Being aligned with your purpose is so common in spiritual circles it’s almost an annoying cliché. The reality is, purpose is a lot less grand than we make it out to be. It’s not about our jobs, how many followers we have on IG, or even how many people we impact IRL.
Some time ago, I saw a very raw and honest tweet from an unsigned artist lamenting how hard it is to be noticed in the age of social media. I’m old enough to remember a world without IG. The first band I ever shot was in my late teens, when we still had Myspace, and Tumblr for the secret fandom stuff you didn’t want your Myspace friends to know. It was the band of a friend I met at an indie club. He is still in the industry, although not with this particular band. I was mostly known for street fashion (with photos in the press all over the world), but I also got to assist on set for some high profile projects. All because I had the kind of ballsy confidence of a teenager with big dreams that most of us lose along the way.
A new age of living our purpose
As I talked about to fellow photographer turned coach Emma O’Brien on her Lemons and Pineapples podcast, none of what I preach is coming from a place of not having experienced the uphill battle of building something from the ground up when nobody supports you, and your mindset is steeped in scarcity and generational trauma. It’s true I have a lot of privileges that others don’t have, which is why my ultimate why is to build a society where that’s not a thing anymore. I want people to thrive, not just survive, and it’s absurd that there are people in wealthy countries who can’t even survive. I believe wholeheartedly that there is more to life than what the system has led us to believe. But that’s a topic for another time (and space, I talked about it in my recent Witchy Musings for Capricorn and Aquarius seasons).
I learnt to shoot analogue (although I haven’t picked a film camera up in years), on my father’s old Minolta. Together with my aunt taking me to see paintings from as early as I can remember, and obsessing over the ads in my mother’s fashion magazines, that experience taught me everything I know about composition. And studying art in school for 13y, I guess.
Telling stories through images
My brain is trained to envision the scene as if second nature. It’s this penchant for visual storytelling that has led me to branding and marketing under the pressure that families put on young people to get “a real job”.
It was also the beginning of the age of blogging, and I loved to create lifestyle content. That’s something I want to bring back in this space. After all, the age of personal brands is only starting. For the past few years, as people transitioned to building online businesses on platforms they had originally joined and used for sharing their lives, it has become common to see educational content on Instagram.
Online Marketing is changing
But more and more people are coming clean that the content they consume is either aspirational, inspirational, funny, or about animals. And that’s hypocritical AF if they continue to put out teaching content when they themselves have other consuming habits. That’s not to say that people aren’t engaging with brands, because the data show that we clearly are. The picture is more nuanced and it shows we burnt out with the kind of IG marketing popular for the past 5 years.
The power of authentic connection
For example, 70% of users watch Instagram Stories daily, while only 40% of marketers use them (source: SocialPilot). And stories are where we can get more intimate, and when we can build relationships. Although there are ways to increase reach with them, too. Many creators have expressed that they, too, have shifted to hanging out in Stories more than posting on the feed. It’s more fun, less demanding, and often gets a lot more engagement.
Now, the tweet from a jaded unsigned band, feeling like the effort to put eyeballs on their songs online was too much compared to the return, isn’t just highlighting an issue with the growing unpopularity of the platform formerly known as Twitter. It’s a symptom of a bigger issue with the way the industry is structured. Successful artists are those who are able to build a cult-like following. It doesn’t have to be a big following, but it has to be a community excited of spreading the word with you.
Embracing the influencer model
I’m talking about music artists because that’s one of my biggest passions so an industry that I keep an eye on, but it’s true across the board. For all of the sneering at influencers, the truth is that you have to be one. Or not rely on social media marketing to raise your profile. Now, if you are a business owner, the rules of how to build a personal brand are slightly different. But, ultimately, everyone seeking to build a platform online is seeking to have a community to convert.
And when you have an iconic brand and people pay attention, you nurture your community by letting them into your world. I definitely have a better grasp of what Yoshiki is up to than I do my family 👀
Some artists have built their career on secrecy, of course, and that’s a choice you have to make for yourself. Be intentional about how you leverage it. “Build it and they will come” never worked when there wasn’t a lot of competition. It won’t work now that the gatekeeping has been removed and the barriers to entry are lower.
Personal Branding is the Key
I don’t mean to discourage anyone. I believe the market can never be saturated because there is only one of you (or one of your band). If it feels like it’s saturated you have a branding, messaging, or positioning problem (or all of the above). And it’s my passion to help you connect with your super fans and make your marketing efforts snowball from there.
My purpose in this lifetime is to help build a world where people don’t feel like they have to put their dreams at the back of a drawer, only to look at them wistfully once a decade, feeling it’s too late to do anything with them. I want to see a world where people have their needs met, so they can connect to their magic and bring it forth in whatever way their souls want to express itself. Think of how many novels we can’t read, songs we can’t listen to, paintings and sculptures we can’t see etc because their creator is too busy juggling multiple jobs to create them. That breaks my heart.
If you too believe in this mission join me on this journey. If you are an artist or aspiring to be one, take my Uncover Your Branding Archetype Quiz. You’ll get an email right away so you can start implementing my tips to think about your brand. And if you aren’t, help me share this work with the people who need it. And if you want me for your photography, you can find all the info on my website. I have spots open for London clients from February, and I’m opening internationally from the late spring onwards.