Kevon Cheung is a content creator and the founder of Public Lab, which helps people build a voice online.
‘I don't want to be a cheerleader.’ If you're a new creator building a following on social media, you've probably said these words to yourself. And, guess what, I hear it a lot on Twitter.
You come on to the platform to develop a voice, only to find yourself stuck in an echo chamber filled with people cheering, encouraging and saying kind words to one another. You're thinking: what is this ass-kissing culture? You might even see it as insincere and exhausting.
And your feelings are completely valid. Because this is a phase that every creator has to go through. But let's step back just a little – where do these feelings come from?
There are two general attitudes of new creators. The first is of those who look at what other creators are doing with their audiences. They've been given an impression of ‘Do what you love and followers will come’ – a passive-income-driven lifestyle to success. They dream of writing an article, snapping a photo and filming themselves, then heading off to the beach. The best part? You don't work for or with anyone!
The second attitude is of those who want to focus on what they create. If they're not working on the product or promoting it, they don't think it's worth their time.
This is how I felt when I started – until I realized the truth. When you grow a creator business, you can't just create content and products. You need to put them in the hands of other people.
Successful creators are the ones who see things through a business model. They look for opportunities to collaborate with others, and they network and build relationships. This is the way to build an audience online that the influencers don't want to tell you about.
This isn't only true for creators. Across all industries, I can't think of one person who can survive without working relentlessly on these things. Of course, it's more obvious among creators because of how much they share publicly every day.
So, in order to get exposure for your work, you need other people's support. I still remember that one time that someone mentioned my Twitter course and I got 400 new students overnight. It was all because someone had appreciated it and wanted to spread the word. This is also why I always help other creators when they have something worth sharing. When I first offer help, people want to help back.
Once you put on these lenses, cheerleading isn't exactly a bad thing. It's a business culture. If you do it genuinely, you're encouraging and helping the people around you. If you do it only because you want people to like you, you'll be disappointed.
It's not easy to get over these feelings. But, once you do, you'll start to realize how valuable a supportive community can really be.
A version of this article was first published in Courier issue 49, September/October 2022. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.