Be yourself. Don’t overdo it! Be your unapologetic, authentic self. Viewers connect with people they can relate to above all, and not letting them see who you are is a missed opportunity to connect with them on a human level. We are all an amalgamation of virtues and flaws, and its that realness will resonate with your audience.
We often use the term “Influencers” to describe people with significant social media followings on platforms like Instagram, Twitter TikTok, Youtube, Linkedin and Facebook. Influencers have become today’s media titans, sought after for everything from product placements to timely trends. What’s the difference between influence and impact? Fans and followers? Sizzle versus staying power?
In this interview series, called, “How To Cultivate Community In A Click to Connect World” we are talking to influencers about how they define success and what we all need to discover about the true nature of influence. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ryan and Sophie.
Ryan and Sophie are a couple in their mid-thirties who quit their start-up jobs in 2017 after nearly 10 years working for Swedish startups which left them dissatisfied.
After leaving their jobs, and with no prior experience of sailing, they departed from their homeport of Stockholm, Sweden in 2018. They have since been pursuing a life of adventure at sea, seeing the world in a 40-foot sailboat. So far, they have sailed 14,000 nautical miles from Sweden to the Mediterranean, and twice across the Atlantic.
They both work full-time, Ryan as Chairman of the Board of a lithium battery company, and Sophie as a content creator for their YouTube channel, Ryan and Sophie Sailing. As of Fall 2021, their boat is in the Canary Islands and they are getting ready for a third Atlantic crossing that will take them to the South of the Caribbean Sea.
Thank you for making time to visit with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. How did you discover your career path and what got you to where you are today?
Prior to moving onboard Polar Seal, our 40-foot Beneteau sailboat, we worked in completely different careers. I was working as a consultant selling HR software. Ryan also worked in sales, but for a small aviation startup, and neither of us felt very “fulfilled” by those jobs. We’d come home every night absolutely depleted and stressed, which in no way matched our ideal visions for our lives.
One morning a few months after we met (on Tinder), Ryan texted me that he’d read an article about a couple our age who’d quit their jobs to buy a boat and sail around the world. From that point, it took us three years of planning and learning and a little trial and error before we finally set sail.
As Ryan and I started our own sailing adventure, I started a YouTube channel which, three years later, has turned into the small media business that is now my absolute dream job!
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned along the way that influences how you operate now?
I’ve learned that one does need a genuine interest in the job or the industry they operate in.
I used to see my job as a financial transaction only and didn’t realize how much of my time I was spending on work that felt absolutely meaningless to me. It was not only a waste of time, but I also missed all the opportunities that come when you have a true passion for what you do, such as having an easier time to developing your network and a natural drive for professional growth.
Since starting to work in two of my life’s biggest interests (sailing and media), I now realize how much more I get out of my job by simply being passionate about it, and I can’t believe I spent eight years working on projects that were of so little interest to me. This was one expensive lesson learned!
We’re all searching for some good news. How are you using your platform to make a positive social impact?
Over the years, we’ve researched and implemented many ways that have made boating more environmentally friendly, as well as making our lives themselves more sustainable, and we make a point to share these innovations with our YouTube audience, as well as other sailors we meet. We’ve produced content to educate our audience on how to make freshwater from seawater, ways to potentially increase energy efficiency with renewable power sources such as solar and wind, and even introduced more environmentally friendly alternatives to boating products, such as paint and cleaning supplies which are typically full of harmful chemicals.
But more generally, we hope that our videos inspire people to be more mindful of how they spend their lives and make more purposeful decisions. We want our audience to ask themselves “Am I on the right path for myself?”, or “Is this where I want to be and, if not, how do I get myself to a better place?”
We sometimes receive emails from viewers who tell us how excited they are about having bought their own boat and realizing their dream to sail around the world, and that’s the most significant impact we feel we make!
Many of our readers are influencers as well. Others have tried and have yet to succeed. What words of advice would you offer to aspiring influencers, knowing what you know now?
In my few years as a YouTuber and content creator, I have come to realize that you don’t choose to become an “influencer”, it sort of chooses you. I know creators that put a lot more effort into their content than we do, yet still struggle to find their audiences. There isn’t any magic sauce but persistence, authenticity, and a genuine desire to connect with people are three pillars upon which all great platforms are built.
Another piece of advice that I would give anyone looking to start a YouTube channel is: don’t overthink it. Your first videos are probably not going to be your best, so get them out of your editing software as soon as you possibly can, and don’t be overly self-conscious. We all started somewhere!
Success is often a matter of perspective. I’ve always resonated with Henry David Thoreau’s quote, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” How do you see success — or define success — for yourself now?
Working in social media, a world where everything is measured and statistics are presented to creators with the goal of creating addictive content, it can be really hard to define success beyond a number of views, subscribers, likes, or follows.
The best aspect of being self-employed is that one gets to define their own success! These days, I’ve simplified and clarified my definition of success to; being healthy, loving most aspects of my job, having enough time in life to enjoy the great destinations we visit, and making enough money that can sustain our lifestyle (rather than getting rich).
There is always potential for more subscribers, more views, and more likes, but what truly matters at the end of the day is our quality of life, and the life that Ryan and I have created for ourselves contains plenty of it!
What are your strategies to make room for who and what matters most?
As a content creator, it may sound counterintuitive, but I’ve removed almost all social media applications from my phone. I deleted the YouTube studio and Google analytics apps a long time ago to remove the temptation to constantly look at them. One negative comment or a video that “doesn’t perform as expected” (according to the arbitrary statistics calculated by the elusive algorithm) can have a big impact on how successful I feel on a given day, and isn’t representative of the actual state of the business.
Instead, I am very purposeful with posting, and I gain a huge amount of time and improve my mental space just by not obsessing over numbers!
I’ve also accepted that I simply cannot do everything and, and I’ll never be able to please everyone. It’s an enviable problem, as a content creator, but I can’t always answer every email that comes in from our audience, or even agree to all the partnership requests that come our way. After having tried to “be everywhere” and “do everything”, I have lowered the expectations I have on myself in the interest of maintaining our overall quality of life.
How do you reduce or mitigate stress?
My number one strategy to reduce stress is to have most of the content I produce ready to publish days or weeks before it goes public. This way, I have some flexibility in my schedule, rather than having to stick to very tight deadlines.
In the last few months, Ryan and I have been very busy with days at sea and visits with family and friends and having that flexibility has allowed me to spend genuine, quality time with everyone where we are both actually present, rather than distracted by all the little things our content and publishing requires.
I’m going to try a few of your tips, and I’m hopeful our readers will, too. Now it’s time for the big reveal — the moment our readers have been anticipating. What are your “five strategies to cultivate a large & engaged social media community?’ Please share a story or example for each.
1 — Pick a topic that you are passionate about.
Sharing something you feel passionate about with your audience is the best way to connect with other people — your enthusiasm will shine through, and your interest and passion will be infectious.
2 — Be yourself.
Don’t overdo it! Be your unapologetic, authentic self. Viewers connect with people they can relate to above all, and not letting them see who you are is a missed opportunity to connect with them on a human level. We are all an amalgamation of virtues and flaws, and its that realness will resonate with your audience.
3 — Be consistent and persistent.
Don’t try to do everything with your channel, or else your followers may get confused about what you are about and lose interest. Stick to what you’re good at and passionate about! Building an audience takes a lot of time (overnight success on social media is a myth), but don’t give up! You never know when you might have a breakthrough with your content.
4 — Don’t obsess over the numbers.
Looking at your subscriber numbers, likes, follows, or comments every day can feel very discouraging. Instead, do a monthly, deep dive into your analytics to draw conclusions that will help you shape your coming content. This also helps smooth out any anomalies that appear in the statistics, so that you get a more realistic and repeatable image of your engagement over a period. And again: growing an audience takes A LOT of time😉!
5 — Give yourself the time to be creative.
Allow yourself a lot of downtime to rest, watch videos or check out other creators that you enjoy, and to pursue the things that inspire you. A little breather here and there is the best way to find some new ideas and get excited about what you will create next.
As an influencer, you are, by definition, a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would want everyone to challenge the way they’re live their life right now. Are you working to live a good life, or are you living for your work? How much of your time goes to maintaining your job, as opposed to your job sustaining a lifestyle that you chose?
Imagine what your dream life looks like and think about the small but concrete steps you can take now to put yourself on the path towards that lifestyle.
It all takes time, but with a vision and some work, nothing is impossible!
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you’d like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He, she or they might just see this.🙂
The person I would most love to invite for lunch is, by far, professor, author (and content creator!) Brené Brown. Her work has inspired us to live better lives and be better to ourselves and to others, and continues to have the most significant impact on the decisions we make. Her books (especially The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are) and recent Netflix special have helped us identify and narrow our own messaging, and to stay focused on our priorities, such as authenticity, courage and acceptance in our content and our everyday lives.
Thank you for these thought provoking insights. Here’s to your continued success!