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.
Let’s rewind to 2008: Twilight hit movie theaters, Katy Perry dominated the pop charts, and the first group of YouTube “vloggers” emerged. Among the OG influencers was Alisha Marie from Riverside, California. As of 2023, she amassed over 8 million subscribers.
Marie started posting videos in 2011, with content ranging from makeup tutorials and morning routines to fashion hacks and back-to-school tips. She partnered with top brands—Marc Jacobs, Tarte Cosmetics, BMW, Amazon, Hollister—and designed her own Casetify X Alisha Marie phone case collection. Marie’s social media empire further extends to her own size-inclusive clothing brand, Parallel Apparel, which she founded alongside her sister, Ashley Nicole.
In 2018, Marie started a podcast with fellow influencer Remi Cruz entitled Pretty Basic. Since its launch, the podcast won a Webby Award, amassed over 79 million downloads, and drew in several celebrity guests, including Meghan Trainor, Ashley Tisdale, Dixie D’Amelio, and Kiernan Shipka.
In 2018, 10 years after her start on YouTube, Marie announced she would be taking a month-long social media break. She opened up the conversation about how spending time online can affect one’s mental health and potentially cause burnout.
Marie continues to be a mental health advocate. She participated in a 2020 VidCon panel titled “Mental Health on Screen: Self Care for All of Us,” and partnered with the Jed Foundation, a nonprofit that protects emotional health and aids in suicide prevention for America’s teens and young adults.
With an ever-growing online platform, with over 3.6 million followers on Instagram and 603,000 on TikTok, Marie shows no signs of slowing down. Below, she breaks down her secrets to social media success and how she knows when it’s time to take a break.
The following interview is condensed and edited for clarity.
You were one of the first YouTube influencers. How have you seen the world of social media change over time?
When I started, you couldn’t even really make money on social media. People have come up to me over the years saying, “Wow, you must have made bank on your early videos,” but I used to only have one ad per video. You didn’t even have the option to put multiple ads, whereas now, you can put seven ads in one video. So even though my videos had a lot of views, the revenue was not what you’d expect.
You couldn’t even pick a thumbnail. It was just a fun hobby that people did. It’s been really interesting seeing different waves of creators coming into this space. I remember the first big cultural change on YouTube was when Vine shut down. Everyone was like, “Oh my God, what’s happening?” And then Musical.ly became TikTok.
So many of my friends stumbled into this being a full-time career, whereas now, people are trying to become full-time influencers or make a full-time salary creating content. There used to be only one cooking channel or one beauty channel. [Social media] was very small and niche. Now, it’s so normal for me to come across people who have millions of followers, and I’ll have no idea who they are. Back in the day, it was like a little neighborhood where you knew or knew of every creator.
Do you see differences between today’s TikTok stars and the original group of YouTube vloggers?
When TikTok first came out, creators said they weren’t getting paid anything. I was there in the beginning, so I know it takes a long time before you ever make money. But once you start making money, it’s very different than it used to be. Creators have asked me how much they should charge for a video, and it’s hard for me to say because it was different when I had a hundred thousand followers. Brands weren’t giving money to influencers as much as they are now.
It’s fascinating to me that TikTok videos get so many views, but most creators’ goal is to end up on YouTube because they know that’s where the majority of the revenue is. People used to get millions of views on a YouTube video, and now, the views are lower compared to TikTok. But the retention and the audience you can build [on YouTube] is much deeper.
It’s been awesome seeing that anyone can blow up on TikTok and make a job out of pottery, or whatever their niche is. Anyone can get noticed. Your small business can change overnight. If you really want to be found, TikTok is the way to go, but YouTube will always be my heart and soul.
Why is it important to you to have a podcast in addition to your already-established social media platforms?
People underestimate that there are multiple types of supporters. A lot of people in their 30s support me, but they commute to work and don’t have free time to watch my videos. When I aged up my content, my views definitely went down because I don’t have an all-young demographic anymore, but I definitely was able to grow deeper relationships with my viewers.
The first podcast meetup I did was eye-opening. I’ve had multiple meetups in the decade I’ve done social media. This was the first meetup where I really felt connected to an audience. They knew me and were there for me, not a front I was putting on. It felt nice to know that I’m good enough just talking about my dating stories.
What are some podcasts you like to listen to, and why?
Emma Chamberlain, obviously. One I’ve also been loving is Delusional Diaries by Bria Jones. If I had a solo pod, it would emulate hers a lot. She talks about any topic. She’s very business-y. I can tell she loves the YouTube world, but her [niche] is still very lifestyle.
I also like Shrink For The Shy Guy. He’s helped my social anxiety so much. I’m obsessed with Gals on the Go. I live vicariously through the girls because I would love to move to New York, but I don’t know if I can ever do it for more than two months.
How do you engage with your fans online? Why is fan engagement so important?
There are so many people doing social media now, it’s hard to find fans who are ride-or-die for you. Everyone is doing the same thing, so it’s hard to stand out. Letting your personality show through and being vulnerable with your followers is everything.
In 2017, I felt like my channel was all five-minute crafts. My videos would go more viral if I took out me rambling because people wanted straight-to-the-point stuff. But then I realized, what are all these views for if people don’t know who I am? Everyone always preaches high video retention, but if you’re editing yourself out of your content, then anyone could fill that spot.
I think that’s something a lot of people on TikTok are struggling with. They’ll get 5 million views, but they’re not gaining a following or converting that following to YouTube. Viral content is great, but not every video can be viral. It’s better to do a few videos that show your personality, and one or two that are fun trends you know will perform well.
Are there any specific hardware tools or software you use to produce content?
I’m a huge fan of filming in 4K on my phone. Wiping my camera lens before I film makes such a difference. So much makeup and dirt can get on there. My vlog camera is a Sony ZV-E10. I love it, but it’s not as user-friendly as the Canon M50 I used beforehand. Sony 7C is what I use for my main channel. Changing up the cameras can make a visual difference so people don’t get tired of seeing the same thing.
I’m a huge fan of editing on the Adobe Suite. I used PicMonkey for the longest time. Canva and PicMonkey are great for beginners, but I’m glad I learned Photoshop because you can do so much more on there. I usually edit my videos on Final Cut Pro or Premiere. Even though you can pretty much edit everything on your phone these days, it’s funny because I’ll edit TikToks on my laptop. I’m much faster that way.
You announced in 2018 that you were taking a digital hiatus. What led to your burnout?
I was on autopilot, just uploading weekly. I lost myself. I was in it all for the views and didn’t know who I was. Leading up to my burnout, I was very aware that I was playing a character. I didn’t enjoy what I was doing, and I didn’t enjoy my content. It wasn’t stimulating to me.
Anyone who’s a freelancer, an artist, or a creator understands how you have to take time for yourself to recharge and get re-inspired. If a musician came out with a song every week, eventually, they would be over it, and the audience would also be over it. It’s important to let your audience miss you at times.
What terrified me back then was that I was going to become irrelevant, or people were going to unsubscribe. I started feeling embarrassed by my content, and it wasn’t resonating with me as much.
What made you decide to return to influencing?
I never planned on fully quitting. I always knew I would go back. I’m too passionate about this job and the creation process. I missed feeling creative. I do wish I took a longer break, though. It was only for two months.
In the first month, I decided to become an Instagram baddie, and the second month was all planning and pre-filming. I was still working, so I wish I took a complete month off.
Now, I have a much better idea of long-term goals. Ever since my burnout moment, I’ve been very pro-mental health. I didn’t realize how many people struggle with it and don’t have a safe space to be open until I started talking about it more.
How do you know when it’s time to take a break from the internet?
If there are days when I’m tired, that’s fine, and I’ll take it easy. We’re not products. Creators are brands, but they’re also still human. I remember when I hit 1 million subscribers, I celebrated for five seconds but then felt defeated because I realized, “Oh my gosh, I’m gonna have to do this all over again just to hit two million.”
That cycle is so toxic because you’ll never be done. Even someone like MrBeast, one of the top YouTubers, is still trying to outdo himself. You never feel like you’ve fully made it. But I had this realization that if I never feel like I’m gonna make it, at least I should be proud of my content. If I’m on a date, I don’t want to be ashamed of my videos. I want to be proud of what I’m doing.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to pursue a career in social media?
It took me four years to see a decent following. It takes a long time. Everyone’s always comparing themselves to other creators. People will think, “Oh, Emma Chamberlain’s quirky, and that’s why she’s big.” They’ll try and emulate her because they think it’ll help them when in reality, people love Emma for Emma.
If you’re only known as the girl who’s trying to be Emma Chamberlain, that’ll stunt you in the long run. Especially on TikTok, things can seem very “copy and paste.”
Any huge creator I know genuinely loves what they do. They don’t just love fame. Focus on your long-term gains. If you don’t know what they are, that’s fine. Trust your creative self. Any time I doubt myself, I remember that I’m a creative person, so even if I stop uploading YouTube videos in the future, I will still be doing something I’m putting my whole heart into.
It’s easy for new creators to feel discouraged or feel like no one cares or is watching. We all start somewhere, and it’s all about consistency. Don’t give up too quickly if you feel like it’s not working. I’m grateful I didn’t have a viral moment when I first started. Back then, I didn’t know who I was.
Timing is everything, so don’t get discouraged. You never know how things will turn out.