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Hyram Yarbro, Jackie Aina, Dulma Altan and Marianna Hewitt on the Evolution of Influence

The content creators and founders discuss best practices in the digital space, the rise of TikTok and what's next.

“I did some quick math before we sat down and between the four of us, we have 21,853,000 followers,” said Marianna Hewitt, kicking off a conversation with leading content creators Jackie Aina, Dulma Altan and Hyram Yarbro.

All well-known, familiar names in the world of social media, they’ve used their power of influence to build their own companies. Aina is the founder of lifestyle brand Forvr Mood (currently offering scented candles, room sprays and silk pillowcases); Altan is the creator of entrepreneurial platform Makelane; Yarbro, known as the Gen Z beauty guru, offers skin care brand Selfless by Hyram, and Hewitt is the cofounder of Summer Fridays.

They know a thing or two about what it means to build an audience, engage and offer products in the digital world.

“TikTok is all about relatability,” said Yarbro, who has 6.3 million followers and 285.8 million likes on the platform. “And personality is dominant.”

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The conversation was centered on the rising platform.

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“TikTok has been so mind-blowing with the impact it has had,” Yarbro said. “A lot of people connect with TikTok, particularly Gen Z, because they’re like, ‘I want to see funny content. I want to see personalities. I want to laugh.’”

It’s in a brand’s interest to lean into TikTok trends, using humor and taking part in the different challenges. And when partnering with a content creator, scripted content doesn’t work, he said.

“It’s important for them to trust the authentic voices and connection that the creator has with their audience. I’ve seen brands operate with influencers in a way where it’s advertisement, commercial focused, and I really don’t believe that works well in comparison to trusting the creator to use their own creative style. Their connection with their audience is what’s going to help promote the message of the product best.”

Three elements are key when partnering with influencers: ensuring that the content creators have a strong following, a direct and intimate relationship with followers and that they’re trusted, Altan said.

Altan posted that there’s a “blurring of the line between brands and individuals.”

She noted, “Brands are becoming more activists, more outspoken, more human and relatable, and there’s a pressure to move in that direction.”

Consumers — Gen Z and young Millennials — are holding brands accountable to be more relatable.

The audience is a lot savvier these days, Aina said. “You have to be real.”

How can a brand do that?

“Take the time to understand the DNA of each platform and find how it aligns with the brand DNA,” Altan said.

Instagram is still most suited for showcasing lifestyle content, while YouTube offers long-term educational content, Yarbro said.

“I think for the first time Instagram has competition, and they aren’t used to that,” said Aina, when asked about the future of Instagram, given the influence of TikTok. “From my end, as a content creator, I see a little flustering.”

On a positive, competition has created interesting new features on the platform (from video reels to e-commerce options), she said.

No matter the platform, video content does best, they all agreed. And it’s beneficial to diversify across platforms, especially given creators have no control over the digital algorithms, said Hewitt, who launched her own podcast‎ — “Life With Marianna.”

“I wanted to really offer something different to my followers that they weren’t getting from my Instagram or TikTok, specifically,” she said. “I think we’re going to see a lot more brands launching podcasts.”

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