Here’s the deal: yes, a combination camera-supercomputer-phone sits in your pocket, and you easily could film various aspects of your life or skills and share them with people from South Korea to the South of Wales with the push of A SINGLE BUTTON, or a series of buttons that are kinda hard to hit on your iPhone 11 and a lot easier with a mouse.
Technically, you could do this, and technically, there are human beings who make a living making YouTube videos, TikToks, and other things that were invented this morning that Silicon Valley has not told you about.
Also, a social media personality who’s name rhymes with Togan Maul got paid a zillion dollars to hug and paw at an undefeated boxer who is 20 years older and 30 pounds lighter and the only reason he didn’t get knocked the hell out in the first round was the undefeated boxer would have totally thrown away the chance to get paid a bazillion dollars AGAIN to hit this clown for eight rounds.
But no, average people will not make millions of dollars on social media, whether it’s your 16-year-old cousin madly live-streaming 12 hours a day while he plays Call of Duty or the master gardener down the street making TikToks about ornamental roses.
They will be lucky to make serious dollars at all. Here’s why:
Whatever you are into, other people are also totally into it
And that’s the problem: if nobody else is talking about your special deal, and there’s a beautiful void in the market waiting for you to fill it, it probably means it’s such a tiny niche that the audience is equally hard to find with a microscope.
Yet if the opposite is true, and half the planet starts totally nerding out about ornamental roses or knitting hats for cats, you can guarantee those needs will get fed by magazines, blogs, and social media goodness. Why? Because they’re chasing eyeballs and ears, just like everybody else, for the ad monies.
The competition is insane
Sure, your friend the master gardener spent five years studying ornamental roses. There are, at a bare minimum, 5.621 bazillion other people who are into roses and have iPhones in their pocket, plus people with PhD’s in plant biology who are into roses, and a few who did their doctoral thesis on those suckers.
Also: it is far, far easier for somebody who is already (a) famous and (b) rich to hop into whatever social media field they want and make money, even if they have only spent five minutes staring at the ornamental roses their gardener put in this afternoon.
You need to get millions of views to make real money, and even more to make great money. Guess who has skads of followers, access to publicity machines, and a burning need for attention? Every actor, professional athlete, big-time journalist, and rock star.
So you are competing not just against all the other experts and aficionados in your field, but with every celebrity alive today along with some dead ones, because apparently Tom Clancy is a zombie robot still pumping out novels and video games.
I’m not saying the lead singer of Nickelback could get totally into knitting hats for cats tomorrow and crush your beautiful vlog into powder. No. That would be ridiculous.
I’m saying the drummer for Nickelback could steamroll your TikTok with their tour bus and not even know he murderized it.
There are a hundred ways to get squashed in this game
Ideally, you want to be (a) the first to show up on social media to fill an empty void, like that kid who reviews toys and now makes crazy amounts of cash, (b) the person with the most knowledge or skill about that topic, (c) the most charming and interesting and funny of all possible people, (d) the one with the highest production values, with a team behind you to shoot, edit, and produce a mountain of content every week, if not every day, and (e) the best possible person at marketing and publicity, with a different team handling the nuts and bolts of that.
You might be two of those things. Even if you are amazing in every area, and possess magical rocks that let you never sleep or eat, there isn’t enough time in the day. Which leads us to the next shebang.
One person cannot do all these things
Even if you are doing this by yourself, and beat the odds by becoming so well-viewed that you can quit the day job and buy your family and friends and casual acquaintances houses and yachts and Lear jets, that means all sorts of other people will notice there is CASH TO BE HAD, causing a gold rush to your peaceful little tropical island made of Benjamins, and these hordes will invade your favorite beach and try to take over the entire island.
Many of those people will be amateurs.
Others will be organizations–companies–that produce media content for profit. TV and movie production folks are far better at shooting and editing video. Radio pros rock the finest podcasts. And if the talent isn’t clicking, they can try somebody else in front of the camera or behind the microphone. And these companies already have viewership they can channel to new products.
It’s all about getting attention
And if you really drill down to the guts of it, social media influencers aren’t really into a specific topic or thing, per se. They don’t get famous for being an expert, or for being especially talented, funny, or sane.
Social media influencers are good at one thing: attracting attention. They are shameless chameleons who will switch platforms, interests, political views, issues, hobbies, and personalities if it means a bigger audience.
They are the trolliest of the trolls. Nobody can out-shame them.
This path leads to darkness, mug shots where the nightshow Jimmys try to guess what drug you were on at the time, then rehab.
Nope out of all that. Not worth it.
Do what you love for the love of it first
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t go wild on TikTok or YouTube–have fun with it. And yeah, you might do really well and make some side money.
But do not listen to that 16-yeard-old cousin, the one who isn’t going to college because he’s too busy training for his professional career streaming Call of Duty, the kid who says you should quit the day job and turn the guest bedroom into a video production studio.
Do what you love for the love of it, and do not endure sleepless nights trying to keep up with the Kardashians.
Do what must be done so your kids have food, clothes, and health coverage.
How well does this whiskey pair with an Americano?
While on vacation, my sister-in-law and I are trying tiny airplane-style bottles of Irish cream and such in our coffees.
I highly encourage all four of these glorious things: vacations, sisters-in-law, Irish cream, and coffee.
Today’s whiskey creamer is Brady’s Irish Cream.
It’s fine. Nothing terrible, nothing amazing. I was hoping to get hit by an F5 tornado of flavor, and perhaps it’s my fault for ordering the Largest Americano Known to Human Civilization, which could have diluted the itty bitty bottle into nothingness.