The beauty of building a business on Twitter
When creator and beauty guru Tiara Willis walked into a makeup store as a teen, she realized how difficult it could be to find the right beauty choices for women of color — she turned, where most teens in 2010 went for answers, to the internet. Instead of finding the info she wanted, though, Willis found a gap in the industry, and the idea for @MakeupForWOC was born.
“My friends had a lot of questions about makeup and, at that time, I felt like there really wasn't a platform that specifically talked about makeup for women of color or for Black women,” says Willis. “I wanted to create a hub people could go to when they have those kinds of questions. The account took off — within the first three months, I already had 10,000 followers because people saw the name and they were like, ‘this is exactly what I need.’”
Okay, so a name that encompasses her vision? Check. Willis was only 14 and a freshman in high school when she started building her following. Now she’s 20 and making six figures a year producing beauty content. So how did she go from an idea to serve her community to a full-on professional? She credits her consistency and some early business-savvy decisions.
“I grew my audience originally by posting a lot, every single day, and my goal was to make every Tweet a viral Tweet. I was intentional about creating and driving conversation. I would do things like post a thread of questions and then respond, Retweet, and engage with the people who were engaging with me,” she says. “There also was a makeup community growing on Twitter that I made sure to tap into. Daisy Marquez and others were budding influencers, and I took the first steps to talk to them and build a relationship.”
Community? Check. And then Willis set her sights on the brands she loved and was already promoting to her growing audience. By tagging the brands she loved in her content and reviews, she began to grow her reputation as an influencer they would want to work with. Through discount codes and affiliate links, she started to see the benefits of monetization. And then she began to find ways to use Twitter features to reach her goals.
“Twitter is evolving and moving even more into being a space for creators with Super Follows and Ticketed Spaces, plus Amplify Pre-Roll and sponsorships,” she says. “In the last two years, my monetization on Twitter has just taken off. Before, I felt like I was doing a lot of it myself, but now I have the support of Twitter, and it’s made it both easier and more profitable.”
With the community she’s created and the brand she’s built, Willis is able to put the newest Twitter features to work and learn how to make them work for her. In fact, Willis held one of the leading Ticketed Spaces to date, selling out her available tickets in under 8 hours. A win like that on a new and evolving feature is a testament to her strong connection with her audience. She was also an early adopter of Super Follows and is one of the top Super Followed beauty/skincare creators on Twitter, which contributes to her earnings. From sharing sneak peaks of Super Follows content on her general timeline to teasing behind-the-scenes industry gossip, she approaches these tools with strategy in mind.
“Doing things like hosting a Ticketed Space allows me to get into topics that are common questions from my followers,” she says. “When people want the content, they think, ‘yes, I’m going to spend the $10 for this Space and finally get my questions answered.’”
In her recent Ticketed Space, Willis gave her audience some tips on a topic she’s asked about frequently: what she’s learned over the years of working with brands. This included how to create rates, how to negotiate, and how to discover which brands you want to work with.
“It’s important for me to have control of the content and have the chance to make the content I want to make. Amplify Pre-Roll is another great tool that allows me to do that, and it’s sort of in a category on its own when it comes to a monetization program,” she says. “I can create the content that I know my followers are going to engage with without that kind of pushy sponsorship aspect of it.”
Willis personally makes a distinction between being an influencer and a creator for this exact reason. For her, influencers have large followings already and the audience is loyal and engaged, so they’ll be sought out by brands for partnerships. Creators, she believes, don’t have to have a huge following already built — they can create content that includes their favorite products and find opportunities to connect that way.
“Say, for example, you’re an athlete or sports-focused and want to work with a major sports brand. See what kind of content that brand is already making, and create content that is authentic to you but would complement their style,” she says. “Pick your niche, so when brands see your profile, it’s clear what you do.”
Creator Partner Manager Farah Mynaf backs up Willis’ thought about what makes a creator a good candidate from a monetization perspective. “Using the platform regularly, learning the new features and then using them in a unique way to find new audiences, and knowing what your presence looks like on Twitter and beyond, can bring so many opportunities for partnerships,” Mynaf says.
Willis continues to grow her brand, her community, and her partnerships in real time, and her advice to creators just starting out is to be as intentional as possible while they build these relationships. There’s a balance, she says, that’s important to strike between striving for conversations, looking at opportunities for press, and being always authentic in your approach to both.
“Don't be afraid to put yourself out there. That was one of the things that helped me the most, especially on Twitter,” she says. “You make mutual relationships by talking about other people's content, and then they are encouraged to follow you and see what you’re about. Be intentional about the things you say on Twitter, engage in trending content, and it can make a big difference. Viral Tweets help your following grow, but also, it tends to get the attention of press.”
But ultimately for Willis, the most important factor to being successful as a creator on Twitter: opening up communication and taking opportunities for growth.
“At the beginning, I created a list of contacts and sent cold messages,” she says. “It didn’t always work right away, but I was creating relationships, and months down the line, someone would run into my content and remember I had reached out. It works.”
Tiara’s top 5 Twitter tips on succeeding as a creator on Twitter
Make yourself brand friendly by featuring products on your timeline that you actually love and use (and don’t forget to tag the brand account).
Use Twitter Analytics to figure out what’s working and when.
Highlight your community, how they interact with you via Twitter, and why they love you in your pitches to brands.
Be intentional with your interactions and Tweets.
Take advantage of the opportunities in your industry by researching tools, databases, and Twitter mutuals who have connections. Lists are a great way to keep this organized.
Bonus tip: Perfect your pitch and know your worth! A good pitch is polite, professional, includes your basics (age, location, expertise, demographics of your following), and features your accomplishments. Make sure you know fair compensation rates.
Please note: We’re pausing the Ticketed Spaces test indefinitely to focus on improving and bringing new features to the core Spaces experience.