Authenticity — Be yourself. As cliché as this may sound, you want to attract the audience that is right for you, not the “fake” you. People can feel when someone is genuine, and they appreciate it. Gaining a huge following to only realize that you have to keep up an act is not the place you want to be at!

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 Simji.

With over 1 billion views across social media between YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram, one of South Korea’s top short form content creators Simji has gone viral worldwide with her intricate and one-of-a-kind tufting designs and skills.

Best known for her short form videos that almost always go viral, Simji truly cornered the market as one of the leading custom tufting and rug makers in South Korea and has sense expanded her business globally making custom pieces at various sizes. Simji’s YouTube channel, TikTok and Instagram page receive millions upon millions of views for each of her videos where she creates fun and intricate pop culture inspired pieces, designer emblems, food related rugs and much more.

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?

I’ve always loved art and knew from a young age that I wanted to work for myself. During quarantine, I randomly saw custom rugs on Instagram and thought it was the coolest thing! I definitely wanted to try making my own, but I didn’t have money for that at the time. Kai, my manager, told me to just go for it and pushed me to pursue this path with a clear plan for content on TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram that ultimately led me to be the “Rugfluencer” I am today.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned along the way that influences how you operate now?

Don’t compare yourself to others. When I started there were already so many people creating rug videos, but I made content with a different goal and intention from the start. People were creating these beautiful rugs, and although I was capable of doing that, my content and upload schedule didn’t call for it. I learned to stop valuing the rugs themselves because it was, and is, more than just a rug for me. Everyone walks a different path. The world would be so dull if everyone did the same thing.

We’re all searching for some good news. How are you using your platform to make a positive social impact?

I am using my social platforms to make a positive social impact in several ways. One of them is reaching and giving back to my audience on a personal level. An example of this could be when I received a message from a follower that their cat passed away. It touched my heart and I made him and his family a portrait rug of their cat and sent it to them as a gift. But, it isn’t only about that one follower. It is the ripple effect that follows. Many viewers could relate because they had also experienced the loss of a loved one. It encourages empathy and human connection, and the goal to be kind to everyone because there is a hidden story behind everyone that we just don’t know about.

Another way is by bringing attention to different issues like ocean pollution or discrimination using my platform. I created a scannable QR code rug and every time someone scanned, I would add a set amount to donate to Teamseas, a creator lead organization with the goal of removing 30 million pounds of plastic and trash from the ocean. For example, 1,000,000 scans would be an $8,000 donation and it is still ongoing! People can still scan and I will add it to the donation amount.

I have also created videos highlighting various social justice issues such as discrimination against Asians and the LGBTQIA+ community. For videos like these, while capturing the audience’s attention with the rug making, I spread awareness about the different issues. It’s very important for me to utilize my platform/ influence for the betterment of this world.

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?

Actually give it a try before you give up! I see too many people give up after not seeing results right away. If you give it your all, bring value to your audience, and be open to learning, shifting, and evolving, success is only a matter of time.

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?

Success to me is positively impacting someone’s life. Whether that is by providing comfort to someone with a pet memorial rug, or inspiring someone to chase after their dreams, I feel fulfilled when I can impact someone’s life in a positive way. Fulfillment is happiness and happiness is the ultimate success.

What are your strategies to make room for who and what matters most?

There are no strategies. If someone I love needs me, I’m there, even if it means playing catch up on work later. I always try to look at the bigger picture. We only have one life and I don’t want to ever look back and regret not taking some time out of my day for myself and for those who matter most because I was too “busy”.

How do you reduce or mitigate stress?

I have learned and am still learning every day to see things in perspective. Stressful things are bound to happen, I try my best to understand that some things are just a part of the process. It is about acceptance. I accept that sometimes things are inevitable and try to go about it in the most peaceful way. I’m also a big believer in “me time.” I LOVE skincare and doing face masks always helps lift my mood!

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.

There are way more than five, but the top five for me are:

1) Humility — Understand that at any point in time, I can lose the position I am in. The idea behind this came to mind when I saw other creators with a large following not interacting with their audience or not uploading for weeks or months at a time. And that is completely fine. However, for my own journey, any video not uploaded is failing to provide for my audience who has helped me get to where I am. By not answering their comments, I feel like I am taking everything I have for granted. Although it isn’t possible to see and answer every comment, I do my best to answer even the ones that just say “Hi.” My audience deserves just as much attention as they give me and it’s about doing my best to show how grateful I am.

2) Content — Upload as much as you can. From day 1, the plan my manager and I came up with was to fill up the space of “tufting” with as much of my content as possible. The more videos I put out, the more potential FYP pages I can land on. Basically, the more people my content can reach. My biggest goal is to be able to reach people at a large scale in order to make the most impact I can in this world.

3) Observation — Listen to my audience and pay attention to what they want. As I upload more and more, I get more feedback and am able to gauge more of what my audience enjoys. It’s not always so direct as a bunch of comments saying “I want more of this.” Sometimes it is through analysis like the retention time, the amount of reach, the engagement, and the awareness of the little easter eggs I put in many of my videos. It’s really about looking through everything and knowing what my next 4 to 5 steps are before I even get there.

4) Authenticity — Be yourself. As cliché as this may sound, you want to attract the audience that is right for you, not the “fake” you. People can feel when someone is genuine, and they appreciate it. Gaining a huge following to only realize that you have to keep up an act is not the place you want to be at!

5) Innovation — There can only be so much of one thing (except for maybe cute animal videos). It’s so important to realize the immense amount of content being put out every single second. Yes — every second, not day. Coming up with new ways to express an idea is crucial when it comes to cultivating a long-lasting community. I have worked my way through a few phases in my content creation career so far and it’s not only exciting for me when I start something new, it’s also exciting for my audience. It’s a win-win situation and it’s also a great way to gain new followers along the way. Whether it’s making rugs of people’s profile pictures, making rugs of their comment requests, or diving deep into ASMR, it is always enjoyable for me to try new things. It is a journey that my audience and I go through together. I often make polls to check up on my audience and ask them how they feel about the content I am releasing. Innovation is evolution, and if you can evolve with your audience through a few cycles, it is more likely that they will stay for the rest.

What do you do to create a greater sense of connection and community among your fans?

I make community driven content by making rugs requested by my audience and answer questions they ask by responding with a video. When people see the creator responding to comments, they are likely to comment more so they could also have a chance of getting a response. It has been incredible to see the community come together to add on to the different rug series I have. I also do giveaways to give back to my audience and bring some excitement. But what I do to really bring my message home is answering DMs. I love getting personal with my audience and having that connection builds a foundation that is based on trust and mutual respect! It brings me so much joy to talk to my audience through DMs and although it isn’t possible for me to respond to everyone, I try as much as I can.

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 think working on getting rid of self judgement would bring so much good to the majority of the world. Sometimes the voices in our head are the loudest and bring us so much unhappiness and doubt. This may start with outside voices, but the moment you care and let that fester inside, it becomes your own voice powered by outside negativity. Not judging ourselves allows for greater things to be achieved. A quote that I heard recently that really hit me is, “If you weren’t afraid of failure, how big would you dream?”

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?

2 words: Gary Vee. He has truly inspired me not only with my career but my life and overall wellbeing. I hold only the highest amount of respect and love for him.

What is the best way for our readers to further follow your work online?

My TikTok and Instagram account handle is @simjiofficial, my YouTube long form channel is SIMJI, and YouTube shorts is SIMJI Shorts.

Thank you for these thought provoking insights. Here’s to your continued success!