Vivid Vision

How I Grew My Instagram To Over 500k Followers Doing What I Love.

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December 21, 2019

Who are you and what kind of content do you create?

Hey! I’m Vivid and I am a Chinese Canadian that immigrated here from Hong Kong. I am a big nerd and have been a Cosplayer for over 10 years now. 5 Years ago I decided to take it up professionally (Professionally as in monetizing my content). I am currently working full time as a Manager in Health Care, but I spend majority of my waking hours outside of work dedicated to my Cosplay hustle on the side. One day I wish I can do my business full time, hence the hustle now :p I update my social media daily (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter).

I have been doing content creation on my one for quite some time. But for the past 2 years I started to seek help from my friends and family as the workload was too much. From time to time, I would ask them to either assist with my cosplay crafting, or with taking photos or videos for my content. Sometimes I do it solo, and other times I would have a team of 5 people to assist. (Depends on the scope of the project and people’s availability.) 

Before I started pursuing a brand for my cosplay, I had an internet alias name of “Vivi”. I wanted my brand to somehow incorporate this, so started to think of words that was related to my alias name as well as photography. I was lucky that it actually took me only 15 minutes to figure it out lol!! I guess there are very many words/adjectives that start with a “Vi” so we ran through the list quite quickly~

Let's go down memory lane, tell us your backstory! 

I started off with cosplaying for the first time when I immigrated to Canada. I found out there was a holiday called “Halloween here, where people dress up as characters. Of course, because I grew up on anime and video games, I chose a video game character I liked! My first ever cosplay was Rinoa from Final Fantasy 8. My mom helped me sew that costume as I did not have sewing skills yet. From then on, my second costume, which is also the first costume I sewed, was Yuna from Final Fantasy 10! 

Both my mom and grandma know how to sew so they taught me the basics. Honestly I never really learned how to sew the ‘correct’ way. I mainly improvise and free hand everything and hope all the parts will piece together lol! I never learned how to do “finishing” like serging seams or adding lining inside. The inside of my costumes look like a slaughter house haha! And safety pins are my best friends ^_~ I re-wore the costume and took photos of it in Hawaii. 

I was surprised by my first costume I ever sewed 10 years ago actually was decent quality I guess at the end of the day it didn’t matter to me how it looked on the inside, as long as it looked nice for photos then I’m good, that worked for me for 10 years haha!

In the beginning, I was actually quite against using social media platforms as I only wanted people I cared about to know what was going on in my life. But then I wanted to start sharing my work, caved, and signed up for Facebook as that was the most popular platform of social media back then. Shortly after (I think after a few months) by fluke, I got an Instagram account. My friend was telling me about it and ‘forced’ me to sign up for an account (ie: he took my phone and signed up for me lol!). 

My third platform I signed up on is Twitter, and this was also unplanned. I was having dinner with the a Japanese guest, the father of Vocaloid in LA during Anime Expo. He asked me “What’s your Twitter? Let me add you!” I was like…….. “Uh……….. I have…..  No data right now in LA. What’s your account? I will add you when I get back to the hotel with Wifi.” *Rushes back to the hotel to create a Twitter account LOL! But I’m glad I got those accounts started as those have all been a tremendous help in growing my branding. 

How do you brainstorm ideas for your content and your advice in getting the creative juice flowing?

I get my inspiration from watching the current season’s animes, as well as new game releases for trending characters. A lot of times, there aren’t any characters that I want to cosplay as from the current series/video games. If that's the case, I would go back to series that I have seen in the past that I enjoyed. I also get a lot of inspiration from my friends who we would bounce ideas of what collaboration cosplays to do. And also from my sisters as they are both really into anime and video games. 

I think with my cosplay business, there isn’t really any room for “mental blocks”. The costume is needed for paid deliverables (ie: monthly patreon), or needed for attending an event. This doesn’t really allow me to have mental blocks. When I can’t figure out what costume to make, I may sit on it for 1 or 2 weeks, but as the hard deadline comes around, I am forced to make a decision for the cosplay or I won’t make it in time. Sometimes I would brainstorm with my friends and sisters. Other times I will browse the internet for ideas.

What are the tools and platform you use to help with your brand?

When I started to learn photography, I had a photographer mentor in my city that showed me some tricks in Photoshop. His name is Michael Legge Photographic Art. He does alot of digital photo editing. He's a very pronounced photographer/digital editor, so I got tanked hard learning both skills in photography/light as well as photoshop editing. (Side story, my first ever photoshoot was with him, and my first ever model at the same shoot is with Renee Robyn who is also a super well known model/photographer.)  started out with doing all my editing in Adobe Photoshop and took my photos and videos on my Canon 5DMark3. But because I’m always on the go and I’m weak sauce with carrying heavy gear, I started to turn to solutions that were more travel friendly. Now I have evolved to make 90% of my content on my phone. (Currently I’m using the iPhoneX). 

I take my photos and videos on my phone, and also edit on my phone as well. I use phone apps like Meitu to edit my photos, and Adobe Clip to edit my videos. I’m finding it harder to find time to edit Youtube videos, so in Sept 2019, I started to outsource my Youtube Video editing. Initial thought process was that I was super behind in my YT videos (I took a lot of videos for YT but was backlogged.... so I stopped filming my travel vlogs etc.) I had thought about outsourcing someone to edit my videos. But I never got around to doing it. Somehow by chance I started to talk to my friend and I just thought hey why don't you edit for me? I hired a good friend that understands my personality and is very well versed in the nerd culture. His video editing is very creative and I love it! 

I’ve been working on growing my social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) daily for 5 years, and it wasn’t until year 3 when momentum started to pick up in my platforms. I also have a Youtube channel for 5 years now but I haven’t been posting on there often, though I’ve started to pick up on it and post at least once a month now. I have also joined TikTok in September 2019 and have been posting at least once or twice a day on there.

What were your fears starting out? How did you handle it? 

It took me a really long time to come to terms with being labelled as a “Cosplayer” or a “model”. I had this image in my head that “models” are vain and self absorbed, and I didn’t want to be labelled as such. I was really afraid what others might think of me “Oh there she goes again posting another selfie, she’s so full of herself, etc”. Even though I have been cosplaying for over 10 years, it wasn’t until 5 years ago that I truly accepted myself as being a cosplayer/model. I didn’t know why I was scared to begin with! I didn’t know any other cosplayers or models, so it was a self imagined situation I had in my mind that hindered me from accepting what I was doing. I’m glad I came to this realization! And since that point onward, I was able to push forward and pursue my cosplay professionally since I now labeled myself as a cosplayer. 

Fortunately, 99% of my fans are very respectful. Even though I may have more sexier content, they are very respectful in my comments and DMs. I remember getting my first hate comment about 4 years ago and I celebrated! My mentality was, once you have haters, it means you’ve made it lol!! But my negative comments come far and few, maybe once every half a year? I get more cat calling comments, but they aren’t very bad compared to alot of my peers. 

How did you build your brand to where it is now, take us through your process

Each social platform plays and important role to build my branding. As Facebook was my first platform, it was my biggest following base until 3 years ago when the algorithm crashed and the platform became pay to play only. A lot of influencers have migrated over to Instagram, and this is still my biggest following platform at 570k. Things started to go downhill with Instagram in 2018 as Facebook acquired them and started to make a lot of algorithm and policy changes. Meanwhile, I continued to post daily on Twitter for years without doing too much in the platform. This year it really picked up on twitter for me and I grew to 160k. Since Instagram is performing very poorly for cosplayers, a lot of us have migrated over to Twitter. Everything is so volatile its difficult to predict what would happen next on these platforms.

If its one thing you can count on, it’s that you cannot count on any social media on the long run as they will always keep changing. I learned that you need to adapt to their changes and have multiple platforms and always be on the lookout for new platforms so you can diversify.

For instagram, it started to pick up when I reached 70k followers (Which took 2 years posting daily), then it skyrocketed after that (until 2018 when the algorithm changed). I was fortunate that cosplay is a very visual art, which works well with Instagram as it is meant for photos. It wasn’t hard to get my first 100 followers because of that.

Then there is Pateron, I did a lot of research with Patreon before I started. I asked my peers a bout their Patreon and whats working and not working for them. And with the feedback, I built my patreon tiers and rules. I launched it on my birthday month and got good response for it. I had 80 patrons sign up that month which was a good s tart. And it slowly grew over the 2.6 years I've had it. There are definitely a lot of challenges with it though, and its difficult to maintain growth or to even keep old patrons.But the extra income really helps give me more opportunity to create more content for my fans :)

As of now, my regular day looks like this:
- In the morning, catch up on all social media comments on all platforms

- Catch up on all cosplay related group chats and emails

- 11am to 12pm MTD - Post 1 piece of content daily (I know there are scheduling platforms out there but I still manually post on all my socials lol!)

- Post at least 5 Instagram stories daily throughout the day

- Evenings and weekends - make more content or edit content

- Before bedtime, catch up on all social media comments on all platforms

For someone who wants to get into content creation, what is your advice?

I think I would have tried to start sooner when the market wasn’t as saturated.  But that goes with everyone, you should have started yesterday ahaha! Its better late than never! 

Make sure you start on it right away so you don’t procrastinate! The influencer business is always evolving so its best to ride the earlier waves when there are less restrictions. 

Because of this, I started to actively pay attention and seek out different social media platforms to trial out (ie: TitTok). Its better to join a platform in it’s earlier developmental phase so you are one of the leaders in the group, and have more time to grow your channel. Premature social media platforms also have fewer restrictions as their primary goal is to entice content creators to join and to also constantly create content for their platform. With more mature social media platforms such as facebook and instagram, they are in no shortage of users. So they are focusing on how to monetize these users and their content, which they will start adding in a lot of restrictions.

It’s best if you use the platform regularly and understand it thoroughly. Try joining or even forming cohort groups that will support each other on the platform, and you can also have meaningful discussions with them about platform strategies.

Tell us your best milestones in being a content creator

Important milestones in my content creating career was hitting my first 100k followers on instagram. Since then, my branding just skyrocketed and other companies started to reach out to me.

Another important milestone is getting invited as a cosplay Guest for the first time, flown out with paid flights, hotels and per diem! >w< Wow that made me feel like I finally made it!! People actually want to hire me!!

Another milestone was launching my Patreon! Because the majority of my fans are all around the world and not from my city, this gives them a chance to support me digitally. It started giving me more opportunities to expand my content growth with the money I made from my fans.

What are your marketing strategies to grow your brand?

I started off just by posting daily on all my channels. It was actually the same piece of content too (ie: photo) because I did not have enough content to do unique posts per platform. Somehow over the years it started to slowly gain traction. Until I hit 70k followers on instagram then everything snowballed. 

Since I started to do Patreon, I started to show my sexy type of content. This definitely exploded my account. It’s true what they say, “Sex Sells” lol. We all started to see a trend of young cosplay girls starting to show more and more skin, and in more provocative poses as that was the content the internet demanded. I didn’t feel comfortable going any sexier than what I’m doing now (ie: I don’t do implied nudes or sexual poses). 

I started to see my growth slow down a bit, as if the internet is desensitized by sexy photos, and that my photos started to become the norm. But then, instagram hit us all hard with their change algorithm and now even slight sexual content will get punished. Of course these lead me to try different strategies on the platforms such hiding sexual parts of the photo and enticing followers to follow a certain link to see full photo, etc.

I found at the beginning what really helped with my growth was attending a lot of anime conventions around the world. I know this costs a lot of money and time, but I was doing this for 5 years to gain traction and following I have right now. Whenever I have a chance, I would always do collaborations in the cities I visited with other cosplayers. It definitely increases both our exposures to each other’s fan base. Nowadays, on my Patreon I am releasing collaboration content almost every month. It definitely helps with the promo! 

How do you handle brand deals and sponsorships?

I’ve actually never really reached out to any brands before. Once I hit my magic number of 70k followers on Instagram, brands started to reach out to me for collaboration. If a brand reaches out to me, I will research their company to make sure its the right fit with my branding before I agree to work with them. (ie: I’m not going to do a promo about pills that make your bald head grow hair or something like that hahah!)

A lot of brands will ask trade for a share, which means they will give me their product for free and I would promo on my social media for them. I used to do this when I was a smaller brand. But nowadays I find my time is very limited and valuable. If a company gave me a free $30 tshirt for a post, it is honestly not even worth my time to put on my makeup and take photos, write the post. I would have spent around 2 hours doing that. If you think of the value of it, that's $15 an hour, and its not even liquid cash. Unless they are a good friend or I reallllllyyyy want that product, I wouldn’t do product trade for post.

Nowadays I’m signed with an agency and they handle all the brand collaboration negotiations for me. Best thing ever!! They even actively go out to look for brand deals for me! You just have to make sure you do your homework and know they are a good company, and give you a fair commission before you sign on with them. Make sure to always read all the fine prints in the contract before signing it! 

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