Talk Money Guide

The Creator's Guide

Everything you need to know to navigate the Creator Economy.

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Mesh Lakhani
Founder of Talk Money



I'm an investor and entrepreneur with a passion for making business education straightforward and entertaining.

I believe everyone should have the tools and knowledge necessary to understand their money. I started Talk Money to help educate others, demystify the world of finance, and break down complex business concepts. There’s a lot of noise and complicated information out there: let’s make it simple!

I didn't study business or finance in school — and I never worked on Wall Street — but I’ve been a student of investing since the height of the financial crisis in 2008. I was lucky to learn from incredible people who shared their knowledge with me. For the last 12 years I've been an investor. Now, I want to help provide financial education in a relatable, engaging and updated way.

About the Guide

How to:

  • Get your stuff out there
  • Build an audience
  • Monetize your work

According to a 2019 survey conducted by Lego, children today are three times more likely to aspire towards a career as a YouTuber than as an astronaut.

Being a “creator” is no longer a niche career path. There are maybe 50 million video, audio and/or text creators publishing content to the internet. 

Influencer marketing firm Mediakix estimates that the market for these content creators and “influencers” is already worth $8 billion and could nearly double in size by 2022

As COVID accelerates us into the e-commerce age and cameras, microphones and editing software become cheaper and more affordable, content creation is becoming a big opportunity for artists, broadcasters, marketers, instructors, and anyone else who has something to share or sell online. 

What will you get from this guide?

What am I Reading?

This is a guide to succeeding as a creator in 2021.

It’s based on my experience launching the Talk Money podcast, as well as the experiences of hundreds of other creators who I’ve either talked to or observed as I’ve ventured further into the world of content creation.

It also borrows tactics from growth marketing, which is a fancy term people in Silicon Valley use to describe the process of marketing something on the internet.

Who is this Guide For?

Not every passion is worth monetizing or turning into a job. Building even a small internet audience can take years of daily, constant effort and also luck.

Anyone who puts time and effort into creating content can benefit from this guide, but I want to speak to two kinds of person in particular: 

  1. Creators who are already making polished content but are having trouble finding an audience.
  1. Influential people who have an existing offline audience they want to bring online by creating content for the internet.

Influencers

  • Have huge internet audiences, usually focused around 1-2 channels
  • Are constantly experimenting with different ways to monetize their audience
  • Have some influence internet or pop culture

Specialists

  • Might offer some kind of deep expertise into a particular subject or domain
  • Create extremely specific content for a niche audience
  • Are less interested in clout or influence than they are in making a modest income online

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What am I Reading?

This is a guide to succeeding as a creator in 2021.

It’s based on my experience launching the Talk Money podcast, as well as the experiences of hundreds of other creators who I’ve either talked to or observed as I’ve ventured further into the world of content creation.

It also borrows tactics from growth marketing, which is a fancy term people in Silicon Valley use to describe the process of marketing something on the internet.

Who is this Guide For?

Not every passion is worth monetizing or turning into a job. Building even a small internet audience can take years of daily, constant effort and also luck.

Anyone who puts time and effort into creating content can benefit from this guide, but I want to speak to two kinds of person in particular: 

  1. Creators who are already making polished content but are having trouble finding an audience.
  1. Influential people who have an existing offline audience they want to bring online by creating content for the internet.

Influencers

  • Have huge internet audiences, usually focused around 1-2 channels
  • Are constantly experimenting with different ways to monetize their audience
  • Have some influence internet or pop culture

Specialists

  • Might offer some kind of deep expertise into a particular subject or domain
  • Create extremely specific content for a niche audience
  • Are less interested in clout or influence than they are in making a modest income online

Part 1: Make Authentic, Original Content, and Do it Consistently

“Don’t try to be anybody who you’re not,” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told ABC News last year when they asked what some of her older colleagues might be doing wrong on social media.

Ocasio-Cortez had used social media to great effect a few months earlier when she became the youngest woman to ever serve in the U.S. Congress. If you ask her, the biggest problem with the way American politicians present themselves online today has to with authenticity.

“If you’re an older woman, talk like an older woman talks,” suggested Ocasio-Cortez. “If you don’t know what a meme is, don’t post a meme.”

The internet can tell when you’re faking it, in other words.

So how do you avoid that? If you ask influencers like Ocasio-Cortez, they’ll tell you to make content that is authentic and original, and to be consistent about it.

What exactly is “authenticity”?

Being authentic has more to do with avoiding certain behaviours than it does with trying to do anything in particular. Your goal, to put it bluntly, is to avoid sounding like a phony. 

So how do you do that?

Be original

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t copy people—“all great artists steal,” as you might have heard—it just means you shouldn’t try to sound exactly like someone else, or worse, pass other people’s words or work off as your own.

When scripting a monologue, narration or an interview question, for example, consider first what it is that you want out of it.

What would you say in this situation if no one else was here listening or watching you? What is it about this person or topic that interests you, personally?

Talk like a human

It can be tempting to start overthinking, over-polishing and over-editing everything you do when you start producing content for an imagined audience. Don’t. 

Use your real voice when communicating with your audience—the one you use to talk on the phone with your friends. Avoid sounding like a press release.

Do what you’re good at

One of the biggest temptations in blogging, vlogging, podcasting, tweeting—any kind of creative production online, really—is to jump on trends, to join into the conversation about something and be the first to comment on a new thing.

Engaging with your peers, the news cycle and what’s going on in your industry is all well and good, but make sure you stick to what you know.

Be confident and contribute because you have something valuable to contribute on the topic, not just because you see other people talking about it.

Consistency

There’s a lot of content out there. One of the best ways to ensure you get lost in the noise is to be inconsistent and publish your content on an unreliable schedule.

This doesn’t mean you need to publish new content every day. It just means you need to set your audience up with reasonable expectations about how often you’ll be publishing.

How often should I publish?

If you’re writing longform investigative features for magazines, it’s obviously going to take you longer to produce one of those than it will to make a TikTok video. The actual frequency with which you publish is a lot less important than sustainability. Pick a cadence you know you can keep up, and then stick with it.

Start slow/small

It’s far better to start at a slower pace and ramp up than to disappoint people with a sudden dropoff in content. Instead of immediately creating a daily podcast, for example, consider planning out and releasing a season of episodes instead.

Have a coherent vision and style

Creators have to experiment and be flexible, but one thing all the successful ones have in common is that they have a recognizable, familiar style and vision that their audience keeps returning for.

Think about your favorite movie director, musician, or chef even. They might occasionally switch their style up or reinvent themselves, but for the most part, you come back to their stuff because it’s familiar and you want more.

Part 2: Finding and Growing an Audience

Making authentic, creative and original content won’t help you much if you don’t have an audience to deliver that content to.

This is the part of creating that can feel most frustrating to people who are new—especially people focused on their craft who don’t consider themselves savvy marketers.

The best way to get over this feeling is to think methodically about who it is that you want to make content for, how you’re going to engage with them, and which tools you’re going to use to make all of this happen.


More reading:

100 True Fans, by Li Jin
1000 True Fans, by Kevin Kelly

Zero in on your “perfect audience”

Imagine you were guaranteed an audience for the next thing you make—a video update, a podcast episode, an online course, whatever it is. Beyond your close friends and family, who would be the perfect audience for that thing?

The perfect audience member isn’t just someone who sees your content and thinks it's okay. These are people who find great value in what you do, make an effort to follow your progress, and eagerly await the next thing you’re working on.

Zeroing in on exactly who these people are is crucial to becoming a successful creator.

Doing so will inform everything from the style, format and content of your channel, to the guests you book, to the advertisers you take on, to the tactics you use to expand your audience.

    Some other questions to ask about your ideal audience member include:

  • How old are they?
  • What’s their income and career background?
  • Where do they live?
  • What are their hobbies?
  • What other, similar media do they like to consume? What websites do they visit? What brands do they like?
  • How do they prefer their media gets delivered to them? (Mobile? RSS feed? Email?)


Capture that audience

Going ‘viral’ and getting a few thousand or million engagements on a piece of content you create is exhilarating

But make no mistake: getting views is not the same thing as having an audience.

Those people aren’t necessarily going to tune into the next thing you publish—but that’s exactly what the best audience builders are focused on: how many people are going to tune into the next thing (episode, video, lesson, whatever it is).

Briefly getting some attention is not enough: you need to capture an audience somehow—by getting them to hit “like” and “subscribe,” to sign up for your newsletter, or mailing list, to follow you on Twitter, anything you can do to ensure that they’ll pay attention to the next thing you do.

These days, the best way to make sure that you actually own your audience and that you aren’t particularly dependent on one particular social media service or platform is to make sure you’re reaching your audience using more than one channel.

Content marketer Julian Shapiro’s writing is an excellent resource for people who are trying to find and capture an audience. Check out his Twitter threads about customer acquisition here and here for invaluable advice on this.

Why “channels” are so important

Back when the internet was a much smaller place, there were a few big, dominant social media channels to choose from like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter, and there was a lot more organic traffic and attention to go around.

These days the creator marketplace is a lot more crowded, the software and tools creators use to create have also multiplied, and so have the platforms they use to actually publish and distribute that content.

To make things even more complicated, creation tools today are also themselves platforms, like TikTok for example, where almost all of the creating, publishing and reacting that goes happens within the app itself.

To simplify things and acknowledge this disappearing distinction between tools and platforms, marketers will sometimes refer to these things as “channels” instead. 

Being able to think creatively about channels is the key to getting your stuff in front of an internet audience today.

Using more than one channel is a great way to make sure you aren’t particularly dependent on one for distribution, and it also maximizes your chances of finding an audience. So that’s what we’ll tackle in the next section: how to pick the right channels for your content.

More reading:

How to make each ad channel work, by @GrowthTactics

Part 3: Picking your channels

Here we’re going to go over some of the popular channels used by creators today, their advantages and disadvantages, and how they might help you find an audience.

This isn’t an exhaustive list like the one found at Side Hustle Stack, which is an excellent curated list of tools and platforms for creators, sneaker resellers, event organizers, restaurant workers, and everyone in between.

[Embed https://sidehustlestack.co/ share dialogue here]

Our goal here is to go over the most popular channels first, work our way to some of the more niche outlets that have popped up catering to specific creator types—podcasters, streamers, fitness coaches, etc.—and then help you decide which ones you’re better off pursuing.

The Big Channels

YouTube

One advantage to publishing on established platforms like YouTube is that you’re probably already really familiar with them. 

Most of us have watched YouTube videos and are vaguely familiar with the basics—what a provocative thumbnail and title looks like, for example, or what the typical length, style and format of a vlog is. 

Watching existing YouTube videos and taking note of what you like and dislike about each one is probably the best thing you can do to learn more about the format.

Getting good at YouTube also requires a lot of homework, like reading up on the basics of videography, pro audio recording (check out our podcast guide for more on that) and lighting.


Thankfully most of this stuff is covered in detail in places like YouTube’s Creator Academy, which offers courses on things like:

The downside to hopping on a popular platform like YouTube is that it’s a crowded marketplace with a lot of competition. About 500 hours of content are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

As YouTuber PewDiePie points out, that means it’s tough to start building an audience without getting a boost from an established YouTuber or getting some other kind of helping hand.
"Everyone has a secret, I'm sure. Maybe something they're ashamed of that they wouldn't admit,” he suggests, recounting how as a YouTube beginner, he used to personally message commenters on other channels in the hopes that they would visit his.

YouTube is a crowded, noisy place, and you’re probably going to have to come up with your unique method for getting people’s attention—all while doing it in a sustainable, non-annoying way.

More Reading:

The Part-Time Youtuber Academy, by Ali Abdaal

Facebook

More than 3 million links get shared every hour on Facebook. By some counts, it’s an even more crowded platform than YouTube.

Facebook is also notoriously hard to keep up with as a creator, and it pays to stay up to date—not just with big picture stuff like what kinds of content the Facebook algorithm favors, but also basic things like the platform’s preferred dimensions for images and video.

The solution is to be meticulous and targeted with all of the content you publish. Facebook is a platform where “microtargeting” reigns supreme. That means you need to figure out:

  • The best day and time of the week to publish content
  • What kinds of content performs well, and the best way to present that content
  • Who your users are: how old they are, where they live, what brands they like, etc.

  • The solution is to be meticulous and targeted with all of the content you publish. Facebook is a platform where “microtargeting” reigns supreme. That means you need to figure out:

    • The best day and time of the week to publish content
    • What kinds of content performs well, and the best way to present that content
    • Who your users are: how old they are, where they live, what brands they like, etc.

    Another important thing to note about Facebook is its increasingly pay to play nature. Organic reach—that is, traffic you don’t pay for directly—has fallen on Facebook over the last decade, and paid engagements have skyrocketed. 


    If you’ve already created a Facebook page, one way to tackle all of these problems is to open up Facebook’s ad creation tool, sorting through all of the different targeting options, and paying attention to all of the different targeting parameters that are available to you when you create an ad there, for example:

    • Location
    • Demographic
    • Interests
    • Behavior
    • Connections

    Whether you buy an ad or not, you’re probably going to have to engage in some kind of targeting yourself, so becoming familiar with the way Facebook organizes and categorizes its users can be a huge help.

    Instagram 

    More than 5 million businesses regularly use Instagram to promote, write about and discuss their products. Instagram is big business.

    At the same time, one of the hallmarks of a successful Instagram account is that it should feel effortless—that the images you’re posting there are candid and real. But don’t be fooled: a lot of work can go into achieving that effect.

    Unlike YouTube, you might be able to get away with Instagramming on your smartphone—but that doesn’t mean you won’t have to learn some advanced photography and videography to do so.

    Instagram’s creator guide (PDF) is an excellent resource for getting the most out of your smartphone camera.

    You’ll also want to familiarize yourself with stories, one of the primary ways Instagram creators drive traffic to their pages, engage with their audience and keep their channel feeling lively and up to date.

    More reading:

    Creator Advice: Experiment on IG Reels by @TZhongg

    TikTok 

    Given how new of a platform it is, TikTok has less of a set playbook than the bigger platforms covered above. (If you’re new, check out this great Twitter thread by @TZhongg.)


    It’s great for amateurs who are just starting out and experimenting. But one thing that more established creators have found is that it’s really easy to come off as forcing it or trying too hard to be on TikTok.

    To avoid this, invest some time into seeing what is currently doing well on TikTok, familiarize yourself with the format, and try not to take yourself too seriously.

    More reading: We studied 50+ startups on TikTok and here’s what we found, by Li Jin

    Twitch 

    Unlike the above platforms, which involve publishing content at a set time, streaming platforms let you broadcast continuously to a real-time audience, creating opportunities for more continuous and intense engagement.

    If you’re looking for a place to experiment with streaming, Twitch’s low barriers to entry and intuitive tools makes it hard to beat as a starting point.

    In a few short years, Twitch has expanded far beyond its initial focus on video game streamers. Today you’ll find artists, health and wellness streamers, local arts organizations, influencers, and a host of other creators are using Twitch to reach new audiences.


    With the release of Twitch Studio Beta for MacOS, getting a stream started has never been easier.

    The platform’s Creator Camp also offers handy tutorials on everything from picking a streaming setup and personal branding, to retaining new viewers, to connecting with other users on Twitch.

    Patreon

    This guide treats creating, publishing and monetizing content as three separate activities. 

    Popular with filmmakers, vloggers, cartoonists, writers, activists, influencers and more, Patreon is a great option if you want to do all three of these things using just one tool.

    Twitter 

    It might not be the biggest social network, but Twitter is still the platform of choice for writers, journalists, business influencers and comedians for a reason: it’s a great way to share ideas and start a conversation fast.

    More reading:

    How to use Twitter, by Julian Shapiro

    Spotify

    Although Spotify doesn’t let just anyone create an artists profile on their platform—you still have to go through a distributor to do that—it’s becoming more similar to open platforms like Soundcloud and YouTube by the day. 

    Today anyone can create a Spotify podcast, for example. Given the platform’s increasingly important place in the music and podcasting ecosystem, it’s hard to ignore if you’re a creator focused on audio.

    The less obvious ones

    Pinterest 

    This might not immediately strike you as a “creator” platform—but it is! 

    Take Pinterest creator UnconventionalSouthernBelle, who uses the platform to publish boards about fashion, business advice, blogging, and other topics. Or Joy Cho, an art and fashion influencer with more than 14 million followers on the platform. 

    Even brands have found a way to leverage Pinterest’s unique inspiration board-based interface—take Lonely Planet for example, which regularly posts travel tips, trivia, destination ideas and loads of other content to the platform.

    Discord 

    Discord is a video, voice and text chat tool all rolled up into one. The way that conversations are organized in the app also closely mirrors Slack, which makes it a great tool for encouraging sustained engagement and conversation

    Discord has become particularly popular in the streaming community in recent years, and for good reason: it’s a simple, straightforward tool that lets you set up and manage a community of users quickly.

    If you already have fans and are looking for a quick way to “onboard” them, Discord is  hard to beat.

    Vimeo

    Looking for a higher-quality, more reliable video streaming platform for your documentary, shortfilm or even feature-length filmmaking? 

    Look no further than Vimeo, which in recent years has transformed from a simple HD video streaming service into a full-service content publishing and monetization platform for amateur and professional filmmakers alike.

    Quora

    This is another platform that creators might overlook, but make no mistake: marketers, influencers and creators have all used Quora to great effect over the recent years. Take Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, who maintains an active presence on the platform and has amassed more than 380,000 followers in the process. 

    The ‘niche’ ones

    One of the biggest developments in the creator economy over the last few years has been the explosion of smaller, genre-specific channels that are tailored towards particular creator types: newsletter writers, streamers, fitness instructors, etc. 

    It’s important not to overlook these smaller platforms when you’re first starting out—below, we’re going to list some of them by creator type.

    Writing

    Newsletter and email publishing tools like Substack, Revue (recently acquired by Twitter) and ConvertKit have all grown increasingly popular over the years as writers scramble to own and monetize their audiences more. 

    If you’re all set for tools and are just looking for someone to teach you how to become a better writer, David Perell’s ‘Write of Passage’ course can be an excellent resource.

    Be sure to also check out Andrew Wilkinson’s excellent Twitter thread on the importance of a healthy email newsletter here.


    Specialized publishing platforms with built-in audiences like WattPad, Tumblr and Medium are particularly good for discovery, which can be a big hurdle for writers who are just starting out and looking for their first audience.

    Finally, with the rise of the SEO content industry, tools and platforms for traditional blogging like WordPress and Ghost remain as popular as ever.

    Video and Streaming

    Video editing tools like inVideo and PlayPlay can help you edit footage from your phone, for your Instagram story about illegally shopping at the Hudson Yards, for example. 

    Graphics editors like Kapwing, music streaming platforms like Triller, and streaming tools like Restream and StreamElements are all aimed at a creator demographic stranded in their homes with a MacBook Pro and not much else.

    Photography and Design

    Don’t have an expensive subscription to the Adobe suite? Online photo editors like Pixlr and Fotor and design tools like Canva, Snappa and PhotoRoom can fill the gap.

    Need to turn a video into a GIF or a shareable snippet? Tools like Giphy, Gfycat and Pinata have you covered. Need advanced animations and editing tools for Instagram stories? Check out Mojo, VSCO, Later and Unfold.

    More reading:

    Twitter thread: How to get started with Figma

    Podcasting, Audio and Music

    Looking for a podcasting tool that is truly all in one? The new Descript app, which lets you handle audio and video editing, transcription and collaboration all in one tool, might be worth checking out.

    Need access to stock music, loops or samples? Artlist, Soundtrap, Landr, Splice and BeatStars could come in handy.

    Need to host your podcast somewhere? PodBean, Megaphone and Anchor might be what you need.

    And of course, don’t forget to check out our Guide to Podcasting, where we dive deep on what you need to know to become a successful podcaster.

    Be sure to also check out investor and podcaster Jason Calacanis’ Twitter thread about what he learned after recording his first 1,200 podcasts here.

    Online courses, fitness and coaching

    Recently there’s been an explosion in tools and platforms geared towards educators, teachers, tutors, and anyone else interested in creating an online course.

    Platforms like Kajabi, Teachable, SkillShare and Udemy are all worth checking out if that’s the direction you’re heading, making it easy to plan, promote, organize and monetize lessons.

    If you’re focused specifically on fitness and/or coaching, tools like Playbook, Salut, Strydal and Walden have all become popular with trainers in recent years, and might be worth checking out as well.

    Part 4: Monetize

    So you’re producing content and you have an audience consuming it. What next? You need to find a way to monetize.

    Strategy #1: Ask for a one-time payment

    If you all you need is a one-time cash infusion and you don’t think you have enough content to start selling memberships or subscriptions, consider starting up a one-time fundraiser or asking your audience for tips

    Popular tools for this option include: Kickstarter, Indiegogo, GoFundMe, Ko-fi, Buy Me a Coffee 

    Strategy #2: Sell advertising 

    Facebook, Instagram and YouTube already do this when you post your content to their platforms, but that doesn’t mean you can’t sell ads against your own content too. 

    Depending on the size of your audience, ad network sales, sponsored content and product placement can all be great ways to monetize an existing content stream.

    Strategy #3: Sell subscriptions

    A one time donation or ad sale is great, but if you plan on making content in the long run you’re probably even better off selling your audience on some kind of subscription or membership.

    Properly setting one of these up can mean the difference between having a hobby and a career, providing you with long-term revenue and allowing you to spend less time monetizing your craft and more time actually doing it.

    Popular subscription-building tools for creators include: Patreon, Twitch, Youtube Channel Memberships and Supercast.

    Strategy #4: Produce physical media and merch

    If you’ve ever been in a band, you know how useful physical merch sales can be when looking for additional revenue streams.

    Merch can be inexpensive to produce, add variety to your product offering, and it’s also usually something fans want anyway—to take away from an in-person meet and greet, to show their allegiance to your art, etc.

    When it comes to developing unique creator merch, it helps to be expansive in your thinking and to try to do something more original than a branded t-shirt. Other popular forms of merch include:

  • Stickers
  • Posters
  • Tote Bags
  • Keychains
  • Journals
  • Socks
  • Decals
  • Lighters

  • When it comes to developing unique creator merch, it helps to be expansive in your thinking and to try to do something more original than a branded t-shirt. Other popular forms of merch include:

    • Stickers 
    • Posters 
    • Magnets
    • Tote bags 
    • Keychains 
    • Hats
    • Socks
    • Lanyards
    • Journals
    • Decals
    • Air fresheners
    • Lighters

    Services and tools like Fanjoy, Teespring, DFTBA, Represent, CrowdMade, MerchLabs and Instaco can be a huge help when producing physical merch.

    Strategy #5: Build and cultivate a community of users

    Whether you’re a celebrity, an influencer, or a Twitch streamer with a modest following, Live and virtual events, VIP meetups and fan clubs have always been great ways to activate and engage a fanbase.

    Popular tools for organizing and encouraging fan communities include: Vibely, MightyNetwork, Zebra, Community, DSM, Circle, Discipline, Media, Oooh.tv, Laylo, Geneva Chat, Bunches, Commsor, Discord and Wavium.

    Strategy #6: Join an influencer agency

    If your audience is big enough and you consider yourself an influencer, you might be able to get some help monetizing your brand from an influencer agency

    These companies usually have partnerships and relationships with big brands, and joining one can be a great way to outsource the monetization question to a professional.

    Some popular influencer marketing agencies include: Mediakix, Pulse Advertising, WHOSAY, Everywhere, Grin, Captiv8, AspireIQ, Tapinfluence, Klear, The Shelf, CreatorIQ, Arthouse, The Plug, Pixlee, Collectively and theAmplify.

    More creator monetization tips

    How big does an audience have to be to monetize it?

    It really depends on how much you think you can earn for every follower, listener or viewer. The larger that amount is, the smaller audience you’ll need to monetize.

    Pricing: how should it work?

    Pricing is where understanding your audience can really pay off—charging too much can turn your audience off, while setting the price too low can mean you’re leaving a lot of value on the table. 

    Some important questions to ask yourself when wrestling with the pricing question include:

    • How much do you need for this to be profitable?
    • What do other similar creators charge?
    • What’s the actual value of what you’re offering people?

    Think offline

    Internet users have a lot of ad fatigue these days. One way to engage new audiences and potentially bring in new paying users is through lower-tech, offline methods.

    When marketing your newly-monetized content stream, think about placing ads in traditional media, like local radio ads, TV ads and billboards

    You’d be surprised at how reasonably priced some of these options can be, and the “clickthrough” rate on in-person advertising like bus and subway cards, physical handouts/brochures and physical mail can be orders of magnitude higher than web advertising.

    Get all the basic, not-sexy marketing stuff right

    Approach your operation like a marketer would and start taking care of the less glamorous parts of your content marketing operation. 

    Have you started building out your email list yet? Are you keeping active on multiple social media platforms? How often are similar creators posting? Are you matching their pace?

    Talk to your audience and tell them what to do

    Creators are often scared of sounding too much like they have something to sell to their audience, but the truth is that often the best way to get your audience to do something is to just ask them. No one is going to read your mind here.

    If you want all of your Twitter followers to follow you on Instagram, tell them to do it.

    If you have a new subscription or product that you want your audience to buy, tell them to do it. Don’t be afraid of advertising yourself to your own audience

    Creator Case Study #1: Domino Santantonio

    Who are they:

    Domino Santantonio is a professional drummer from Montreal, Canada who posts videos of herself playing covers of songs by popular artists like Dua Lipa and Ariana Grande. 

    YouTube: @DominoDrum

    TikTok: @dominosantantonio

    How they got started:

    Santantonio’s been posting videos to YouTube since 2013, but her channel didn’t really take off until last year’s COVID shutdown, when a friend started encouraging her to post to TikTok. 

    “[I thought] ‘Well, I only use TikTok for cats and dog videos.’ But then one night, I was like, ‘maybe I could give it a try,'” she told Global News, which turned out to be a great decision.

    Her first TikTok video—a play-along to Shakira’s ‘Hips Don’t Lie’—got millions of views within a few hours. Her TikTok now has over half a million followers, and her YouTube following has also swelled by tens of thousands. 

    After appearing in the company’s ‘It Starts on TikTok’ marketing campaign, Santantonio is now committed to building out her presence as a creator, and plans to combine it with her professional drumming practice once she starts playing gigs again.

    “I want to film myself, in live shows, and show this other side of my career, that I haven’t been able to show the crowd since the last year,” she said.

    What they’re already doing well:

    Multi-channel

    Santantonio is a classic example of a creator leveraging multiple channels to maximize their chances of capturing an audience. 

    The moment she started to find success on TikTok, she started posting longer-format YouTube play-alongs as well, giving her newly-found TikTok audience somewhere to go.

    Genuine content

    The people reacting to and commenting under Santantonio’s videos frequently refer to how genuinely excited and happy she seems to be when performing. 

    This is a perfect case study in how being genuinely excited about the content your putting out can be contagious.

    Consistent

    Since her initial success on TikTok, Santantonio has followed a consistent publishing schedule, releasing new YouTube videos at least once a month and publishing new TikTok videos once every few days.

    What they could do next:

    The basics

    Although she’s already found hundreds of thousands of followers, Santantonio could probably drive even more if she included more calls to action—i.e. reminders to like, share and subscribe—in her videos.

    Cross-promotion

    She could also start exploring the other parts of the drummer/musician ecosystem on TikTok and YouTube, and consider collaborating and cross-promoting her channel with other more established creators.

    Selling content

    Dominoes audience is probably large enough for her to start selling some kind of niche, personalized content—a drumming course, perhaps, or subscriptions to exclusive content like behind the scenes content, longer versions of covers, unreleased videos, etc. 

    Creator Case Study #2: Xue Zhaofeng

    Who are they: 

    Xue Zhaofeng is a professor and independent economist from Beijing, China who publishes an economics course series on iGet, a paid “knowledge-sharing platform” that is popular in China.

    How they got started:

    Professor Xue made waves in 2018 when his course became the most popular one on the platform, attracting an audience of more than 250,000 students, netting him millions of dollars in annual revenue and leading him to leave his economics professorship at the prestigious Peking University.

    What they’re already doing well:

    Do what you’re good at

    Professor Xue was already a popular economics teacher at Peking University, with students praising him for his ability to translate complicated topics into simple, easy to understand language and examples. 

    Moving his teaching over to the iGet platform probably didn’t involve a lot of new content creation—he was just moving it from one platform (the university) onto another, larger one (iGet).

    Sell subscriptions 

    iGet sells one-year course subscriptions for 199 RMB, or about 30 USD. That’s much less than students would have paid Professor Xue in course fees to teach them at a university, but it also netted him much more revenue than he would have if he had stayed at Peking University.

    It really makes you think how many more academics and professionals there are out there like Professor Xue, who could be bringing in a whole lot more revenue by considering a different monetization model.

    What they could do next:

    More content

    The content of undergraduate economics courses doesn’t change much year-to-year, so Professor Xue might be able to reuse most of the content from his course every year, leaving time and space to create more, complementary content like study guides, textbooks, and other more advanced courses.

    Multi-channel

    Professor Xue could also find entire new audiences by creating literally no additional content at all by simply expanding his course to a second platform. For example, he could partner with a translator and try to bring the course to an English speaking audience. 

    Creator Case Study #3: Alex Ainouz

    Who are they: 

    Alex Ainouz is a YouTuber from Paris, France who publishes informative videos about French cooking techniques, culinary experiments, and recipes aimed at kitchen beginners.

    YouTube: @FrenchGuyCooking

    Twitter: @frenchguycookin

    Instagram: @frenchguycooking

    Facebook: @frenchguycooking

    How they got started:

    Back in 2013 when he was still working his dayjob at a digital marketing agency, Ainouz decided to combine his love of photography and cooking with the skills he was learning managing his clients’ social media accounts. 

    After initially struggling to attract an audience, he entered and placed third in a YouTube competition run by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, netting Ainouz thousands of followers in a single day and turning him into a YouTube cooking celebrity.

    What they’re already doing well:

    The celebrity cosign

    Jamie Oliver isn’t the only celebrity chef Ainouz has gotten a boost from. In 2018, legendary French chef Jacques Pepin responded to one of Ainouz’s omelette recipes. Last year a famous Italian pizzaiolo sent a similar response to a video Ainouz made about pizza, and a few months later a professional chef let Ainouz film a video about sauces in his three Michelin star kitchen in Paris.

    Ainouz has mastered cross-promotion, using collaborations and shout outs to enter into conversations with experts in his field and exposing him to new audiences.

    Original and genuine

    It’s difficult to categorize or put videos that Ainouz posts to his channel into a box. They aren’t quite recipes, the videos aren’t instructional like the other celebrity chef videos you’re used to watching, and what he’s making isn't quite a food documentary either. 

    Ainouz’s videos are about his passion and curiosity for food. They’re just as much about custom kitchen knives and sourcing really good black pepper as they are about him: his obsessiveness, his mistakes and frustrations, and the genuine joy he seems to feel when he learns something new. Ainouz’s enthusiasm is infectious.

    Simple monetization model

    Ainouz’s channel uses ads to monetize, but he doesn’t hit you over the head with them, which is wise considering how add-filled the platform has become in recent years. He sticks to one corporate sponsor per episode, briefly shouting them out at the beginning of the video and then inserting a longer ad read somewhere near the middle.

    These ad reads are effective but also unintrusive: they’re separate from the rest of the video, but they also usually feature Ainouz himself talking about or even walking the viewer through the product. In a recent episode sponsored by NordVPN, he walks the viewer through the company’s website and product sitting in front of his computer. They’re good ads mainly because they don’t feel like ads.

    Ainouz also has a Patreon—but again, he doesn’t beat you over the head with it, and you wouldn’t know it as a casual viewer. Usually the sign you see of it is in the credits, where Ainouz thanks his Patrons. 

    Airtight execution

    Ainouz is clearly a really savvy marketer who knows how to capture and engage an audience, and has an impeccable attention to detail. 

    He does all the little things right: mentioning and encouraging you to watch his other videos whenever appropriate, constantly engaging with comments and messages from his viewers, and confidently reminding his viewers to do things like sign up for his newsletter in the comments, for example.

    What they could do next:

    Take the next step

    Ainouz’s system is really hard to critique: he’s on every major social network, he posts regularly, he keeps his content fresh and experimental by imbuing it with his enthusiasm and curiosity, and he gives his viewers every opportunity to support, engage with and react to his content.

    Although Ainouz isn’t a typical celebrity chef, he’s already taken huge steps in that direction, releasing a Jamie Oliver-endorsed cookbook and swapping vlogs with culinary greats like Jacques Pepin. 

    One logical next step would be to borrow a page from other popular chefs on YouTube like the Dumpling Sisters or Bon Appetit’s Brad Leone and start posting recipes and other more typical chef creator content—to his own channel or to another dedicated recipe channel.

    One other thing that you see in other food-related YouTube content that you don’t see in Ainouz’s is other people. Getting help from other on-screen talent could help him diversify his content while also taking some pressure off of Ainouz’s shoulders.

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