Read and Write with Natasha

The power of a platform with TikTok influencer Carrie Berk

November 06, 2023 Natasha Tynes Episode 37
The power of a platform with TikTok influencer Carrie Berk
Read and Write with Natasha
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Read and Write with Natasha
The power of a platform with TikTok influencer Carrie Berk
Nov 06, 2023 Episode 37
Natasha Tynes

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Carrie Berk is a  social media influencer, author, and blogger with over 3 million followers on TikTok alone.

In her YA book, My Real Life Romcom: How to Build Confidence and Write Your Own Relationship Rules, Berk shares her dating adventures (and misadventures) to help others discover more about themselves and the relationship they deserve.

In this interview, we also delve into the struggle of staying authentic while in the public eye the importance of authenticity and acceptance of oneself, even in the face of criticism.

Tune in to hear Carrie's advice for those starting online and the importance of having a backup plan.


Support the Show.

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➡️ P.S: If you find my content useful, you might want to check out my Substack newsletter, in which I talk and vent about the writing life:


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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

Carrie Berk is a  social media influencer, author, and blogger with over 3 million followers on TikTok alone.

In her YA book, My Real Life Romcom: How to Build Confidence and Write Your Own Relationship Rules, Berk shares her dating adventures (and misadventures) to help others discover more about themselves and the relationship they deserve.

In this interview, we also delve into the struggle of staying authentic while in the public eye the importance of authenticity and acceptance of oneself, even in the face of criticism.

Tune in to hear Carrie's advice for those starting online and the importance of having a backup plan.


Support the Show.

****************************************************************************

➡️ P.S: If you find my content useful, you might want to check out my Substack newsletter, in which I talk and vent about the writing life:


Speaker 1:

My book is literally that this is like a self-pursuit. But at the same time as I was publishing this book, I was working at the New York Post and I was doing my thing there, working a corporate job. I wasn't going into it full of ego saying like, oh, I'm going to leave early today because I have to work on my book. I kept a balance between having my own personal pursuits but also wanting to stay in a nine-to-five job and to be humbled.

Speaker 2:

Hi friends, this is Read and Write with Natasha podcast. My name is Natasha Tynes and I'm an author and a journalist. In this channel I talk about the writing life, review books and interview authors. Hope you enjoy the journey, hi everyone, and thank you for joining us today for another episode of Read and Write with Natasha. Today we have social media influencers with us and an author.

Speaker 2:

Her name is Kari Berg. She is an American writer, blogger and an activist, and also an actress. She, with her mother, cheryl Berg. She has co-authored three children's and young adult novel series the Cupcake Club, fashion Academy and Ask Emma. She is also a verified content creator across several social media channels, including TikTok, with almost four million followers. So she recently published her YA book called my Real Life Romcom how to Build Confidence and Write your Own Relationship Rule. It's a guide through the ups and downs of teen love, intimacy and coming of age in a social media-infused world. So, kari, thank you so much for joining me. I'm so glad to have you here. You're probably the first social media influencer I have on the podcast, so I'm excited to have you and, as a mother as well as a teen agent, I think the topic is really important. So, kari, if you can start by telling us about your book and why you?

Speaker 1:

wrote it.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so my Real Life, romcom.

Speaker 1:

I started writing in the middle of the pandemic because I was worried about losing a lot of my memories, especially those related to love and the lessons that I learned in love and dating. So I started writing down everything I could remember and it started off as a series of personal essays that I just wanted to look back on for myself, and from there I planned on submitting them to different publications to potentially get published. But I sent these personal essays to a friend one day and she said you know, why not turn this series of essays into a book? So something that started off as really a form of self-therapy for me turned into something so much greater because I realized there are no people out there who are, you know, in the younger generation, or no teenagers out there, writing for teenagers about these complicated experiences in adulting. Most of those books out there that are dating guides are written by experts, which is great, but I think it's very beneficial for a teenager to hear it from another teenager so they're able to have someone level with them.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So when you started the book, you were what? Almost 15?.

Speaker 1:

When you started writing the book, I was 16 when I started it, like indirectly, but I actually sat down and started writing the book when I was 17. Oh, wow.

Speaker 2:

So a teen author is very impressive. So what was your publishing journey like? Did you have to find an agent? Were you approached by an agent? Since you have a lot of followers, just tell me a bit about your publishing journey.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. So I published children's books when I was younger and I haven't published books in a long time. It wasn't something I really saw coming. It kind of just fell back into my life organically when I started writing over the pandemic. So I reached back out to my former book agent from when I was younger and it was a good fit. I got through a bunch of meetings with different book agents and none of those really seemed like a good fit, but ultimately I talked to her and she really got my vision and from there she just helped me shop the book around until we found a publisher that got the vision as well.

Speaker 2:

So your publisher is Postal Press, and can you tell me a bit about the publisher? Where are they based and what's your target audience?

Speaker 1:

Postal Press is a distribution of Simon and Schuster, so I was familiar with Simon and Schuster, obviously, and what really drew me to them is they really got the message. There were a few people I talked to who didn't really understand or saw this as like cliched. They didn't get what was what the meaning behind the book was and where the gap in the market was for this. And when I talked to Postal, they just got it right away. It felt like we were on the same page and I feel like they just helped me elevate my book.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I read the reviews and you got amazing reviews. You know, like from Kirkus Review and others, I wish my books got glaring reviews. So how did the book do? It was published just a few weeks ago. How is it doing now? I did it's doing well.

Speaker 1:

It was published, I think, october 2nd, like 11 days ago, 12 days ago, so it hasn't been too long, but the response has been great. I mean, the reviews are looking good, I think. At the end of the day though, it's not necessarily about the reviews I just love hearing from teenagers, because this is who the book was written for. So I've been doing my book tour, going to book signings, and it's been great actually getting to talk to teenagers and hear their crazy dating stories and give them some of my personal advice. That, to me, has been the most rewarding part of this.

Speaker 2:

Oh well, so I'm glad to hear it. Were there any negative reviews of the book? That's part of the journey as an influencer, of course you know. So were like maybe some parents were not happy or some of the kids or something like that, or you have not encountered anything.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I feel like it's natural to get haters out there when you're doing your thing. As someone who's been on social media for a long time, I definitely know that haters love to hate, especially when you're showing your success. So I think, yeah, I think the most prevalent criticism I've gotten is that it's cliché. But then again, you haven't read my book. So if I'm getting a comment like this, read my book and you'll see it's not. I mean, you see out there people saying you know you can't love others until you love yourself.

Speaker 1:

But what I aim to do in my book is really break that down. What does it mean to love yourself? What does it mean to you know, love all parts of yourself before extending that outwards? Like to me, that's very closely to my anxiety when I'm feeling at my lowest, so I'm very vulnerable. In it I'm very detailed and specific and you know, anyone who reads the book will see that it is not cliché. I feel like as a journalist and like a writer this is my profession. I was literally taught not to write in clichés, so I made sure of that.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, I mean I, you know, I read a lot of parts of it and yeah, no, it's not, it's not cliché. I love the bullet point approach, that like at the end of you know that you tell a story and then you have the guy, you know the point approach, and I thought that was very practical. You know very practical steps, you know there was one, like if you visit your boyfriend's house for the first time, you know, like, what to do I mean, I enjoyed it.

Speaker 2:

I'm not currently dating. You know I've been married for 28 years, but it's. I think it has practical steps and you know I would share it with you. Know, my kids when, my kids, my friends kids, and so thank you for writing it. So I want to go back to the issue of being an influencer. So you have a degree in journalism. You're an avid runner. You just finished the New York Times marathon. She's really. I can barely finish 5k, but I just finished one yesterday, yesterday.

Speaker 1:

Oh, yesterday.

Speaker 2:

So, and how did you get into becoming an influencer?

Speaker 1:

And why? Yeah, so I became an influencer in 2017. I was writing my own fashion blog and I was looking for a place to post my articles because I was too young to get my articles published Then I think it was only like 1415. And I was hiring anyone that young. So I just decided to make my own fashion blog, started posting my articles on my Instagram and, at the same time, just playing around with Instagram, having fun, and my following grew organically on there.

Speaker 1:

And then, over the pandemic, TikTok was obviously a big thing. It was getting super popular, so I decided to play into that a little bit more, created some videos of my free time. I had one go viral overnight and it was a video. It was a fitness tutorial, actually how to get abs in 10 days. So it was so random and like not true. It's kind of like a myth I was trying to bust, but I did it anyway because I was curious and I saw it online and that video has like 10 million views, I think, to date some crazy number and I just started doing more of those, these fitness tutorials.

Speaker 1:

People kept tuning in and from there I kind of just found my niche, like people were just interested in me trying different things. Like it sounds broad, but that kind of encapsulated a lot of different things, so whether that was a new fitness trend or a new beauty product or a life hack. So I was the try it girl, so I was trying lots of things and that kind of transitioned into just general like product reviews, whether I'm trying a new food item or fashion or beauty product. So it kind of just morphed into product reviews as a whole and this is so now.

Speaker 2:

you made the career out of it, so now you do that full time.

Speaker 1:

No, so I'm actually a full time student, so I'm still in. Okay, right, I'm still in college. I'm a senior, so I'm finishing up my last year, so I'm constantly juggling different things. I'm an influencer and at the same time I'm trying to finish school and at the same time I'm writing and doing some journalism. So it's struggling a lot and a lot of the time it's very physically and mentally exhausting. But I have so many different passions it's kind of it's hard to just pick one lane.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so I studied journalism as well, and the way I see journalism now, of course, it's changed when I got my degree and how do you see yourself? You got into journalism, I assume, because you love writing and you've been sort of like reporting online for a while. But what is your plan after graduating? Are you going to be a reporter like 9 to 5, working for a local newspaper, reporting on fires? So what is your like? Now things completely change.

Speaker 1:

So journalism is my end game. Although I love being an influencer and I enjoy it, it's not necessarily sustainable. So I know a talk can go away in two seconds, just as Vine did, or musically did, If you never know when a TikTok type of platform will go away. So I ride the wave while it lasts. But I also have my other passions going on at the same time that are important. So I've always been a writer. I've always enjoyed it. I'm going to school specifically for journalism. So my goal when I get out of school is to get a job at a newspaper or an online publication some sort of media publication type job, and just writing. Like in general, I want to write wherever I am.

Speaker 2:

So why can't you do that on your own? Why do you need the backing of a newspaper which probably has a smaller audience than yours and in a sense, so let's say, you get? I mean, someone with your following has more influence than probably many news websites out there. So what is the allure? Is it the regular paycheck, or like what? Or because your influence would be much higher on your own Right?

Speaker 1:

The regular paycheck is definitely part of it. I also just I like to be humbled. I like to work under someone I don't really like my own boss.

Speaker 1:

I know a lot of people do. But I think, like I'm so independent in so many areas of life, I kind of like to be humbled sometimes and I like to be told what to do and what to write about. It's just to be grounded. So that's definitely a part of it. And also the reach can be quite big. So this past summer I worked at the New York Post and they had the reach of 80 million unique visitors a month. So that doesn't even hold a candle to my 3.8 million that are not nearly as active as they were during the pandemic.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, are you worried about you know, you've been. You can say whatever you want to online, right, and if you work for a publication, they might have their own social media restriction rules. You know, like you can't do this, you cannot do that, you can, so are you? If that happens, would you like shut the whole thing down and just yeah?

Speaker 1:

just give it. I think good journalism is unbiased journalism. I get very angry when I see an opinionated article and that's like not what I was educated to do. So I want to be a journalist and I want to be a journalist with integrity. That's been my goal. That's what I went to college to do. I have a very clear-minded goal for that and in terms of like book writing, that if that comes up down the line and I want to write a memoir-style type thing, like I did my real-life rom-com, then maybe. But right now I kind of just want to keep grounded and get a normal person's job.

Speaker 2:

That's actually. That's a refreshing perspective. It's interesting because people of your generation, gen Z, are more into like re-betting against the 9 to 5. And they all want to do their own things and they all want to do online influencers. Is it because you've already been there, done that and now the grass is greener on the other side? What is that? Why you think it is part of it?

Speaker 1:

I like structure in my life and I think I see that in a 9 to 5 job. I didn't expect to like it as much as I did this summer. That is like a 9 to 5 type situation, but I really did. I mean, having a reason to get up in the morning and write every time was just exciting. Like remembering that when I wake up in the morning, that I'm going to go into work and that my voice matters. That's something really special.

Speaker 1:

I feel like when you're working from home and being your own boss, it's easy to like stray from that when you want to Like. If you want to be lazy, you can be lazy. I just I like someone to like humble me and keep me online. I guess that's like the marathon runner in me that loves like a, a training regime. I just want someone to tell me what they, what they need out of me and with that I do get some leeway. Like I got to pitch my own articles this summer, which was amazing, but I did like having you know structured hours, like from nine to 12, we need you to sit here and work on stories for Amazon Prime Day and with that I could take the story pretty much wherever I wanted, Like I had free reign to structure it how I wanted to write the lead, and it's just fun. I don't know, Maybe that's just like crazy.

Speaker 2:

No, no, I mean. If I mean we go through different phases in our life and you know, and also you mentioned you've you've never been in a like in a corporate structure, right, and I think part of life experience is to try it as well. And if you want to stay in the influencers field, you'll never actually get to experience that side of life. And it's good to experiences and experience it and try both ways and say you know you're still very young and and see where you fit. I mean for me, like I'm doing the you know the online content creation full time now, but before that I worked in corporations for 20 years.

Speaker 1:

So, I?

Speaker 2:

I actually took the plunge after paying my dues, right? So it's you know, you know somehow you have to pay your dues.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I mean, if something changes down the line, I'd be open to that. But I feel like I'm so young and I'm so hungry to work hard because I kind of just I want to be humbled. People see social influencers as like just naturally wanting to be their own bosses and do their own thing, and I'm able to strike that balance. Like my, my book is literally that this is like a self-pursuit. But at the same time as I was publishing this book, I was working at the New York Post and I was doing my thing there and working a corporate job. I wasn't, you know, going into it full of ego saying like, oh, I'm going to leave early today because I have to work on my book. Like I, I kept a balance between having my own personal pursuits but also wanting to stay in a nine to five job and to be humbled.

Speaker 2:

Hmm, so do you think being like a TikTok influencer, how would that affect your job prospects? Is it going to be positive or negative in terms of have you experienced anything with people welcoming it or just another like TikTok dancer? I? Know she's not serious, whatever. Or they would say, oh, she's going to be too distracted by her own word that she's not going to pay any attention to us. Did you feel anything?

Speaker 1:

More so. The second thing you said I think the writing like speaks for itself. So I don't need to worry about you as a TikTok dancer or anything. So that's really been a concern. Like I have the line of work, I have the byline like work to make sure that I have that resume.

Speaker 1:

I have had some trouble because it depends on the publication. I mean, there are some publications who say you know, you have a TikTok following already. Like you're going to be too busy for us. Like if you want to do work for us, you're going to have to shut down your social media because you're just going to do it. So yes, I've gotten that before.

Speaker 1:

But I think the smart publications are the ones that see it as an asset and take it because I share my life Online like that's just who I am, that was the choice I made. So if I get a job somewhere and I start sharing it online, that's just more exposure for them. Like, if doing my TikTok becomes a problem down the line, then that's an open conversation and that's something they can bring up to me. But I think it shows how passionate I am as a journalist that I would never really let it get in the way, Like I've deliberately kind of weaned off of TikTok over the past three, four months, not posted as much because I want to focus on my book and on my journalism. I'll always have it on the side.

Speaker 2:

If you were given the choice like either shut it down or work with us and it was your dream job, would you actually shut it down for a dream job?

Speaker 1:

Depends what the salary looks like. No, seriously, though, because I'm on TikTok so I know Is this really worth losing, like one of my primary sources of income? So I don't know. Is it really my dream job if they don't respect other things I'm passionate about? Like, maybe that's not a dream job. After all, it's constantly shifting, like the place I wanted to work when I was a little girl isn't necessarily the place that I want to work now. It's constantly shifting as my passions are shifting and as I'm growing up. So it's all an open conversation. I mean, the world of journalism is different than how it used to be. It's just all an open conversation, that's true.

Speaker 2:

So would you encourage people to you know, let's say, my daughter. She is 12. Would you encourage her to follow the path of being a social media influencer?

Speaker 1:

I say do what you enjoy, but also do something else. On the side, there's so many people who just rely on social media for like everything and say like this is their like career, like it's this is all they want to do. But like what happens if, like TikTok goes away or nobody uses Instagram anymore? You never really know what's going to happen. We've seen it before with Vine and Musically Like you never really know. So I'd say if you enjoy it, use it as like a hobby. So treat it as a hobby and then, okay, once you are able to, I guess, stay grounded and like, set that aside, be like okay, this is my hobby. Now, what do I want to do is my livelihood?

Speaker 2:

I see Interesting. I mean, I love the perspective that you're not like all, for let's all do this and let's make money online. And let's, because that's kind of the current narrative that's happening now online, which is, you know, quit the nine to five, you know, be your own boss. And you're already in the trenches and you know you're saying, hey, wait a minute here, maybe there's a different path. So I like the approach. So how is the book you said you've been touring right, how is the book tour going and where you going? And just if you can tell me I know you're very busy, but you know, if you can just tell me a bit about the book tour, I'm curious to hear about it.

Speaker 1:

It just ended. It was extremely exhausting but also rewarding at the same time. So it started in my hometown, new York, so I did a book signing in New York, then New Jersey, gwang Island, then we flew to LA, santa Monica, tampa, florida and then. Connecticut was the last one and I think I might be one more in New York with a fashion brand like a collab type book signing.

Speaker 2:

Oh, okay. And what was the reaction among the people who attended? You know any funny anecdotes, anything you know curious happened. You know a crazy fan and angry mom, something like that.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it was just. It was a fun time. I had in each city a different host that I was in conversation with and a lot of them were my friends, so I had someone from mom's, I had another social media influencer in another city, I had a world record holder that's a singer. So lots of different people I guess that I got to talk to, and that was probably the most fun part of it, in addition to meeting fans of the book, was just being in conversation with friends and the energy bouncing off each other. That was just a really, really fun time.

Speaker 2:

Oh, that's fun. Are you planning any other books, or is that it for now?

Speaker 1:

I mean I have an idea in my head for one, like just in case you know, god forbid, another pandemic happens, but just in case a big period of time opens up that I can write it. But I think right now I just really want to focus on graduating, getting my degree and getting a solid job. I mean this is exciting and I hope this might turn into a TV show in the future or something. This is my child. I'm going to continue to spread the word about it with everyone. But I think right now, in terms of like book writing, I'm focusing more on the journalism.

Speaker 2:

So I noticed that when I was researching you and that you are an anti-bullying activist. And how did this come? Is it because of the online media? What was your? Did you ever experience bullying, especially online, and what are your efforts that you're doing in order to combat this phenomenon? That is currently it's not going anywhere. It's increasing.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I mean, growing up I was very lucky I wasn't really bullied. I think in elementary school I was almost scared I was going to be bullied, but I had this responsibility. There was something at my school called a peer mediator and as peer mediator I would go around the schoolyard and talk to kids and help them solve their problems, like a therapy type thing. From a young age I didn't experience bullying myself. Really until middle school I was made fun of a lot because I was writing these books about cupcakes and it was babyish and I was kind of ashamed of it in that way.

Speaker 1:

And it kind of got worse with the rise of social media in general, cyber bullying has been rampant and I faced it when I started to grow my following. I was getting bullied a lot. Just random hate comments. People always find something to pick on on TikTok. It's like the more followers you gain, the more you get on. So a long time ago I partnered with NoBully. They're a nonprofit organization and they're going into schools from a young age teaching kids how to practice empathy and respect towards one another. So they're really targeting the problem from its inception, right when it begins in kindergarten, like this is something to be learning early on.

Speaker 1:

This is not a collaboration we should be having as male schoolers or as high schoolers. This is something that we should already know from as young as kindergarten.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, I mean, I still say it at elementary school and it raises the problem. So this has been wonderful, carrie. And so, for anyone who's listening and watching, where they can find your book? I saw it's on Amazon, on your website, at Bars Noble. Where can they find it if you can tell us, yeah?

Speaker 1:

yeah, so you can find my book my Real Life, romcom, on Amazon, bars, noble, walmart, target, basically anywhere you can buy books, and you can find me on social media at Carrieburg, okay, great.

Speaker 2:

And any final thoughts, words you would like to say about, you know, the teenage dating scene, the online bullying, pursuing your passion, anything you'd like to share with us.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it all starts with yourself. And just realize that not every day is going to be perfect. But when you're able to stand in your truth and realize that even on those days when you don't feel great whether it's due to a relationship issue or bullying or anxiety, any of those issues that just come with adulting just realize it's going to be okay and start trying to push it down and just live in it and still being your truth and let it pass Great.

Speaker 2:

Thank you very much, carrie, and, for anyone who's listening or watching, thank you for joining us today and, until we meet again, thank you for tuning in to Read and Write with Natasha. I'm your host, natasha Times. If today's episode inspired you in any way, please take the time to review the podcast. Remember to subscribe and share this podcast with fellow book lovers. Until next time. Happy reading, happy writing.

Teen Author's Journey to Publishing
Book Success and Being an Influencer
Balancing Journalism and Influencer Career
Social Influencers and Traditional Jobs
Teenage Dating, Online Bullying, Pursuing Passions