"Influencer" is a buzzword that has been iterated and reiterated time and time again as social media has altered the way we receive news, become put on to brands, and like what we like.
Alex Wolf is one of the many millennial influencers out there, and placing her stamp on the social media game one post at a time and with masterful creations like her book Resonate: For Anyone Who Wants To Build An Audience. What some of you might not know, the award-winning author has been on the internet for as long as she can remember, even before it developed into the beast it is today. Alex began her brand-building prowess with not-so-humble beginnings as the previous founder of Boss Babe, the well-known mecca for all things entrepreneurial (and with an incomparable female-focused following to match).
Alex WolfThe Culture Supplier
Shortly after the brand took off, Alex realized that it just wasn't something that she was passionate about anymore and opted to sell the business. She chose to focus on things that mattered to her, like human connection and how the advancements of technology affect it. In her book, Alex provides a detailed breakdown on how social media culture has contributed to the resounding feeling of loneliness and why authenticity will always be in. "If you use it (social media) the way we are conditioned to now, to only show off and follow people broadcasting the most flattering moments of life, the sensation of loneliness will crawl right over you like a demon," Alex tells xoNecole.
For her, one's power in the digital age will always lie in their ability to resonate.
No matter how advanced the algorithms of the Internet become, they just can't seem to master the science of resonating connection. Businesses like Snapchat create ads done in poor taste that actually appeal to none of our interests. And in attempts to compete with the big dogs we, the artists, the influencers, the people, curate perfect feeds to create magazine-worthy aesthetics and drop quotes from dead poets that pair perfectly with an artsy picture of oranges (swiped from Pinterest of course). I'm not judging, I've done it too. The corporate rat race has been replaced with a social media rat race of sorts.
We pine over likes and followers and attend webinars on "engagement"; but it seems the more we post and scroll, the lonelier we feel. Are we missing the whole point? "To be alive is to share together the experience of being human – we all get to feel what it's like to want, to wish, to have, to lose. The more we remember that, the less we'll panic when it feels like we're going through this alone," Alex shares.
Somehow we've allowed these screens and the images on them to isolate us into believing that everyone else is exempt from the daily human struggle to live, freely and happily. The most popular and influential of influencers are not those that portray an attitude of perfection, but rather the Luvvies and the Issa Raes of the world that trade in "perfection" for "authenticity." In her book Resonate, Alex notes that we can get away with skipping some of the most popular books on marketing if you replace them with ones on psychology and anthropology.
Artists like Cardi B built their fan bases simply by being themselves - unfiltered, omitting the need for marketing strategies and overly-produced social media accounts. They hop on a live with the babies running around in the background and do what they do. Their audiences connects with them simply because they can relate and see themselves in the stories they tell through their art.
Resonating connections are fostered and created from those "Oh, you too girl?" moments. The split second where you pause and nod in agreement, realizing that someone else gets it. The involuntary "mmmph" you let out when taking in the latest fire mixtape with punch lines so vivid that they literally punch you in the gut. It's that same resonating connection that created a stan out of Stan (think 2000 Eminem).
Alex reminds us that it's about being compassionate with ourselves about our truths, and to not just wear our truths on the inside, but outside as well. "It works as signage. Showing how accommodating you are with your humanness, which will attract others who will be accommodating with it as well."
Success happens when you give people no choice but to accept you as you are.
Creatives and Authenticity
The 26-year-old Brooklyn native has managed to navigate adulting thus far without a "real" job. For that, her inclination towards creativity receives all the blame. And by extension, as a creative, she believes that the concept of "professionalism" is beside the point when trying to change the world or be authentic. She's done her fair share of research, in combination with lived experience, and concludes that much of how the world runs has nothing to do with professionalism. While she isn't suggesting that we walk around cursing like a sailor, rocking your name chain and Jordans, she is asking that if that's who you are, please bring her into the room with you when you decide that you're ready to stake your claim in the world and find your tribe.
Speaking of our tribe, we all have that friend with the painfully dope work who refuses to put themselves out there and maximize their potential. In Resonate, Alex refers to this period in the creative career path as the Starving Artist Phase – you know the stage where you associate making money with being evil, as if there is some type of honor in struggling because you're surviving off your last gig for the next three months. As stated by philosopher Alan Watts, there's a paradigm shift that has to take place where we realize that "money is a system of 'cosmic bookkeeping'."
It's easy to see how and why this would confuse a creative whose sole mission is to simply make dope ish, but Alex wants us to remember that the more we realize what it actually is, the less intimidating it becomes. You can still create authentically and run a profitable business while remaining free.
"The way to build an audience will never change as long as the audience you're trying to build is made up of human beings." - Resonate, Alex Wolf
When we think of building an audience, whether for professional purposes or simply for enjoyment, Alex suggests we look at the last few screenshots in our phones - the memes and images we save simply because of how they made us feel. If we hope to create lasting connection, we should first ask ourselves, "Would anyone care to save this?"
We should create with passion and deliver so much value that whatever it is you create would never be easily disposed of. "It should be obvious through your effort that things like this are too nice. They were made deliberately, [not] to be thrown away or forgotten about."
Whatever it is that we put out into the world should cause our audiences to ask, "Who is this girl?" After all, we are the generation of the search engine. When you produce something meaningful, the people that like and buy our stuff feel compelled to share our work all on their own. We can omit the tacky marketing ploys and just create. Alex mentions that this approach may not automatically translate into followers and likes, but it will allow you to build a community that engages and genuinely enjoys what it is that you produce. "Don't underestimate the extent humans are willing to explore the massive complexities of the world just to find bits and pieces of them."
And now that you've built something for the people, you can sit back and watch that one follower grow to a clump of followers, and eventually develop into a cluster of followers that become a fully bloomed audience. The idea eventually becomes popular enough to exist as a separate entity and "ideas don't die," Alex emphasizes.
When we really find something that we absolutely love, we can't resist the urge to share and the internet as we know it has given us the tools to do so with the click of a button.
Alex's message as a branding afficianado is clear – stop panicking over followers. Follower counts and likes shouldn't be used as the new metric system to measure one's impact and significance. All you really need is a few people that feel you.