Sydney Morgan loves a challenge.
This is particularly true when it comes to uncovering which of her social media content performs best on which social platforms. Morgan, who has over 7 million YouTube followers, 10 million TikTok followers and 700,000 Instagram followers, said she thinks of algorithms as a game where she can use her creativity to generate the most engaging beauty content. Her video topics include trying “cheap versus expensive” makeup, rating popular skin-care products, and testing beauty hacks and dupe products via tutorials. She’s worked with brand partners like NYX Cosmetics, American Eagle, Mario Badescu and Hot Topic in the past.
Morgan said she was artistic from a young age, whether it was doing her friends’ makeup for prom of volunteering to face paint children at carnivals and local country fairs. Her content creator career started in earnest around 2015, and in 2020, she joined TikTok where she quickly amassed a following. Morgan’s follower base varies by platform but is typically composed of 13-year-olds on TikTok, 18-24-year-olds on Instagram and YouTube, and people ages 25 and up on Facebook. Morgan’s content has a jovial, even irreverent, bent to it.
Morgan spoke with Glossy about how the influencer industry is evolving, why brands should do more livestream shopping and what community building looks like for content creators. This conversation has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
How do you approach TikTok vs. YouTube Shorts vs. Instagram Reels?
“TikTok is great for casting a wide net and getting new audience members and followers. But YouTube is really where the community comes from. It’s where my followers understand me, and we get to know each other. TikTok is a great platform for someone just starting on social media to build that initial momentum. My retention is a lot greater on YouTube. People are more willing to watch and allow me to be creative and try new things. Whereas, if I did something out of left field on TikTok, it wouldn’t go over as well. On Instagram, it’s very short format with non-speaking videos with maybe a sound from a music library. And Reels are very short — under 15 seconds. It’s not exactly what I produce, so I think Reels is where I struggle the most.
I make organic content for each platform or try to format the same concept differently for different platforms. [The algorithms] are a game, so it changes very frequently. But I like it. I think it’s fun. TikTok came out with a new payment program [for its Creator Fund] that is only for videos that are 60 seconds or more, which is pretty different for the platform. It was primarily bite-sized content, but now, they’re pushing creators to make longer format. They completely eliminated payments for under-60-second videos in the past few weeks.”
How will that TikTok update change your approach to content on platforms like Reels?
“The easiest way for a creator to use their content everywhere is to make one piece that works everywhere, which would be something like a 45-second video. But now, if you put that on TikTok, you’re not getting paid at all. But if you are formatting for TikTok and making a video that’s maybe 90 seconds, you can’t put that on YouTube Shorts because it maxes out at 60 seconds. And then on Instagram Reels, ideally, you want, like, 15 seconds. I have found myself just being like, ‘Which platform is most valuable to me?’ It’s YouTube. I format my content for YouTube, and then do my best everywhere else.”
How do you engage with your followers?
“I’ve gotten to know my audience very well. And that’s also important to me because, at the end of the day, I’m able to do this as a career because people are watching and supporting me. I’m very active with my [YouTube] Community polls and asking them questions. Instagram also has a newer feature called a Broadcast Channel, where I have a core group of followers who can join and they can have an intimate conversation with me. I ask them a lot of questions and try to learn about them, like, ‘What are your favorite products?’ ‘Which type of my videos are your favorite?’ Or, ‘Why did you love this video so much?’
I have this quantity of followers, so how can I make them quality followers? I’m responding to lots of comments and DMs and liking all of my comments. They love it when I reply with a video to one of their comments [on TikTok]. It makes them feel like they’re a part of something bigger, which is at the forefront of what’s important to me right now. I pay attention to content creators with strong communities, like gamers and streamers, and look into how they’re exploring and building relationships.”
What is your working relationship like with beauty brands?
“The first introductions had to beauty brands were very early, when I had just started gaining a following on social media. Brands would send products in exchange for a video [for free]. I was very excited by that and I didn’t know how to value myself as a creator, so I said, ‘Yes, I’ll do it for free!’ But that helped me build organic connections with these brands that I loved and used anyway. When I take on partnerships, I’m fairly selective. I like to keep it tight with [the number of] products I use and love, to help maintain my level of trust with my audience. When I first started, many brand partnerships were in long-form content on YouTube, where there would be a branded segment [within a video]. Whereas now, it’s more about a branded YouTube Short or a branded TikTok. I was [receiving] a lot of paid partnerships on TikTok, but now it’s swinging back to YouTube Shorts.
I’ve even been suggesting to brands to do more livestream shopping. I’ve done some partnerships with Walmart, Neutrogena and NYX Cosmetics that were all me on a livestream. I was using their products in real-time and making them shoppable with links directly on the screen as I was using them. And they went really well, and we were all impressed with the stats. Brands should lean into that more, because it doesn’t feel super in-your-face, as in, ‘I’m selling you this.’ It’s more like [I’m saying to my audience,] ‘Come hang out with me.’ [Audiences] like the authenticity of that type of format.”
What are your thoughts on TikTok Shop?
“I have some content creator friends that use TikTok Shop and have seen success with it. I personally have not tried it out yet. I feel very comfortable with my YouTube affiliate program, and I don’t want to take on more than I can handle. I felt like I was getting fed more branded videos than not for a period of time. And that was pushing me away from the platform, as a user, and I was consuming more content on Reels and YouTube Shorts instead of TikTok because of that.”