Op-Ed | Notifications On
Notifications On for Zae
Creators are ahead of the curve when it comes to viral trends and impactful cultural moments — they foster meaningful connections that resonate with audiences across the globe. Notifications On showcases the best and brightest creators on Twitter. For this edition, we’re talking to Zae (a.k.a. @itszaeok) about turning a community into a platform and not having a Hannah Montana moment about your social media presence.
My Twitter is an intersection of Stan Twitter, Black Twitter, and Gay Twitter. I’m interested in music, movies, pop culture, and I talk about the things affecting me. I Tweet my thoughts on those corners [of the internet] and for a long time I didn’t consider what I did to be content creation. I love media, though, so all those things get tangled together. For instance, one day I Tweeted about fruit snacks (I have opinions) and the day before that I Tweeted random thoughts about the days of the week.
Twitter is a unique place compared to other social media platforms because it’s conversation based. I think of my community like a really big group chat. People start following me for a specific pop culture reason typically, and then they find me entertaining, so they interact. Sometimes I’m with my friends and we get into a heated discussion so I’ll say, “let me ask my Twitter.” Then, I’ll get their opinions. Other times, I Tweet things I don’t think my IRL friends would care about or are sick of hearing me talk about because I can go on a tangent, and people will be engaged. My community also suggests shows and movies to me, just because they want to hear my take on it, so I also get content that way.
There is no other app like Twitter that can genuinely make my stomach hurt [from laughter]. My mutuals are some of the funniest people on the planet, and a lot of the people who are good at Twitter are also writers. Written by Hanna’s Tweets are hilarious and some of my favorites. Kyle from On the Bulletin writes a lot about music, so I pay attention to his Tweets. Two of my mutuals, Jess and Engweri, just released newsletters and I’m not usually into newsletters, but theirs are so good. I’ve noticed that, on Twitter, the creators, especially the major Black and queer creators, really stick together and support you through the wild things that can happen on this app.
If you see me change my Twitter handle to something like “Zae Son of Apollo,” it’s because sometimes when I Tweet a wish or prediction, it comes true! At the beginning of this year, the music industry was sort of slow and I Tweeted about wanting a new album from anyone and tagged a bunch of my favorite artists. I don’t get starstruck very often but Lizzo Quote Tweeted me and dropped the news that the album was coming soon. I LOVE Lizzo, I feel like we would be the best friends ever, so when she told everybody by Quoting like that, I freaked out.
For the longest time, I treated my Twitter like I was having a Hannah Montana moment — I never brought it up to people. I debated whether to go full influencer, or go into corporate America, and I realized that that debate had been driving me insane. Why do I have to choose when I can do both? I thought it was funny that people got excited when I followed them back or replied to them because I was just like, I’m literally in communications class, in sweatpants right now and failing, so it’s not that serious. But over the last year or so, I’ve started to realize that I’m so myself online that, even if you came across my Tweets and didn’t know they were me, you’d be able to tell, and people like me for that. When it comes up in person now, I think it’s cute. I’ve started to put my spicier Tweets out to my Super Followers because the thing about being funny is that sometimes it can get a little nasty. I found, since having a Super Follow option, a lot of the Tweets that I would send out to my private account before, I can share there. I am really enjoying it and I think it’s pretty cool.
Right now, I’m obsessed with Communities. Soon I want to create one for something I’m passionate about but not everybody who follows me wants — Big Brother. I’m obsessed with that show and get really into it and live Tweet every episode, but it’s on three times a week! Nobody but me cares :laughs: so I love the idea of creating a space where you can only talk to the people who want to see those messages. I’m also in the Super Follows community and another one with Black creators, and people ask really good questions in those and get lots of support. It’s super valuable.
We’re in this world right now where brands want a “big account” to talk about their show, or their movies, or their [musical] artist because that’s how they stay relevant. I’m not going to give away too much free advice because I’m graduating with my degree in public relations and communications soon, but I think right now, more than any other time in my life, people appreciate authenticity. You see a lot of emmulations (of Black, queer people, or of young people) in social media from brands. My question is, why not just hire those people? Get people who have their finger on the pulse and who organically understand the audience you’re trying to reach and engage with.
A lot of people, when they're talking about building a platform and trying to monetize it, give the advice to niche-down, but I didn't get on Twitter because I wanted to make money from it or to be this huge creative. I had a point of view that I wanted to share. So, my advice would be to find people on Twitter that you enjoy, whose Tweets you find hilarious, and follow them, interact with them, and become friends with them. If I could trace how my account blew up back to the beginning, it would be me simply just doing this for fun and following creators that were great conversationalists. I found people who like the same things as me or who are like me, like Keyon and I are both queer Black people from the South. Our friendship bloomed from that and I'm positive people have found my Twitter through Keyon. And with Amanda, she loves Disney content, and so do I. We connected on that, and her followers followed me. Finding creators that you connect with is key to gaining followers because, even if you start off pretty slow, that’s how you’ll build community. Instead of focusing on building a platform, I built a community.
Hear more from the best and brightest creators on Twitter in the Notifications On collection.