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EW Fest: What Marcus Johns taught us about finding social media success

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Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Entertainment Weekly

While social media didn’t exist when EW got its start in 1990, its colossal presence in our everyday personal and professional lives has turned our world into a digital one. To honor social media and discuss its every-growing societal impact, we asked one of 2015’s top digital influencers, Vine star Marcus Johns, to talk everything from how he got his start to what makes a successful Vine video to when he felt he made it.

Tubefilter’s Drew Baldwin moderated EW Fest‘s Digital Influencers panel on Saturday, and dug deep to find out where Johns draws inspiration from and how to curate a personal brand. Baldwin even got Johns to admit he’s working on a documentary, “some film stuff,” as well as growing his social media presence. “I’m trying to do a lot of things outside of Vine,” Johns teased.

Here are seven tips Johns gave panelgoers about maximizing social media and connecting with an audience:

You don’t have to be on top of the latest technology to have social media success.

When Johns joined Vine almost three years ago, his first video featured the 22-year-old dressed as a grandma mocking how he was late to the platform. Despite feeling behind on the trend, Johns decided he wanted to put out content regularly. “I decided I wanted to make a Vine every single day, but I wanted to do it a little differently,” he told audience members. “I wanted to treat it like YouTube where you try to get a following.”

As a result, Johns became one of the first Vine creators to turn his videos into comedic sketches, which has earned him 6.4 million Vine followers. “It’s leveled the playing field,” Johns said of social media. “There’s this element of ‘Hey, I can be that too.'”

It’s quality over quantity.

While Johns started out posting one or two videos a day, he’s scaled back to just a few times a week. As Baldwin points out, it often takes four hours to produce just six seconds of content.

Have a good concept.

“If your idea’s not good, it’s not going to be a good Vine,” Johns, who studied film in college, said. “Figure out what you’re trying to say, and make sure it’s relatable.”

To make his videos relatable, Johns pulls from his everyday interactions with friends. Baldwin adds that with only six seconds to reach Vine viewers, relatability is key. “That’s the golden rule of comedy,” Johns added. “If you can relate to an audience, especailly a large audience, you can be successful.”

Find your platform.

Johns began making videos on YouTube before moving on to Vine, but found that his content was garnering a following. “I tried to do the whole YouTube thing and it sucked,” he said of videos that didn’t even surpass the 200-viewer mark. “It’s kind of demoralizing.”

Johns says he’s not a big Twitter user, either. “I’m not huge on Twitter,” he admitted, despite having nearly half a million followers. “I don’t use it as much as I should.”

Be funny.

Despite having a powerful Vine fan base, Johns likes to keep his brand of comedy timeless. “A lot of Vine jokes are not really funny unless you have Vine knowledge,” Johns, who was a class clown growing up, explained. “But I try to stay away from that and keep my comedy as general as possible.”

Johns named Jim Carrey and Steve Carell as his favorite traditional comedians, and Vine’s Michael LoPriore as one of his favorites on the platform.

Show viewers who you are.

Johns features his parents in many of his videos, which he believes helps fans better relate to him. “You feel a little more invested in this person because they’re showing you their real life,” the Florida native said. In fact, Johns said one of his videos featuring his father has become the one that he’s really known for.

“That video to me is the gold standard,” Johns said, referring to a 2013 Vine in which his dad one-ups him when it comes to skateboarding (below).

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t find fame overnight.

“It’s human nature to get focused on the negative. That’s the only thing you can do, ignore it.” Johns said. “Keep pushing, keep going.”

Stay true to yourself.

Once Johns found success, he made sure to align only with brands that mirrored his message and voice. “You have to do things that make sense to your audience,” Johns said. “You’ve got to just know who you are and be careful about diltuting your audience.” And he assured panelgoers he’d never sell out: “There’s not going to be a certain amount of money that will make me forget what I’m doing.”

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