Influencers, content, and creativity
Music: Chris Zabriskie | I Don't See the Branches, I See the Leaves
For the past few months I’ve been working on a Visit Manchester project that brought 40+ social media influencers together from across the globe to Manchester as part of a twin-city project - #MCRxLDN - that saw them spend 2 days with us here in the north, before we all train’d it down to the capital for another jam-packed 2 in the south.
I took part in Manchester’s first (or rather, the world’s first! #pioneeringmanchester) mass-influencer project back in July 2017 - #WorkerBeeWeekender - on a freelance basis, creating content, curating a tour, and helping to pull together a team of local ambassadors to champion the city. This time around I interviewed for a Communications and Digital Assistant role specific to the project, which I was offered and then started at the beginning of January (bringing my 8 months of all-the-trials-and-tribulations freelancer-come-unemployed situation to a happy end!), almost-instantly jumping head-first into the world of instagram-based research, twin-city-planning, and travel sorting, head a’ringing with all sorts of ‘what’ll it be like?!’ questions.
Professionally it was a successful experience that has since (in fact very recently, at the time of writing...a mere day after I was told I had been successful!) seen me interview for and be offered a 12 month position with the same company. Personally? Well, that follows suit, but with a bit more of a tale to be told about it...
When I first started researching, quite naturally (that is, as a content creator who attaches a lot of my creative-worth to the success of my instagram) I began to compare myself (and by that I don’t mean the quality of my content vs. theirs, but instead my numbers vs. theirs…’what else?!’ they cry!) to those I came across. From solo female travel bloggers who spaghetti-strap posed in front of world marvels, and photographers who captured landscapes in ways that drew breaths from lungs-deep, to writers who packed an almighty response-punch, I felt the confidence I had waver, words from my mouth a little none-of-us-will-ever-make-it-when-that’s-who-we-are-up-against twisted, skin itching with a pulled-tight-with-heightened-comparison bitterness that tipped scales in the favour of down-on-myself woe.
Time went on, and I began to wade through the worry almost-nonchalantly, off-a-duck’s-back letting the numbers I’d been so strenuously as-a-creative concentrated on fall at my feet in wild ‘who even cares?’ abandon, swaying between wanting to create in a way that personally struck a chord (championed by an ‘I’ll never make it anyway’ mentality) and in another that maintained the ‘success’ I’d personally barometer’d, acknowledging supportive words with a heart-lifted gratitude that still couldn’t quite match the failure I felt at not seeing the numbers stack up.
Cue the week before the event, and I had no well into which I could creatively draw from, body and soul tired from the waiting for ‘it’ to come, mind focused on making sure everything that was asked of me was completed, every message responded to, and every detail met to make sure the project could be pulled off as perfectly as perfect could ruddy well be. A couple of days before I finally shared about the previous year’s event on Instagram, and then, with the dawning of the first day, gave into the power of the you-get-to-meet-new-people today buzz, and allowed myself to be swept along, March 21st to 26th, heart beating at a mile-and-a-half a minute over the pace of it all (pausing only momentarily, in the middle, attacked by a douche of a cold-like illness that made scrabbling through the day feel like a forgot-my-walking-boots torturous climb).
*insert link to a post about the event that I haven’t finished editing yet*
...what a difference 5 days makes.
It’s hard to write about the takeaway from the event because it’s a sort-of feeling that lends itself to going undescribed - a settling in self that is nook-and-cranny cosy, into which part of me has snuggled into comfortably, safe in the knowledge that all is pretty-darn good. Meeting so many different people, each with their own creative style and purpose not only highlighted the differences there are in how we deliver content, but also how we approach the creation of it.
Humbly observing from close-enough distance, I discovered that some creatives are subject-led (i.e. those who create with a passion for their subject matter, e.g. first-and-foremost photographers), some are community-led (i.e. those who create with a passion to ultimately share with their community...this is where I come in, hiiiii), and others who are business-smarts-led (i.e. those who create with business/brand collaboration in mind). Of course, there are those, too, who are a combination of all three (some dip in and out depending on purpose, i.e. this trip was an opportunity to not only get to know Manchester and London better, but also to specifically create content to share and, in some cases, promote a brand/project alongside said creating), but - by my very simple reckoning - the majority of creative ways fell into one of the three and that, my friends, was quite a something to come to recognise!
Albeit rather stripped-back-to-the-basic generalising, the realisation has gifted a takeaway that has left me feeling really content (and I mean that in an extremely good, comfortable-with-myself way) about how I create and share. Up until #MCRxLDN, I was incredibly self-sabotage-y when it came to dissecting what I created - I could see it had some merit, mostly because it offered me the opportunity to ‘get the words out’, but I constantly found myself thinking it fell flat when held up against content that ‘successful’ (my yard stick being numbers) creators shared.
Now? I feel the most comfortable and certain I have ever felt about my own contributions - that they are successful because I am a community-in-mind creator, and I share with said community in a way that feels good, and right, and very true-to-me...numbers aside. Said sharing might not get me what I have forever-and-a-day deemed as being be-all-and-end-all successful (basically...a comped life), but it further connects me to all kinds of glorious human beans who reside across this home-place we call planet earth, and nothing makes me feel more full, and more free, and more at peace with what I’m doing than that!
It is incredibly human to compare, and it sure ain’t as easy as saying 'just do it' to not do so, but with this shift in thinking has come an ease that I’ve not felt in as many years as I’ve been creating for an online community (five), and especially not over the last pick-everything-apart 12 months. I have been constantly plagued with self-doubt that has black-holed itself in my chest, causing me to spew negativity, discontent and and words of wish-it-was-me resentment, and leaving me feeling unsettled in the space I’d carved out for myself in the community (kind of square-peg-in-a-circle-ish) in a way that meant every single step-towards others made had me express disheartened exclamations of knock-me-from-my-spot anger that I barely knew how to mask (although somehow I rustle-up did...sometimes). But now? I feel as though the nasty black, give-me-tension-headache clouds have parted, and I can see my lit-by-the-sunshine path once more. I feel burst-at-the-seams happy, with arms ready to open and embrace every single, thankful-for-you person who comes my way. I may not know anything about what my next steps will look like, but I am far more confident (hip hip hooray!) in letting them unfold as and when they do, and in no matter which form they take.
Not too shabby a takeaway, huh?!