Jacob Whitesides’s Tips for Being a Social Media Star

We caught up with the 18-year-old singer-songwriter before his show in Boston.

Jacob Whitesides

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Smartphones and Twitter accounts have made it easier than ever for young artists to find an audience, but not everyone can reach social media super stardom.

Jacob Whitesides, an 18-year-old singer-songwriter from Knoxville, has become a master at the online game, amassing millions of followers on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Whitesides has turned his Internet fame into a real world career as a touring musician with his first original album due out in September.

And did we forget to mention that he is also the CEO of his own record label? Not bad for a kid who started out playing covers on YouTube.

We caught up with Whitesides before his show at Brighton Music Hall to get his tips on how to become a social media star.

Don’t Be Afraid to Use Your Voice

When it comes to getting noticed online, Whiteside believes that you have to be yourself and use your own voice. “It’s so much more organic,” he says. “The fans appreciate it more when they know that it’s your voice.”

Even though he has a whole promotion team behind him now, the young star still manages his own social media accounts, approving all copy before it’s sent out. “Since I’ve started and to this day, all of my social media is run by me,” Whitesides says. “I think that’s the best way to do it.”

Be Patient and Consistent

Building a legion of fans doesn’t happen overnight. Whitesides recommends being patient and respond to the first few fans who take the time to comment or tweet.

“Some of my first videos would get like ten comments, but I would go in every day and respond to those ten comments,” he says. “When it came time for the next video, the same ten people would come back and there’d be a couple new people and I’d respond to them.”

As the word slowly got out, more and more people started to follow him in waves, which gave him a head start in showbusiness. “With social media, you can kind of build before you go into those big meetings,” Whitesides says. “That was my main focus, building a really awesome fan base and having a great touring foundation and all of that stuff.”

Stay Motivated, Not Jealous

“It’s really hard to watch people on social media because you just want to do what they’re doing, you want the things that they have because everything’s so public now,” Whitesides says.

If things aren’t progressing quickly, it’s easy to get bummed out. The musician says to keep calm and stay motivated. “That was the main thing for me, just staying motivated instead of getting jealous,” he says.

Reach for the Stars

One of Whitesides first big breaks was seeing his cover of a One Direction song get tweeted out by Liam Payne, which was a huge boost to his presence on social media.

“It was a very rare opportunity to get a post like that from such a massive [star],” he says. “One Direction has some of the biggest social accounts.”

While Whitesides credits luck and his growing fan base at the time with getting it on 1D’s radar, he says it’s smart for young artists to reach out to budding stars online with covers of their work.

Take  a Page from Justin Bieber

Whitesides may not be the kind of guy to walk around Boston barefoot, but he does think that there are a few social media tricks that can be picked up from Justin Bieber. The former X Factor contestant took notes on Bieber’s initial “social media wave” and credits him as being “the first artist that really did it for my generation.”

“I was kind of just watching the consistency he had on social media, with all of his videos and all of the interaction,” Whitesides says. “I try to do the same thing but make it more personal.”

Ignore the Trolls

The young star admits he’s guilty of engaging online haters from time to time, but he thinks the best strategy is to just hit the mute button. They just do it for the attention anyways, and Whitesides says it’s best not to play into their games.

“Ignoring it is a big thing,” he says. “You become more of a target whenever you respond to all of that stuff.”