Social stardom: What does it take?
In 2016, fame is diffuse. People can chase their dreams of celebrity without having to make the pilgrimage to Hollywood that was once compulsory. Social media has created a culture where someone can rise to prominence on the strength of content they create in their own room. That is, of course, if they’re good enough.
SXSW Interactive attendees were given the opportunity to hear from a group of social content creators who have proven their skill. Amy Finnerty of Maker Studios moderated a session featuring three people whose content has made them social media stars: King Keraun, Dante Basco and Christian DelGrosso. Each of them has walked a different path and came equipped with valuable, unique insights.
King Keraun’s path to social stardom was a twisted one. A convicted felon, he found himself working dead-end jobs that left him unsatisfied. His decision to pursue social stardom was borne of his desire to make a better life for himself. He succeeded.
His primary platforms are Instagram and Facebook, where he creates humorous sketches like this one. After amassing a sizable online following, Keraun has found a range of opportunities available to him. Recently, for example, he appeared on the hit show “Blackish.”
Keraun heavily emphasized the importance of finding your audience. It’s better, he said, to reach the bulk of a niche than a small percentage of the majority. He described his audience as primarily urban and explained his thought process in targeting this population.
“I’m gonna be the only person feeding this target of people,” he said.
In his creative process, Keraun said he draws inspiration from everyday life and that he is constantly thinking of ideas. At any given moment, he may stop what he is doing to think through an idea that occurs to him.
Dante Basco rose to fame playing Rufio in Steven Spielberg’s “Hook” before becoming a star of social media years later. His perspective is thus distinct from those of Keraun and Delgrosso, whose careers began in the social sphere.
He spoke highly of the collaborative nature of the social media community. Unlike the film and television industries, ideas for collaboration on social media can come to fruition at a rapid pace because the people creating the content tend to manage themselves. Without intermediators, ideas are far less likely to languish in development for years and talk can more easily become action.
Over the years Basco has witnessed evolutions in fame firsthand and was quick to point out that the ability to track views and followers has made fame tangible.
“Fame has become quantifiable,” he said.
His attitude toward numbers-driven fame was ambivalent. He encouraged the audience to not be distracted by the leverage that numbers can generate. Their focus, he said, should be on quality content.
“If you’re an artist and you create content you like, you’re never gonna waste your time,” he said.
His inspiration for coming online was driven by an important realization that is relevant for every public figure.
“If you’re not online hosting the conversation about what you’re doing, then someone else is,” he said.
While the film and television industries are marked by a sense of competition, Basco spoke highly of the social sphere’s ability to deemphasize the rat race for viewership. Audiences can view everybody’s content because there is no financial component to their consumption. Social media programming is also unencumbered by scheduling difficulties; people don’t have to choose between watching two programs that air at the same time. These features allow for a greater sense of community.
Watch Basco discuss this aspect of social celebrity at greater length below.
Christian Delgrosso’s decision to pursue social media stardom stemmed from his frustration with the lack of opportunity for an aspiring actor in Toronto, his home. Once he made the decision to go online, things happened at a staggering pace; within two weeks of joining Vine he gained 200,000 followers.
He highlighted the importance of being able to create content fast and capitalize on momentum. When someone begins to gain an audience, the growth happens fast and aspiring social stars need to be prepared to feed their audience. Long gaps between content can spell trouble.
Despite getting his start on Vine, DelGrosso has made sure to establish a presence cross platforms. Doing so ensures that a social star’s profile is not at the mercy of a platform’s usage trends. He has witnessed people who didn’t make cross-platform appeal lose their standing when their platform of choice lost users.
His profile has allowed him the opportunity to not only maintain a presence across social media platforms, but to move into television as well.
Like Basco, DelGrosso emphasized the importance of quality content. He advised against chasing followers and instead suggested that people who want to become influencers focus on making good material and doing so consistently.
You can hear this advice in his own words below.