DonYe Taylor’s Advice for Influencers: Creativity, Passion & Owning Your Audience – Episode 3

James Nord
February 9, 2022
Updated Feb 09, 2024

Today’s episode features DonYe Taylor with some exciting news! DonYe shares her thoughts on creativity, passion, and owning your audience. 

Each episode will focus on your most pressing questions about the space. You can submit your questions here.

This episode includes:

  • DonYe’s background and how she got into the influencer marketing space, monetizing her creativity
  • What is it about the creator space that interests her?
  • DonYe’s advice on how to get out of creative ruts 
  • What’s the thing creators should be focusing on right now?
  • Navigating making money vs. believing in the product 
  • Her goals for the influencer community and this role as Director of Creative Initiatives 

Welcoming DonYe to Fohr

James Nord: All right. Welcome. I don't want to say James. Welcome to episode three of Negronis with Nord. Where today, we have our first guest, DonYe. Welcome. Thank you for joining. This is something that hasn't been announced to the public yet. It will by the time this video comes out, we've just hired DonYe which is very difficult to do. And something, we got very lucky in timing and in generally DonYe being like, yeah, sure, I'll do this. But DonYe is joining Fohr, and is going to be kind of doing all things with the influencer community, from helping our team build products for influencers, to continuing to roll out education for influencers, advocating for influencers to our campaign team, and just being there for the 180,000 influencers on, and somebody that they can reach out to. Not all at once, but welcome to the show. Welcome to the company.

DonYe Taylor: Thank you. Thank you guys.

DonYe's Background

James: Before we jump in, I think we want to talk about in this episode generally, is what you plan on doing this year, which a week into working here is obviously a big ask, but we're going to talk through some of the plans we have for the community and broadly what we see happening with influencers, creators this year. But before we get into all that, let the people know who you are, how you got here, what's your background.

DonYe: How I got here, I think that, since growing up I've always had a knack for creativity, but I never knew how I could monetize it until I got a little older and people started seeing what they see now in me back then.

James: What was like the first time when you were young, where you felt like, oh shit, I'm creative.

DonYe: When people started paying me to make their MySpace pages. And I think I've always kind of used myself as a test dummy for all the things that I'm doing now. It was kind of like, I don't want to wait for somebody to hire me or to pick me. I can pick myself. And I think that I've been like the perfect test dummy, since I would say like around 2009, when I first started really, really monetizing my creativity, making logos and stuff for people. And me doing logos and graph design, put me in a lot of runs with business owners. And that's when it was really like, oh my God, like I think this is where I'm supposed to be. My mind never stopped at just the graphic side. I always thinking about all of the different ways that their business could be better from marketing to web design to social. That's when I realized I should really be on the consulting side, telling people what to do with their business as it relates to marketing.

James: That's great. I mean, consulting, what a beautiful thing, because you get to tell people what to do and then you just kind of just back away and be like I'm not actually going to do that for you. But we met because our mutual friend, Matt. How do I pronounce Matt's last name? Kobach? Matt K. Okay. Matt, if that's the wrong way to pronounce your name, I'm sorry. Like he was doing these lives during COVID. You were on one talking about marketing. I feel like you basically speak in Tweets generally, these little bite size nuggets that you just like keep thinking about over and over. And we got in touch, you've been part of the advisory board for a year and a half now and have been a big part of the changes at Fohr that we've implemented through that time, and we're super excited to bring you on. And you had had your own agency. When did you start that? How old were you when you started that?

DonYe: So yeah, 2015. I started it with a coworker of mine at the time. We were at this job and we just kept wanting to do ... Wait, can I cuss? We kept wanting to do creative but we couldn't do it because the way that the corporate structure was set up. So it just started getting to a point where I was like, I need to create, I need to do something, I need to do something. And we land ended on a creative agency, which at the time we didn't even know what the ... A creative agency was because in Maryland they don't really have stuff like that. So we kind of learned as we went, just figuring out problems when they arose. But that creative agency really just showed me my potential as it relates to creativity, I started diving more into dynamic projects that were encompassing all things marketing.

So social, doing content, hiring influencers, doing copy. And I really feel like my time as a co-founder of that creative agency kind of was like the movie, Slumdog Millionaire. Like every instance in your life or like every moment is the answer to a question. And it got to a point where I felt like my calling and my purpose was just so much bigger than being the co-founder of that agency, and there was so much stuff that I wanted to do that was so specific. And I feel like the only way that I could do that is if I left and did my own thing.

And it's just so crazy what that leap did for me because now I'm here. I would've never expected to be here. And I feel like during that time, I feel like you guys really saw me grow as a creative and even more as a professional. And I think that's what kind of put me on your radar, because at that point, you were able to see who DonYe was without the influence of a job, without the influence of another business partner. It was like, this is DonYe for real. And I felt that at that moment.

Journey into Creating a Social Presence

James: I feel like something that's hard about running any sort of agency is it's often hard to talk about your client work because they don't want you to talk about it. They don't want you to share details. And sometimes, especially when you're starting out, your clients aren't Nike. They're not the clients that you really want to work with. The scale is smaller. The product is maybe not as great. And so it's less exciting to talk about. And I think that you then turned to social yourself and started building your own brand and started breaking down what was happening in culture from a marketing lens, I remember. You had a few kind of viral moments, breaking down Drake's album release. Strategy, things like that. And being able to take what you were doing for your clients, but then apply it to bigger cultural things that were happening and help people kind of understand, oh, this is how ideas are created. This is how they're spread. This is kind of how culture seeps into everyone's lives and how brands integrate themselves into that. So let's talk a little bit about your own journey in creating and building up your own social presence. And you do some influencer work as well now. So let's hear about that a bit.

DonYe: So the Drake album artwork. That was just like an easy, low hanging fruit thing for me, because number one, I love Drake. Number two, everybody loves Drake. Number three, everybody was talking about that album artwork. And then number four, Drake had a track record of using his album artworks as a tactic to market his music. And I was like, oh, like, that's an easy layup. And I trained myself to speak in Tweets because I truly believe that if you have to over-explain something, then you're really not like an expert in it. So I always am trying to figure out how can I condense something super complex into something very simple and digestible. And I feel like that is what keeps me sharp. So that's kind of like my way of like challenging myself and making myself better at my art.

What about the creator space interests you?

James: We are excited to see what you do with the creator influencer community here at Fohr. And over the last year, you've kind of like moved more into that space of giving advice to creators. I think Instagram recently had you lead an event for them. You've been on the creators channel for Instagram a few times I believe. What is it about this space that interests you? It's a left turn from working with brands to be thinking about how your marketing know how and your understanding of branding and pop culture and all of that pertains to this new industry that is growing.

DonYe: Yeah. I think what leaned me into this was like myself, like I'm a first generation creative. A lot of people say, oh, I'm a first generation entrepreneur, but I truly feel like a first generation creative is completely different. It's a different mindset that you have to have. Because a lot of things is not correlated to vanity metrics like an entrepreneur. They can look at their business and say, oh, like I'm increasing my revenue. I'm doing good. But creativity, it's not measured the same. You can be making a lot of money as a creative. But if you don't like the art that it is that you're creating, then you can still feel empty.

You can be making a lot of money as a creative. But if you don't like the art that it is that you're creating, then you can still feel empty. - DonYe Taylor

So on my creative journey, it was so much that I had to learn on my own and I didn't have a community of people that I could lean onto. I was pretty much like the only creative out of my friend group. And I feel like once I started being a creative, it kind of unlocked my circle's inner creative as well. And it made me start looking at the world a little differently, and people a little differently and feeling like everybody has this inner creativity inside of them, but not everybody knows how to unlock it or once it's unlocked how to use it.

So I really found that a lot of people were connecting to that part of me once I started sharing my story more. So talking about how I get myself out of creative funks. I feel like people don't really talk about that. They just kind of disappear from Instagram and then come back. But it's like, we should talk about that. We should talk about the anxiety that you get when you're on Instagram and you see other people creating and you're like, damn, how do I create something like that? So I just started digging more into the emotional side of creativity and also using different tactics that I use on myself to get me out of those funks or to make me progress from point A to point B. And I just found that it really stuck with my community and I just kept building on it and building on it.

How to Get Out of Creative Ruts

James: Well, I mean, I think that's a good ... Like I'd love to hear an example. I mean, something that I know we've talked about and we want to do a lot more content on this year is this idea of like the cost of influence. That like people are quitting Instagram, they're taking breaks, that it's impacting their mental health in a really negative way. And if you think of creativity in a more traditional sense of an artist, they might be expected to have a couple of months a year where they're creating, these kind of bursts of creativity. And then they kind of go dormant for a while. But with Instagram that's not possible. You've got to create multiple times a day across multiple platforms. What do you tell creators about how they get out of those ruts?

DonYe: I would start off by telling them to really create from a place of passion and not vanity metrics. It's so easy to look at Instagram or these social media network sites. And you think, how can I create something that's going to generate the most likes, or the most shares, or the most retweets or whatever, instead of saying, how do I make something that's going to make my inner child or my creativity happy? I used to be somebody that would just create for vanity metrics. So it's like, I feel like my Instagram was growing, but my creativity wasn't wrong. And I didn't want to get to a point where I had all of these followers and people knew me for something that I wasn't passionate about.

I would start off by telling them to really create from a place of passion and not vanity metrics. - DonYe Taylor

And that's when I flipped the switch and was like, let me just do stuff that I really care about. And I think that is what Matt probably saw in me and what Grace saw. Because I remember around that time and I did that Instagram Live, but like two months before that, that's when I kind of made the switch mentally to be like let me just start creating more intentionally and create from a place of passion. And whenever people hear me talk or whenever I'm creating something, people always say, "Oh, I can feel your passion." I always had it. I just never of really showed it. But I feel like passion is something that's so slept on, but you can feel it instantly. Like you can feel when somebody loves what they do and vice versa. So that's what I would tell people when you're in a funk. Like just not think about the numbers, but think about what makes you happy, what you're passionate about.

James: It's why we talk about of this idea of like don't spend good money on fake love. The whole thing was about that, like when you hit publish on Instagram or if your brand and influencer you're working with hits publish, like the audience needs to believe it. And to believe it, you have to believe it. If you're saying I love this product, I mean, I could talk to you about why you all should buy a Montblanc pen if you want. I love this pen. I think somehow it is worth the $450 that they charge. And if we were going to talk about that for 10 minutes, I could explain why, and maybe you would believe me, maybe not. But I think it's so important to like really believe what you're saying. And I think that's something that creators when we talk about the mental health issues and all of that with creators, I think part of it comes from talking about stuff that you don't love for so long.

And it relates to your point,. Your metrics can be up and to the right. You could be gaining followers and gaining engagement. But like for this space, which a lot of like artists or like artistically minded people, if they're doing something they don't believe in and they don't love, it doesn't matter how much following, [crosstalk 00:14:04] how much engagement it gets. It can't like replace the fact that you're like doing something you don't like. And I think that's such simple, but like hard advice. It's like the most obvious thing in some ways. You should be, if you're going to talk about it, you should love it. But then it's hard because money comes in right. And says, well this brand then wants to pay me $5,000 and maybe I don't love their products. How do you navigate that?

Navigating Making Money vs. Belief in a Product

DonYe: I'm a firm believer. It's like a thin line between like talking about manifestation without making it cringe. But I'm really a firm believer in just putting out what you want to receive. I was doing so much client work because I was just like letting anybody hire me. And I had a plan where I was like, okay, let me move a little different. Let me save up some money so that I had the option to be picky. Like being picky is a privilege. And I realized that so I planned for that. So it came a point in time where I just wasn't working with anybody, it didn't matter what the budget was. I had to feel excited about it in my gut, and I did that maybe like one or two times. And then everything started reversing. Like now, it's people that are coming to me. They're like, "Oh, we want you to do this." And I'm like, "I love everything, but I can only do one thing."

So now, that one switch in how I approach my work, had the world of a difference in the longterm, because I sacrificed a little bit for a lot. So that's what I would tell people, if you're in a funk where you're like I got to make this money. You've seen that advert where everyone's like, "I got to get this money by tomorrow." But if you are in a spot like that, I would really just take a look at everything from a 360 perspective and think, why am I in this spot? Because I'm just doing any and everything. And really just get intentional with what you're putting out because people will pay you for what they've already seen you done. So if you're doing stuff and you're putting it out on social media, you're going to get higher for stuff. So it just comes to a point where you've got to draw the line in the sand, make that sacrifice and just be intentional.

James: Yeah. That's like such a great point. It's hard to get there. And sometimes you're building and you take clients that maybe you're not as excited about out, but I think it's important to try and get excited about the content, find a thing that you get excited about. But it's true. If you can get to a place where you can be picky, where you can say, no, I do think that good work begets more good work. And again, if you're not excited, how is your audience ever going to get excited about it? It's just so obvious when's somebody doesn't care about something and they're trying to tell you, they care about it. It's cringe.

What should creators be focused on in the next year?

James: You think that the next year in creator, like what are you thinking about? What's the thing that like if you weren't doing this job and you were saying, I'm going to be a creator, I'm going to go full-time, that's what I want to do, what would be the number one thing that you would be focused on this year? Is it doing more video? Is it TikTok? Like, what's the thing that you think that like creators should be focusing on now outside of doing things that they love and their passionate about and they believe in?

DonYe: I would definitely say audience ownership. That is my like number one thing that I preach. And I feel like audience ownership has changed my life. When you have a social media account, you look at your followers, but you look at those followers. It's like, everybody's the same. You know what I mean? And also a lot of creatives that don't have an actual product. So like a photographer, their product essentially is their services, but you don't want to get to a point where the only way that you're making money is if you're going out and shooting. So a way to kind of maintain your integrity as an artist is, or as a creative and your brand is to own your audience outside of your services and the social media platform that you're on.

So a way to kind of maintain your integrity as an artist is, or as a creative and your brand is to own your audience outside of your services and the social media platform that you're on. - DonYe Taylor

DonYe: So yes, you can get paid to shoot a celebrity or do a campaign. But once that campaign is over, what do you do? And I feel like owning your audience gives you more leverage and it increases your digital lifespan. Like if you have a following on Instagram, you're following is only there on Instagram. If Instagram were to shut down or if Instagram changes their algorithm or strategy, you're now at the mercy of that. But owning your audience puts you in the forefront of that. And it kind of puts you in control of how you want your creative journey to go. So I definitely would say that would be something that I would preach, and that I would really encourage a lot of creators to do in this year and beyond.

DonYe's Goals for the Creator Community

James: Yeah. I think that's a good transition to talk about things that we have planned this year. But generally, what are some of your goals this year in relation to the influencer community?

DonYe: I want to like overall, I want to make Fohr at the forefront, the forefront of redefining what influencer means. I feel like in the future and even somewhat right now, a lot of the major influencers out there don't really consider themselves influencers. They consider themselves impactful, or they consider themselves like valuable. But that is what my eye is on. Trying to get the people that are already have that influence without the label of influencer, to really redefine what being an influencer means. And to kind of changed that stigma, that influencer isn't just being pretty or selling lip gloss, or selling something that affects your external. But an influencer can also affect how you view yourself more on the internal side. So that's kind of like my main goal. And I feel like everything from that kind of trickles down.

So of course I want to increase the amount of influencers on the Fohr platform. More specifically, getting as many creators of color that I can on there. I feel like there's so many. And we were in a meeting today. I was talking to Grace and Sophie, but they were talking about how a lot of black TikTokers and creatives are getting paid so much less than other creators. And I butted in and I said, "A lot of creatives that I know, they don't know what to charge because they're not educated on the business of influencing." And I think a lot of people are really good at creating, but they suck on the business side? So I'm really excited to provide education for a lot of up and coming influencers, and influencers that are already in the industry, to them more on how to monetize their creativity in a way that fuels their bank account, but their passion as well.

Those are kind of my main two goals. I would say the third goal that I have is to make the word, Fohr, and the company, Fohr, synonymous with influencer marketing. I feel like anybody that's talking to about influencer marketing or influencers, Fohr should be in that sentence just because you guys were the first. And the technology, like once I started being on the advisory board and I learned more about all the products and the technology that you guys have built, I was really blown away. So just getting more of the world to know about all the amazing things that you guys can do, getting those products out there, getting influencers to use those products and talk about those products so that people in turn correlate Fohr with the influencer community. So I would say those are my three main goals.

James: Those are great. And I think that like, something I love is that some of our story is similar in that like, and it's probably true of a lot of the people at this company, that the internet like changed your life. And I think that so much of like why I started the company was that I was living a life that I was like generally dissatisfied with and then having a following on the internet like dramatically changed my life. And I wanted to be able to like give that to more people and do it in a more equitable and fair way, where opportunity wasn't dolled out by who you knew, but by the quality of your content and all the data and all of that stuff.

And so I think that it's so great to have you who are admittedly and lucky for you, much younger than me, but have a similar story and have that similar drive to help people change their life. Because, as I said, look, if you can get 100,000 followers on Instagram and probably TikTok's not too far behind that, like you change your life. Like that drew dramatically changed the course of your life. And I think that it's hard to do that. It's getting increasingly hard to do it, but having a following is transformative, understanding the value of that following is transformative, understanding how to walk into rooms and charge for that following is transformative. And I think that we will continue to do stuff like this. Really excited to have you out there. I think it's something else that DonYe is going to work on is with 180,000 influencers and 1,000 new ones a week, it's impossible to know who's in our community. And I think that we're really excited for you to find creators who aren't in Fohr, bring them in and talk to our campaign team and say, "Hey, these are people you should be working with." And find the people in our community who make sense who we should be working more with and advocate for them.

And DonYe again is here. We'll put up her email address, if you want to introduce yourself and say hi. I will say again, on the campaign side, to work with Fohr, you probably need 50,000 followers and in a 2% engagement rate. That's like our minimum. And so if you look at Fohr, we kind of look at the platform in two different groups. Under 50K, we're here to give you technology, guidance, education. Advice, resources, anything we can to help you grow your following and understand how to monetize it with the clients who use the technology and more broadly, any brands. Once you have over 50K, you start to be eligible for the campaigns that we run and DonYe is going to be continuing to look at that community, find people that we feel like we should be working more with and advocate to the, I don't know, 40 or so people that we have now, who are responsible for executing the campaigns. So this is a great person to know in your life generally, but certainly influencers. Drop her line, say hi, introduce yourself, give her some time to like ...

Cheers, and thanks for watching.

Psst… You can still watch all 202 A Drink with James episodes here. Binge it – we dare you!

And make sure to subscribe to the Fohr YouTube channel to get notified of new episodes.

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