When you think of creators on social media, what comes to mind may be a favorite YouTuber, Instagram model, or viral TikTok creator, with their sponsorships, brand deals, and millions of followers. To a viewer, their lives seem perfect and dreamlike. However, behind the candid vlogs or aesthetic Instagram posts are hours of planning, filming, and editing. For YouTube content creator Summer Mckeen, her hours are spent balancing brand ambassadorships, digital projects, and sponsorships, all while producing authentic videos for her viewers. With over 2.4 million subscribers, Mckeen opens up about the opportunities YouTube has created for her and the challenges of building a personal brand in our Summer 2019 issue.
Since starting YouTube, when did you realize how large of an audience you were reaching?
I think when I hit 50,000 subscribers on YouTube. I was about 16 and that was when I was like, “Whoa, there’s actually a lot of people watching me.” I couldn’t really put that into perspective; it’s hard to just see a number online and think of that many people, so it didn’t intimidate me. I don’t think it really added much more pressure, but it was just something that I was aware of. I decided that I should probably take some responsibility for the amount of people that I have watching me and that I leave an impression on all these people, so I was conscious of that throughout all my content.
I’m sure there’s a lot that goes on with the creation of each video, in terms of ideating, filming, editing the video. What’s something viewers wouldn’t expect that goes on behind the scenes of each video?
I think how careful we are with what we put in our videos and how exactly we execute that. Everything we do plays into who we are and, I guess, our brand and everything. Something that people may not know or may not think of is that we’re really conscious of our brand.
When you release a video, do you look at the analytics to measure the success of a video? Or how do you determine success in terms of your YouTube channel?
I really try not to pay too much attention to that because I think it’s really easy to get wrapped up in the numbers and over-involved in that. So I really don’t check up on any of that too much, honestly. I mean, sometimes I’ll look at the views I’m getting hour by hour as soon as I upload the video, but it’s not something that I’m super concerned about. It’s more if I am really loving what I’m uploading. I don’t hold the worth of my videos to the number of views that I get.
What was it like working with Snapchat and your docuseries Endless Summer being one of the first ‘shows’ solely on Snapchat?
It was really interesting with Snapchat because their audience is just such a wide demographic, so I think while creating the show, they wanted to make sure that it would appeal to everyone. It was really cool being able to be one of the first original Snap shows on Snapchat. It’s really awesome because we’re making history. It was really exciting to be a part of that. And it’s new for everyone, so that was kind of nice. I found some comfort in the fact that it was new for me, but it was also new for Snapchat, so we were all in it together.
What are some of the challenges you have faced with a career on social media? What did you learn from them?
I think my day-to-day challenges with social media is just the fact that there are so many people watching me that don’t know me personally, but they give their opinion on me. A lot of people criticize me, and it seems like I’m being watched so closely, so I feel the pressure from that. It can be really intimidating sometimes. So I think the way that I’ve been dealing with that is to stay away from my phone and not monitor the comments and look through my DMs all of the time because I don’t need that. I don’t think any normal human being should always be hearing and knowing what other people are saying about them.
Switching to more on the business side of YouTube, how critical are entrepreneurship and business skills to being a YouTuber?
I think you learn as you go, and you don’t need to be completely educated on entrepreneurship or everything business because at least for me it is just a learning experience every day. I would talk to different brands and find my way that way. And I also have a really awesome manager that would help me with everything, and my mom helped.
In your opinion, what makes a brand ambassadorship or sponsorship successful?
I think loving the brand to begin with is really important. I am a brand ambassador for Sephora Collection, and I have been for years now, and I genuinely love Sephora Collection. I love their team, and I love everything that they do. I think having a great relationship with the team is important, and knowing what goes on behind the scenes and what goes into their brand and their products is really important; it’s important to be aware of that so that you can fully support the brand and be an ambassador for them.
Any projects we can look out for?
My Maybelline lip gloss collab came out July 1st, and I’m so excited about it; I’ve been working on it for so long. Then my Billabong collab started rolling out mid-July. I am beyond excited to be working with a brand that I am obsessed with and in a way that I love. I’ll also be working on other things as they come! I can’t wait!