Working Social Media: How One Savvy Viner Is Making Money With Major Brands

Photos Courtesy of Zach King

Chances are, nearly everyone you know has some sort of social media account, but how many of them can claim over one million followers, with brands like Nike and Nordstrom knocking on their door? And better yet, are able to make a living off the platforms most people use strictly for fun? Well, Zach King can claim all of the above and more—like an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, for starters—all thanks to his Vine and YouTube accounts.

He's known for his cool, optical illusion videos, which have garnered a dedicated following, not to mention the attention of the talk show queen. Though he's made a name for himself with social media, King says he didn't start out with that intention. "I've been an online creator long enough to know that you can pretty much make money on every single platform," he told JustLuxe. "But I didn't know how it worked and that's not why I created my Vine channel. I just thought it was a cool way to express myself." His organic approach certainly worked, as brand partnerships and television appearances soon followed. And the most exciting part about it all? How new everything is. Two years ago, one of his main sources of revenue, Vine, didn't even exist—it's still "the Wild West," as King describes it.

Of course, we jumped at the chance to talk to King about his social media success story. Read on to learn how he turned a hobby into a job, his advice on how to start your own and more.

JustLuxe: Why did you start making Vines?

Zach King: I started making vines six months ago, in September of 2013. I downloaded the app originally just to consume the content, but once I saw the special effects category, I knew I wanted to try creating videos for the app. I challenged myself to create a Vine every day for a month and just see what happened.

JL: Do you consider Vine your hobby or your job?

ZK: Vine started as a hobby, but quickly became a full time job. But in my mind, when I am creating a Vine, I pretend it's still just a hobby—that way my content stays fresh and fun.

JL: Do you also have a full-time job? Do your Vines support you at this point?

ZK: My full time job is a YouTuber/Viner. I work in my garage studio and my sister helps manage my business and I've got a couple good buddies that work with me on new content and running my websites. It's just the coolest job in the world and I'm so in love with what I do.

JL: What companies have you partnered with? What was your first business deal from your Vines, and how did that come about?

ZK: I've gotten to partner with a lot of cool companies like Coca-Cola, Nordstrom, Penske, Warner Brothers, Nike and others. I don't remember what brand first contacted me, but I started getting a lot of emails after my vines started getting exposure on big blogs and T.V. shows.

JL: What is your education background?

ZK: I was initially rejected to film school but I eventually received a film major from Biola University in Los Angeles, CA.

JL: Do you see yourself making a living out of social media in the next five years? If not, where do you see yourself professionally?

ZK: I've been making my living from YouTube for the last 5 years, so I definitely see myself continuing to work with my various social media accounts while I expand to television and feature filmmaking in the next 5 years. It's exciting to be on the edge of social media because it's the Wild West—Vine just celebrated its one year birthday early this year.

JL: What advice do you have for people who want to use social media as a source of revenue, but don't know where to start?

ZK: I recommend starting with a subject or topic that you are passionate about. The worst thing you can do is get stuck doing something you don't like doing. So find your niche and dominate it. The power is in the niches.

JL: Have you faced any business-related challenges so far? If so, what were they?

ZK: I've had my fair share of burns and bruises in terms of business along the way, but that's how you learn. I think the hardest thing for me to get used to was reading contracts and negotiating deals that I wanted. It's awkward to be upfront and very direct with people about costs and rates, but the conversations need to happen in order to land a new deal.

Zach King

JL: Has anything come easier than you expected?

ZK: Actually yes: the followers. To be honest, it was addicting to get 25,000 followers some days. Coming from YouTube, I was used to getting 600-1,000 new followers a day, so Vine has grown a lot quicker for me. I think that's one of the main reasons I stuck with Vine. I've always said that I would create content for my audience wherever they were, and my audience was growing on Vine a lot faster, so I've recently been creating a little more content for that platform.

JL: I saw that you were a guest on Ellen. Is T.V. something you want to do more of?

ZK: It was an incredibly fun experience getting to meet Ellen and be on her show. I love doing the T.V. side of things and can't wait to do more in the future!

Erin Fitzpatrick

I'm a fashion writer/editor and USC grad from San Diego. I got my start interning and writing for the online fashion magazine, which I contributed to for over two years. I have since written for, San Diego Magazine, Exquisite Weddings Magazine, and many more. ...(Read More)

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