Anaheim, calif. -- when the first TikTok star was elected President, I wanted her to keep some space in the cabinet for older, traditional bureaucrats, even if they didn't have millions of followers, beautiful hair or flashy dance steps.
I say when instead of if because I just spent three days at VidCon, the annual social media conference in Anaheim, with thousands of current and future BBBS. It seems increasingly clear to me that the teenagers and young adults who have mastered these platforms -- who are often dismissed as shallow, complacent narcissists by some uninformed adults -- will dominate not just online culture or entertainment but society as a whole.
On the face of it, this could be a frightening proposition. One day at VidCon, I was with a group of teenage Instagram stars who seemed to spend most of their time filming "collab" with other creators and complimenting each other's "drip" -- that's what influencers say about clothes and accessories. (they, for example, are head-to-toe Gucci and Balenciaga, paired with diamond necklaces and popular logo sneakers.) The other day, I witnessed an awkward dance between two up-and-coming TikTok web celebrity's, who didn't look more than 10 years old. (note to adults catching up: TikTok is a short video app owned by bytedance, a Chinese Internet company.)
But if you can ignore the silly, status-seeking moves, many at VidCon struggle. Becoming a web celebrity is a grueling job, and people who excel at it often take years to climb the ladder. Many social media influencers are one start-up, the most famous of these can be found that trend, constantly trying new format, new platform, establish a real contact with the audience, pay close attention to their channel analysis, find out how to stand out in a crowded media environment, at the same time also continue to create new content stream.
Of course, not all Internet celebrities are well-read and intelligent. Some of them are successful because they have traditional appeal, or they are good at video games, or they have other superficial qualities. Others made their names with dubious stunts and extreme political commentary.
But as social media expands its dominance in culture, those who can steer the conversation online will have the upper hand in any niche they occupy -- media, politics, business or otherwise.
Think of influencers or creators as entrepreneurs, said Chris stokel-walker, author of "YouTube web celebrity." "These people are starting businesses, hiring people, managing budgets. These are pretty transferable skills."
Look at representative Alexandria ocasio-cortez, democrat of New York, who has become a major force in congress by combining her policy agenda with an intuitive understanding of how the web works. Or consider what happened in Brazil, where YouTube's web celebrity won political elections by mobilizing their online fan base.
In the business world, influential culture is an established power. A generation of direct-to-consumer brands using social media tools and strategies has become a hit -- the cult favorite Glossier recently raised $100 million at a valuation of more than $1 billion; Or the ubiquitous Instagram ads for luggage startup Away that helped it reach a $1.4 billion valuation. In addition to making money through advertising and merchandise sales, many social media stars have endorsement deals with big brands. Even in sleepy traditional industries, executives are now hiring "personal brand consultants" to help increase their online following.
Natalie Alzate's YouTube channel, Natalies Outlet, has more than 10 million subscribers. She is typical of a group of BBBS who see building an online brand as a business, not a hobby. When arzate first attended VidCon four years ago, she was a marketing major with fewer than 7,000 subscribers. She decided to research her favorite YouTube web celebritys to see how they made videos, and then test different types of videos to see which ones performed best on her channel.
娜塔莉·阿尔扎特(Natalie Alzate)的YouTube频道叫Natalies Outlet，订阅者超过1000万。她是这一批网红中的典型，他们把打造网络品牌当成一种生意，而不是一种兴趣爱好。四年前，当阿尔扎特第一次参加VidCon时，她还只是一名市场营销专业的学生，只有不到7000名订阅者。她决定研究一下自己最喜欢的那些YouTube网红，看看他们是如何制作视频的，然后测试不同类型的视频，看看哪类在她的频道上表现最好。
I grew up looking at people like Michelle Phan, and to be honest, they built their careers on connecting with people online, Mr. Arzate said. "That's always been my ambition."
Eventually, she found some patterns that did work, like beauty tips and life hacks, and she started doing it. Today, she is a full-time YouTube creator with a small staff, a production studio and the kind of fame she once dreamed of.
In fact, influencers have ruled the world for many years. We just don't call them that. We call them "movie stars," "talk show hosts," or "davos attendees." The ability to stay relevant and draw attention to your work is always important. Who better to get attention than a YouTube star than President trump?
VidCon started 10 years ago as a meet-and-greet for popular YouTube creators, the perfect place to observe web celebrity in its natural habitat. Many of them are here to promote their channels, connect with other creators and move toward their dreams of Internet fame.
Sometimes this means appearing with the more popular web celebrity in photos and video to increase their following, a practice known in web celebrity circles as "chasing influence". There are also seminars on "building a personal brand" and "how to go viral and build an audience". For VidCon's special creators, superstars with millions of followers, it's a day to meet fans and a night out for VIP parties.
Not all the young people I met at VidCon spent their lives pursuing online fame. Some of them will go to college when they grow up and eventually become doctors, lawyers or accountants. Others will fail and be replaced by a younger generation of Internet stars.
But the lessons they learn from their performances on YouTube, Instagram and TikTok will stay with them no matter what they end up becoming. Just as the 20th century produced a generation immersed in television culture, the 21st century will produce a generation of business tycoons, politicians and media personalities who grow up chasing online influence and know how to leverage the attention economy.
Early on, I thought it was a niche for youth culture, Beau Bryant, Fullscreen's director of talent, told me at VidCon. He pointed to a room full of BBBS on velvet sofas. Some are taking selfies and editing their Instagram stories. Some are holding business meetings about partnerships and sponsored content deals.
“早期，我觉得这是青年文化的一个细分市场，” Fullscreen公司的人才总监博·布莱恩特(Beau Bryant)在VidCon对我说。他指了指满屋坐在丝绒沙发上的网红们。一些人在自拍，编辑他们的Instagram故事。一些人在举行有关合作伙伴关系和赞助内容交易的商务会议。
Now, it's like this is youth culture, Bryant said.
In other words, web celebrity is the future. Ignore them at your own risk.