Tal Hacmon
January 16, 2022

Creator Spotlight

Kelsie Exley on how to reach 300K followers on Tiktok in 12 month

Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Creation Station, our very own original content series, where we sit down with key figures in the creator economy and talk about content, technology, and culture.

I'm happy to have Kelsey Exly on the show. She's a TikTok influencer with a big following and a big community who helps people thrive in the online world.

So, Kelsey, for those who don't know, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hi. Thanks for having me on. As Tal said, I'm Kelsey. I'm 23 years old, and I started online on social media just over a year ago, and it's been a fantastic journey. I kind of started in social media management, and that sort of ended up growing my own social media platforms to the point where now I'm able to kind of do that full time and create content, which has been sort of a secret dream of mine my whole life. So it kind of fell into my lap, which is the coolest thing.

Amazing and super impressive that it's been only one year. So you got a big following on Tik Tok?

Yes, I know. It's crazy. Yeah. I only started my TikTok in January of last year, so I guess it's been, almost exactly a year since I started my Tik Tok. I started on Instagram first, but TikTok is definitely where it just took off.

Amazing Can you tell us a little bit about how everything began? Let's go back.

Yes. Go back. So, yeah, this was in 2020. I think September of 2020. I know a lot of people play relate. They kind of got laid off all their jobs.

There wasn't a lot going on. I was kind of in a weird place. I didn't know what I was going to do going forward. I wasn't doing any jobs that I was passionate about at all, and I've always wanted to get into the social media industry. I just didn't know how to navigate that or what that was going to look like for me. And I actually decided to go into social media management and be the behind-the-scenes person because I really enjoy social media. I know a lot about it already, but I just went and learned as much as I could about social media marketing.

And I created my Instagram account @sociallykels and my TikTok account @sociallykels. And I really only created those platforms to try and get clients as a social media manager. So I was trying to promote my business as a social media manager. And my strategy, I guess, was to post social media tips to just kind of position myself as an expert, get some authority to get some clients. And it worked. Eventually. After a few months, I was growing a following, and it turned out a lot of people were just following me because they liked my tips, and they liked what value I had to bring.

And I was getting social media management clients. But as well as that, I was growing this big following. So then after a few months, sort of brand started reaching out to me. I was getting these more unique opportunities outside of social media management. So I kind of got to transform out of social media management into the content creator world, which was really cool and unexpected.

Amazing. Very nice. If we discuss some creator tips. Would you say creating your authority as an influencer is something important?

You also believe it's a valuable thing that this really helps you create the following. Yeah, I think so. For sure. Creating authority is the biggest thing because you want to sort of pick your industry or your niche, the thing that you really know a lot about, and, yeah, create some kind of authority there because that's how you're really going to build an audience. You're going to get people to trust you, whatever your goal maybe with your platform, you want people to trust you. I think that's always a good goal. And you want people to build an engaging community, not just people that are going to watch your videos and never come back for more.

You want people to want more from you and want to engage with you and that sort of thing. So, yeah, that's huge for sure.

Yeah. Absolutely. I agree. When you started, did you find any out-of-the-ordinary ways to build up the following something that was unusual?

I think the biggest thing that I realized was that educational content was huge because I don't think I ever thought of it that way. Growing up, I think a lot of people always were, oh, it'd be so cool to be an influencer, a content creator. And you think of it for lack of a better word, selfishly,  you want to post about yourself because you're like, oh, I just want people to be interested in me. But I knew people weren't really going to be interested in me, but they're interested in what I had to offer education-wise. So that's sort of why they followed me to get that value in education. So that was sort of the switch up.

Absolutely. Yeah. I feel that also on TikTok. This is a type of content that is going very well, meaning educational content, which really brings value, and then Tiktok also pushes these videos to more people. You're definitely a good example of that.

Yeah. I didn't realize that at first. Then when I saw my following building, I was like, oh, my gosh. Yeah. That is the switch up in your brain when you're, oh, you have to think about others. You have to think about your audience when you're posting, not yourself.

That's the thing. Yeah. Good advice. And what would be some words you use to describe yourself as a creator at this point in your life. At this point, I would describe, I mean, definitely authentic. I think I've always really strived to be authentic and transparent with my story. I shared the highs and lows, so I would say authentic and informative.

I give a lot of just straight-to-the-point value and tips, which I think a lot like no gatekeeping. So those would be, the two main words, I think.

Great description. Nice. So let's discuss Monetization as a TikTok influencer. When did you start to make money through your channel?

Yeah. So I think this was about maybe March. So only three months into having my Tik Tok account. I think I was at about 30 or 50,000 followers, and I had my first brand deal. It was actually TikTok UK.

They reached out because they were doing a campaign about learning on Tiktok with the hashtag learn on TikTok. And I was posting educational videos. So they were like, hey, be a part of this campaign. We'll pay you this much if you just use the hashtag learn on TikTok, basically, and post pretty much what I was already posting. So that was crazy to me.

I was telling myself “what they're going to pay me to post on Tik Tok?” That was a really cool moment for sure.

Nice. Did it feel like an accomplishment?

I feel like it was definitely a moment where I was like, oh, this could be a lot more than I was planning on it being because even though when my following was growing, I never in my head was thinking that I could make money monetizing the platforms. I was just thinking, oh, I'm going to get more social media management clients. That was as far as my brain was going. And then I think when I got that brand deal, whatever you want to call it, I was saying oh, there's a whole other world that I could have right now.

That is what I call the Creator economy. So do you have any strategy that is working for you and for Monetization or working with brands or Advertisers?

Yeah, definitely. I think the main thing to get brand deals and stuff like that is to have a very specific audience. And I think to stick with what you have and also what you accept matters, too, because I do get a lot of deals that I will not accept because they don't align with my audience. They don't align with me as a creator. And I think that's something hard that you have to learn because, of course, you want.

If people are offering you money to make a Tik Tok it's of course they want to do it. But you have to really think - is this going to make sense? You don't want your followers to start being, oh okay. She's just posting a bunch of paid stuff that isn't even helping us. I really do brand deals with companies or brands or products or things like that that I genuinely think my followers will gain value from and myself. So I think that's a good strategy because that way you're going to always make sure that your audience is staying with you and they're trusting you. And that's really what it's all about.

Great answer, and it also relates to what we discussed at the beginning about being authentic. So even keeping the brand deals aligned with your content serves you with probably more advertisers and keeps your followers loyal. That's definitely great advice.

How do you stay motivated? Tell us a little bit about motivation, because eventually you probably need to really create a huge amount of content. And people sometimes think it's very easy to be a content creator, but it's eventually hard work. So what keeps you motivated?

Yeah, definitely. Content creation could definitely be hard work, and it takes a lot of imagination and brainpower. Luckily, I really enjoy it. So it's usually very fun for me. But there are moments where you need to get yourself motivated.

And honestly, I do a lot of self-development, I read a lot of self-development books and podcasts and things like that. And I think that really transfers over to content creation. Honestly, because you can kind of just remind yourself you're in such a great position. I can always feel so much gratitude for what I do, and even if you're not feeling it at the moment, it's still something that I really love to do. And also kind of listening to myself, too. If I really can't think of any content at the moment, I let myself have a break because you shouldn't create content.

If you're kind of not in it, you want to make sure that you're creating content. So I think it's a good balance between, yes, giving yourself some Grace to only create content when you're really feeling like it, and also kind of pushing yourself to be like, come on, can you really not do it right now? Can we just think of a few ideas? So it's kind of a balance between the two.

Nice. Can you tell us about your biggest brand deal?

My biggest brand deal would have to be I know it's kind of a switch between two because I had recently my first five-figure brand deal, which was mind-blowing. That was probably my biggest one. That was really awesome. You're going from mind blown to mind-blowing. That's a good path every week. I'm like, what? It's so great.

That was definitely my biggest one yet. And then also, I have an ongoing content creation deal with a brand right now. That is really awesome. So that was a big one for me, too, because that's sort of a long-term thing rather than just one or two videos. So those two are really big ones for me. Amazing. And as we probably both know, there's an increase in companies that hire content creators.

Did any company hire you?

Yeah. I think it's huge and there’s high growth in creators working for companies. I always said to my social media management clients, I always said, hey, it's so important for you to be in front of the camera as a business owner, you need to be the face of your brand, and now I'm kind of switching being like, you don't have to be the face for your brand, but you need a face for your brand. So if it's not going to be you, it needs to be somebody. So I think that's why a lot of brands, especially bigger brands, don't have the time to be on their phones making videos all the time. This is a huge thing that brands are just going to now be hiring creators to be the face of the brand, which yeah a few brands have hired me to do that.

And I'm doing that right now with the brand. And it's super fun because you make sure that you're kind of lined up with their individual. Well, of course, so that you can create content that you're interested in. And it kind of is a win-win for everybody because the brands getting this good content and good engagement from their audience and you as a creator are getting to create content and make money from it. So it's a really cool thing. It's definitely going to be more known about, I think in the next little while because I think a lot of people don't know about it yet. Absolutely.

Yeah. We also predict that more and more content creators will join companies and brands and get jobs in the companies themselves. That definitely shows us there's a big increase in that.

Let's speak a little bit about content creators and influencers in general, or maybe more about stigmas associated with content creators that you were aware of, and now you feel it's different.

I don't know, I think it comes from a place of almost let’s say jealousy? Maybe. Obviously, this is a fantastic job. And some people definitely think it's not for them. Not everybody wants to be an influencer content creator.

That's totally fine. But it doesn't mean that it's not a real job. I think that's my biggest thing when people are like, oh, that's not a real job. Well, yes, it is. I think it's just people's minds haven't caught up yet with the social media world, and first of all, how much money there is to be made and how valuable it is, influencer marketing is huge. It's the best marketing right now for brands.

So I think that people's mindset is just like, oh, you just scroll on Instagram for a living. No, that's not what it is. It's literally marketing. It's being advertised. It's just absolutely not normalized enough yet. But now being in the industry, I can see so much more of the behind the scenes of why this is so valuable, and I can see that it's helping brands and that it's converting sales and all that stuff. So I think that when you're not in it, it's easy to say, oh, yeah all those people are just taking selfies. Oh, so stupid. But it's not. It's definitely not, and I totally agree about what you said about influencer marketing.

It also connects to Apple changing the tracking on their apps, which decreased results in other platforms, such as Facebook ads, and it will definitely bring a huge increase in influencer marketing with deep communities and strong communities like yours. So for the brands who are reading this interview, Don't forget. So speaking about the stigma, tell us about a day in your life?

I think something great about being a content creator is that you can kind of make your own schedule. Almost so for me, I kind of like it when all my days are different. I really don't need a routine that much. So I'm totally fine with waking up in the morning and being like, I'm just going to check my email. What do I have to do today? I usually will just write a to-do list of things that I need to get done that day -  What content do I want to batch today? What brands do I need to talk to today? Like, that sort of thing. So personally, I kind of have every day is different, but it always involves being at my computer, being at my office, having my ring light, creating content, coming up with concepts, and a lot of the times you are coming up with concepts and then sending them off to the brand for approval before you even film or you're filming and then sending that to them.

It's a lot of back and forth. I think that people don't realize it's not just “oh, I made one takeoff, It took me ten minutes, My day is over”. You are really coming up with all these different concepts and collaborating with brands and coming up with your own content for your platform. So, yeah, it's a lot of emailing and filming. That's about it for sure.

And for creators who will watch the video, would you say you're doing more batches of content at the beginning of a month or it's really spread out the entire month?

Yeah. I think everyone's different. You kind of have to find your own groove for me. Personally, I do it spread out throughout the month, mostly because I honestly enjoy it. I get if you don't enjoy it too much, you would only want it to be, maybe once a week you're really filming. But I film most days of the week because I just really enjoy it. So I'll kind of make two or three a day rather than making 20 in one day.

That's kind of what I found works for me. Everyone's a little bit different. Yeah, for sure.

Now it's the hardest question. I hope you're ready - Fun fact.

Yes. A fun fact about me is that I actually had a YouTube channel growing up, which I don't know if anyone's ever going to be able to find it. But I made an insane amount of YouTube videos, I was making music videos, and I was totally trying to be a YouTuber. You're also a singer. Yeah. I was really trying to be a YouTuber when I was, and I kind of gave up on the dream.

And now look at me. I'm back creating content from the back door. But that YouTube channel just pulls so bad we will delete this part. Don't worry. Yeah.

Funny. Nice. Okay. So a couple of last questions before we wrap up the interview, let's speak about the future of creator, economy and creators. What do you want to accomplish as a creator?

As a creator, I would want to accomplish that's a good question. I feel just growing my community even more and coming up with new ways to connect with my audience. If new platforms come out or I have new ideas, like having live events, just getting even more collaborative with my audience, I think, is my biggest goal.

And in your mind, what the future holds for creators?

I think there's a huge future because content is only getting so much content being created, and there's only more and more demand for it. So there's so much room for anybody that wants to do this. I think that is something that's really going to help a lot of people's minds because I think they think, oh, there's so many people on TikTok. There are so many people making videos but there genuinely is room for so many people because it's a growing economy. We've been saying, every brand is going to need the content creator, and you don't need a huge following for this either. I think that the future of content creation is going to be that you don't need all these people following you because you're just creating the content for brands.

You don't even need a personal brand. You can have both, of course. But I think people shouldn't be discouraged if you are just making content. There's room for you to just create content for a living.

Absolutely. And you are an amazing example of this. So last question. Give people who aspire to be creators an interesting tip or advice on how to become a creator?

Yeah, my biggest advice is definitely. I know people might hate hearing this by now, but niching down. Honestly, especially for starting out. You need to find your thing meaning what industry you are in and why are you unique in it? You need to be giving specific value and give people a reason to follow you. So I know a lot of people think, oh, I want to do a bunch of different niches so I can reach more people, but it's kind of counterintuitive.

If you do that, you need to be really specific at first, especially because that's what brands want. Brands want somebody who's going to be really specific to their brand if that makes sense. So it's going to be easier to get brand deals or content creation deals if you are just super specific with who you're posting for or what you're posting about.

So, creators out there, there you have a great tip from Kelsey. So Kelsie, thanks again, and we look forward to seeing your future success!

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