Recently, we sat down with content creator and lifestyle influencer Kera Aryiel (IG @keraariyel).
Together, we discussed the toll that social media can take on mental health and private life.
Founder of Shift Management, a digital talent agency, Kera offered insights on how to work with brands, tokenism, setting boundaries, empowering online creators, and other crucial topics.
Siham: Let’s start with your story. How did you get started in the influencer space? How has your role as an influencer changed over time?
Kera: I started about four years ago. At first, I was a college YouTuber. I would talk about my college life, my life in Germany. My dad was in the military so I was there for a while. From there, I transitioned into lifestyle and fashion content.
Today, I focus more on the back gig, as I do talent management and I help other creators get deals. I started my own company called Shift Management. That’s where most of my time is going today. I still like doing influencing, it’s always going to be a part of me. I do it mostly for fun now.
What are things you wish someone had told you when you started off? Something that, now that you look back, you tell yourself “it would have helped to know this.”
As far as making a career out of influencing, the first thing I wish anybody had told me was to make sure to be brand-friendly from the start. Make sure you’re tagging brands so your profiles look professional.
When I first started I really didn’t care about the brand deals. I wasn’t necessarily trying to make the most brandable content. So when I actually decided to make a job of it, I didn’t have something that brands would see and say “okay this makes sense, I want to work with her.” Even in the beginning when you’re not making money, it’s important to show brands that even if you’re a small creator and you don’t have a big platform yet, you have the potential to create what they actually want.
And then on the mental health aspect, I’d say to set values for yourself. Especially with social media, it’s tough to set the “this is the job” vs. “this is my free time” boundaries. Create a schedule for yourself where you set times and days on and off of social media. That’s where a lot of content creators get super confused. Social media tangles too much of ourselves into our job.
What are some struggles you encounter as a creator, in terms of motivation, inspiration, scheduling, planning, organization?
It constantly varies. My biggest struggle at this moment is discipline. A lot of creators struggle with discipline. Although you’re having a lot of fun, make sure you have your own schedule by creating deadlines for yourself.
As for the creative aspect, I’ve never really struggled with it! Inspiration can sometimes fade when you’re working with what’s trending and paying attention to what people want, instead of worrying about what you want. A huge issue for a lot of creators is running out of that fuel and not knowing what’s next. In this case, just take a step back, and really decide what’s important to you and what you’re excited to create. If you’re not excited about creating, your content is not going to look genuine. Always be genuine because brands can see that, your audience can see that.
Do you know of any online community or Facebook groups where influencers give each other tips and learnings, or just show solidarity?
I personally haven’t joined any major groups. I don’t think there is one place where influencers can go for information or emotional support when it comes to social media.
I think people find other creators that are like them and they speak amongst each other. That’s pretty much what I’ve done. I found other creators I bonded with, we talk about our jobs, we talk about influencing. That’s why I was so excited when my mentor Ali Grant told me about the Createur app. I was like “wow, this is so important. We need a space where everything can all be put together.”
There’s one place, it’s called Women In Influencer Marketing (WIIM), the owner Jessy, she’s great. She does a lot of networking and Zoom calls, just trying to get the community together.
What do you value in a collaboration with a brand, and what are red flags?
The biggest thing for me right now is holding brands accountable. Make sure that a brand genuinely wants to work with you because they have a genuine interest and it’s not performative. A lot of creators that are people of color and women that I have met, and I can only speak from that side, have said that brands are super performative when it comes to who they choose to work with.
I always want to make sure that I and the influencers I work with have genuine partnerships. I think that’s the most important thing because when it looks organic to you, to the brand, and to the audience, it’s the most impactful content. When I’m working with brands, I try to make sure that the brand is super authentic with their voice, what they stand for, their mission, and that they don’t use me as a token.
Another thing while I’m on this topic is making sure that, while the brand values my voice, they value my work as well. So making sure that brands are paying accordingly. I’m really glad that the Createur app has this brand contact where you can speak directly to brands and tell them directly who you are. That’s a big thing, right—just knowing that you’re speaking to the right person. Because sometimes, when you’re not talking to the right person, it’s confusing and it makes the creator, who might be pitching for the first time, super insecure about what they’re saying.
What do you say to a brand that approaches you with an unpaid partnership? Do you see it as a sign of disrespect?
Honestly, I think that unpaid partnerships are always valuable. If you want the brand to value you and to see that you’re serious, sometimes you have to do things for free. It shows you genuinely care about them, which makes it more authentic in the end.
If it’s a brand you love and want to work with in the long run, you should always do unpaid partnerships. You have to set boundaries though. Feel comfortable telling the brand “no” to certain aspects. Or tell them that you’re willing to do this round with the product and no payment in the hope that you can continue this partnership in the future. Let them know you want them to keep you in mind anytime they have a campaign going on. Know where you draw the line and have an idea of how you want that partnership to evolve in the future.
Has your relationship with your community changed over the years, especially going from college YouTuber to lifestyle to businesswoman?
Sure, when you evolve as a person so will the people that you attract. As I grew older, some people stayed, some people left. That shows that you’re growing. You want to make sure that your audience always comes first by showing them someone who’s 100% genuine. Be yourself in everything you do, because like I said, they can see that. It shows when you’re not being authentic and true to yourself.
Was it hard to transition from college YouTubing to lifestyle content?
I think it was. At first, I was holding on to the creator that people wanted me to be. I was holding onto a personality that was no longer who I was. That’s the only reason why it was hard. I started YouTube when I was 18. I’m not saying that I’m a grown woman now, but I’m 21. Within that time span, you do change, you learn and grow as a person so I had to figure out who I was. Being young, you don’t know exactly what’s right and wrong. I just thought “that’s what people like, so I have to keep doing it,” and it came off very fake. People noticed that and the views went down, and mentally I was drained and I didn’t feel like myself.
As soon as I said “okay, that’s not who I am anymore, that’s not what I want to do anymore, that’s not how I talk, that’s not how I act,” things changed for me. And now I talk to an audience that feels true to myself and that makes me feel good, because they represent what I want out of myself.
For the longest time, I didn’t know who I was. And that’s why I talked about boundaries with social media because I truly lost myself. Working as an online brand, being a persona, showing your life to the world while hitting those numbers, it all gets very overwhelming. It’s a lot of pressure. My advice is always prioritizing your mental health and your true self at the risk of sacrificing viewers and losing some people’s interest.
Would you recommend creators switching content types if they feel like changing?
I wouldn’t advise making any drastic changes to the topics you cover. People have to adapt and see if they want to stay or not. The creator has to adapt their mindset too. Don’t stop what you’re doing cold turkey. Slowly transition so that people know what’s going on. It’s a job, after all: you don’t want to make any drastic decision that could hinder the money-making that you need to survive.
What type of content would sound useful and relatable to you? We talked a lot about mental health awareness and it’s an angle that I really want to incorporate into Createur content, in addition to how-tos. Is there anything major that I’m missing in terms of important content to cover?
I think you guys hit all the points that people want to know about. Like answering those questions: “where do I start?” “How do I pitch?” “What do I put in that pitch?” “What do I put in that title?” “What do you say to a brand to make it sweet and quick, while also making sure that they still get all the information they need?” “How long do you wait to follow up?”. Even though these are simple things, for brand new creators, they just don’t know. That would be a big thing for me.
Another huge thing is, how to get a brand’s attention before you even reach out. As for raising awareness around mental well-being in social media, I love that route you’re taking. It’s so important.
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