“Until there is a mosaic of perspectives coming from different ethnicities behind the lens, we will continue to have a narrow approach and view of what the world actually looks like. That is why I wanted to work with this brilliant 23-year-old photographer Tyler Mitchell.” — Beyoncé, September 2018 issue of Vogue.
Beyonce made history (again) by hiring the first African-American photographer to shoot a Vogue cover in the magazine’s 126-year existence. Atlanta native, Tyler Mitchell is one of the youngest photographers to be given the task. An A-list celebrity always graces the cover of the September issue, one of the most influential editorials of the year which dictates trends and attracts advertisers. Bey leveraged this iconic moment as an opportunity to put a young creative of color on to mainstream media. In the magazine she discussed her desire to open doors for talented young people just like legendary singers Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross and others did for her when she first started her career. Queen Carter often uses her influence to give back to the Black community, as seen by her Formation Scholarshipand other philanthropic efforts. However, her decision to have Mitchell capture this essential issue of Vogue moved the culture forward.
“There are so many cultural and societal barriers to entry that I like to do what I can to level the playing field, to present a different point of view for people who may feel like their voices don’t matter,” Bey says. “If people in powerful positions continue to hire and cast only people who look like them, sound like them, come from the same neighborhoods they grew up in, they will never have a greater understanding of experiences different from their own.”
Photo by Tyler Mitchell of Vogue
No matter what size audience you have, it’s important for content creators to go beyond celebrating this historical moment. Let’s use it inspiration to pull other black and brown creatives up as we rise — just like Bey did for Tyler Mitchell. Here are a few ways you can do that:
Find Your Tribe
We’re focused on creating a culture of collaboration, so we started a community to connect with other black and brown creatives, share opportunities and resources, tackle pressing topics and support each other. Join our Slack grouphere to be down with our team! Also consider joining professional organizations in your area, like ColorCommand AdColor. Expand your network so you can meet other multicultural creatives that you can support.
Show younger creatives the ropes
As you build your platform, put other people on. Tap your existing network to see if they know of young, energetic content creators who want to learn from and work with you. Leverage their creative ideas and hire them for projects to add fresh content to your brand and help them grow theirs.
Be the plug
Strategize ways to bring multicultural creatives in your network together. Consider hosting an event like a happy hour or brunch with a few dope people you know — have them bring a guest so you all can connect. Pour into others like Bey did with Tyler, and we guarantee you’ll get some blessings in return.
“Am I the only one that pretends to be in a music video when I’m by myself?”
That’s the first line in Issa Rae’s groundbreaking YouTube series“The Misadventures Of An Awkward Black Girl.” We should have known then that she was going to be around for a while.
Issa grew her fan base by being relatable. The series was centered around a black woman’s awkward journey, but it highlighted uncomfortable situations that people of all races go through in their personal and professional life. We all are guilty of taking a fake phone call to avoid talking to someone or waving at the wrong person. These shared experiences helped Issa create a loyal community.
Viewers saw themselves in the characters and faithfully followed the storyline. Even as the series wrapped up, they rooted for Issa and supported her once she released HBO’s hit show “Insecure” a few years later.
In both shows, Issa feels like your homegirl. From her quirks (like rapping in the mirror) to her flaws (like cheating on her boyfriend with an old fling), we all know someone like her characters.
Here are three ways that you can use Issa’s journey to inspire your own and build a community:
Create emotional connections
In a digital world where everything is perfectly curated, people crave something real. Appealing to emotions, as Issa did with being awkward, helps your followers relate to you which builds trust.
Here are a few honest conversations that you can have on your platform if you’re struggling to connect with your tribe:
Which life moment brings you the most happiness?
Which personal struggle has been the biggest set-back in your life?
How do you deal with disappointment?
Name five people or things that bring you joy.
Work with what and who you have
“The Misadventures Of An Awkward Black Girl” wasn’t shot on premium equipment, but that didn’t take away from the storyline. Issa also called on her friends to be a part of the show in front of and behind the camera. Her grit early on paved the way for bigger projects, like “Insecure.”
Whatever dream you have can happen if you don’t allow perfection to cause procrastination.
Find your niche
Issa knows exactly who her target audience is. Although people of all backgrounds may enjoy her content, she unapologetically shares stories of multidimensional black women like her who are trying to navigate adulthood.
By being true to your narrative, you will attract people who value your authenticity.
Stay tuned to our upcoming blog posts where we’ll be highlighting other brilliant black content creators like Issa. In the meantime, join our Slack communityto network with dope creatives like yourself.
A brand statement on social issues that impact their consumers is risky, but worth it when done strategically. While taking a stance may alienate some, staying silent can drive their core fan base to a competitor.
Nike moved the culture forward by choosing Colin Kaepernick to represent the 30th anniversary of their “Just Do It” campaign. With innovation, impact and diversity as their core values, it was a strategic decision from a brand that has always been bold and rebellious.
Kaepernick started the take a knee peaceful protest to raise awareness of police brutality against unarmed black men, and it sparked a national debate that divided the country. While Nike faced backlash for publicly endorsing Kaepernick, the brand made it clear that they believe in something greater than them.
In the age of authenticity and transparency, consumers want to ensure that the brands they spend their hard-earned money on actually care. And as an influencer, you should seek to work with brands that see you as more than just dollar signs.
Here are three takeaways you can learn from this brilliant partnership to help you grow your influence:
Choose brands with similar values
If you read throughNike’s mission statement and core values, you’ll see how supporting Kaepernick makes sense.Nike believes in expanding human potential, and Kap’s protest advocates for human rights.
Just as there is synergy between both brands, the companies that you work with as an influencer should align with your values. Your followers look to you for your true opinion, so it’s important to be strategic about the brands that you collaborate with. Do some research on companies you’re considering working with. Read through the “ABOUT” section on their website, and see if what they claim is accurate. Also, check to see if they have faced any alarming controversy in the past before you align your reputation with them.
Move in silence
Nike has been endorsing Kaepernick since 2011 but has been mainly silent during the peaceful protests. While opposers have shifted the direction of the protests to make it about the American flag and veterans, Nike has been plotting their 30th-anniversary campaign.
Similarly, sometimes you should keep your projects hidden so they don’t get tainted by other people’s opinions. Make a plan, do the work and then present it to the world.
Only make moves when your heart is in it
Echoing the Notorious B.I.G., it’s crucial to only accept brand partnerships that your heart is in. Just because they are paying you doesn’t mean it’s the right opportunity. If your intuition is telling you that something isn’t a good fit, or if you see red flags gracefully decline. Following the advice in the Kaepernick x Nike ad, believe in something even if that means sacrificing everything.
We tackle topics like this in our Slack community — join to share your thoughts and network with other content creators.
Brands want to work with influencers because they’re an asset. Assets garner attention and can lead to sales. But product placements and campaigns aren’t the only way that you can monetize your influence. With the rise of virtual stores like Shopify and Big Cartel, you can tap into Ecommerce and build a microbusiness selling products that align with your brand.
Ecommerce can help you scale your business. This revenue stream allows you to grow your brand and create intellectual property around your own designs, products, and concepts.
Currently, some influencers leverage Ecommerce by using affiliate links, curating hand-picked items on their personalized page within a retailer’s website, or collaborating with brands to create products if they have a large following. However, these tactics still depend on a brand partner. Virtual stores level the playing field so you’re empowered to monetize your following in a direct to consumer market.
Here are three tips if you’re thinking about starting an Ecommerce store:
Identify a theme that ties into your brand
A virtual store is an extension of your brand, so it has to make sense. For example, if you’re a travel influencer who is passionate about solo getaways, you could open a Shopify store based on the theme and sell relevant products. A shirt with #flyingsolo embroidered across the chest, an iPhone case with a globe, a stylish pair of sunglasses and an eye-catching passport cover are examples of items you could sell from your virtual store.
Do what you do best and delegate everything else
Promote your shop by creating relatable lifestyle content that inspires while subtly infuses the products to drive purchase consideration. Tools from Shopify, and plug-ins such as LIKEtoKNOWitand Snappptallow your followers to purchase directly from Instagram.
Consider using a dropshipping service so you don’t have to carry inventory and can focus on what you do best. According to Shopify, “dropshipping is a retail fulfillment method where a store doesn’t keep the products it sells in stock. Instead, when a store sells a product, it purchases the item from a third party and has it shipped directly to the customer. As a result, the merchant never sees or handles the product.”
If you’re struggling to get your virtual store off the ground,holla at us! We worked with beauty influencer Sarah Lou Who and apparel brand Kickback Culture to create a Shopify store centered around stylish fashion accessories for your next vacation – including beachwear and sunglasses. We can help with your Ecommerce strategy as well.
Use your virtual store as leverage
Once your store is up and running, add it to your media kit so potential brand partners can better understand your work. The type of content that you create for your own store can give marketers a glimpse into how you could promote their products if you were to partner.
E-commerce and influencers go hand-in-hand and will continue to drive the future of consumer marketing. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait until a brand hits you up — by creating a virtual store you can monetize your influence on your own terms.
Many celebrities appear to be perfect, but artists like J.Cole reaffirm the beauty in our imperfections. Through his music, he reminds us that we’re all human, and authenticity and transparency gives us an opportunity to grow and truly connect with other people.
An overarching theme in Cole’s music is to use his pain for a purpose. From his mother’s battle with drug addiction to infidelity to poverty – he openly talks about the highs and lows of life.
Cole’s vulnerability and authenticity inspire his fans to share more of themselves with the world. He shows us that we are not defined by our pain – it shapes who we are and helps us relate to others.
Here are three lessons from J.Cole’s music that’ll remind you to be authentic as you build your brand:
Stay true to yourself
“How come you won’t get a few features? / I think you should? How ’bout I don’t?” – KOD
J.Cole’s third album “2014 Forest Hills Drive” went platinum without any features, but people still encourage him to broaden his approach. Cole takes pride in owning every aspect of his music and he doesn’t give in to the pressure to feature other artists on his projects.
Like Cole, trust your intuition and move at your own pace. Authenticity means holding onto your values and beliefs. The trend in the industry may be to create a digital course or podcast to monetize your brand, but that may not be for you in this season. It’s ok to have an open mind to feedback from other people but stay focused on what you believe in and what matters most to you.
Embrace your imperfections
“I keep my twisted grill, just to show the kids it’s real / We ain’t picture perfect, but we worth the picture still.” – Crooked Smile
Despite his imperfect teeth, Cole was able to surpass the level of success he envisioned for himself. He reminds us that no one is perfect and everyone has their own “crooked smile” to live with.
As an influencer, you can use your imperfections to your advantage by being transparent about your journey. Openly talk about your struggles and how you’re getting through the adversity. Every post doesn’t have to seem like life is perfect — let people see the real, raw you sometimes. Through vulnerability, you build community and control your own narrative.
Appreciate your journey
“Don’t be sleepin’ on your level because its beauty in the struggle” – Love Yourz
Growing up in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Cole watched his mother deal with addiction and heartbreak. He moved to New York for college, and his first job was working as a telemarketer. It took years for him to get a record deal and grow his fan base, but all of his hard work paid off.
As you continue to build your brand, enjoy your unique journey. In every life stage, there are lessons that you need to learn to prepare you for the next level and if you’re so focused on getting there, you’ll miss the beauty of the now.
The glow up is sweeter when you acknowledge the darkness that helped bring out your light.