When we envisage the typical business magnate or budding entrepreneur, we traditionally think of the booming business or successful career path these people built their names on. Virgin Media is still a bigger household name than Richard Branson, and while everyone knows what Amazon is, not everyone knows who Jeff Bezos is. Today, social media influencers are spearheading success from a very different angle; personality comes first, prosperity second.
On Verified Views; influencer-come-television presenter AJ Ododu talks through her intuitive use of social media to boost her mood, re-ignite her passions and propel her into the career she had always dreamed of. As with most people who venture into the entertainment industry, AJ faced a lot of rejection before she got to the high-status career level she enjoys now. In the episode, AJ admitted that being rejected from TV roles in the past had left her in a “dark place” and led to her “attacking every single thing” about herself, from her appearance to her accent. After she’d been let go from a presenting job in her early 20s and was struggling to enjoy life, AJ moved in with her Dad to save on rent and discovered her love of fitness.
The physical empowerment that AJ got from fitness spurred her on to take a personal training course, and then her best friend – who happened to be a graphic designer – built her a website and shot some thumbnails for a YouTube channel. AJ blogged her fitness journey, documenting her newfound passion project online, unaware that the natural success that came along with it is what would eventually lead her to the incredibly promising presenting career she has built for herself. Authentically influencing her followers on how to get fit, AJ started seeing the campaigns roll in from huge names like Nike, Adidas and Reebok and it wasn’t long before she won the Glamour Magazine award for Fitness Blogger Of The Year in 2017.
One huge upside to social media that is so often ignored when it’s compared to traditional entertainment industry jobs, is the grasp a social media influencer can have on their content, partnerships, and persona. Social media allows influencers to take control, and position themselves – in their own way – as experts in their fields. In some cases, influencers have invented whole new fields for themselves to thrive in, take ASMR for example: a booming sector of the health and wellness industry that just wouldn’t exist without the invention of YouTube.
Across all platforms, there is an abundance of influencers from all tiers, who have forged their own paths and garnered niche audiences by focusing their bespoke content on a specific topic, and then investing considerable effort to engage with that audience to develop trust and personal connection. The sense of loyal community that influencers foster through posting organic, authentic content to their feeds, is easily translatable into any kind of traditional business, branding or career scenario… and that’s exactly what influencers are doing: building their own brands, where the product is themselves.
In many cases this amassed, loyal following can then act as a career springboard for influencers to launch more traditional, product based businesses – or in AJ’s case, a head start in the entertainment industry.
Beauty gurus like James Charles have gone on to create their own makeup lines, YouTubers like Liza Koshy have gone on to have acting careers, and lifestyle influencers have launched everything from clothing lines to health food subscription services – à la, the world famous SourcedBox from Naomi Smart and Marcus Butler. Influencer's social media channels double as a medium for advertising – whether that’s product or persona – allowing them to create authentic content alongside a lasting career.
During the summer months, it’s usually customary for me to pen a ‘how-to’ for the up and coming career generation, helping them get a leg up on the career ladder or navigate the daunting sphere of job-seeking. This year, I would strongly suggest considering giving your social media a boost: what would it be like to turn your persona into a brand, and your brand into a dream? With the appropriate amount of hard work, it’s perfectly plausible for anyone to become an influencer these days and judging by AJ’s journey and the following examples, clearly building your personal persona is the perfect place to start.
Here are some examples of influencers who’ve built their career on the back of social media:
Abigail Bergstrom (literature)
Incredibly successful in her own right as the head of publishing at Gleam Futures – Abigail has spent considered time and effort highlighting her careers skills on Instagram. She is perfect example of someone who allows their life’s work and passion to bleed into one another, inspiring everything she does. Abigail’s feed is peppered with books and lengthy reviews in caption form, that candidly showcase her intellectual mind and excellent taste, providing her loyal followers with #bookrecomenndatonsfordays.
Anine Bing (fashion)
Former model and influencer, Anine Bing’s namesake label is booming in the fashion world. Fashionista wrote of Bing’s success recently, telling that “having surpassed its five-year mark, the 35-year-old's business is proof that building a brand on Instagram can expand into a global empire with a growing list of new categories and physical storefront. Over the years, her humble online shop has expanded from a two-person team to an LA-based headquarters of about 45 employees, as well as nine brick-and-mortar locations across the US, UK and Europe.
Huda Kattan (beauty)
With over 1.5 million followers, Huda Kattan is one of the most successful influencer-turned-entrepreneurs in the world. Again using her established name as push power, @hudabeauty (now with a staggering 38.9 million Instagram followers) started as a beauty blog in 2010, where she shared her tips and posted tutorials. Her blog gained a cult following within the beauty guru community, and not long after launching, she set up shop and sold fake lashes through Sephora. Nearly a decade later, Huda Beauty is popular all over the world. She has expanded her brand to include several new products including eyeshadow palettes, eyeliners, liquid lipsticks, foundations, and more.