The Evolution of the UK ‘Influencer’ Space panel took place on the Fashion & Beauty Stage, on the Friday of Summer in the City 2019. The panel featured Tom Burns, Beckii Flint, Daz Black and Lucy Moon. It was chaired by Bird Keeper Toby.
Toby kicked off the conversation by asking the panellists about when they first realised that YouTube had taken off as a popular platform.
“When I was 16, “people called me ‘weird Lucy’ because I vlogged,” she admitted, “but when I turned 17, 18, people in my sixth form would be like ‘Oh, do you know Zoella? Do you know Caspar Lee?’ […] I thought ‘Oh god, it’s mainstream now.'”
Beckii also started creating videos when she was in school. “Nobody knew what YouTube was, nobody was watching YouTubers. It was just me and maybe one other person who wasn’t even my friend so we couldn’t even bond over it.”
She added that “the intention was not to make money, because you couldn’t!”
Whereas before, creators would get called ‘sell-outs’ for working with brands, over the years viewers have become more accepting of this. Beckii has herself co-founded an influencer marketing agency to connect creators with brands.
In 2012, the then four-year-old event was held inside for the first time, following its humble beginnings in fields, and the turnout took everybody by surprise.
“About 3,000 people turned up and it might as well have been the original TanaCon because we had people queuing outside who couldn’t get into the venue,” shared Tom. “If that happened now, we would have been over.”
“[YouTube] is now another part of the entertainment industry and Summer in the City really opened my eyes to how big this industry actually is,” concluded Daz.
So what is it that makes the UK YouTube community special? Toby posed this question to the panellists.
Beckii cited the friendships you develop with other creators. “Being a YouTuber is quite an unrelatable thing,” she explained, “you can’t really vent about it properly to people who aren’t YouTubers.”
“And also your problems are so first world!” added Toby.
Lucy and Tom both pointed out that the community has now diversified into many ‘sub-communities’ like fashion and gaming. “Even saying the word ‘community’, I often find is a bit silly, because it’s so many people,” said Tom.
Musing on the differences between the UK and LA creator scenes, Lucy commented that in LA, there’s a lot more pressure for creators to become celebrities “and you don’t have that here. No matter how big someone is here, no one ever has airs and graces.”
The panel was then opened to questions. One audience member asked how the panellists view the word ‘influencer’ and if there’s a better word to use to describe what they do.
Beckii promptly replied that ‘creator’ is her word of choice, saying “you can’t influence anything if you can’t create. Influence is a bi-product.”
Toby agreed, adding that “you don’t want to think of yourself as ‘I am a means to sell products to people.'”
Tom only used the word ‘influencer’ on the Summer in the City schedule where he absolutely had to, and even then, he made sure to keep it in inverted commas.
“I couldn’t bring myself to write it,” he said, adding that he doesn’t think it does justice to the diversity of talent of the platform.
Another audience member asked for advice for creating longer-form videos for YouTube, as opposed to platforms like TikTok.
This question chimed with Daz’s experience, as he began his YouTube channel after finding popularity on Vine. “I thought, I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket, which was the right thing to do because obviously, Vine died.”
His advice was that “it’s really about talking to your audience, being confident in your content and really at the end of the day, you just have to go for it.”
Photos by George Yonge.
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