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How I Became a Social Media Influencer and TV Travel Host at 65

6 tips if you want to become a content creator, too

By Pat Pattison

Editor’s note: Pat Pattison wants you to know his article was written with help from his fellow TV associate and former BBC anchor Jacqui Harper.

Pat Pattison wearing a yellow vest on an airport tarmac. Next Avenue, social media
Pat Pattison on the tarmac of the Hollywood Burbank Airport during an episode of "The Best of California with Pat Pattison"  |  Credit: The Best of California with Pat Pattison/YouTube

As we all know, this is the age of social media. Cat videos get 20 million views; 16-year-old YouTube millionaires! Going viral has become a coveted aspirational verb. I'm proud, and more than a little surprised, to say that at 65 I've become a social media influencer, too. Also, a TV travel host.

Before, I was part of a large corporate orchestra; this is like playing solo trumpet with a giant spotlight on you.

For years, my passion for California and all its wonders has been something I wanted to share with the world. Now, I have a California travel and lifestyle community with 6,500 members on Facebook and a YouTube channel that morphed into a national TV show reaching 30 million households. It's the most fun I've ever had.

If you're in your 50s or 60s and aspire to be a creative content provider by following your passion, you may be interested in some tips I've learned to get there.

Before this career re-invention, I made my living in the television industry. I was a marketing executive at Disney for shows like: "Dynasty," "Duck Tales," "Live with Regis and Kathie Lee" and dozens more.  I had the skills to market television to millions of people.

This social media deal is WAY different.

Before, I was part of a large corporate orchestra; this is like playing solo trumpet with a giant spotlight on you.

To be a content creator circa 2021, I had to quickly learn to be self-sufficient in digital tech skills and video production and accrue some facility navigating the rules of social media protocols.

As a social media influencer, you see what's popular in real time, by counting likes and views, as well as what's a flop. It's a blessing and a curse.

I was fascinated in learning how to get social media buzz with my 5-minute California travel videos I called "The Best of California with Pat Pattison." So, I decided to dive in.

How My Social Media Journey Began

My travel videos started off as a hobby around 2016. Back then, I'd made what I call in my new book a "Creative YOU Turn," by adding appearances in TV commercials and on TV news to my TV marketing work — multiple revenue streams for my semi-retirement status.

Jacqui Harper speaking on a stage. Next Avenue, social media, pat pattison
Jacqui Harper  |  Credit: Jacqui Harper

My plan was to see if I could create an audience to watch the travel videos on Facebook and maybe try to get some on local TV stations. Then, I hoped, I'd somehow get sponsors to subsidize the trips I wanted to take in California for the videos.

My goal was noble, since I mainly wanted to spotlight historic sites and promote local preservation efforts and nonprofits as well as to highlight California's sustainable products, businesses and entrepreneurs.  

As I stumbled through teaching myself the new skills (thanks, partly, to a YouTube channel on video editing), I managed to go from a Facebook page with just 100 followers in April 2019 to a nationally syndicated TV show airing on the Fun Roads TV lifestyle brand on broadcast and cable.

It's been a fun and challenging journey.

Now, I'm also collaborating with Crystal Business Coaching's Jacqui Harper, author of "Executive Presentations," on a series of workshops on Facebook called "Dress Rehearsal — Presentation Skills for Quieter People."

Here are six things the two of us have learned, which might help you, too:

6 Tips from Jacqui and Me

  1. Define your niche. What’s your passion? What topic can you sustain for three years? That’s how long it took me to build a viable audience. I LOVE my native state of California, so knew I’d never run out of ideas. Jacqui’s expertise is in executive presentation skills, so that’s her influencer niche.
  2. Create a social media platform. The simplest and cheapest place to start an entertainment platform like mine is on Facebook. Make sure to set it up as a business or fan page and title it exactly what you want to talk about. Don’t try to get clever with the name of your page. “John Smith’s Painting Lessons” is much better than “John Gets Creative.” Jacqui wanted to talk to business people, so it made sense that LinkedIn would be her outlet. The same rules apply there in terms of simple messaging. She tried "Presence Expert" in her main LinkedIn profile description to no avail, but when she switched the name to "Presentation Skills," she hit a home run with a deluge of responses.
  3. Pick the right medium and frequency of delivering content. Make sure when you get started that you’ll have enough time to create content on a regular basis. You won’t succeed just posting once or twice a month. I post at least once a day, so my audience hears from me on a consistent basis. Jacqui writes in-depth business blogs once a month on LinkedIn to keep her followers informed.
  4. Determine how you’ll deliver professional-looking content. I always had staff at Disney to create my videos; now I was on my own. After I saw an $8/month app called VideoLeap advertised on Facebook, I signed up. It took me about a month of trial and error learning, as well as watching their DIY videos, to feel confident enough to make my own. I shoot and edit everything on my IPhone 11 Pro. That's perfect for me since I can shoot, edit and post immediately after being on a trip, location or visiting a business that I was featuring on "Best of California."
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5. Be yourself. This is about appearance, presence and message. Jacqui was my "go to" coach for the way I'd appear on-camera. Her advice: be authentic and that will give you "presence." I think that holds true across all mediums and platforms. Paint, draw or write to reflect YOU and you will be engaging. She also told me to invest in good equipment, particularly for sound. Wardrobe and even makeup are important, too, she advised, for a consistent pleasant look.  

6. Develop a strategy to build your audience. By joining numerous travel, history and California industry Facebook groups, I was able to reshare my posts with their much larger focused audiences. It's how I went within a year from 100 followers, mostly friends and family, to over 6,500. I also started a YouTube Channel for my "Best of California" videos but have found less success there so far. My hunch is I need catchier titles and video "thumbnails" that attract more viewers. I'm teaching myself a new thumbnail app called Phonto to fix that. Both Jacqui and I have had a couple of our pieces perform way above the norm, which means 10,000-15,000 views for them on Facebook. This has given us both signposts of what our audience would like to see.  Naturally, we both plan to create more content in a similar vein.

The main thing I love about this social media/digital journey is that it's a lot of fun and lets me truly follow my passion for travel and history. But it requires an investment of time and money.

For me, the main thing in semi-retirement is that I've created great community for like-minded enthusiasts.

I'm spending at least two to three hours a day and about $200 to $400 a month on everything. Fortunately, I just landed my first sponsor, Dining for Charities, an online meal-deals company that helps local restaurants and nonprofits.

As a result, I'm now just barely breaking even on my travel video venture. But with the next sponsor, I'll be in the black and I expect to be able to ride this out for a good few years.

For me, the main thing in semi-retirement is that I've created great community for like-minded enthusiasts.  Now, some of those people are even a part of, or contributing to, my TV show.

I'll close by saying what Jacqui and I like to tell others: take up your phone, pen or computer and get out there and influence and create!

Editor’s note: This article is part of America's Entrepreneurs, a Next Avenue initiative made possible by the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation and EIX, the Entrepreneur Innovation Exchange.

Pat Pattison
Pat Pattison is a TV host, author and senior living expert seen on CNBC and other outlets. A certified executive coach based in Los Angeles, he also works with people 50+ on creativity, new careers and lifestyle transitions. He is the host of the national TV show, "The Best of California With Pat Pattison" and has written a book about creative re-invention, called "Creative YOU Turn." He can be reached at Patpattison.net, on Facebook and on his YouTube channel. His show can be seen nationally on Fun Roads TV; check local listings. Read More
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