How Karl Conrad became an influencer and how he chooses which brands to work with.
Today we are talking with influencer Karl Conrad, a Toronto Resident who has over 400,000 fans across his social channels. Karl started his channel as a hobby in 2012, and now posts three times a week about his passion for technology, traveling and vlogging. He has worked with various brands ranging from Sony to Google and hundreds more. Keep reading Sideqik’s interview for more insight into the life of a great influencer and content creator.
Zubair Hossain: How did you get your start creating content, and how has it changed your life?
Karl Conrad: It started as a part time hobby while in school. I just started recording videos because I loved tech. I used to watch a lot of gaming videos like gaming streamers, [then] one day I randomly got a new pair of headphones and said, “Let’s see what happens when I throw this on the internet. I had no idea what I was doing, I just threw it out there and in the first week it had 30,000 views.”
[Creating Content is] a hobby of mine. I still work a full time job, and I record after work and on the weekends. But it has definitely grown into something now where it could be a viable business. If there is any advice I could say [for creators] it’s that:
“You have to enjoy what you are doing, otherwise you won’t find any success in it. Because, like a roller coaster, it has ups and downs, and there are times when you might not do so well. If you are doing it to strictly make money, you are going about it the wrong way.”
Z.H.: What do you see the influencer community moving towards to in the next few years, especially as the landscape becomes more competitive?
K.C.: The saturation will be extremely high, and unless someone who can make content that really stands out, it will be really hard for a new influencer to enter the stage.
For example [in] my area which is Tech, there seems to be a new Techie reviewer every single day, the amount of content that is pushed out is huge. Some content that I reliably pushed out 3 years ago, is now split amongst 15-20 other people. and unless you have a strong engagement toward your community or fans, or a strong unique style of video to watch, it’ll be hard.
ZH: How have you interacted with brands? What is your best experience with them? What are the brands you really enjoy working with and how did they reach out to you?
K.C: I think brand integration is important, it would be nice to say that you don’t have to involve any brands in the content you produce, but they help allow you to create videos that you normally can’t do on your own.
They [also provide] value around the fact that, even for content that you may spend a lot of time working on, the payout from youtube isn’t exactly worth spending 40hrs on a video that you only gets you 5,000 views. It would be nice to get recognition for [your effort], and get paid for something that you love to do.
“I think brand work is integral, and its up to you as a creator to decide where that line [of working with them] is and if that brand aligns with the content that you produce.”
For example, the brands I’ve worked with, mainly technology-based, align perfectly well. If I am getting a brand reach out from, say, a baby changing station (I actually got this the other day), they might try to spin that it was technology based, but [ultimately] is my audience going to be engaged when they see that? Probably not. So that is going to be something I am going to have to say no to.
If there is something that a brand can give me that is unique and I think would be fun for my audience to see, then I think that is more beneficial to me than a cash compensation.
If you can provide a cool experience, going somewhere [or] check something [exclusive] out it’s nicer than just a pure cash compensation. [For example] I just did something with Sony where they flew me out to LA, and I got to be a part of a Playstation VR commercial shoot. I think that was really cool, I had a great time, the video had over 100,000 views and I think my audience really enjoyed it. So for those unique experiences that you can’t do on your own and you need brand involvement, I think that is the perfect time to partner with a brand.
ZH: Are there some kinds of bad brand/creator partnerships? Are there bad brand reach outs?
K.C: All the emails from big, top-end companies, when they reach out, they are reaching out to you for a reason.
“If you are getting emails from companies that usually don’t even include your name in the header, then they probably just sent that out to 300 people, and they will take who they get.”
[It might be nice] to say we will send this thing to you and you can review it for $300, but in the back of your head [you’re thinking]:
“$300 is great, but what is the value of that and what is the impact of that on my channel.”
ZH: Is there an effective formula that creators can choose the best opportunities and what brands they want to work with?
I wouldn’t say there is an exact formula. The only thing I have done is ask myself, “Does this align with the direction of my channel?”. Something that I have actually explored doing is getting a bit broader outside of technology. So, I did a bit of vlogging last summer and that has really opened my demographic to what I can do on my channel.
If you pigeon hole yourself into, say, reviewing sunglasses then does it make sense for you to do a video on a refrigerator? Probably not.
It really depends on what your audience is there to see on your channel and if you make it to the point where you have incorporated your lifestyle in it. Then you have the option of a lot more brand deals. I will counteract [those brand deals] and say what did your audience come there for? Was it the sunglasses or was it to see your lifestyle? You need have a fine balance and you really need to plan out if you want to make the transition and if that kind of [transition] makes sense to you.
Z.H: So can you talk a little more about the Vlog you did with the MLB: The Show game?
K.C: It was a cool opportunity and I’m a huge sports fan. [Sports] are not always a huge part of tech, but integrating a video game aspect to gaming and tech (which get along well), I thought it was a really cool opportunity and it’s obviously something I can’t do on my own.
And [getting] to ask a few tech based questions to Aaron, I had fun doing that and it’s something different. It got me out of my studio, and I was able to meet some really cool people.
Z.H: How important are influencer and brand relationships? How does it play into working with different brands?
K.C: It’s definitely the relationships you build with brands. So say for Sony, I’ve kind of known their PR company for two years, and once you build that relationship with the team, you do a good job and they like the content that you produce. You get opportunities that say, “Hey, there is a new game launching we are interested [in you being a part], are you interested?”
I’ll get back to them and say, “Yeah that is good, I can fit that in my schedule.” So it’s all about your relationships with brands and how well you produce that content.
ZH: What do you suggest the best way for brands to approach people and creators and to work with them? What is the most enticing thing when they first reach out?
K.C: With larger brands, it’s the name that entices you to work on a project with them. They usually have a lot more funding to do cool opportunities with them rather than a Startup that just wants you to review a pair of headphones they have.
Usually each brand has a PR company that works for it, and they have people that actively monitor social and will find you if you are producing good content. They usually see the engagement and the reach. You usually go through that company first before you work with a big brand.
A lot of my really cool experiences are a cold email I have gotten that say “Hey, we work for so and so and were wondering if you were interested in this.”
Z.H: For those start-ups and those cold emails, what sticks out?
K.C: My philosophy [is]:
“If I can see it aligning with my channel I will always say yes, and try to fit it in my schedule. It’s just trying to land on a timeline that is feasible for both ends.”
I am not expecting a payment or anything but it would be nice to share [the product] with my audience.
Z.H: Thanks for you time today Karl, really appreciate the insights!
K.C.: Thank you!