We’re reaching out to some popular creators to get their best tips and tricks for success and better understand the ups and downs of life as a trailblazer on the internet.
This week, we caught up with Alyssa Dykstra, the owner of gaming boutique Threads & Thistles, via email. Dykstra has over 30,000 followers on TikTok and strives to create a diverse online community. Using her social media presence to help her business thrive, Dykstra identifies as a business owner first and content creator second.
The interview below has been condensed and edited.
What’s the first thing you do to start your day online?
I do my best to not rush to my computer first thing when I wake up. I’ll grab a cup of tea or coffee, make some breakfast, do my skincare routine and relax a bit. The first thing I do online is answer emails and other questions on social media that customers, or potential customers, have for me. It’s really important to me that I have good customer service so my followers know that I’m always there to help. After that, I post previously planned content, and then I plan ahead for the shop. I always think about what I can do to improve my shop and my content, and make it even better.
What do you wish you knew when you were first starting out as a creator?
I wish I knew that it is common to have people doubt you or bully you, and this doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong. I also wish I knew that the internet can be one big roller coaster. One minute you’re gaining followers like crazy, and the next your engagement has dropped for days or even weeks.
When did you realize you’d broken through and become a successful creator?
I knew I became successful whenever I had people demanding things from me. I know, that’s a weird response. I came to realize that online, the more popular you become, people see you less as a genuine person and more as a machine. I’ve gone viral a few times on TikTok and I’ve blown up on Instagram, and when that happens I get a flood of excited people telling me what I should do, what I should make in my shop, and how they need this thing they want asap. Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t my overall experience, as I have many wonderful followers who are nothing but loving and supportive, even when they give suggestions for my content and my shop. But I knew I became successful whenever I started going viral and I had a flood of excited people asking me to whip things up for them on the spot.
If you hadn’t become a creator, what would you be doing right now?
Before I became a business owner for my gaming boutique, I had three jobs and I was in school full time. If I wasn’t running this shop, I would probably be aiming to get my graduate degree in order to become a therapist. I’ve always loved psychology and helping others, but I am an entrepreneur at heart and I’m incredibly grateful to have a supportive husband who loves his job, so I could start a job I loved too.
What’s one thing you do to manage your relationship with your fans?
Most if not all of my fans are gamers, and I do my best to maintain relationships by learning from them and engaging with them. Some days engaging can be difficult, and I need time to myself. But I always do my best to make my followers feel like they are on this journey with me, and their contributions matter. I ask them what they would like to see in the shop, what products they like best, and I even ask them for game recommendations. I want my page to be a place where I meet friends who can teach me something and help make me a better person and a more successful shop owner.
What do you think of the idea of cancel culture?
I really don’t like the cancel culture that has been cultivated online. I think it began with the idea that we need to love ourselves and protect others, which is great, and should be encouraged. However, we fail to emphasize the part where people grow and change, and that should be encouraged too. I believe we see people’s true colors whenever we give them a chance to acknowledge their mistakes. If we cancel people before they even have a chance to learn and recognize what they potentially did wrong, then we might as well go ahead and cancel everyone. Unless the person in question is harmful to the society, they deserve to be given a chance. I know I’ve made my fair share of mistakes, and I was quick to listen and apologize to my followers after listening to their perspective. If someone needs to unfollow a creator for their mental health, then that’s okay. But I do appreciate those who have given me the chance to learn and grow from my mistakes.
How much of your true self do you show online?
I consider myself a very genuine person, and I show this online. That being said, it is the internet, and I’m careful not to share every little thought I have. I would never go into detail about my marriage, I don’t share frustrating moments with customer service to my followers, and I do my best to not rant about politics online unless I feel it is relevant to my content. I enjoy showing highlights of my life to my followers, telling them about myself, and even telling them if I’m having a bad mental health day. I think it’s important that your followers know your life isn’t perfect, because once you become an influencer, there are people who assume you have it all figured out.
What’s one of the best interactions you’ve ever had with someone who follows you?
Oh, there are way too many examples. I love the community I’m in, and I love my followers. Whenever I started the shop, I didn’t know the impact I would have on the community, and I’m grateful that I’ve been given the chance to make one. I’ve had people message me telling me they’re grateful that I have plus size models, people telling me that I’ve helped make them feel comfortable in the gaming community, and people telling me that they’ve had people stop them on the street to compliment a shirt from my shop. All of these interactions are what keep me going.
What is your most treasured tool?
Does my husband count? My husband is there for all the behind the scenes action. He helps me with the shop, he calms me down when I’m overwhelmed, and he reassures me I’m good at what I do. My husband is a big gamer too, and he helps give me insight into games I’m unfamiliar with. The best part is, we bond by playing these games together so I can have more content for my shop.
What holds you accountable?
Other creative people hold me accountable. I’m a very competitive person! I’m always proud of other creators and their work, but they push me to be better than what I am now. If I see another shop that’s a little similar to mine, I learn from them and think about what I can do to be better than where I am now. If I see a content creator post some amazing photos, I think about what I can do to improve my content. I’m competitive in the most supportive way, and that’s what keeps me going!
Thank you, Alyssa, for talking with us!
We’ll be featuring a new Q&A with a creator every week, so shoot an email to [email protected] for a chance to be included.