A trusted referral is the Holy Grail of advertising.
Mark Zuckerberg

What do Donald Trump and Taylor Swift have in common?

Both are the best of all Influencers, each the leader of a totally devoted fanbase. A fanbase so loyal that casting aspersions on their leaders can lead to arguments, violence, and riots. Nothing new here – 100,000 years of evolution teaches us that we survive best in groups, not as individuals. We enjoy our loyalty as fans, be it to a sports team, an entertainer, or a political party or leader.

What’s new is that our digital age makes it possible to grow these affinity groups almost instantly. A single TikTok post can make an unknown teenage girl famous, once it goes viral. Almost overnight, she has more than a million loyal fans. The trick is to keep that fanbase loyal, since internet views can only last a few seconds. And that’s what separates the best influencers from the rest. Trump and Swift stick to their brands. He never becomes liberal or restrained in his outbursts. She never stops singing about the men she left, or who left her. Both are genuinely direct and energetic, and seen as honest and refreshing by their fans.

What’s new here – suddenly, a regular person can deliver their own low-cost content to millions of viewers. You don’t need to make a movie in Hollywood, or show it in theaters. You don’t need to make a streaming video show, and distribute it on HBO or Netflix. You can post your creation for free on YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok... and, as of 2024, on Elon Musk’s X/Twitter.

Here’s thanks to Julia Allison, back around 2005, who was the first regular (not rich) person to build her own very popular brand on Tumblr, Vimeo and the then-new YouTube. She wasn’t well-off or famous, unlike vloggers Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian. Paris Hilton was actually the first influencer to cash in by promoting a product, with her popular Carl’s Jr. car wash video, also in 2005. Couldn’t show that on mainstream TV! Soon after, Lonelygirl115 was the first scripted YouTube show to hit it big. In 2007, YouTube started giving back some of their ad money to content creators, which led to the financial success of Keyboard Cat, with Ben Lashes as the show’s manager-promoter. Organization! ‘Collab’ houses for YouTube writers and designers! It’s new, and it’s here, and the next big viral sensation could be you. Open to all, with no barriers to entry.

For you as an artist, influencers can be very valuble clients. Their brand is all-important, and its visual aspect is critical. Donald’s hair, Taylor’s shorts. MAGA caps, and Swiftie wristbands. An influencer should have a consistent color theme, and a graphical logo at the start of every video post, and in the background of every frame of the main content. And they all want to sell product! With every label or packaging design carrying out the visual brand theme. And you can certainly help with that. You can also make contact with influencer MCNs, Multi-channel networks like TalentX – they act as counselors, promoters and branding deal arrangers for top-rated influencers. Here’s a link to YouTube MCN companies.

If your local influencer hits it big on TikTok, you will go for a very profitable ride. And great fun, if you like the world of digital entertainment. But fans can be fickle. Few influencers manage to create that cult-like fanbase loyalty. So you may need to have many small-time clients, hoping one will break out into digital stardom. Good luck!

Content Creators

Influencers are actually a sub-set of a larger new category called 'Content Creators'. As an artist, you are too. Because a content creator is someone who creates entertaining or educational material to be expressed through any medium or channel... mainly digital these days, although print remains a very large part of the picture.

"For business, content creation can mean crafting newsletters, emails, digital marketing materials, brochures, social media, articles, annual reports, advertorial messaging, editorial materials, company communications, and more. In the publishing, communication, and art industries, content can be defined as all the information and experiences, such as writing, speech, or other various arts, expressed through a medium to communicate value to an end user. More important for business, content is the material that users, readers, or viewers derive value from." Whew. All these words. Got them from Adobe, a company that makes software for every possible kind of content creator they can imagine.

Job title inflation. Used to be, you were a commercial artist. Then, a graphic designer or graphic artist. But now, you are a content creator (specializing in graphic art). But there's a problem here... the new content creator role implies that you have more skills than just art. Add in copywriting, add in motion graphics, add in video production. Video is a time-intensive nightmare. if you are trying to build your own brand as an artist using YouTube or Instagram for self-promotion, you really, really have to post almost every day to build up a presence. And then where's the time to do paid work?

In the past, it was always best in communications to have one or two skills... and stop there. Trying to do everything meant that you weren't much good at anything. Today, AI templates for art, text, and video allow anyone to produce acceptable -- but not excellent -- work in any area. Content creator? Sure, but watch out. Any job title that broad opens you to exploitation by an employer... like a startup that may want you to do everything for pay that's almost nothing.

Recommendation -- just stay with your art, and maybe copywriting. Images and words are the core of marketing. They sell products and services... and get you the highest pay per hour. Sell your output to others who make videos, instead of producng them yourself. Personal branding? A simple portfolio and resumé are all you need.

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