Our Klout Stars series highlights top influencers and how they got to where they are today.
About: Brent Black, also known as “brentalfloss”, is a comedian, musician, and gamer. He is best known on the internet as the creator of the “With Lyrics” series, where he adds satirical lyrics to classic video game tunes and uses them to create music videos. He first gained notoriety in 2008 with the release of “Mega Man 3 With Lyrics”. Since then, he has expanded his base of YouTube subscribers to over 130,000, released a CD that reached #8 on the iTunes comedy charts, and has appeared live all over North America and in the UK. His brand has expanded from YouTube videos to albums to even a webcomic based on his internet persona.
1. How did you get started in social media?
I was in one of the first generations of Facebook because I was in college when it first became popular. At the time, I just did it because everyone else was doing it. I got a Myspace page because a pretty girl wouldn’t give me her number, but she was okay with giving me her Myspace information. I also took the advice of a friend and joined Twitter in 2009, which has ended up becoming a huge part of my brand.
2. What role does social media play in your current job or industry?
I’m primarily a content creator, so social media has a two-fold purpose for me: The first purpose is notifying my fans and followers about new content. Whether it’s a new video, a new album for sale, or a new episode of my webcomic, Facebook and Twitter help me get the word out while providing me with instant feedback and a fluid environment for spreading my work around. The other main role of social media for me is a place to express my personality (which ultimately IS my brand). As a kid, I was always trying to get people to listen to my songs or to jokes I had written, but it was like pulling teeth to get anyone to really take me seriously as an artist. Today’s social media sites provide a fairly democratic, merit-based forum for ideas, so if I have a funny one-liner or even a philosophical point to make, I can get that validation that every artist needs while allowing fans and followers to get to know me as a person.
3. What does influence mean to you? Who influences you the most online?
To me, influence is like water. If you throw a bucket of water at a sandy beach, it won’t make much of a difference. Now let’s say you throw a tidal wave onto that beach. It’s the same water, but with enough of it, you can change everything. It takes a certain amount of influence to get a fan or follower to click a link. It takes more influence to get them to make a purchase or donate to a cause. It takes more to get them to travel a long distance to a live show, and so on and so on until you get to the top influencers online who can start a movement and permanently change the cultural vernacular on a massive scale. What amazes me about today’s internet is that you can be granted a huge amount of online influence very quickly, such as when Charlie Sheen got a million Twitter followers in a record time, or when Netflix decided to change to “Quikster” and suddenly the owner of the “Quikster” Twitter handle became momentarily famous.
4. What advice do you have for someone who wants to take their online presence to the next level?
A lot of people look at successful content creators and they think “I could do that.” Just like a skilled magician, popular content creators make it look easy, even if it takes a lot of work and a lot of luck.
But for content creators, here is my advice: Every individual has a unique set of talents and abilities; we’re all like an incomplete kitchen. A person is blessed with only so many ingredients, cookware, and serving dishes. Sometimes, you see someone online with only savory ingredients trying to imitate someone else’s dessert and it’s awful because they just don’t have the kitchen for it. My advice to the online content creator (and any other artist for that matter) is to figure out a dish that could ONLY be made in your kitchen. Before anyone knew me on Youtube, I tried political rants, cute baby videos, and piano song covers, but I didn’t do any of those things in a unique way, so I just joined the massive graveyard of art that tries to directly imitate what others have already done. Only when I did something unique–which in my case was writing parody lyrics to video game tunes–did anyone sit up and notice. Every artist has a unique recipe for success in their kitchen, and the artist’s challenge is to experiment until he or she finds it. You’ll know once you find it. The proof is in the pudding; also the comments section.
Connect with Brent on Twitter at @brentalfloss