MEGAStyle August 2021 cover star Toni Sia navigates influence and social media using everything she has learned from being a content creator. Read our exclusive interview to learn more.
In the ‘50s, the world was obsessed with Hollywood movie stars. You had the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Marlon Brando, and Marilyn Monroe. The ‘70s, on the other hand, worshipped their disco queens: Bianca Jagger and Studio 54 constants dictated the trends of the era. Then, in the ‘90s, the supermodels took over. Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, and Naomi Campbell were everywhere– on the billboards, magazines, and everything in between. Now, people have found a new group to look up to. They have charisma, character and a point of view shared across all social media platforms. They are called: The Influencer.
While gaining popularity and sealing your relevance might be different from era to era, one thing is constant—you have to make your mark. Movie stars had their auditions, pop stars had their demos, while supermodels had their casting calls. Influencers, on the other hand, have to establish their voice and create compelling content for their audience. It could start from YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, or any other social media platform. One person who mastered all these is local content creator, Toni Sia.
Since 2016, YouTuber, TikTok star, and Instagram influencer, Toni Sia, has been making relatable and reliable content from the get go. She has tried everything in the realm of content creation: mukbangs, hauls, tutorials, and so much more. But what truly sets Toni Sia apart from the rest isn’t her content; it’s her personality and community. Find out how she was able to conquer the world of social media with one recommendation at a time.
MEGAStyle: How were you like before your YouTube channel, Instagram fame, and Community influence?
Toni Sia: Before I started my whole creator journey, I was a proud online seller. I think I’ve been selling stuff ever since I was in high school. I remember selling contact lenses to my peers and to my batchmates back then—candy, and all that stuff. I truly enjoyed that. Moving on to college, I remember starting a small online business with my blockmates. And then, started selling clothing as well. Eventually, I started a makeup online selling business. That went pretty well. Yeah, that’s basically where I started. I feel like that’s got a lot to do with what I do now. I mean, I feel like, the online selling Toni Sia plays a huge part in who I am today.
MS: During your high school/college days, would you say that you were the friend who always had new recommendations?
TS: To be honest, while I was studying, I didn’t have the budget to buy everything I wanted and just recommend a lot of stuff to my friends. But, I would say what sparked this satisfaction and just this love for me recommending items to my friends, was when I started my makeup business. I love makeup so much. I’m the type of person who would buy certain products and try it out for myself. If I like it I would post on my Instagram page and make a mini review to show my clients. It was like I was an online seller, but at the same time I was their friend as well. I was giving tips whether this product was indeed worth it to purchase. I guess that’s where I sparked it all. The relation between my online selling and also me giving my reviews to every single product I was selling.
MS: What was your reason for getting into YouTube 4 years ago?
TS: I’ve been a watcher of Youtube for a long time, but the thought of me creating my channel didn’t cross my mind until 2016. I was so hesitant to start my channel at first, because I was scared that people might not understand my personality. But, I took a leap of faith and just did it. I bought a camera, which is still here with me. After which, I recorded a video in my room—I still remember using PHP100 rechargeable lights just to give me decent lighting. Then, I uploaded it on Youtube. I was just so in love with makeup and I wanted to share my favorite products to the world. I didn’t think it would even grow, but I am just so thankful because five years later, here I am.
MS: What were your struggles in getting your name in the industry?
TS: First few years of my journey, I had a hard time growing my channel. If you would compare YouTube now to before, it’s so different. Now, you get a video to go viral and that could be the start of your growth. Before, it was really hard to get your name out there. It took me a lot of trial and error and self reflecting. There were times when I thought that maybe this wasn’t for me and maybe I had nothing more to offer my audience. That question went on for years, but I realized I was putting too much pressure on myself and that I’m doing so much better than I thought. Sometimes it just gets to you, but I’m glad I got out of that rut!
MS: What changed in your content that set you apart from all the influencers and content creators?
TS: In my many years of being a content creator, I’ve basically tried everything: mukbangs, makeup tutorials and reviews, fashion content, and hauls. At one point, I even tried doing pranks and challenges. Honestly, it’s not even about my content now. I think it’s more because of my personality and energy. I’ve also developed a good relationship with my viewers. In a way that they trust me for my recommendations, because they see how I incorporate them in my daily life.
MS: Now that you’re a well established name in the YouTuber community, how do you deal with the power that comes from influencing your audience?
TS: Well, I don’t think I’m that well known. Sakto lang! But, I like it this way actually! Anyway, I’m blessed to have this huge platform and audience now, so I try to be a source of positivity and entertainment for them especially in these times. I think a lot of people need a friend right now. And, I’m trying to be that for my viewers—an ate, a friend they can watch and find comfort in.
MS: Is there a difference in approaching brand deals and recommendations from when you were starting out to now?
TS: Definitely not. Ever since naman, I only accept sponsorships from brands and products I personally enjoy and would use. It’s funny ‘cause sometimes I’d get comments saying that I’m sponsored, but I don’t really see a problem with that. If only they knew, the amount of sponsorship opportunities I say no to.
MS: How were you able to establish a strong relationship with your online community?
TS: I keep it a hundred. I only recommend things I’ve personally tried and liked. Although, it hasn’t been perfect. Sometimes, they don’t like what I recommend and that’s okay. We all have different tastes and preferences. I try my best to keep my audience’s trust. Also, I try to engage with them by thanking them, replying to their messages, and just letting them know that I appreciate them. I don’t see my viewers as followers, they’re my friends and I’m forever thankful for them!
MS: What’s your advice to influencers who are starting their career in the pandemic?
TS: Just keep going. Sometimes we get discouraged too easily, you know? Two years ago, if a video of mine didn’t go well, I’d immediately think that I’m a failure. But if you think of it, it’s just a video and I could create another one. Give yourself the credit you deserve.
Also, be as you as possible. But at the same time, when it’s time to evolve—evolve and be flexible. Change is okay, growth is okay. If something you used to do doesn’t resonate with you anymore, by all means try something new.
MS: If there’s one trait that influencers must have, what do you think it is?
TS: I’ll share two traits. First, honesty. You need to be honest to your viewers because that’s the foundation of trust and that’s how your audience will stay. Be honest with what you like and don’t like. Be honest with who you are, and everything else will follow.
Second is humility. Humility is so attractive for people who have more than others. So, with influencers who treat their platform as a privilege and not a right are ones who are more likely to cherish what they have and not take anything for granted.