From Stranger to Success: How “Likes” Have Created Unrealized Careers

Megan, a Texas high school student, scrolls through her Vine feed on a summer afternoon. Ben, a young trendy businessman, is headed to work on the Subway, checking that morning’s newest pics on Instagram. You, after a terrible day at school, head to YouTube, searching for a pick-me-up. What do you and these people have in common? You all probably follow someone young who’s made it big on social media.

Over the past few years, young adults have started to create their own forms of success through social media. Shawn Mendes, Adam Gallagher, and Jenna Marbles are three perfect examples of young social media stars that have discovered this unexpected success. From music to men’s fashion to comedy, each of these influencers has their own interests and has appealed to various people alike.


Shawn Mendes

Two years ago, Shawn Mendes, age 16, had no clue that he would develop an international fan base. His music career launched after he started posting covers of popular songs on his Vine account, a social media platform consisting of six-second videos. After posting a cover of Justin Bieber’s “As Long As You Love Me”, he woke up the next day with 10,000 likes. This success exponentially grew, as he currently has 3.7 million Vine followers, a new album coming out on iTunes, and has toured nationally. Who would have thought that a simple, six-second video posted by a 14-year-old would launch an international music career?

Adam Gallagher – IAMGALLA

Adam Gallagher’s career followed a similar path but in a different way – blogging. In his second year of blogging, he realized that he had a men’s lifestyle brand that people wanted to follow. In an interview with clothing brand Topman, Gallagher (IAmGalla), 22, continued,

“Originally, [five years ago], it was all just about creating cool pictures, . . . [but] since then I’ve moved the blog on further – it now represents a lifestyle, and I cover travel, grooming and food. I think guys need to read about more than just fashion, otherwise they’ll get bored.”

Since Gallagher’s start at age 17, he had built a loyal audience through strong customer segmentation and targeting. He knows his audience and his fans’ loyalty proves that. Only a few months ago, Gallagher notched 1.1M followers on Instagram – his main platform – and is continuing to build trusting relationships with some of the best brands in fashion (Zara, J. Crew, Mont Blanc, and Gucci – to name a few!).

 Jenna Marbles

Jenna Marbles (last name: Mourey) gained success through another popular video platform: Youtube. In 2010, after getting her B.S. and M.Ed. in Boston, Mourey released her first video “How To Trick People Into Thinking You’re Good Looking”. In it’s first week, the video was viewed over 5.3 million times. Since then, Mourey has released comedy videos bi-weekly. Through this creative outlet, Marbles reportedly makes over $350,000 off her channel in various forms, including appearances across the nation. As of today, February 4th, 2015, Mourey has  14.6 million YouTube subscribers and her videos have been viewed over 1.675 billion times. BILLION!

(Fair Warning: Jenna Marbles’ comedy includes some inappropriate comments and actions)

So, what can we take away from the stories of these famous social media stars? I think there are a few things. First, don’t underestimate the power of social media. Each of these people never expected to become well-known. Individual “likes” built momentum to create the recognition for their brands to be seen and to have their content viewed. Through unique and quality content, viewers, and even international companies, have latched on to each of their brands. These connections have provided a future and financial success for Mendes, Gallagher, and Mourey alike. The only challenge for them will be to stay relevant as trends and technology change. Second, as students, I think they provide a positive example of doing what you love. Each of them took a risk to post videos or photos of their singing, modeling, or comedy monologues. If you want to do something in life, take the risk and do what you love, because you never know what you future may hold. And finally, for all of us #IS662 bloggers, don’t second guess your writing/creativity. Who knows, maybe the next star will be one of us!



  1. yes, do what you love and influence others to join your passion !!

  2. Great Post! The thing that came straight in to my mind is something we learnt in computers in management. (Professor Kane will love this!) It is about how technology tends to destroy some old careers while simultaneously creating new and exciting ones. Can you believe there will be a position called Social Media Managers in many corporations almost 5-6 years ago? It is very interesting how social media have been creating new unique career paths for people to follow their dream. I think Social Media allows us to do exactly that, to follow our dream!

  3. tcbcmba2015 · ·

    Really creative blog idea! I wonder if there’s a potential future blog or even a presentation here about how to parlay social brand development into a more traditional job? Seems like Gallagher could easily use his following to transition to a well known clothing label. He then becomes a fashion visionary in addition to maintaining his influencer status. Designer by day, blogger by night. Not too shabby.

  4. It’s very interesting to see that the average guy/girl can make a career off of social media. However, it can become problematic. I know there are plenty of Instagram users who become “Instagram famous” for essentially being hot. Girls will post their best butt shots, while guys will show off their washboard abs. Of course, people enjoy looking at these Instagram posts, but are they really giving off the right message? Be hot and you’ll be successful? I still give these people credit because they are capitalizing from their “assets”, but it is always nice to hear about someone becoming successful that did not need to rely on their physical appearance.

    There are so many YouTubers in various fields that have become “famous” and successful for what they do. I know there are plenty of video gamers on YouTube who make a living on obnoxiously commentating as they play a game. Then you have the makeup gurus who make money from posting tutorials. The range of ways to create a career from social media are immense and it is interesting to hear about different people’s stories and journeys of social media success.

  5. I really enjoyed this article. They’re so many examples today of people who have made it big off of a few Instagram pictures or a few 7 second Vine clips. It’s absolutely crazy, and everyday it will continue to happen. I really liked the point you made about the momentum these social media superstars seek in order to stay relevant. They’re so many outlets of entertainment these days, it’s easy for us as a user to easily switch to the next catchy video or Instagram that will keep us entertained. These characters have to maintain their high number of likes, post frequently, and stay interesting/funny. It’s definitely a lot of work. But as we’ve seen with a lot of these people, they usually only get better at social media with time. Something I think we’re all also looking to do.

  6. Great post! I think its wonderful how social media has the ability to turn any person into a widely-known writer, photographer, and/or musician. There are so many brilliant people out there, so I’m glad the internet has shone a light on more and more people each day. It’s crazy how it can become a full time career and even expand into different industries, as well. Perhaps becoming Instagram/Vine/Twitter-famous is a new part of the American Dream!

  7. Amazing post! This post did a great job at showing how powerful and influential social media has become. Average people put their own ideas and creativity out on their social media accounts and then next thing they know they are making money doing something that they truly enjoy. It will be interesting to see how social media stars continue to stay relevant with the ever changing market. I believe that when people are doing what they love and are passionate about then success will naturally happen and these three people are perfect examples of that.

  8. I really liked how you zoomed in on a simple task on social media — “liking” — and actually bought to light the power of a like. When you like something, you’re not only telling the person who posted the information that you like it, but you’re telling anyone that follows you and anyone that follows them. I have never thought about this — but I think this point encompasses social media as a whole. Everything you do has a domino effect that you do not even know about – whether or not there are likes or retweets – people are affected by your information.

  9. I really enjoyed reading your post! I think it is very interesting how people can become famous through social media and two of my little brother’s high school friends have done just that. Jack Gilinsky and Jack Johnson or “Jack and Jack” are worshipped by millions of teenage girls across the world. During the summer of 2013 they posted a Vine that went viral and there was no looking back. Today, they are writing music and making videos for their 5 million vine followers. In addition, they have been #1 on iTunes charts in several countries. They decided to forego enrolling in college for a lucrative tour deal. I think you made a great point that the changing nature of technology will inevitably lead to their demise. Jack and Jack recognized this problem and addressed it by beginning to create music instead of Vines. However, they too know that someday their hype will end, but they say they are going to ride it out as long as they can! I often see Shawn Mendes in their posts as well. Who knew a simple vine post could turn into an international tour and millions of dollars… at age 17!

  10. Great idea for a post! I really like how you picked these specific examples to show how social media and “liking” can change a person’s life. As you mentioned, Shawn, Adam and Jenna were just normal young kids who probably didn’t expect to become so well-known simply by putting themselves out there on social media. Perhaps it is easier for people to become famous today with the help of platforms such as vine and youtube. We no longer have to go through the process of seeking out an audience, rather, our audience is already there if we put up content that is interesting to people. This is a great example of how social media has been a huge benefit to our society. Talent is being discovered left and right, and the opportunities to demonstrate your passions are endless. It is all very exciting!

  11. Nice post. I have to admit that I primarily keep up with these SM stars through student posts, as I probably wouldn’t follow them myself. I think an important takeaway is that you don’t need to be a “breakout” star to benefit from a strong social media presence. You may never be a Jenna Marbles, but you may get noticed in ways you wouldn’t otherwise.

  12. Nice post. Last year I read about some fashion bloggers that were making 7 figures through their blogs. Absolutely crazy! Overall, I wonder how social media will change the celebrity world over the next 10 years. I think it’s entirely possible that social media celebrities might one day overtake traditional celebrities.

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