you’re going to want to work with tech influencers. If you’re a clothing company, you’re going to want to work with fashion influencers. X brand should work with X influencer. The next logical question is ‘What defines an influencer?’ The simple answer is: Someone with an audience who trust their opinion.
Today, there has been a post that keeps popping up in my feed called “Confessions of a social media exec on influencer marketing: ‘We threw too much money at them’“, a post from a supposed social media executive who should probably be fired from their job because, quite frankly, they don’t know what they are doing. Ultimately, this post was just a hack job on influencers as a whole without qualifying much. That’s perhaps my biggest issue with the post – you can’t simply lump all influencers into a single category and say ‘Those influencers over there are terrible’, that’s rather damning evidence that you should be fired. I could go through it piece by piece dissecting everything wrong with what’s being said there, but this post would end up being thousands of words long, instead I’ll try to keep this short, punchy and to the point.
“There is a decrease in quality of work and too many influencers.”
100% agree in the decrease in quality of work by brands and agencies – but that’s fueled by the desire for numbers, views, followers, likes, shares and keeping those numbers high. As for too many influencers, it’s a stupid person who doesn’t like options. In fact, more influencers = more competition = price wars.
“They no longer value their art.”
Truly, go eff yourself. Clearly it is you who doesn’t value their art.
“I once did a speaking thing to a school of young social media people, and they asked, “How do I become an influencer?” So I asked them what they were good at. And they said, “Nothing.””
I guarantee this never happened. Partially because you called them ‘young social media people’ and partly because of the grouping of everyone saying ‘nothing’. Do you really expect me to believe that when asked what people were good at EVERYONE said nothing? Sir/madam, I believe you’re projecting.
“We have no idea what to pay them.”
Bingo, the truth comes out – it’s not that you have no idea what to pay them, it’s that you have no idea what you are doing. Step aside ‘social media exec’, this job isn’t for you.
“Social team is a bunch of millennials, so we’ll often find someone we like and we’ll throw it into a database with keywords.”
What even is this as a sentence? What executive who deals with social media influencers talks like this? The gentle jab at millennials is also quite indicative of this persons overall sentiment towards young people, social media and influencers.
“Some send us decks or presentations that are pretty but not tailored to the brand. They’re all nuts. “I want to take a car and pick it up in London and drive it around Europe, so give me $100,000,” they say. Nope, let’s totally never do it that ever. These people don’t understand budgets.”
Does THIS exec even work in marketing? Do he/she know about how budgets work? There’s so many plausible scenarios where this could generate a huge amount of views/exposure and ROI for such a (relatively) small cost to a car maker. If you’re just talking to a random person with 1K followers or something, that’s different but the generalization in this is just ridiculous. I hate this exec.
“We used to pay $800 for 30 or 40 edited images back in 2014. So add the cost of the product, and it would be like $2,500 to shoot and have content for a few weeks. Now, if you work with some big YouTube guys, the Casey Neistats, those types of people charge $300,000 to $500,000, and brands don’t actually own the rights to it.”
The unfair slight against Casey Neistat aside, it’s clear this person is now talking about Instagram based influencers. And it’s also evident they do not understand influencer marketing at all – part of the appeal of working with influencers is that it DOESN’T live as your content, you’ve hired someone who has their own style, audience and relationship with their followers to share your message. They know their audience far better than you do, and it’s important they figure out the proper way to integrate your sponsored content in a way that doesn’t disrespect their audience. Influencers have a very thin tightrope to walk where they want to make money, but they also don’t want to lose their audience. Fans are fickle, if it feels like an ad, they won’t watch.
“Brands are going to start realizing the amount of followers you have doesn’t mean shit.”
This is the first smart thing you’ve said in this entire article, but you should direct it at the brands themselves who spend hundreds of thousands to build followings on social networks with a bunch of fickle fans that only clicked ‘follow’ to enter a contest. Once brands stop focusing on the vanity metrics, they won’t tap agencies to keep putting out shitty content 100 times a day on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and instead focus on creating value for their audience. They’ll find perfect influencers to work with, and they will pay them well. They’ll get rid of shitty social media execs like you, and put in people who actually give a damn about delivering results by vetting, valuing, researching and understanding influencers and their audience. Until then, we’ll all have to deal with your garbage I suppose.
As a sidebar to this whole thing – 90% of TV commercials I see are terrible. 90% of print ads I see are awful. 99% of radio ads are just brutal. Influencer marketing isn’t perfect, but nothing ever is. The key isn’t to wholly dismiss the idea of working with influencers and instead spending time to figure out the right people to work with. There’s been great influencers campaigns that have delivered amazing results for clients, and there has been lots of very poor influencer campaigns.
How do you find the right people? That’s YOUR job. That’s why you are being paid. Now get off my lawn.