From working in a YouTube agency to full-time content creation to coaching creators, Riley has seen all angles of the creator economy!
Riley’s story starts back in high school, when he felt like he was out of touch and struggling to find ways to express himself. When Vine came around in 2013-2014, it gave Riley the ability to share who he truly was online. His start wasn’t explosively viral, but the ability to reach a thousand people from his bedroom was mind boggling, since it would take well over a month to talk to that many people in-person. When Vine died in 2016, he moved entirely over to Instagram- primarily uploading comedy content similar to what Lele Pons and Logan Paul were doing at the time. Riley attributes much of his success on Instagram to his mentor, Andrew Shin, who ran a meme page with 4M followers, which placed him in the top 200 creators at the time. With Andrew’s guidance, Riley was able to grow his following from 100 to 85,000 followers and develop a close community of die-hard fans who encouraged him along the way.
When his senior year of high school came around, Riley was faced with a choice to either go all-in on his Instagram or go to college to study digital marketing and business analytics. While Riley wanted to go all-in, being a content creator wasn’t viewed nearly as highly as it is today, so he ended up letting people get into his head and went to school. While studying at college, Riley felt a lack of purpose, since he knew he was spending massive amounts of time and money on something that wasn’t a vital part of what he wanted to do with his life. Regardless, he pulled through, and after graduation in December 2018, Riley went to work for a YouTube agency, where he had the opportunity to work with some of the biggest creators on the platform to help them strategize their account with brand deals, videos, and audience. This was a real eye opening experience for him, as he was able to see the astounding number of people these creators were able to reach and inspire.
In 2019, Riley's life started to change when he found out about TikTok. At first, he thought it was just a place where kids go to post videos of them dancing, but quickly realized that it was just an improved version of Vine. A massive lightbulb went off in his head, and when the pandemic started back in march 2020 he ended up having a video go viral with 20M views. Riley didn’t put much thought into the video, then just woke up the next morning to a couple million views and gained 100k followers. It’d take 2-3 years to make that type of progress on Instagram when he was first growing, but now it’s possible overnight on TikTok.
Riley continued to grow his social media presence, and in March 2022, he had an epiphany. It really hit him that short form content is going to be the future, so Riley took the dive and quit his 9-5 to pursue content full-time. In addition to content, he also started his agency, Byte Syzed, to help legacy brands with their short form content creation strategy from ideation all the way to execution. Over time, he found that he’s much more passionate about helping the average Joe who doesn’t have millions to spend on their content strategy, so even though that’s a less lucrative target customer, Riley has been moving to serve them because of the greater level of personal fulfillment.
Alongside his agency income, Riley also monetizes on-platform. His first brand deal was with CW, the network behind shows like Superman & Lois. Since then, he’s found that long-term partnerships are always better than one-off deals. Riley really wants to agree with the brand’s mission at a personal level AND wants to have his audience build a relationship with the brand as well. Going into 2023, he sees this type of longer term brand deal as the future, since it’s obvious when a creator is just trying to get the bag through quick one-off deals they haven’t actually bought into personally. YouTube is also shaping up to be the leading platform, with their new 45% ad share for short form creators, as opposed to the manipulative creator funds that other short form platforms use.
Philosophy has been a big part of Riley’s life, and he says that stoicism changed his life. In short, stoicism is a philosophy that prioritizes the virtue of one’s character over all else, and promotes developing one’s character through the endurance of hardship without complaining. Social media tends to be such a roller coaster, with creators going from massive virality to complete droughts overnight. It’s easy to get caught up in that whirlwind, but stoicism helps to ground you by focusing only on the things you can control, and on accepting the things you can’t.
In the past 10 months of being full-time, Riley has learned more than he did in the previous 3 years. Now he’s full-steam ahead toward his next biggest goals, the first of which is to grow from 80k to 1M on YouTube. His strategy on this is “content is king,” so his core goal is to become a better content creator who connects better with their audience, since everything follows from that. Riley is also looking to expand his personal brand toward becoming an advocate for mental health and education in the content creator space. In the end, the biggest things are consistency and resiliency, since there will always be days when you don’t feel great and just have to break through the wall. If you’re looking to take this journey with Riley, you can find him on Instagram @rileydoingthingstoo, YouTube @RileyDoingThings, and TikTok @rileydoingthingstoo!