Samantha Lee/Business Insider
Business Insider is taking you behind the scenes of our best stories with our new series “The Inside Story.”
This week, BI deputy executive editor Olivia Oran spoke to reporter Amanda Perelli, who covers what’s new in the business of YouTube, Instagram, and influencer culture at large.
Perelli shares how she keeps up with the super-fast changing industry, why average people should care about influencers, and her own social media habits (lots of TikTok!).
You can sign up for Amanda’s weekly newsletter “Influencer Dashboard” here.
Olivia Oran: Covering influencers is such a fascinating beat, particularly for someone just getting started in journalism. How’d you land such a cool area to cover?
Amanda Perelli: I applied for the YouTube and influencer business fellowship at BI last spring, as I was preparing to graduate from college.
The fellowship caught my eye because I have always been someone who’s watched YouTube videos, from the original beauty gurus like Blair Fowler (JuicyStar07) and Bethany Mota (MacBarbie07), to keeping up with now popular creators like Shane Dawson and Jeffree Star all throughout my senior year.
I’ve loved having the opportunity to report on creators from a business standpoint. So many of these stars are incredibly business-savvy and have built entire companies all from their initial success online.
Through building relationships with some of the top managers and agents, along with creators themselves, I was able to turn the fellowship into a full-time position and I now report entirely on the business of influencers for BI Prime.
Oran: Describe an average day on the influencer beat.
Perelli: On an average day, I typically wake up and check social media (YouTube’s trending page, Instagram and Twitter) to see what I may have missed overnight.
I read a couple of industry-specific newsletters, like Benjamin Grubbs from The Creator Economy or check YouTube-specific publications like Tubefilter.
I work alongside my colleague Dan Whateley and together we typically will report on what’s new in the industry, like how influencers are shifting their business strategies, or the changes in influencer marketing.
When we are in the office (pre-coronavirus), I love to meet up with people in the industry for coffee or check out their filming studios in the city – like I did with Doctor Mike.
Constantly meeting new people and introducing myself has helped me a ton and allowed me to gain so many valuable sources and ideas for stories.
When I can’t do that (either because we are in quarantine or because most of the industry is based on the West Coast) I like to plan a few intro calls later in the day to chat with interesting creators or other professionals in the industry.
I also spend time working on our newsletter “Influencer Dashboard,” which comes out every Thursday and highlights our best stories from the past week.
Oran: Why should the average person care about influencers?
Perelli: You can likely find an “influencer” for anything you are passionate about, from cars, makeup, DIYs, and books, to fitness and scuba diving – the list is endless.
Yes, influencers earn their money by getting you to buy the things that they talk about, but they can also be helpful in learning a new skill (tie-dying is all the rage now) or just provide pure entertainment (it doesn’t matter who you are, an “underwater treasure hunters” video will mesmerize you).
Oran: What’s the toughest part of your beat?
Perelli: How fast everything changes! When I started in summer 2019, TikTok wasn’t something I gave any attention to. Now it’s a large part of what I cover.
Since the industry changes fast, there’s always going to be new creators everyone cares about, or a new emerging platform to pay attention to. It’s important to keep your eye on those things so that you can be the first to report on them – like when the van-life traveller, Jennelle Eliana took over YouTube and gained over a million followers in a month. I was the first to interview her, which was exciting, and I’m eager to interview so many other top creators – it’s a long list that changes by the month.
Oran: You’re constantly writing about new platforms. What are your own social media habits?
Perelli: I watch a lot of YouTube videos, which hasn’t changed since I was hired for this role. I like to watch a mix of popular creators (like David Dobrik, Shane Dawson, etc.) and also niche creators like college vloggers, finance influencers or minimalists.
Everyday I try to find new creators on YouTube who are sharing business tips. Some of my favorite stories (like this interview with Katy Bellotte) came from listening to her podcast on the subway and quickly reaching out for an interview on some of the topics she was covering.
I also spend a good amount of time each day watching TikTok videos. To make it productive, I look for how brands are using the app, or the ways creators are monetizing their platforms.
Oran: How do you think the influencer business will change post Covid?
Perelli: I think that more creators will focus on expanding their business outside of the traditional advertising revenue models and looking for ways to sell things like merchandise or services, so that they aren’t relying on the market to survive.
Dan and I reported on this trend recently, and we agree that the industry isn’t going to fade away, and that creators are savvy enough to pivot.
Categories like food, fitness and life at home are crushing right now on social media. I think we will see new brands emerge in those spaces and lean into influencer marketing more than ever.
Oran: Who are your favorite influencers to follow and why?
Perelli: My favorite creators to follow are the ones who share inside information on how they’ve turned their success into a business.
Some examples would be creators like Shelby Church (here’s how much YouTube paid her in 2019), Ruby Asabor (she’s a recent college grad who makes 6-figures as a YouTube influencer), and Natalie Barbu (we filmed a creator crash course with her), or fan accounts like DobrikPress on Twitter and Instagram are great for keeping up with the latest news on top influencers.
I also watch Philip DeFranco’s YouTube videos to keep up with industry news.
My latest after-work obsession is watching skincare influencers on YouTube and TikTok, like Skincare by Hyram, who has 1.6 million subscribers and reacts to viral skincare routines.
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