October 6, 2022
Min Read

How JT Barnett Built a Content Engine to Grow His TikTok to 290k+ Followers

JT Barnett is an active content creator and TikTok advisor to rapidly growing brands. In this session, he shares his tactical advice for creators looking to grow their following.

Dwight Churchill

JT Barnett is a creator and TikTok advisor to rapidly growing brands. He's the Founder & CEO of BarnettX, a holding co for modern media brands, including CreatorX, a headhunting firm, and StrategyX, which serves as a content advisor for companies like Super Coffee and Poppi.

Zooming out, JT is one of the most wired-in operators in the digital creator space. We sat down with him to unpack his creation workflow from end to end, distilling tactical advice for creators looking to grow their audiences and generate revenue from organic content. We dive deep on:

  1. Tools for new content creators to streamline their editing
  2. Alternative channels to make money through content
  3. Foolproof tactics to sustainably grow your TikTok

How to Ramp Up Your Content Engine: Get Organized

JT Barnett's a busy man. He divides his time between three major enterprises: 

  1. TikTok – he creates educational content at the intersection of business and culture.
  2. StrategyX – JT's firm teaches companies how to make organic TikTok content. They advise on the company's content, filming strategies, and the changes they need to make to take off.
  3. CreatorX – Another firm that finds TikTok creators to run brand accounts, sort of like the next Jake from State Farm. The firm also handles the strategy details with the creator once they match with a company. 

BarnettX has three full-time employees and three or four that are remote part-time. They're fully in the Zoom age, as all of their meetings are virtual.

JT has a couple of tips for new creators who want to get organized:

  • Be Prepared – know what you're going to film beforehand. Write down ideas or have a running list of them that you can reference at any time so that when it's time to film, you aren't brainstorming. 
  • Use a Scheduling Platform – JT's grown quickly on LinkedIn because he doesn't have to make posts in the moment every single day (he uses the platform Later). The scheduled posts and auto posts are super efficient and great for consistency. 

Unpacking JT’s Tooling Stack

JT's software stack is pretty clean. He uses the iPhone camera native app. He edits with Videoleap, sometimes CapCut, and the TikTok native platform. 

Sometimes he dabbles with Instagram editing. He's gotten into filming with a greenscreen because it makes editing Instagram Reels easier. 

In terms of captioning, if he's embedding third-party captions, he usually outsources the job to an editor who's probably working in something like Premier or works with a tool like Captions.

"I never want to show up to film without pre-planned ideas. That rule is all about being efficient and holding myself accountable regarding consistent creation.”

How Creators Can Kickstart Their Career in Organic Content 

JT highlights a way for creators to preserve their joy in producing personal content while making a living off of the TikTok organic content industry.

His firm searches for creators with small to midsize audiences that have yet to monetize or aren't interested in becoming the face of their brand. JT isn't looking for people who want to be macro, in-your-face creators.

Instead, CreatorX is searching for people that want to make money through content and have those skills from their personal page but want to keep that page independent of their salary.

Through his firm, JT realized that heaps of creators don't want to be the next big influencer.

How to Make Money While Enjoying the Process

There's a lot of pressure on creators around their personal content. 

Many think that to do content full-time, they have to monetize their personal page, so they need to start making content that urges people to buy products.

To do so, they start appealing to views and the algorithm rather than making joyful and natural content. They end up unhappy in their careers because they aren't enjoying the process anymore and haven't produced something that represents who they are. Contracting through CreatorX gives people the option to make content money without amending their personal brand.

They make one video daily for a company and do whatever they want on their own page. 

The contracting companies are mostly emerging brands but could be anything from Best Western, to Microsoft, to Poppi. CreatorX will work with any good brand selling to people scrolling on TikTok. 

JT's also noticed a terrific side benefit for creators – many of his creator clients' pages grew once they started working with CreatorX because they continued creating genuine, organic content without a business goal while securing steady income elsewhere. 

He also notes that most of his creators end up really enjoying collaborating with the companies they're paired with. 

"Creators get the best of both worlds. They're part of a team, building with a company while having fun on their own page without the pressure to monetize."

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Why Digital Brands Are Hiring Creators Full-Time

Contracting a creator through JT is far cheaper for brands than hiring one in-house. Creators typically make $3000 to $5000 a month for 30 videos or a hundred bucks per video.

If an agency were making the same amount of videos for your brand per month, with the necessity for context and original content, it would cost $15k to $20k, easy. 

The value of the contracted creator has potential for exponential impact – the longer they're with the brand, the more they get to know the product. Each month, their value compounds. 

The audience also gets to know and love the creator, whereas at an agency, each video is made independently from the others and as quickly as possible. 

Successful organic content requires time and relationships, which contracting provides. 

"The longer the creator is with the team, the more the content improves – they really become a brand personality. It's also cost-effective. It's efficient."

The JT Barnett Playbook: How to Grow Your Audience

To successfully grow your platform, you as a creator need a super clear content game plan. To get serious, ask yourself questions like:

  • Who is my audience?
  • What is the function of my content?
  • What is my audience dealing with that I can help out with?

The answer to that final question could be anything from making the audience laugh, to contributing information about a specific topic, to providing insight into a particular market. 

Parting Advice: Growth Requires Sustainability

Once you've chosen your path, create a series or an original piece of content that you can continue to produce iterations of regularly. Hopefully, that gets your audience to keep tuning back in rather than just watching you once and moving on. 

There isn't one right way for smaller influencers to grow their platforms. 

The real issue is, what can you take on and do sustainably for the next year?

If you can film TikTok videos and redistribute that content on YouTube and Instagram, do that. If it's too stressful for you to manage all three at once, just pick one platform. 

It's easier to transfer people once you've established an engaged audience on one platform than growing an initial following by doing a half-assed job on all three platforms. 

JT himself started on multiple platforms with multiple channels – running three TikTok accounts at once, managing his Instagram, and making vlogs on YouTube all at once.

That grind made him realize he'd rather pick one thing and dedicate everything to it. Ultimately, he chose his TikTok business account over everything else, and he's still at that to this day.

"Growing a successful content engine requires really thinking about, 'Who is the end consumer and how can I provide value to them?'"

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Dwight Churchill
October 6, 2022
Min Read
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