So, you wanna be an influencer? ✨

What it really means to gain a following and build your own platform🎤

Over the last (almost) 2 years, I’ve been growing a following and building a platform. I didn’t do this with intention at first, it just happened because of the viral #BlackTechTwitter tweet. Everything happened very organically and unintentionally for me, and because of this, I made many mistakes😅 I’m still learning how to manage my following and social presence till this day, but I want to show my early on mishaps and provide tips on how to avoid them.

I quickly want to bring awareness to #EndSARS: an anti-robbery squad developed by the government of Nigeria to protect and serve their civilians. Instead, SARS overstepped and abused their power to harass, extort, and kill many of their youth. There is a fight between the Nigerian people and their government happening right now. Be sure to amplify their voices, and bring awareness to the injustices happening in Nigeria✊🏾

It’s not that I was an asshole, I was just blunt.

Since I didn’t get on Twitter with the purpose of becoming an influencer, I didn’t really have any consideration for others, nor a direction to go in, nor any responsibility. No one looked up to me, no one cared about what I tweeted, so I just tweeted whatever I wanted with no care for the repercussions.

Then unexpectedly, #BlackTechTwitter happened, and my following grew overnight! Suddenly people wanted to know who I was, they wanted to hear my “story”, and they wanted to offer me opportunities that I was never offered before. I entered a new world.

I was being called an “influencer”, a “role model”, and being told that I was “inspirational”. The transition of being nobody, to a sorta somebody happened very quickly.

Now what? I had this following, and I had no idea what the hell I was supposed to do with it. Since there was no guide on how to manage a following, I figured I’d continue about my life and tweet as normal. That’s where things went downhill.

I felt like I was being called out for everything! I even got called out for the #BlackTechTwitter tweet. I was told that I was causing a racial divide in the tech industry, that I was racist, and discriminative🙄

Point is, people were watching me. They were watching what I tweeted, how often I tweeted, what I liked, what I responded to, who I talked to, etc.

I’ve been “cancelled” about 5 or 6 times. The two cancels that actually sucked were when I was cancelled by Tech Twitter. Nothing sucks more than being cancelled by your own community because:

#1- You’re hurting people that you truly care about, and they also really cared about you.

#2- These aren’t random people that you’ll never be in the same room with. You’re being cancelled by people within proximity to you. Imagine needing to go to a conference and being surrounded by people who can’t stand you because you’re a POS on Twitter. Yikes.

Cancel #1- Airpods

There was a debate on Twitter about the quality and cost of Airpods. I didn’t know anything about Airpods, but I decided to look up the cost of them. Keep in mind that at this time I was making really good money as a developer, so seeing the cost of Airpods seemed inexpensive.

^ This turned out badly.

I had people commenting, quote tweeting, and DMing me about how privileged and selfish I was. I’ll admit that my first thoughts were, “I don’t even care. This is the dumbest sh*t to be mad about.” I perceived people being mad as them just wanting something to be sensitive about.

Lesson learned✨

I had been receiving DM’s all night from people telling me they were going to unfollow me and wishing brokeness upon me. Then one DM came through that really put things into perspective for me.

This person explained that they were really disappointed in me because they saw me as someone who was fighting for equity and opportunity for those at a disadvantage. Although I was privileged enough to be a Black woman making a good salary in tech, that wasn’t the case for everyone. A lot of people in the world are struggling, and $160 is expensive to them, especially those in the Black and Brown communities.

This wasn’t something I didn’t already know, it was just something that I didn’t consider when posting that tweet. And although my intent behind it wasn’t to say, something like, “If you can’t afford something that’s $160, you’re broke”, that’s how it could easily be perceived by others.

Before tweeting an opinion, especially when it has to do with finances and materialistic things, consider how someone completely opposite of you in a situation that is difficult to transition out of would feel. It’s as simple as leaving your bubble of comfort and putting yourself into someone else’s shoes.

Cancel #2- Google it

This was most definitely my worst cancel 👇🏾👇🏾👇🏾👇🏾

I tweeted this out of annoyance and frustration. When you gain a following, you receive tons of DM’s daily! I got this question in my DM’s the most. I used to take the time to actually answer people. A lot of times though, I’d take the time to reply to people and they’d either stop responding, or I’d just never get a response back. I thought it was so rude and inconsiderate because I took the time to care about these strangers seeking advice. I customized my responses according to each persons journey, and even did research for them to make things easier on their end.

So on this day ^, I was DMd this question a couple of times and decided to take out my frustrations publicly. Whew, did this turn out poorly for me. I was being cancelled by supporters, big names with checkmarks, and people I admired. I was being dragged!

Random note: There were a few people who were being very unforgiving about this tweet, and took things a bit too far, so I personally decided to block them. You’ll find that there are people who are excited to see you fail while you fail. They enjoy adding fuel to the fire. My advice is to block them and move on. As for everyone else, definitely issue an apology after you truly understand why you were wrong. Don’t ever apologize out of fear of losing opportunities or because you want everyone to stop talking about what you did. Really listen, understand, and acknowledge where you went wrong. Take that accountability.

Lessons learned✨

Again, this tweet took dozens of people putting the tweet in perspective for me. First of all, I had to get over the fact that I was going to always get tons of DM’s a day from people asking me simple questions to giving me ridiculous demands. That’s what comes with the territory of having a following. The bigger your following gets, the more requests you will receive, and the more will be expected of you.

My excuse for my frustrated tweet was very much the, “I never asked for this”, excuse. “I’m human. I can get annoyed if I want to. I didn’t even ask for this platform or following. Everyone feels entitled to my time and expects me to never mess up.” Not only did I state that, which made everyone even more mad, but it’s truly how I felt at the time. What I had to realize was, whether I gained my following unintentionally or not, the fact was that I had it. Having a following comes with responsibility, and unless I was willing to give it all up, I had to get my sh*t together and once again look at things from a different perspective before tweeting about it.

You’ll eventually come to the conclusion that you are now a person of influence. You’re a role model, and people look up to you. Being a role model means that it’s not just about you anymore, it’s about your community of supporters too. You have some power to make incredible impact, and power to do some damage, so use what you have wisely.

You’ll eventually mess up, even just a little, but don’t let your pride get in the way of admitting that. If you can’t take accountability then don’t complain about losing supporters or opportunities.

As for making mistakes…

I’m probably going to mess up again. I hope I don’t, but I am human and that’s the nature of being one.

We can’t always say the perfect thing, or even have the perfect angle of putting things across. You’re going to offend someone, regardless if you intended to or not, and you’re not going to be able to please everyone. Don’t try to either, you’ll drive yourself mad attempting to do the impossible.

Take aways

✨ Does everything deserve an apology or explanation? No. I can’t tell you what deserves to be acknowledged, because that’s up to you and your intuition. You’ll know. But when you truly do hurt people, especially your own community, it’s very easy to be defensive, especially when you didn’t mean it to come off the way that it did. Be honest and tell your people that you didn’t intend to be offensive, be specific in saying how you hurt them and how understand those specific things are harmful, and apologize. Don’t do it again. You’ll make mistakes again, but hopefully not the same ones.

✨ You’re going to be asked so many favors, be given tons of demands, and asked an endless amount of questions. Some people will be really nice, others will be super aggressive. You’ll come across all kinds of people from different parts of the world. You do not need to respond to everyone, you’re not obligated to. However, if you’d like to maintain a social presence, continue gaining your following, and really help others, then you have to do the work of being active and engaging.

I suggest you compile a list of frequently asked questions that come across your inbox. Take those questions and turn them into a blog piece, or a youtube video. That way when people ask those questions, instead of tailoring your responses to each of them, send them a link to your personal resource. Getting tons of questions allows you to produce helpful content.

✨ Don’t be angry and tweet. Tweeting while you’re annoyed at people for being human is most likely not going to work out in your favor. Don’t do it. Obviously you’re human and you’re going to have your emotions, but keep them offline. Not everyone needs to know your emotions all the time, especially when it’s towards people reaching out to you seeking guidance. I suggest unplugging and taking social media breaks. There’s nothing wrong with that.

*I think it’s important to remember that once you gain a following, you really do have privileges that others don’t. It’s easier for you to attain certain opportunities simply because of your social reach. It’s easier for you to amplify messages that others need help with. Not everyone has that, which is what makes having a following a privilege. Give back. Do as best you can. You’ll never do things perfectly, and you’ll never do enough to please each person. That’s the unfortunate fact, but keep going.

✨ Your following will fluctuate. People will follow you and unfollow you every day. Some people who you thought you had a good relationship with will unfollow you, or even block you. People who you didn’t even know existed will block you. Don’t get stuck on who, and why. You don’t need to wonder why people no longer want to see your content, and you don’t need to chase them. People are going to unfollow you. That’s life, keep it moving. (that’s my perspective anyway)

✨ You know how they say, “Mo money, mo problems”? Well, same goes for followers. “Mo followers, mo haters”. Haters absolutely exist, and not just those with smaller platforms than yours. Those with bigger ones as well. Ignore them and keep being great.

✨ Last but not least, don’t be an asshole. I don’t know if this really needs explaining, but don’t intentionally be mean and make others feel stupid, or less than. Check your ego, check your pride, and don’t let the number of followers you have go to your head. Some people with big followings think they’re better and expect to be treated differently. It’s a little pathetic to me lol but those people do exist. Don’t be one of them.