Social networks have opened up many opportunities. And for some, the future is built around likes, clicks and follows.
COLUMBIA, SC – With the growing popularity of social media has come the rise of social media influencers.
These are people who have attracted large audiences to platforms like Instagram, Tik Tok, Snapchat, and Youtube because of their charisma, knowledge, or passion for a specific topic.
Two of these influencers live in the Midlands: Jessica Avent, a stay-at-home mom, and Kelvin Davis, a former college art teacher and father of two daughters.
Avent has over 770,000 followers on Tik Tok and over 50,000 followers on Instagram. “I wasn’t really expecting that, honestly, considering how quickly my social networks have grown,” Avent said.
At first, Avent said she was only posting videos of herself and her son. “And then I saw on my ‘For You’ page the content of the anime,” Avent said. An anime fan, Avent decided to embark on creating content inspired by this style of animation to express himself and make friends. “And then all of a sudden my videos started blowing up.”
Davis’s rise through the social media ranks began in 2013 with a blog. “The purpose of the blog was to create a space for men of all shapes and sizes to really feel confident, you know, it was all about body positivity,” Davis said. The blog has also served as a space to advocate for mental health.
Davis says people would google “male body positivity” and that his blog and Instagram would be one of the first things to show up. “Just out of public curiosity, I kind of became like that voted voice of male body positivity. That’s kind of what helped me step up, and then in 2015 it skyrocketed. ”
In 2018, Davis quit teaching and became a full-time influencer, model, author, speaker, and racial justice advocate.
His brand, celebrated across the country, has earned him more than 100,000 Instagram followers.
It also allowed him to work with well-known companies including Target, Gap, Nike, Timberland, and Academy Sports. “I was lucky enough to have so many that I can’t even count,” Davis said.
These partnerships are an example of influencer marketing. “So very often you will find that brands or businesses or even advertising companies themselves over the last few years have intentionally spent a larger portion of their budget working with influencers,” said Wesley Stevens, instructor at USC’s School of Journalism. and mass communications.
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Influencers have become so popular; companies spend billions of dollars to work with them. Stevens explained that roughly $ 14 billion was distributed for influencer marketing specifically last year.
Businesses are willing to spend big bucks because they know that social media influencers can extend their marketing reach and give them access to specific groups of people.
“More and more brands and businesses want to partner with them (influencers) in part because it’s easier to access those type of specific groups or niche that an influencer might be able to relate to. talk to or with whom he’s already established a relationship of trust, ”Stevens said.
These partnerships allow some people to earn a living through influencing work. Stevens says it can be a lucrative career, but cautions that clicks don’t always turn into money.
“It takes a long time (and) to inject resources.” Stevens explained. “Even then, it’s not guaranteed. It’s hard to get started. There are clearly a lot of challenges to getting into a position where you can make a viable living, do influencing work, but it does happen. And it happens much more often than it ever has. ”
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One of the hurdles influencers have to overcome is negative comments. “People don’t seem to understand how much a creator can hate,” Avent said.
She says she received negative comments about being “too dark” to cosplay certain characters, as well as demeaning comments. “I know a lot of designers have been there, and I don’t feel alone in this,” Avent said.
She is currently taking a break from social media to focus on her son and his sanity, but plans to resume posting. She is also active on Twitch and Discord.
“I really hope to at least give the POC (people of color) community some encouragement,” Avent said. “I really want them to feel like they can really cosplay whoever they want. Life is too short, and I feel like you can’t really let it get to you.”
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Davis has also handled his fair share of negative posts. “You have to be very strong mentally to do this job,” Davis said. “People will send you direct messages which, if you are not strong enough, will damage your mind.”
Davis says he doesn’t mind enemies and wants to focus on spreading positivity and love.
“My dad always told me that once you do something you love, it won’t look like his job, and that’s really how I feel when I wake up,” Davis said. “I just feel blessed that people see the authenticity in me and want to be a part of my journey.”
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