July 28, 2022
📅 Gen Z Creator of the Week
📕 Catherine Yeo is the 20-year-old author of “The Creator Revolution”, a book describing the rise of content creators in our society. Since its release two months ago, it has hit #1 Amazon Bestselling New Release in multiple categories, and was featured in a16z crypto’s summer reading list. She’s currently a rising senior at Harvard studying Computer Science and English.
In today’s issue, Catherine shares her insights on building genuine connections, marketing yourself, and representation in mainstream media:
🏡 Growing up: I was a creator throughout high school, where I published a lot of fiction and art on platforms like Tumblr and Wattpad and gained hundreds of thousands of readers under a pseudonym. By the age of 15, people started offering me money to write specific stories or create pieces of art. When quarantine hit, I noticed an explosion in content, and it was from people of all kinds of backgrounds – these were demographics outside of what I usually saw in the creator world, so I wanted to start documenting these trends and decided to write a book.
📝 The research process: To gather research for the book, I interviewed hundreds of creators, investors, builders, entrepreneurs, and employees at companies like YouTube and Roblox. I reached out through any digital means possible including email, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Media tends to spotlight the same few creators, such as Mr. Beast or PewDiePie, and only focuses on big platforms like YouTube or TikTok. However, there are so many creative voices that the world is unaware of. I tried my best to go out of my way to feature a wide range of creators including bloggers, fanfiction writers, podcast producers, and more.
🤝 Making and maintaining connections: I didn't want to be transactional with the people I interviewed – I genuinely wanted to learn and support their work. I approach these interactions in terms of not only what they can do for me, but how I could help them, and grow both sides over time. I maintain these relationships by taking notes on what people like to learn, and when I come across resources or helpful things, I send them their way.
📕 For those who didn’t read “The Creator Revolution”, what’s the tl;dr?
1️⃣ Creators are causing broad societal shifts, such as reshaping the economy and decentralizing media. The sentiment I got from my readers is that many people still see influencers as something limited to dancing on TikTok or advertising on Instagram. It’s way bigger than that – creators are now affecting how people are being recommended music, the way people find products to buy, and much more. (further reading: Gen Z prefers TikTok over Google search now)
2️⃣ You, as an individual, can create your own success – that is the new reality. You can control your own narrative and outcome, which I don't think was possible before. You see individuals leveraging content to build their own personal brands, becoming entrepreneurs, and amplifying representation.
3️⃣ Creators still face major challenges such as mental burnout, harassment, and digital inequities. Regarding digital inequities, there's a huge skew that goes beyond the usual 80/20 rule. One known statistic is that 99% of all podcast downloads come from 1% of podcasts. These content platforms are dominated by very few creators in large part because of recommendation algorithms and lack of community support.
📈 Marketing a book: The overarching tip is to always be pitching and selling, whether it's for a book, a startup, or your personal brand. I began pitching as soon as I started writing the book, which was an entire two years before publishing it. You never know who's listening or watching. It gives people the opportunity to help you along in your journey, whether it's by connecting you to helpful people or providing resources.
📢 How do you approach self-promo? I do worry about self-promoting too much. At the end of the day though, I remind myself that I'm really proud of my work and that it’s worth sharing. It’s about the people who see your content and benefit from it rather than the haters. I’ve received death threats in the past as a 12-13 year old fiction writer, and it’s taught me to just keep on going.
⌛ Balancing school: I set three priorities for each semester of school, and define what I do around that. Sometimes, classes are not a priority. For example, last year at school, writing my book was one of the bigger priorities; one semester was hanging out with friends, and another semester’s priority was to meet as many new people as I could.
🎨 Productivity tip: I use this Chrome extension called eesel, which stores documents and links in one tab. It’s saved me a lot of time.
📺 On growing up Asian-American: Growing up, I definitely found Asian American representation in media and literature to be lacking. Perhaps that's another reason why digital content is so dear to my heart, because I’m so proud of my Asian American heritage. Early YouTubers like Ryan Higa, Wong Fu Productions, JinnyboyTV all carved some of my pivotal memories and became my sources of representation when I was younger. I really appreciate the internet for giving these voices a platform, and I'm excited to continue seeing more diversity in mainstream media.
💫 Best piece of advice for aspiring creators? Start with your audience, and then consider what value you want to offer to your audience. There are three main categories of value from content: 1) entertainment (ex: comedy skits) 2) education (ex: courses, newsletters), and 3) inspiration (ex: vlogs). Figure out what you want to offer, and go from there.
✌️ That’s it until next time!
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