3 social media influencers reveal how they made it

Social media has changed the way many of us experience life, from the clothes we buy to the careers we pursue to the relationships we keep. #legend talks to three content creators about the importance of spreading positivity and making genuine connections amidst all the madness

In a city as dense and connected as Hong Kong, nearly every centimetre of space is an opportunity to influence. And with the endless horizon of the Internet, you can consume content and subsequently be influenced about what to eat, how to dress and where to spend your money from your toilet, bed, bus seat or office chair.

In this digital era, there’s no denying influence is a key component and by-product of social media. But what exactly does “influence” mean to professional content creators? For some of Hong Kong’s social media darlings, as much as the word “influencer” is thrust on them, it’s relatability, connection and integrity that matter even more.

Taylor Richard aka @taytay_xx

Taylor Richard, or @taytay_xx as she’s more widely known, started her online presence on Instagram in 2011 when the platform was only a year old and eventually began making YouTube videos as a way to navigate her move from Canada to Asia. “I wanted a way to share my experiences as a foreigner living in Hong Kong,” she says. “I came here alone, so I was really craving interaction and wanting to meet more people.”

Photo: Taylor Richard

Originally her video ideas documented things she had learned about on YouTube, such as styling and make-up tutorials. “I guess it was just a constant exploration of the things I was curious or passionate about, and then sharing to whoever wanted to listen,” she says. A decade later, she’s a full-time content creator across multiple channels, with more than 422,000 followers on Instagram, and over 1.19 million on YouTube.

While today her content primarily focuses on aspects of her life and Hong Kong culture, her desire to share and connect hasn’t changed. “I want my little corner of the Internet to be a place where people can find acceptance, encouragement, feel uplifted and learn new things,” she explains. “I hope to have a positive effect on people’s lives and to make a positive impact on their choices and behaviour. My community also does this for me. There’s so much great advice, recommendations and support I’ve received over the years. I really enjoy the discussions we have in the comment sections.”

As we spend more time than ever consuming media, certain connections made online are fostered from influencers sharing their real lives, sometimes over many years, which is not insignificant. Richard sees the community she has amassed more through a lens of mutuality and connection than through influence.

“By sharing what I’m going through (times of feeling homesick, my struggle with acne, lately it’s my fertility difficulties) sometimes someone sees it and relates to it,” she says. “When I get a message saying ‘Hey, I’m going through that too’ or ‘I went through that’ or ‘I have that symptom you had, I should book a check-up’, if it can give people the curiosity or courage to start looking into something more, feel less alone or try new things that lead them down a different path, then I feel like I’m putting the platform I’ve been given to good use.”

See also: Cover story: Fashion influencer Irene Kim on the importance of being yourself

Nancy Lim aka @hkmehmeh

The importance of genuine connectivity is something Nancy Lim sees as a result of social media users being more selective about whom they follow and engage with. The mastermind behind the sharp and highly relatable @hkmehmeh account, Lim says ultimately authenticity and meaningful content will outlast materialism and extravagance.

“These characteristics have become much more important than follower count. You’re more likely to be a success if you manage to develop your own identity and have your followers be invested in your authentic lifestyle,” she observes. “Otherwise, people tend to lose interest quite quickly.”

Lim maintains this notion for her own account as well, something she manages to do on the side of her full-time job as a project manager. “I think to create with the singular goal of trying to gain more influence would spell the end for me,” she says. “It doesn’t sound healthy and I don’t think I would attempt that. Not to toot my own horn, but I do think some of my jokes are pretty funny, and I get a lot of satisfaction from that. Other people finding it funny is no doubt validating, but it’s also not everything.”

The virality of Lim’s memes has reached offline, so much so that she now gets recognised at the gym, and has been interviewed for various articles and academic papers on meme culture and Hong Kong culture. Despite this, she’s learned to keep a balanced perspective over the years.

“There is a duality to it,” she says. “Being an ‘influencer’ sometimes puts you in a position to be showered with attention, which might make you feel incredibly important for a fleeting moment. At the same time, when you’re put under the microscope of scrutiny it can feel like a personal attack. This year marks my fourth year as a ‘social media influencer’. As much as I’m delighted to see what this little page has achieved and grateful for all the wonderful things it has brought me, I try not to think too much about the ‘influencer’ title. At the end of the day, you are who you are, and not what you build yourself to be on a social media platform. And that’s okay with me.”

Jen Balisi aka @indulgenteats

Jen Balisi, the creator behind @indulgenteats, recognises specific usefulness when it comes to being a food influencer. “I’m grateful to have a platform where I can inspire others to get the most out of life, eat better meals and be more open-minded towards other cultures and cuisines, including educating them on my own Filipino culture,” she says. “It means the world to me when someone says they had a great experience based on my recommendation or that they impressed all their friends by cooking one of my recipes – I love having that positive impact in people’s lives.”

Now a full-time food and travel content creator and recipe developer, Balisi also wants to support the restaurant industry through her work. “I try to always be true to myself and maintain my integrity to only post things that I personally enjoyed, whether that be a meal, hotel stay or outdoor activities,” she says. “At the same time, I love having a platform where I can show love to the chefs, restaurants and business owners I believe in, so I also create content based on how I can support the industry.”

Focusing on positive experiences she can personally recommend, she tries to keep negative feedback off her account, “preferring to share that privately with the businesses so they can make improvements internally.”

As social media consumers become more self-aware, Balisi also appreciates that influencers are too. “[It’s] been great to see so many using their influence for good, whether that’s to push for social justice, donate to charitable causes or support marginalised communities, so I hope things continue to move in this direction.”

For Balisi, she’s seeing her influence manifest in exciting, tangible ways: her first-ever cookbook, Indulgent Eats at Home, comes out this December. Developing the book allowed Balisi to connect with real-life followers, she says. “Many of them either tested the recipes in the book or tried my food since I would sell off extra portions of the recipes I was testing.” She looks forward to the lead-up to the book’s release, which is lined with restaurant collaborations to introduce her recipes for people to try. “And when the cookbook is finally out, people can recreate my recipes at home.” It’s a satisfying thing when influence comes full circle.

See also: Top 10 unexpected influencers of 2021

In this Story: #PRINT / #culture