Christy Choi is a co-founder of a Los Angeles based influencer marketing agency: First Influence, Inc. Her clients include many household names and fast emerging brands, like Samsung, Drop, Yubo, Makku, and more.
Christy was born in South Korea and raised in Washington State. After graduating from the University of Washington, Christy moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting. While starring in commercials and TV shows, she came across an opportunity to become an in-house digital content creator. This one-time gig led Christy to realize her knack for creating powerful social media campaigns for brands and she pivoted to take advantage of this fast-growing market to build her own business.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself, and what inspired you to start First Influence?
If I’m being honest, I didn’t wake up one day and decide to start a company. I hadn’t even thought about working as a freelance marketer either! I simply love the process of being creative and that led me to the first gig in marketing where I was creating Snapchat stories for a brand. There, I naturally learned a lot about what was working and not working when integrating a brand into these emerging social platforms. I also learned a lot about what types of creators were fostering actual real engagement, credibility, and influence with their followers. All of these insights informed me when it came to crafting social campaigns and those efforts began to pay off in big ways. A few projects led to a lot more, and that’s how First Influence was born!
What does your typical day look like?
Everyday involves a combination of the following: answering emails, Slack messages, taking meetings, browsing social feeds, drafting proposals, and creating content. Whenever we’re starting a new campaign for a brand, I like to create sample video campaigns as if I were an “influencer” to see how the talking points flow. This approach sounds funny, but I love this process because it really helps us get a better pulse on how the influencers might approach a campaign and its creative brief. Giving the influencers a lot of room to advocate for the brand in their own voice is really important, so creating sample campaigns in-house helps us see which talking points are truly necessary and where we can simply let the influencers shine and do what they do best.
What was the worst piece of advice you’ve ever received?
I think sometimes there’s too much emphasis on preparation and planning - for many good reasons which are familiar to a lot of us. For me, these kinds of advice work against my perfectionist mentality. If someone tells me “preparation is the key to success”, I will sit in the ideation and preparation phase for far too long and sometimes never end up executing on a concept or an idea. I’m a huge believer in learning by doing. Succeeding through means of taking calculated risks, quickly putting it to test, observing the learnings, adjusting, and then repeating.
What does success mean to you and has that changed as you became older?
Success means being rooted in action despite your fears, doubts, and judgment. The biggest thing that holds us back from doing anything is fear. Most of the time I’m fearful about things that really shouldn’t hinder my opportunity to learn and grow as a human being. Things like, humiliation, judgement, “what will others think?”, “what if it’s not good?”, hold me back. If I start to give into these questions, I will end up living a life that feigns “safety” when in reality I’m just stuck. When I can push through these mental barriers and simply relish in the act of trying and doing, that is success for me.
In moments of self-doubt or adversity, how do you build yourself back up?
I try to see each difficult moment in my life as having a very good purpose. No matter how uncomfortable or unfair a situation might feel, I try to tell myself “I’ve been given the best opportunity right now to rise up and evolve”. Many events in your life will make you question who you are and what you stand for. So seek out friends, mentors, and partners who truly celebrate all your great qualities, but also care about you enough to be compassionately honest about your shortcomings. Invest in activities that bring you back to your own center and understanding of who you are - one that doesn’t rely on external validation. For me, spending time in nature and investing in therapy [and tons of insightful conversations] have been incredibly helpful.
Do you have any morning routines or evening rituals to help you stay balanced?
A morning ritual I am loving these days is going for a trail walk to clear my head and think about my intentions for the day. Not for the month or the week, just today. As a born creative serving numerous clients and objectives, my mind gets easily excited. And as a result, I get pulled in many directions. So it’s become really helpful for me to set my intentions for the day and get clear about my priorities for the next 10 hours.
It sometimes seems like being an influencer is an extremely fun and glamorous career, what are some tough parts that come with this job that many people may not see on the outside?
Influencers feel the pressure to create, produce, and broadcast, all the time. There are simply no days off. The amazing vacation you’re finally taking? You better film that because it would make for great content. The heartbreak you’ve experienced recently? Maybe that needs to be shared too because it’s authentic. The pressure to share, stay relevant, and ultimately GROW their audience is palpable at all times for a lot of influencers. This pressure can often create a lot of discord in their personal and professional relationships. On the flip side, I see many form a tight bond with their fellow creator friends who truly understand and empathize with the unique challenges of this industry. I see many who truly wish to use their platform for good and to impact actual positive change. And this is truly heartwarming to notice in an industry that may otherwise seem a little cold and superficial to some onlookers.
If you liked this interview, you might like our recent interview with Kat and Vic, co-founders of Lohn.