Cyrene Quiamco used to post on Snapchat as a hobby but she just made it her full-time career.
The 26-year-old from Little Rock, AR built up a cultlike following of fans who love her snap art. Companies have taken notice and pay Quiamco up to $30,000 to create 100 seconds of content. But how has she convinced brands to pay so much for content that will disappear in 24 hours?
It’s best to start at the beginning.
Quiamco first used Snapchat in January 2014 to draw silly pictures of unsuspecting co-workers, making her job as a website designer at Verizon Wireless a bit more fun. She started to take Snapchat more seriously, creating elaborate drawings and videos.
Quiamco even drew pictures of icons like Ellen Degeneres, Bruno Mars, and Ryan Seacrest.
Her friends loved her snap art and spread the word social media. Quiamco’s snap art became so popular, Ashton Kutcher’s media company, A Plus, featured her in an article.
This was the tipping point.
Turning her passion into a business
Luckily for Quiamco, she never had to cold email brands to get their attention because Groupon swiftly knocked on her door asking if she’d be willing to work with them. Soon, more brands started to approach Quiamco, including one of her favorites, Disney, who asked if she wanted to snap about her experience at their new Frozen Fun section in Disneyland. She immediately said ‘let’s do this.’
Since then Quiamco’s has collaborated with blockbusters like Fantastic Four, Ice Age, and The Hunger Games. She even got hired to cover the MTV Video Music Awards.
Early on, Quiamco says she was making about $500 per snap. After a year, her average went to $1,000 to $10,000 per Snapchat story. Quiamco told The Hustle one of her more recent clients paid her $30,000.
If I was the CEO of that company, I would have fired the marketing manager who signed off on that. How can someone possibly approve the idea of paying $30,000 for less than two minutes of content that will disappear the next day? That goes against every marketing principle I know.
So I had to find out the answer: What is it about Snapchat that makes huge brands like MTV and Disney wet their pants and jump at the chance to hire Quiamco?
Why Snapchat is valuable
Advertisers no longer have great options to reach young people. Bloomberg reported that “the audiences of CBS, NBC, and ABC are, on average, in their 50s. Cable networks such as CNN and Fox News have it worse, with median viewerships near or past Social Security age.”
Advertising on the internet is also an uphill battle. With ad blockers and paid streaming services like Netflix, our generation has become experts at avoiding ads. But with Snapchat, people click on your username because they want to see your content.
Viewers have no thumbnail to look at before clicking on something like they do with internet articles. People click on Quiamco’s username because they trust her. And while her audience is tiny compared to other platforms (Quiamco’s snaps only reaches about 50,000 people) a view on Snapchat is worth exponentially more than anywhere else.
For example, Facebook counts a view when someone watches three seconds of a video. Brands may have thousands of followers on Twitter and Instagram, but not a ton of engagement. With Snapchat, not only are people craving to hear from you, it’s what Quiamco describes as ‘active viewing’.
Viewers can respond to and communicate directly with the creator. They even help finish Quiamco’s snap story by submitting responses that she can re-post.
Like the time when Quiamco posted a snap of her mascot, Ele, drowning underwater. Viewers responded with their frantic attempts to save Ele and Quiamco compiled the story into one epic video.
Snapchat numbers may be smaller in views but the audience is more engaged. They look at the app, actively seek out Quiamco’s name, and watch her stories rather than passively consume what’s put in front of them.
Brands have quickly jumped on the Snapchat bandwagon, and Quiamco is at the right place at the right time.
Quiamco’s new lifestyle
In January 2016, Quiamco officially left Verizon to do Snapchat full time, telling The Hustle, “I’m young. I want to continue to travel. It’s now or never.”
Quiamco also emphasized how her Snapchat stories are “coming to life.”
She means this literally. In the early days, she drew pictures of celebrities; now she gets to meet and hang out with them.
She used to draw pictures of Disney characters, and now she gets invited to be part of their world.
She tells The Hustle, “Snapchat has given me the opportunity to explore life that I would have never thought possible.”
That’s pretty corny but how can you not be happy for her? And maybe just a tiny bit jealous.
There’s no excuse for being a “starving artist” in today’s society. With infinite ways of creating and distributing your work, anyone has the potential to get noticed. To get started on Snapchat, download the app and start sharing your work. Build an audience on the platform and maybe, just maybe, brands will start approaching you next.
A note from The Hustle: Every morning at 9am Pacific, we send an email with the top news stories in business and tech. It's kind of like if your friend read the internet all day then told you the important stuff in a fun, easy to understand way. Join the club and impress your coworkers with how smart you are.