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Turning Followers Into Fans: An Interview with Karim Ismail

March 31, 2020 by Andrew Gretchko

Karim Ismail Interview

Social media, much like the internet at-large, is in a constant state of evolution. From trends across various platforms to the creation of new apps altogether, there’s always something new to learn. For Karim Ismail, expertise in one area has led to a career in another. As his posts on TikTok continue to rack up plays and likes, Ismail has worked to cultivate a fan base that follows not only his content, but his musical creations as well. Vivid Seats spoke with Ismail about his social media story, his budding role as a musician and more.

Karim Ismail Interview Vivid Seats

VS: You’ve got a rapidly rising career as an artist as well. How long have you had a passion for music?

Karim Ismail: Music has always allowed me an escape. I’ve always been drawn to film and television, and any other media that had to do with storytelling, for as long as I can remember. My love for storytelling fuels my music, so I guess I’ve always had that passion, I’ve only just recently started acting on it. Yoda said it best, “Do, or do not. There is no ‘try.’”

Vivid Seats: You’ve got hundreds of thousands of followers across TikTok, Instagram and more. How did you get your start as a social media star?

KI: I don’t consider myself a star, nor do I consider my listeners as fans. Those labels always sounded super egotistical to me. It’s a whole thing on my TikTok actually — my supporters are Kings and Queens in their own domain. I think they’re just as important to me as I am to them; we go back and forth insisting who should have “the crown” and it’s honestly such a vibe.

I started posting TikToks back when the platform was still called with barely 100 people watching my videos. I started to gain traction around early 2019, what I would consider peak-TikTok, and the best way to describe the platform at that time was just one big inside joke. It was pretty much a platform for odd and quirky kids to just be themselves and post the content that they would never post anywhere else, like our alter-egos outside of school and our personal lives. I like to keep my TikTok hidden, separate from my personal social media, because having those Kings and Queens to escape to fuels my most authentic content. I think that unfiltered version of Karim online is who most of my followers relate to.

VS: What’s it like being at the forefront of a new platform like TikTok?

KI: It’s exciting, TikTok is a gamechanger for sure. For me, the best part of the platform is just interacting with people. I’ve met some really cool creators through TikTok, a lot of whom collaborate with me on music, which is really fun. Also, the platform just screams culture right now so it’s cool to be a part of that.

I think now that the platform is trending, the common misconception is that it’s a fast-track to success, but it’s far from it. It’s finally becoming more mainstream because people are noticing frontrunners like Charli D’amelio and Dixie D’amelio, but the truth is that those people work a lot harder than you think behind the scenes.

VS: Creating content on a regular basis isn’t easy. What tips do you have for those aspiring to rise up the ranks and build a following?

KI: Have zero expectations. Business models and algorithms are always changing so don’t get comfortable in one place and definitely don’t rely on a single platform. Also, never be pressured to generate content.

VS: How have you worked to turn your social media followers into fans of your music?

KI: I don’t really think that far ahead, we all just find each other naturally. Some people find my social media through my music and some people find my music through my social media. Once you establish that personal connection with your supporters, you become more like a family. I’m one of them, my music is theirs just as much as it’s mine.

VS: What are some of the main differences between being a social media influencer and an artist?

KI: That’s a really good question because they’re both so different. My music usually comes from a place of sadness, or another deep emotion like love, pain, anger or even fear. Creating content usually comes from conflicting feelings, usually happy ones like excitement. They’re usually two very contrasting sets of emotions that you really have to try and aim in the right direction. Both of them require you to be extremely vulnerable with your audience, because they’re seeing and hearing a version of you that you don’t usually show anyone else.

Artists break down barriers between themselves and their audience, they express their vulnerability and are transparent with the people willing to watch or listen. An artist who happens to also be a social media influencer could create something truly magical today, because through music and lyrics you can really change people’s lives, elevate some lost soul or help some find love, courage or even hope. The marriage of impactful lyrics and the ability to reach and inspire through different media outlets is my new home where I’ve found peace, and I think it’s where I belong.

VS: What’s next?

KI: "I’m a dog chasing cars, I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it, you know? I just do…things" – if you don’t recognize this quote then we can’t be friends so don’t follow me.

Follow Karim Ismail on TikTok and Instagram.

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