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 bookInfluencer: 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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When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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