Written by Clay Burns
“A college degree is the new highschool diploma” is the title of an article written by Robert Farrington of Forbes nearly a decade ago. The article talks about how, even with a college diploma, there are less and less opportunities for careers without real world experience. In a new world of social media, pushing out perfection, and being one-step ahead of outstanding, the statement has never felt more true. I have talked to many people “in the real world” and the top tidbit of information that I have heard is that it stands out to employers when potential employees do their own work on the side. This could be freelance work or a niche-focused Instagram account, demonstrating self-motivated engagement without external direction.
I spent my junior and senior years of highschool in my bedroom due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I found that when I wasn’t working on school work, I was playing video games. Although it was nice, I felt I could be doing more and decided to live stream my games on Twitch.tv. In addition to that I also re-uploaded clips to three other channels: my YouTube channel, my TikTok, and my Instagram that I had specifically made for recycling content. I talked to myself everyday for about 2 months before I made any progress, but ended up growing my channel to about 140 incredible followers 6 months after I started. Doing this provided valuable experience and clarified what I wanted to pursue post-pandemic.
During this time, I honed three major communications-oriented skills:
1. Marketing strategy and brand identity. At the beginning of my stream I realized that I needed something that wasn’t myself to keep viewers engaged and feel accepted. I had a traffic cone just floating around and created a side character named Cassie the Traffic Cone. Cassie was the star of the show. Every time someone followed the stream I put their username on Cassie with a sharpie. What Cassie did was she brought people in, she made people feel welcome, and she became a part of my brand. I used this to create YouTube videos called “Cassie's
Corner ”in which I just talked about topics I found cool. (The photo attached is a screengrab from one about my favorite astronaut, Cassie’s on the left). I wasn’t expecting any views (the most I got was 23) but I found a niche and gave it my all.
2. Content creation. For my channel I made overlays, gifs, thumbnails, reactions, memes, call to actions, and everything needed to separate me from the thousands of other streamers. You know how Times Square is so famous because of the bright lights and engaging ads? I was trying to do that with my stream and made sure that if there was some dead time where I had nothing to say the viewers still had something to watch. Also, you know how I mentioned recycling my content earlier? I had no way of automating that process, so I had to learn Premiere Pro and CapCut to splice, add effects, and caption each video. This brought me countless hours of practice in content creation that wasn't even part of the livestream.
3. Media analytics and advertisements. Every time I finished a stream I could go back and find the times where I had the most engagement. This way, when I went live the next day, I could play the mini-game or bring up the topics that I found to be entertaining for my viewers. I also used these sections of success to - once again - upload them as clips to my YouTube channel, TikTok account, and Instagram account. I could then use those analytics to find exactly what brought in the most views, followers, and engagement.
In conclusion, If you want to get into branding, advertising, analytics, content creation, and anything under the umbrella of communications: try to start a livestream. If you feel uncomfortable being live, start a YouTube channel. What you’ll find is that there are so many intricacies that go into creating and marketing one piece of visual work, and you get to test out all of them. By experimenting with these different mediums you can better hone in what you want to do further down the line, and if it works out to be successful, a proud item on your resume.