Dedicated social media roles were nonexistent when you started your career. How were you able to capitalize on the rise of social?
As with anything in life it takes a little bit of luck. My luck was doing an internship at a tiny, three person ad agency downtown and being the youngest person in the office. My boss just figured that I knew Facebook and threw me into the fire. I ran a few campaigns for HBO but didn’t know what I was doing. That was my first ever exposure to seeing that social could actually be a job. I was able to carve out an interesting niche for myself as one of the first people to bring rigor to social - not just putting up posts, but introducing strategy to it. Social is just one piece of many that must work together, but social is dope because it’s usually people’s first point of contact.
What’s your prediction for how the space will continue to evolve?
I don’t think my job will exist in three years, and that’s ok with me. Social strategists will just be strategists. It’s easy to get caught up in specialties, but my goal is to become even more well rounded.
What do you think are keys for differentiation in social that can be applied to someone looking to build a personal or brand social following?
The number one thing I tell anyone using social to manage a brand is to be yourself. Don’t try to be anyone else. Denny’s is successful because they created a voice and stick to it every single day. They don’t jump around looking for trends. The more a brand can do that, the more authentic it is. Not everyone has to be funny, clapping back or tapping into memes. It’s about knowing what you stand for and what your consumers are into. The same applies if you’re aiming to come up on social personally. Your profiles should be a constant reinforcement of who you are unapologetically.
Also, something often is overlooked is channel planning. Your Instagram self shouldn’t be your Facebook self, which shouldn’t be your Twitter self, which shouldn’t be your Tumblr self, which shouldn’t be your Medium self. Every one of these channel have different audiences, mindspaces and ways of talking. You should never think that content will resonate the same way across all platforms.
How do you use the seat that you have been granted at the table to ensure that things and people who resonate with you are not disrespected in marketing efforts?
I’m usually the only black person in a room during a creative review and it’s a lot of responsibility. There have been instances when I didn’t speak up about insensitivities and I felt terrible about it afterwards. If you care about representation, you have to use your voice. There are exceptions but smart, cogent people will take your criticism to heart and rethink things. The idea doesn’t have to change completely. You can work together to find a sweet spot for it.
In the instances when you didn’t speak up, how did you reconcile that with self?
That happened more early on in my career when I was junior level in meetings with CMOs. It takes time to find your voice and grow confident in it. I look back at those times as learning opportunities. When that feeling of “oh shit, I should say something” come along while in those rooms now, I know I can’t let it happen again.
What problem within the industry are you dedicated to fixing?
I want to make sure that the people who are creating the best content and being rewarded for it. You have mainstream websites that always flip Black twitter content but none of those creators get paid. There’s no reason why the Damn Daniel kid has a Vans contract but the On Fleek girl can’t get her cosmetic line launched. Something is obviously wrong.
What piece of advice would you give anyone starting out in the agency world?
Don’t suck. Don’t be a bad person. What’s key to being successful in this industry, besides working your ass off, is being kind to people. It’s all about relationships and not burning bridges. No matter how much of an asshole someone is to you, don’t reciprocate.
How are you inspired by New York?
I’ve taken inspiration from every place I’ve lived in New York. I was born in Brooklyn and raised in a very West Indian environment. After going to Guyana for a bit, I lived in the projects in The Bronx with my mom. That made me everything I am today, just that sense of hustle. Then being on my own now in Harlem. It’s a perfect example of this renaissance of black excellence. Everyone is trying to come to New York to make it in some way. To grow up here and do that is a great feeling.
What’s on the horizon for you?
The music industry is ripe to be disrupted and it’s a space I want to play in more. Marketing is broken at the label level. We’re seeing it more and more with artists that are full fledged brands themselves. There’s a reason why Lil Yachty can do a pizzeria popup in SoHo and his merch sells out. There’s a reason why Ferg can have Reebok collaborations. Helping musicians, specifically small and indie artist, will be a focus of mine in the next five years. It only takes one hit and stellar campaign for them to become superstars.
What motivates you as your pursue your goals?
There’s selfless motivation in wanting to make sure my family is good, especially my mom. She sacrificed everything to make sure I got into a good high school, tuition was paid and that I stayed out of the streets. Selfish motivation comes from my competitive spirit. I think I’m one of the best digital/social marketers out there and I want to prove it. I’m aiming to work on big campaigns and deliver some of the best work the industry has ever seen.