This story was initially published in The Creators — a newsletter about the people powering the creator economy. Get it sent to your inbox every Saturday here.
I recently spoke with 31-year-old TikToker Christina Najjar (@tinx, 1.5M TikTok) who dishes out everything from dating advice (women apparently date like venture capitalists while men date like stockbrokers) to “rich mom” starter packs to random thoughts on Rihanna and her favorite foods. Tinx, who has built a brand around her lifestyle and tidbits of wisdom, talks money and power with us and explains how influencers don’t just “sit around playing on our phones all day.”
This interview has been edited for content and clarity.
No More Bad Marketing
Historically influencers have been willing to promote just about anything. Kim Kardashian notoriously appeared in a 2011 Super Bowl ad for Skechers Shape-Ups, chunky exercise sneakers that were supposed to help you lose weight, as well as tone your butt and abs. Skechers ended up having to pay $40 million to the Federal Trade Commission to settle a suit for deceiving customers. More recently, in November, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro sued influencer Dana Chanel for allegedly deceiving consumers by posting about her own companies that ripped them off.
Tinx says that’s changing.
“Audiences are extremely smart now,” she says. “So they’re not going to accept just random partnerships that don’t make sense. They can spot the BS, so to speak, from a mile away.”
Tinx, for example, loves Chipotle. She started talking about how much she enjoyed the Mexican food chain on social media organically and the brand took notice, landing her a partnership where she even had a “Tinx Bowl” featured on the Chipotle app for 45 days.
“All of the content felt so fresh and original and it was just in my mind a perfect case study for how influencer marketing should go,” she says.
Tinx chooses not to participate in affiliate marketing, where brands pay influencers to promote their products and get paid a percentage of the sales they bring in. Instead, she says she works with brands “in a more long term, strategic way.”
“When I first started out, I was coming at this career from an interesting vantage point because I’d worked at multiple jobs including in corporate America in my 20s and I told my manager I think that the age of the influencer who will just promote anything for a quick buck is over,” she says.
How Tinx Got on TikTok
Tinx always wanted to make content, but she didn’t get her start on social media. Her parents, both from the Midwest, raised her and her brother in London where she attended an all-girls school, was exposed to theatre, and gained a “global perspective.” After studying English at Stanford University, Tinx worked in Gap’s retail management program and went to graduate school at Parsons for fashion journalism. She spent her 20s writing lifestyle stories as a freelancer until she started making TikToks during the pandemic.
“It was all to do with the power of storytelling and the power of connecting with an audience through creativity,” she says of her transition from journalist to an influencer. “I started making digital content during the pandemic like so many of us in May of 2020 and, immediately, I knew it was gonna be my life’s passion.”
Now, Tinx prides herself on her mostly-female fanbase, to whom she dispenses “big sister” advice. Early on, Tinx says she got caught up with views and likes, but she’s learned that audiences care about authenticity, especially during the pandemic.
“The things that the audience values in content creators and influencers have changed,” she says. “It used to be, ‘Oh, do they have washboard abs and are they perfect, on a trip to Bora Bora with their perfect boyfriend?’ Now it’s like: Are they authentic, are they real, what value can they add?”
Taking Influencers Seriously
The most successful influencers are flooded with comments from haters who tell them to “get a real job.” When TikTok mogul Addison Rae’s account got “permanently banned” in October, she Tweeted a screenshot of the notice from the app with the caption “Well time to get a job.” Her account was reinstated hours later. The 21-year-old made an estimated $8.5 million on TikTok in 2021, released a single that has over 28 million streams on Spotify, and co-starred in the Netflix movie “He’s All That,” a play on the 1999 film “She’s All That.” It’s safe to say Addison Rae has more jobs than most of us.
One of Tinx’s good friends is Emily Mariko, a 29-year-old influencer who recently went viral for posting videos of her making salmon bowls, which might seem frivolous, but people apparently want to see them.
“It’s not just that she’s filming herself cooking,” Tinx says. “It’s the editing, it’s the filming, it’s the whole concept. When people think that content creators, it’s just so easy for them to make the content, that means they’re doing their job right because it looks effortless but it’s a ton of work.”
While skeptics might not understand the power of influencers, Tinx knows they are here to stay: “Creators are the mouthpiece from brand to audience, they understand what’s interesting about a brand or product to an audience, sometimes better than the brand can know themselves.”
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