abby dark star

Influencer manager by day, influencer by night, our interview with Abby Dark Star

abby dark starYou’ve seen our influencer spotlight series. You’ve seen our customer spotlight series. Now we bring you a hybrid even we wouldn’t have imagined. Abby, better known by her online persona Abby Dark Star, works with influencers every day in her role as Social Media Manager with Logitech G. It’s something she’s uniquely qualified to do because she has more than 691,000 followers of her own on her cosplay and costuming channels. We sat down with Abby to talk about her combined roles. Influencers, watch out, she’s got some great tips!

Sideqik: It’s fun to finally chat. How did you get into cosplay?

Abby Dark Star: Well, I was in theater from middle school, all the way through college. Middle school, I think I was 12, 13 in middle school?I don’t remember.

From that, all the way into my early 20s, I did theater. I always had that creative drive, you know, the costuming, the makeup and everything else. Of course, I’ve always been a geek because my dad was a stay-at-home dad. He had a back injury and was unable to work. My mom went to work and my dad stayed home to raise me. So, it was Doctor Who, Star Trek, at the comic book store on Wednesdays. Reading all the original Star Wars Expanded Universe books together. It was sci-fi, fantasy — the geek stuff,  that’s how we bonded.

I’d come home from school and we’d watch cartoons together or — back before I went to school, Transformers, G.I. Joe, and Ninja Turtles. Then, when I got older, I’d come  home from school and we would watch Animaniacs, Batman: The Animated Series, Superman. So my life was theater and geek culture. About the time when I stopped doing theater in college, because it was consuming my life — I did three productions in one semester, and you’re only technically allowed to do one — I’m like, “Okay, I need to focus more on my studies instead of being in the theater all the time.”

I was still needing that kind of creative outlet and I, at the time, I went to my first comic book convention. I heard about Comic-Con [San Diego Comic Con], of course, but the local ones were first starting to pop up. [There] I saw people walking around in costumes, and I’m like, “I could do that. I can make that. I know how to make [stuff]. I can do that.”

It was born out of me needing a creative outlet and I threw myself head first down the rabbit hole and probably, when I look back in it, it’s been an interesting journey because I never intended for it to turn into well, anything. I feel very grateful that it has, but I never really set out with the intention of like, “I want to be someone on social media. I’m going to do all these things to BE someone on social media.”

I would do photo shoots because I put blood, sweat and tears into my costumes, so I wanted to have really nice photos of them! I’d post them, and people would share them to their friends, who shared them to their friends, etc. The next thing you know, I was looking at my facebook going, “Who the hell are these people friend-requesting me?” And I knew I had to figure out a solution because  I didn’t want my family bombarded on social media. They didn’t sign up for that. I used an old forum name that I used back in the day to protect my privacy. It went boom.

abby dark star

Sideqik: What was the timeline of it blowing up? Because you’re pretty big in the cosplay community. Didn’t you go to  Australia recently? A while ago? Man, I’ve gone pretty deep into your Instagram.

Abby Dark Star: Yes (to Australia). I’m always hesitant to say, “Yes, I’m famous,” because I dislike ego. I look at myself, thinking, “I always could be better and I could always–” I need to make sure that I remember my shit stinks because the moment you start buying into all of that, you lose yourself. I’ve seen it happen to people and I don’t want that to happen to me, so I’m always shying away from that, “Oh my, you’re famous. [screams]”

Yes, my husband and I, we’ve gained some notoriety within the community. We’ve been invited to international conventions around the world and we’ve gotten the opportunity to connect with cosplayers in the communities because of the events. The timeline was, God, I think my first convention was early 2008, and the next year I came back with even more costumes. I joke around that I’ve been cosplaying for forever because – Oh God, I’m so ashamed to admit this — I used to make up stories which would now be considered fan-fiction, and then made costumes for those stories as a kid and act them out in my bedroom.

My mom would ask,”What are you doing?” I said, “This is my Batman story and I’m Poison Ivy. See? I’m wearing my green bathing suit and I attached leaves all over myself.” And my mom would be like, “I wish I had a camera.” Me: “No.” I actually had a battle when the Batman movies were coming out. Batman & Robin, oh God, that was a travesty. I wanted to wear my homemade Poison Ivy costume at the theater and my mother wouldn’t let me.

Abby Dark Star

I was like 14, I get it, but at the same time I was like, “I can’t believe you’re so– [jokingly cries],” as most preteens do. That started that. I was really active on a lot of costuming forums first, because Facebook, back then, still really wasn’t a big thing. Twitter, same thing. Many people tweeted, but it wasn’t what it is today. A lot of my stuff got shared around the original Replica Prop forum and different fansites.

Once Facebook started to be a thing, I had originally not separated everything. I was putting just stuff on my own Facebook profile and I started getting all of these random friend requests after events. I went, “I don’t know these people.” It really wasn’t comfortable for me because I take the protection of my family pretty seriously. At the time, I had a very young niece and someone had randomly sent her a message.

Once that happened, I was like, “Yes, no. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.” It wasn’t anything bad, it was just like, “Your aunt’s awesome.” And I was just like, “Okay. Not cool.” I used my forum name and I changed that profile to a page. At the time, this was like 2010, 2011 I think, I had like 6,000 people on there. That’s where I posted all my costumes stuff, it was the drawer where I shoved it.

After that, it just started growing. All of it was organic growth because buying ads and stuff wasn’t a Facebook thing at the time. At that time, they weren’t throttling your reach or your engagement. I added a Twitter and I added Instagram. Then, was it 2012? I’ve got invitations to from Cons before to be a guest, and I was always confused because I would think, “I’m nobody, really. I’m not.” It was about 2012 and I finally decided to take the plunge, “You know, I’m going to do a table.” but It’s not going to be the general like, “Here’s all my pretty, pretty pictures. Buy my shit thank you.”

We brought examples of props, and materials that people could pick up and touch. We brought mold examples, fabric swatches.  We put together an info card with resources that people could use to cosplay. My whole baseline was, “If I’m going to do a table. Yes, I’ll have my prints for sale. Yes, I’ll do stuff, but I want this to be a place for people to come to learn.” Part of my degree when I was in college, I was going to be a teacher, I eventually changed my major, but some things just don’t leave you.

People wanted to come by because they knew they could find out information. People appreciated having a resource to learn. My husband and I — We’re normally guests together. He’s been doing costuming and cosplays since 2000. He was one of the first people to ever create a Tomb Raider fan board, a forum. He was one of the founding members of the Lara Croft community. He’s also one of the founding members of the Indiana Jones fan community and forum members. He has a lot of wealth of knowledge when it comes to props and armor and costume making. It just ballooned from there and eventually it landed me in my career.

abby dark star

Sideqik: Is it hard to balance you’re cosplaying with your work at Logitech?

Abby Dark Star: I try to, be very clear with my boundaries. I actually worked in the social media for a while, for tech companies and software companies, but I always kept the two very separate. I was like, “This is this, this is this. No, the two should never cross.” and about the time 2012, 2013, I forget, I wasn’t happy working in software because I wanted to facilitate and be part of an engaged community and some areas of tech/software are hard to make any connections like that.

I decided to make the leap and actually combine my experience in social media and as an influencer with my resume and I applied for a couple different jobs, ended up getting hired contractually at Crystal Dynamics and then I worked for Ubisoft.

How do I balance it? I’ve always been very upfront once I decided to take that step of, this is who I am and this is my stance on it. I’m always very clear about separation of church and state as I refer to it. I make sure people understand that, yes, I work for this company, but I do not speak for them. Legally you have to do that anyways. The personal stuff on weekends, the night, that’s when I stream, when I make costumes et cetera. Actually, when I do conventions as a guest, I take my own PTO in order to do that. I’m taking my vacation time in order to be with the community because I love it. I don’t do it for the income because honestly, I’m probably in the red than I am in the green with cosplay. I don’t ever want to use my role to advance myself, I want to earn it.

Cosplay, it’s a love. Even if I wasn’t a guest, I’d be at these events because I love the community, I love seeing people create, I love seeing people encourage, and I love seeing people change their life because of the geek community. I’ve had the blessing and the privilege of being able to indirectly and non-intentionally help people to change their lives. That has a profound impact on me. I have the personal motto of “be the change you want to see.” For me, yes, there are times when I’m just like, “I really don’t want to stream, I really don’t want to tweet.”

For the most part it’s cosplay and being an influencer is in my own time and I really am very clear about not combining the two. Anything that I do here at work while, yes, it benefits from networking, I make sure it’s very clear, it’s like, “This is me, this is work. This is me, this is work.” I tried to keep all my personal social media free from people who are like, “Hey, I want to talk to you about Logitech G stuff”, I’m like “You need to email my work address.”

Sideqik: You do a lot of event stuff for Logitech, right? Are those completely different communities or does that bump up against each other?

Abby Dark Star: They bump up against each other. It’s really awesome because I’ll say to people who follow me on social “Hey, come by the Logitech G booth, I will be working, if you see me in the middle of a conversation, either give me five minutes or come back by another time, I’d love to say hi.” I make sure I’m clear with those boundaries. It’s been really cool because people get to see me in a different light as myself and what I do for work. I want to share who I am, authentically and honestly.

I appreciate that because it’s very easy to buy into the persona of someone online, whether it’s someone sees someone as Catwoman or someone sees someone as “That person is a Poison Ivy cosplayer” getting the opportunity to show people who follow me “Hey, this is Abby in her professional setting” is really cool and I enjoy it.

My Twitch stream, a couple of the people I’ve gotten to meet because I’ve been at work events, are like “Yes, you should see Abby in work mode, she’s like ‘Bam'” and it is so cool to be recognized for my work.

If anything it’s hilarious because my co-workers will bust my chops because they say, “The famous Abby Dark Star is over here.” I’m like “Shut up you guys.” They like to bust me and it’s funny. It’s still pretty cool and I feel super fortunate. There was a lot of fear when I first crossed the stream because I don’t shy away from the sexy stuff, I don’t shy away from embracing a woman’s power and that can be pretty hard on a brand. There’s a lot of people who shy away from that stuff just because there is so much turmoil around it and I have a wonderful, wonderful support system with my co-workers.

In my first three weeks here at the office, we did International Women’s Day, and People & Culture asked me to present a roundtable on cosplay and I clarified, “I’m going to present my cosplay, but just so you know there are sexier items in there is that okay?” and they were fine with it.  First person to sit down at my table is the CEO of Logitech. I’ve got a slideshow of my costumes and one of them is a sexier anime costume. And it was on the screen. My entire thought process: “There is my under-boob okay. Here we go. Its been fun to work here for three weeks.” [Laughs] It was really cool because everybody that sat down including him was entirely supportive. “This is so cool. I’m so proud of you for embracing your power as a woman, so proud of you for standing up for equality.” and I was floored! I remember thinking,  “Oh my God, I’m never leaving this company.”

Sideqik: That’s awesome. That’s super cool. Now in daytime Abby, you work with influencers. Does you being an influencer impact how you look at working in influencer marketing?

Abby Dark Star: Yes. I’m very bluntly honest with them. They know that I understand the dance. They know that I understand how it feels to– When you’re an influencer, especially if you’re an influencer that’s trying to make it a full-time job your paycheck is not guaranteed. You’re hitting the pavement trying to make sure that you’ve got income coming in, in order to pay your bills. It’s a really high-stress place to be when you’re self-employed like that.

Because I have that understanding of that feeling and I understand what it goes into of whether it’s editing or social media or photos or marketing or networking. I tell the influencer like, “I know how this is.” It is a sense of camaraderie and there’s an understanding there. Also, because I have been in their shoes and continue to be in their shoes I can warn them of pitfalls or suggest ways for improvement or it also allows me to be– Again I’m perfectly blunt. Where a lot of times, unintentionally some influencer marketing can be like, “Well, we’ll get back to you,” or, “Well, we’ll see what the budget is.”

I’m completely bluntly honest with things to be like, “I have to keep my budget to A, I realize you want to do B. What about C instead?” or I’ll clarify what I can do. They also know that I’m going to champion them and I’m not going to try to take advantage of them because I know even though that paycheck looks high, after taxes and fees, its not. There’s a level of trust because they understand that I understand them and that I’m not out to just– I’m out to be fair to both my company and to them.

abby dark star

Sideqik: Yes, that’s awesome. I poked around some activations. I see that sometimes you can see your own metrics inside the Sideqik platform. Do you look at analytics for your own accounts?

Abby Dark Star: I do. [laughs] It’s funny. I often tell people being an influencer or social media manager with my own stuff is like the whole tale of the cobbler children not having shoes. I have all the skills and all the marketing to do– I’m like, “If I have the time, what I could do with my own brand.” I look at analytics. I try to look at them and not look too hard because it’ll start driving me crazy because I’ll be like, “If I just start putting on more content on a regular basis and start doing this and start doing that, maybe if I did an activation with this.”

I’ll start developing the whole marketing plan behind it and then I realize, “Well, you have 10 hours this week that you can do all this. Okay.” [laughs]. Yes, I do tend to look at analytics. A lot of times I’ll test out marketing ideas on my own channels before I’ll risk investing a lot of money for other things just because it’s like, “Let’s see if this actually works.”

Sideqik: I think that’s all my questions. Do you have anything you want to talk about?

Abby Dark Star: I think anything I’d tell you is advice for influencers. I get like 500 emails a day from people looking for sponsorships or partnerships. I think that if someone is serious about working with a company, PLEASE don’t send an email if you have misspellings. [chuckles] Make sure that you have the relevant information in there. If you’re going for a sponsorship because of your Twitch stream or your YouTube stream or your social media numbers, include your social media channels and links to those and your base numbers. It is super helpful to the person reading because they are trying to get through all the other emails they have to answer. Coupled with Sideqik it enables me to do my job even more efficiently.

Making sure that influencers are aware that a lot of times there may not be a dedicated influencer manager. It is still a relatively new space or companies just don’t have the headcount for the role. They’re not– How can I put this as politely and gently as possible? They don’t have the ability to necessarily hold someone’s hand or be there every minute at all hours to answer a question. I would say just understand that people do have other obligations within their jobs. It’s not because they don’t want to work with you, it’s just they just don’t have the bandwidth to do everything. Keep being positive, keep trying and…Patience, young padawan. Patience.

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