Want to know my best advice for starting a social media career?
Remember that show The Big C? Don’t worry, neither does anybody else. But there’s this moment in the very first episode in which our
protagonist main character informs one of her students, portrayed by America’s Darling (for like a year) Gabourey Sidibe, that you can’t be fat and mean.
“Fat people are jolly,” she reasons, “because fat people are ugly and nobody wants to be around ugly people.”
This is an important introduction to the show because it illustrates the jaded bluntness of the
protagonist main character. It also completely killed any empathy I had for her because bro, you can’t just up and talk to a high schooler that way.
But lately I’ve been thinking about talent (or rather my slight lack of it) and kindness, as it relates to building my career in social media.
Starting a social media career: how it works
TL;DR: They work like any other career.
The major difference between starting a career as a YouTuber and starting a career as, say, a retail manager is the structure – namely in that building a social media career doesn’t really have any particular structure.
You don’t have a boss, although you do have an audience, as well as individuals and companies who sponsor your content (i.e. sign your paycheck) and agents of other outlets who can decide whether or not they’d like to work with you and/or publish your work. Nobody’s going to yell at me if I don’t record a video right this second or write at least 1,000 words per day, but if I don’t do these things (and do them well), I starve.
Likewise, you don’t have coworkers, but you do have colleagues – people who do the same things you do, mostly within your niche, but occasionally as part of a larger scenius. If I don’t put out good quality content regularly, make sure I’m being the best, most supportive version of a cheerleader that I can be, and take the time to reach out and check in, I starve.
Finally, there’s no real career path. You’re on your own. Sure, you can find a mentor or coach who can help you, and there’s a million articles and videos on the internet that can teach you various tips, tricks, MOs, best practices, and keep you pointed in a direction (not necessarily the right direction), but for the most part you set your own pace and grasp for things that work.
And you struggle through all of these experiences to develop a solid reputation in the hopes that somebody important notices you long enough to help you move up the ladder. One day you hit the front page of HuffPo, the next morning you’re dancing on Ellen, and then eventually you find yourself speaking at VidCon between book releases.
It’s just like brown nosing your middle-manager and obsessively cleaning the stockroom before the bigwigs come to town so that you can get promoted to regional sales manager and sip champagne on the golf course. Or whatever sales managers do.
Just, instead of developing a reputation around the office, you’re trying to develop it around nearly the entire literal planet. You’re starting a social media career. That means influencing literally an entire planet.
So what does it take?
Starting a social media career takes years. Years of really hard work. You have to create content. And it has to be the right content, presented in the right manner, to the right people, at the right moment. It has to be intriguing, visceral, refined, epic, controversial, and innovative. And you have to do that consistently for between 5 – 10 years on average.
Again, no sweat, right?
The good news is that you can make a lot of progress before the unicorn farts on your forehead and blesses you with genuine talent and skill. You can build up a community – a really strong, passionate, awesome community (like you guys!) – and make a lot of connections and grease the runway so that as soon as you’re able to make epic content on a regular basis, you’ll also be watching it explode the internet.
And to do that, you don’t have to be that good at things when you’re starting a social media career. Although you do have to keep working on it.
Case in point: I’ve asked everybody who watches my YouTube videos to tell me when I fuck up from now on. I don’t know if anybody will actually do it in the future, but I’ve gotten some great direct feedback on a few pieces today, so I’m calling it a success.
But if you’re starting a social media career, what else can you do in the meantime?
You’re not going to become an amazing, epic content creator overnight, so what actions should you take between now and then?
Just be pleasant
Remember: you can’t be fat and mean. You can’t be a terrible content creator with no audience and be a jerk about it. Starting a social media career means you’re a nobody trying to become a somebody. You can’t go from nobody to somebody by stomping on toes. Why? Because you need your audience and your peers to come along for your journey with you. We have to keep pushing you forward.
Is it a way to get people talking about you? Sure. But I can guarantee that most of it’s going to be indirect and in the form of complaints, and nobody’s going to click through to see this giant jerkbag that everybody’s talking about. Not until you’re Leafy. Definitely not when you’re starting a social media career (and preferably never).
But Leafy got to where he was by being a good YouTuber. Does that mean his videos are good? No. Does it mean he’s good? No. (Although, oddly enough, I don’t think he’s actually that bad. Go figure.)
But he’s a damn good YouTuber. He knows how to make content that pulls in the masses.
But you are not Leafy.
Also look at notable nightmare troll-person Azealia Banks, who has built a career off of acting like a horrible person on Twitter and being an amazing goddamn rapper.
She has talent. She’s fucking incredible.
She’s also said some of the most fucked up things I’ve ever heard.
You are not Azealia Banks.
You are not that talented.
I can promise you that.
No matter how good you think you’re doing, or how proud you are of your last sketch, or how much you’ve improved over the last couple years, you are not Leafy or Azealia Banks good.
You’re probably not even William Hung good. (If you get that reference, congratulations: you’re old.)
So in the meantime, stop fucking spamming us in group messages every single time you post a video. Stop following and then unfollowing people on Twitter. Stop sending out auto-DMs that sound like you’re accepting a goddamn Oscar nomination when I literally just followed you back out of politeness.
“Out of all the people on the internet, you chose to follow me! Thanks so much!”
Sit down, honey, you’re going to hurt yourself making that big of a stretch.
Likewise, stop pretending that your content is better than it actually is and complaining about how all these famous YouTubers are getting rich making content that’s worse than yours. You know what? Maybe, but they got lucky and started when the bar was set lower. No amount of whining is going to fix that situation, so get to work and start playing catch-up.
Stop asking larger channels for shout-outs and then getting mad when they don’t respond to you. They’re busy, and do you really want people to look at your shit right now? Is it really to the level of quality that you’re going to be satisfied with? Because the internet is a nasty place full of horrible people who will SWAT you for saying “like” too many times.
Just be fucking pleasant. Be nice to people. Stop treating your fellow creators like your fans and start being a supportive, genuine person instead. Make actual connections with people, rather than trying to trick us into some weird unilateral transactional relationshit.
Great. I’m glad we had this talk.
Now print this shit out and keep it taped on your desk or like… retweet it or some shit.
(But not until it’s Azealia Banks good.)