For many fourth-year Ryerson students, managing a full course load can be tough. For Quincy Leung, who’s majoring in sociology with a professional communications minor, this is especially true as he also juggles a full-time job as a social media influencer.

Going by the user name of SpaceRabbitx3, Leung has managed to rake up over 45k followers on YouTube –where he posts vlogs in addition to skincare and makeup tutorials. He’s also active on Instagram, where he’s grown a niche community of followers.

“I didn’t know people had an interest in watching my videos,” recalled Leung. When Leung first started making videos, it was originally meant to showcase what life in Toronto was like to his relatives across the globe. His videos started gaining public traction when he uploaded them to YouTube. “It just grew into its own community by itself and that’s how I got started.”

Though brand ambassadors have existed for several decades, the evolution of social media influencers is a fairly recent trend. The prominence of influencers emerged in the mid-2000s, when advertisers started hiring digital starlets to promote their products.

For marketers, the organic form of communication between digital influencers and their followers was a great opportunity to plug products. Especially since a majority of the population had become wary of traditional forms of advertisements; influencers provided a new platform for marketing.

On the flip side, sponsored content meant it was an opportunity for compensation for influencers. This opened doors to many creative individuals to pursue a field in content creation. Now, this form of salary through paid placements is what many full-time influencers rely on to pay the bills.   

Leung, like many influencers, has personally dealt with marketers in the past.

“I think when I started really early, I was so eager to take on any brand. Then when I started to build up, I realized, as a brand, you have to specifically start choosing what you want to be seen for,” said Leung. “How many other people are going to get offered the same charcoal toothbrush thing, the fit-teas, the fit-coffees and detox? Do you want to be known for that? Or, do you want to be known for other things? I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but if that’s not my niche, then why would I do it? … Perhaps they may pay you a lot, but at the end of the day, it’s your passion.”

Like dealing with brands and marketers, being a social media influencer was a self-taught journey for Leung. Unlike traditional jobs on the current market, many influencers don’t attend post-secondary education to attain a degree in “influencing.” Much of their job heavily relies on content development and experimentation. Though influencers can come from different educational backgrounds, online success demands tons of patience, hard work and a slight stroke of luck.

However, the role of an influencer isn’t going to dissipate anytime soon. With the dominating presence of the internet and social media platforms, more and more people are joining the field. According to calculations by Mediakix, it is estimated that in 2018, there will be roughly 21.7 million sponsored posts uploaded on Instagram alone.

But it’s not just social platforms that are being shifted because of digital stars. Other fields of life have also been affected by the notion of having an influence. As a matter of fact, we have gotten to an age where listing follower counts on resumes has become a common practice. But according to Leung, the number of followers you have doesn’t necessarily matter.

“As much as the following is something to show about yourself, and on your resume, the point is engagement. Someone who has around 10 per cent engagement from their total amount of followers produces a much better result than someone who has a high amount of followers with no engagement,” said Leung.

“And as much as numbers can be important, I think they are very guised in a way that us, in 2018, want to be known as the top, or the best. But, I think, at the end of the day, who are you selling your brand to? And who are the consumers?”  

How to Get Started Out as a Social Media Influencer

For anyone who has ever thought of becoming an influencer, I asked Leung for his advice on how they could get started. Here are his six steps on how you, too, can pursue a career in the world of social media:

  1. So step number one would be just do it. Like Nike Brand. Just do it. But like you have to, because once you start, then you know you’ve started. Like you can’t quit from there. Unless you do. But once you’ve started, you’ll know the feeling and rhythm from it.
  2. Two is to be passionate. I think there are people who just do it just for the sake of doing it. But the people who stand out the most and will survive from all this are those who are passionate about it.
  3. Invest in a good camera. I think in 2018 now, no one has kind of bad pixel-y frames and graphics.
  4. If you want to work on your Instagram platform, you should plan it out. Know your target audience; know who you’re marketing your brand towards to and who is going to invest in it. If you’re a clothing brand then maybe invest in like stuff that could be local, could be from like high end. It depends. It’s just how you create it. And organizing! There’s so many apps out there that organize your Instagram feeds. So you can plan those and you can just plan out what you want to post on those weeks.
  5. Always study. Study what’s trending. Study what’s going to be the latest trends and see, as an influencer, what can you take out of it that’s still relative to your brand, but still being trendy with today’s kind of stuff.
  6. Just have fun with it. Don’t make it so serious. If you’re going to be so serious into it and you’re not enjoying yourself, then perhaps it’s not the right direction you should be going into. Right? Because like in the end of the day, you’re doing this as a job and hopefully it’s fun. To me, that’s personally it.

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