This Author Has The Secrets To How Influencers Get Paid

Brittany Hennessy Puts Us On To What It Takes To Create A Lucrative Personal Brand

Workin' Girl

More and more, our social media timelines are being filled with carefully curated content. From your high school friend who "randomly" became an IG model to the college buddy who started their own business, everyone is using social media to get ahead. Guess what? So should you.

Whether you have a passion or hobby that you're turning into a business, or have knowledge about something specific that people can gain from, now is the time to get familiar with social media and all of the advantages it can have for business. In 2019, everyone is a personal brand. We can no longer deny that personal branding is a determining factor between those who are average and those who reach success beyond measure.

Social media is a tool that anyone can leverage to shape their personal brand and inevitably take their business to another level. The day I decided that writing and blogging was a passion of mine that I wanted to turn into an income, it hit me that I had to change up the way that I approached social media. For as long as I could remember, I've had a love hate relationship with social media (specifically Instagram). Only since the past year or so have I taken social media seriously and used it for my benefit as it pertains to my writing career. Even with a small following, I've been able to create business opportunities for myself and use my "influence" as an expert to build a personal brand.

On a run to Barnes & Noble after getting a recommendation, I picked up the book Influencer: Building Your Personal Brand In The Age of Social Media by Brittany Hennessy.

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Brittany Hennessy is the Senior Director of Influencer Strategy and Talent Partnerships at Hearst Magazines Digital Media, which means she knows a thing or two about building an audience and being able to grow and monetize your influence. She's the behind the scenes expert that knows everything there is to know about leveraging social media and influence to build a lucrative personal brand or business. The book starts with the preface where she discloses about a instance where she cut a $32,000 check for four social media posts from a dog (yes, a dog)--from that moment I was hooked. From start to finish, Influencer is jam-packed with gems to help influencers at any level and business owners that are looking to get ahead with the help of social media.

Author Brittany Hennessy

Though Brittany's book mainly focuses on those looking to monetize their influence, it's also a great tool for those looking to start or build a business using social media. Brittany sat down with xoNecole to really break down how aspiring influencers and entrepreneurs can leverage social media to bring their respective brands to the next level in 2019.

Here are some of the gems she left us with:

1. Network & Get to Know the Key Players in your Field

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Just because you're building a business or career with limited face to face interactions doesn't mean networking isn't a huge part of building your personal brand. Knowing who's who in your field will be able to get your product (or yourself) in front of the right people. From my own personal experience, developing a personal brand online has helped me connect with PR companies that I have been able to build relationships with as a professional writer. Whether I need products for an article or expert quotes, having a Rolodex of contacts has been a game-changer.

According to Brittany, here's what you need to be doing during the first quarter of the year:

"Figure out what kind of brands you want to work with. Who are the key people that you will need to talk to [in order] to work with those brands and how are you going to get to those people. You want to be featured in Cosmo in the the travel section? Great. Who is the travel editor? Look her up on LinkedIn. Do you have a mutual friend? Did she go to your college? You [have] to start doing the legwork now so you can get to a point where you can introduce yourself. You have a story to tell her and a reason why she should cover you [or your business]. That [will] take your career to the next level."

2. Stop Worrying About What Everyone Else is Doing

When you see people gaining success on social media, it's easy to fall into a rut of comparison. You may even feel the need to do what other people are doing in hopes of getting ahead. According to Brittany, this is the last thing that you want to do. When you're developing your own personal brand online, don't use what other people are doing as a blueprint – that's not your brand. Do what feels right for your brand or as a Brittany shared with us:

"[Ask yourself] 'What's your story?' It's never good to just do what everybody else is doing because they got that angle covered and they're going to do it better than you. So you have to figure out what is your angle."

3. People No Longer Buy Products, They Buy into People

Think of some of your favorite influencers out there who have started their own business or have collabed with a brand to create a product. Chances are, regardless if the product is something that fulfills a need that you have, you'll support it because of the influencer attached to it. Just think of Fenty Beauty. Even with Rihanna not being significantly influential in the beauty industry prior to building her own brand, she did have influence as a celebrity and was able to leverage that. Fenty Beauty instantly became a household name that often sells out. You can buy any makeup but you choose to buy Fenty Beauty because you support Rihanna and what Rihanna stands for (as a personal brand).

People also are hooked on the behind the scenes stuff. How many times have you seen popular brands on social media showing you the process behind developing a new product? Each time, it makes you more excited because you feel like a personal connection because the brand allows you to be a part of the process. According to Brittany, this is a part of your story that will separate you from other brands out there.

"All of these newer brands that are popping up, people are looking at the founders and they know the founders' story. We're in an age of nosy, everybody likes knowing your business. So if you're making a product, we want to know the story behind the product. For example, if you makes clothes, people want to see you in the garment district looking for fabrics. If you make food, they want to see you at the farmer's market."

"People want to know the story behind the things that they're buying. You've got to be able to tell that story because that will really be the difference."

4. You Don’t Need a Ton of Money to Build a Personal Brand or Create Amazing Content

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When people are first starting out as aspiring influencers and business owners, they feel the need to dish out tons of money on equipment to create content. From a professional camera to booking locations for photoshoots, according to Brittany, these are unnecessary expenses that you can easily forego, especially in the beginning.

"I think the first thing people need to realize is that you don't have to create all of your content. You don't have to shoot in these exotic locations. You know people want to be influenced but that doesn't necessarily mean it's by your photos. People are also influenced by captions. Depending on what your subject matter is, the photo may not even be that important. You can also curate with other people's content. If you look at the biggest people on Instagram, some don't create any of their content and have tons of followers. Look at the success of Huffington Post for years they didn't write any of their content. They're curators."

5. Start with Small Goals

It's easy to look at your favorite brands and influencers posting exceptional content day in and out and think you need to post 5 times a day to get to their level. Pump your brakes. It's best to start out slow and find your groove instead of becoming overly ambitious.

"It's just like going to the gym. You didn't go to the gym all [last year] and you tell yourself I'm going to go everyday. Good luck doing that. You're going to go [the] first few days, go too hard and then you're going to be out of commission the rest of the week. It's the same thing with posting online. Get started by posting two really good posts a week [then increase from there]. You want to start off small and just get into a routine."

6. Stay Consistent and Develop Good Habits When No One is Looking

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We've all heard the phrase, "It's not what you know, it's who you know." This can sometimes be true when building a brand but in all honesty honing your skills is the only true way to get ahead. Brands aren't going to pay Mediocre Mary to create content for them and people aren't gong to buy from Slacking Sally. You need to be consistent and put in the work.

"You want to develop your good habits when no one is looking because the minute you have eyes on you, if you make a mistake your audience will call you out on it."

7. Remember: Social Media Isn't Reality

With every one and every brand posting these perfect feeds, it's easy to get caught up in comparison. Brittany keeps it really real with us, sharing why comparing your life to anything you see online is the LAST thing you should do:

"You might think you know what somebody else is doing. [Your favorite influencer] got all these great clothes but she hasn't paid student loans in six months. Like you don't know what people's stories really are. Everybody is struggling. Celebrities are getting their homes foreclosed and losing hundreds of millions of dollars. Social media is really just rose-colored glasses. In general, a lot of people are only sharing the really good stuff that happened to them. So you can't compare yourself because you don't know what else is happening when this picture is not being taken. You can only be in a competition with yourself."

On your journey to building your personal brand and business in 2019, remember these major keys from the expert herself, Brittany Hennessy. You should also check out her bestselling book Influencer: Building Your Personal Brand In The Age Of Social Media to get all the knowledge and actionable steps you need to slay your business goals in 2019.

Featured image courtesy of Brittany Hennessy

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

This article is in partnership with Staples.

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