Some of the most important conversations that I had growing up were around my family’s kitchen or dining room table. I can remember my mom asking my sisters and me, “If you could do anything for free, what would it be?” When it got to me, my answer for as long as I can remember was, “writing and ministry.” I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. When it came time for me to go to college, I had planned to study creative writing as my major, but the Holy Spirit prompted my Mom to encourage me to look into going into Communication Studies instead. I am so glad that I went that route. I absolutely loved being a Comm major because it offered me the chance to explore my creativity in ways that I wasn’t even aware of and explore possibilities that I would not have considered otherwise. Through different classes, I was able to find my strength in different areas of the field and discover what I gravitated toward. The process of interviewing and the composition of articles intrigued me, the study of interpersonal communication and gaining more understanding on how to connect with people in person and over the air ways (broadcast journalism) was invaluable. So much of my outside study in undergrad was tracking trends, namely Social Media trends and Pop Culture trends. I had been tracking social media trends long before it was a hot topic. I recall being in a class for which I wrote an eight to ten-page paper on Twitter. It was about what the platform did and why I thought it was going to be the next big thing since Facebook. In the years that followed, Twitter became increasingly popular on my campus. In the same way, I love to follow pop culture trends, namely as it pertains to new music and lifestyle. I was often told that my radio show introduced students and faculty alike to new artists. My research mostly consisted of finding underground artists to whom I enjoyed listening like Algebra Blessett, Tori Kelly, Anthony David, Bad Rabbits, and others, and added them into my rotation. I’ve been following some of these artists for years and to see their steady progression to varying levels of success is exciting to watch. When I got to my Master’s program, I wanted to keep that momentum going. I majored and graduated with an Interactive Media degree with a focus in Social Media. What was cool about this major was that I got to create different types of content, learn about the analytics available on each platform and different programs that you could use to track them. What I fell in love with was the process of creating different content for different platforms and watching how followers interacted with the content posted. That was always my favorite part and was a concept that my late grandmother had shared with me before. She said, “Ariel you have to learn to love the process of creating.”
I had interned, contributed to and worked for different publications, but I felt like something was missing. The day after I graduated from graduate school, I received an email to be a social media writer for a major publication in Atlanta. I took the job and for about six months had the chance to create my own questions for the people I was assigned to interview, write my articles and submit them for publication to be seen by the fanbase of the publication I was interning with.That is when I discovered what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. At the time, I just didn’t know there was a name for it.
This year, while watching the news in a New York hotel room, I happened upon a segment called “InfulenceHER” and it was about the growing job market of social media influencers. It provided insight on what it is that influencers do, how they make money, and how they are growing their businesses.One of the women interviewed was, Brittany Hennessy. She is an influence marketer, strategist and author of the book Influencer: Building Your Personal Brand in The Age of Social Media. After watching the segment, I opened my Amazon app and went to add the book into my cart. What I realized is that I had the book in my recently viewed section, confirmation much? I purchased the book before leaving New York and received it in the mail two days later. I could not wait to read it. In true Ari fashion, I had my pencil and my colorful highlighters ready so that I could take notes from each chapter and digest the knowledge that Hennessy carefully penned on each page. As I continued reading, I began to see more clearly the job that I had tried to define, a content creator. I want to be a content creator for lifestyle brands. It combines my passion for writing, my love for pop culture and my desire to be a reliable and relatable source of information for the everyday person. I finished reading Influencer in about a week and ½ ‘s time, and I learned so much from it. I was even able to reach out to Hennessy over Instagram and discuss some of its content in more depth. That was certainly an added bonus. I was so encouraged by her words that I am now working on pursuing my passion with greater fervor, trusting the Lord to order my steps and put me on the radar of those lifestyle companies and brands with whom I am called to work.