“You’re showing up in your content to add value to other people.”
Special guest Hilary Billings is a popular viral video creator and strategist who grew from 0-400k followers on TikTok in 40 days. She is also the Co-Founder and CEO of Attentioneers, where she leads a creative agency to help clients grow revenue and reach through viral short-form videos. As a strategist, she has worked with a gamut of high-performing entrepreneurs, including billionaires, Victoria’s Secret models, and New York Times best-selling authors. A former Miss Nevada, journalist, on-camera host, and tv producer, Hilary has also worked with national traditional media outlets including USA Today, E! News, and Extra! Entertainment Television. A sought-after business speaker, she’s shared the stage with William Shatner and Bon Jovi. Her insights have been featured in Entrepreneur, Huffington Post, and Thrive Global.
The downside of becoming popular on social media is attracting trolls in the comment section. On this episode, Hilary shares the best way to deal with and disarm haters, plus the surprising opportunities they brand. If you’re afraid to put yourself out there, tune in to hear how to decide what’s right for your company – being the face of the brand or working with a professional on-camera host. Learn how to stay ground in creating connection and relatability with viewers so you can earn their attention and engagement. Discover how to protect yourself from negativity and make content that converts. Get tips on moderating a live audience while maintaining authenticity and spontaneity. Hear Hilary’s advice on crafting responses to comments that better support your brand. Find out how to leverage the algorithm by creating creative videos that people can’t stop watching. Uncover the secret to getting people into a live stream and keep them there, while teaching them how to talk to you in the comments. Gain an understanding of Hilary’s curiosity approach that builds an audience’s trust in the long run.
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Handling Live Stream Hate Comments And Social Media Trolls With Hilary Billings
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We have our first episode of 2023 with special guest Hilary Billings, who is a popular viral video creator and strategist who grew from 0 to 400,000 followers on TikTok in just 40 days. She is also the Cofounder and CEO of Attentioneers where she leads a creative agency to help clients grow revenue and reach through viral short videos. As a strategist, she has worked with a gamut of high-performing entrepreneurs, including billionaires, Victoria’s Secret Models, and New York Times bestselling authors.
A former Miss Nevada, journalist, on-camera host plus TV producer, Hilary has worked with national traditional media outlets, including USA Today, E! News, and Extra! Entertainment Television. There’s so much to explore with you, Hilary. We are absolutely thrilled to have you here on the show. Before we get into the conversation with you, Nicolas has a brief update on what’s going on behind the scenes at eStreamly.
I’m pretty excited to have you, Hilary. It’s going to be so much a great conversation. You certainly have an awesome resume. I can’t wait to start the conversation. Before we go there, I just want to share a quick update on eStreamly. We’ll be at NRF, which is the National Retail Federation. It’s a trade show that is happening in New York around the mid of January 14th to the 17th.
We’ll have a booth there. If you want to come by and say hi, we’d love to have you. If you want to chat about live shopping, eCommerce, or the creator economy altogether, we’ll be there with a smile. Please come by. Since I have the pleasure to speak now, I’d love to go and start the conversation with you, Hilary.
First of all, as I say, it’s an impressive resume. We’ve been having a conversation for almost half an hour in preparation for this show. I could already see the professionalism that you have. You’re very well-versed in podcasting, shows, video, and all that. You could feel that. You have this on-camera host on TV. It’s funny to say that because when we have someone professional on the show, it’s impressive. In the first five minutes, you can see it right there. Maybe we can start with this. A lot of our audience is in this space considering potentially doing a livestream or being curious about livestreaming.
The question of the host is always a question that comes back like, “Should I do it myself? Should I hire a professional host?” I always see that as a big thing and a big question that’s coming. My tendency is always, “You know better because you are the founder and everything.” If I spent five minutes with someone like you, I’m like, “No. You need to go with a professional.” What’s your point of view? I’d love to start with that.
A lot of that has to do with the brand itself and the voice and the values that the brand wants to put out there on that particular platform. That can look a lot of different ways. My background outside of being an on-camera host is also working with personal brands. I’ve lived on both sides of this coin of being a gun for hire and representing huge brands, being on red carpets for big media outlets, as well as helping personal brands and cultivating and curating my own of what is that voice that I want to put out there. How do I want people to relate to me? How do we get that uniqueness set up and communicated in a way that also helps to build and monetize the brand that they’re putting out there? It’s a personal choice.
I would always encourage somebody to look at the reasoning why they do not want to be the face of their own brand. Usually, I would say, in my experience, it’s rooted in fear. Sometimes, it can’t be different, and that’s great too. If the fear is the answer of, “I’m afraid of somebody seeing me or getting bad comments, what are people going to think about me? I might not fit a certain demographic of a platform. What is that going to say about me?” a lot of people put their self-worth into the responses that they get without looking at how the value they can add to other people by being seen and putting themselves out there. That’s the first question I would ask to see what the right fit is for them.A lot of people put their self-worth into the responses they get without looking at the value they can add to other people by being seen and putting themselves out there. Click To Tweet
I love that because, in some way, it makes me think about as a brand, you want to force yourself to be that face. However, if that fear is too big, there’s another option. It doesn’t have to be either/or. What about if it’s together? You can have a host to help you and guide you through your journey until you feel comfortable enough. I remember a conversation on a Clubhouse that Whitney and I had. It’s the first Clubhouse and that gentleman was telling us that for the first three years, he had his friend that was an on-camera personality with him all the time.
One day, his friend told him, “Why do you keep needing me? You don’t need me. You should do it by yourself. People want to hear from you, not from me.” I think about that as a great in-between learning through that journey. Another thing that comes up quite often from my perspective when I talk to a brand and that spark me when I went over your bio and your website is the notion of errors. As soon as you start creating content that is engaging, you start to have famous errors coming up.
It is the person that is on the back of the screen thinking it is a bull, a horn, or something because no one can see him and can say anything about him and start to be bitchy, to say the least. It can be painful for the host and brand. It can have an impact. I see a lot of content from the brand about this altogether. From your perspective, how do you go after that? You talk quite a bit about it. How do you go after it from a social media perspective? After that, I’d love to hear the livestream element of it.
For starters, whenever we put ourselves out there in whatever context, we are going to get feedback from other people. It’s criticism, positive or negative feedback, or however you want to look at it because other people have opinions. There is that saying that what people say behind your back is none of your business. The unfortunate thing about social media is that they’re saying it behind your back on your feed. You get to see it and you will see it. The question then becomes how much weight are you going to give that and what is your response going to be to that? My cofounder and I have collectively garnered over a billion views organically on our videos. When you’re dealing with numbers like that, we are having to earn attention and specifically engineering content to create engagement.
That’s what we want to do. Sometimes, even a lot of the times, that can be by doing things in a certain way that’s controversial or knowing that we’re going to get feedback from people disagreeing. I remember I had a photo that I posted up that got 500,000 comments. It was just a question, which was a dishwasher debate, “Forks up or down?” People had a lot to say about it. There were lines drawn in the sand, families on one. It was the Capulets and the Montagues like this was Romeo and Juliet. Either you were forks up or you were forks down and there was no in-between. This is a very low-stakes example as to the type of emotions that you can get on the internet. Ideally, as a brand, you are working to and engineering your content in a way to garner that engagement.
For one, any type of engagement albeit outside of you doing something that is very tone depth in the culture is going to be a good thing. It’s also going to provide an opportunity for you to create connection and relatability with your viewers. The question then becomes, “When do these moments arise?” It’s because you could do everything perfectly. I would say that I spent a lot of time, especially early on as a content creator trying to, ahead of time, pre-emptively think about how I could create content so people wouldn’t say mean things to me. It was such an exhausting exercise that still wells me up being in the hot seat because just by nature, other people are going to have different perspectives on what you’re doing.
Even videos that seemed very innocuous, heart-warming, or inspirational to me, to somebody out there on the internet would be a bad thing. They would have something about why I was a bad person for making this video about dog rescues. You’re not going to be able to please everyone. It comes down to how you deal with it. I have found the best way to handle your haters. It is to approach them with curiosity. Let’s assume that their intention is to not be your haters. You may get some people out there who are very miserable in their lives and have nothing better to do than spew hateful comments on the internet. When someone says something about a video that’s negative, we’ll say that they say, “This is stupid,” is the comment.You're not going to be able to please everyone. It comes down to how you deal with it. Click To Tweet
I could choose to interpret that as saying something about me, or I could choose it as an opportunity to connect with that viewer. When I choose to connect with the viewer and ask, “What makes you say that?” suddenly, that disarms them in a way to have a conversation. A lot of the times, I’ve found that when I ask a question of, “How so? Tell me more. I’d love to hear your perspective on this,” people don’t realize how brash or abrasive their initial comments might have come across as. You’ll immediately see them walking back as to, “I reread what I sent you. I didn’t mean it in that way. Here’s what I meant. Here’s why.” It opens up an opportunity to humanize both sides. My first big piece of advice to anybody that’s looking to handle their haters is to approach them with curiosity.
If all else fails and you’re dealing with someone who is a total curmudgeon and absolutely will not move, you can always block them. It’s totally fine. I looked it up. What percentage of the population is clinically insane? It’s about 5%. You can always put those people under that statistic if for whatever reason you’re not able to find a way to make it work. At the end of the day, there are a lot of people out there that their only way of connecting with people is through social media. They’re not having a lot of one-on-one conversations. If we think about the amount of pain, pent-up frustration, and anger that people are dealing with right now in our culture and take that lens of compassion, there’s a great opportunity for you to remove some of the personalization of those haters.
That is such helpful advice, Hilary. I’ve experienced a lot of this myself firsthand. It can be incredibly draining. I feel like certain people are going to experience it and have a harder time with that than others. That might circle back to Nicolas’s question earlier of you might find that you can be the face of your company, but maybe you don’t look at your social media. You have to weigh out where you’re being impacted. I suppose you could just show up and never read the comments and have somebody else on your team delegate it to somebody else or to someone you’re working with yourself, Hilary. I’m curious if people do that, are there some other elements you can add in where maybe you’re not even exposed to this negativity?
There are a lot of different ways, and different platforms can censor certain words so that if somebody says some profanity, it doesn’t show up in your comments or those get put into another box so that you don’t see them. You could certainly always hire somebody to run your content and handle your engagement for you. A lot of big brands do that. At the end of the day, it’s important for brands to understand that this is an opportunity to connect with people and the voice through the values that they want to connect with them with. That means that they’re not going to connect with everybody. That’s not the point.
The point is to find your target audience, the people that want to become raving fans of your brand and have them help to lift you up and to share your message with everyone that they know will love what you have to offer. There are a lot of different ways that you can put these buffers in place so that you’re not directly looking at them. That also goes back to a mentality of you are not your content and you are not the comments that are being received by the content. You are a brand and you’re offering value. If your goal and you’re intentionally putting out content that is focused on earning attention and sharing your voice and your values, you will find the right audience that is going to love and support you through that.
That leads to something else that is so valuable about what you’re saying here, Hilary, which is you can better get to know your audience and what their pain points are. You can also understand what people are not liking currently and use that to try some new things. One piece of advice that comes up very regularly on this show from our guests is to experiment and find out what works. Sometimes you find out what works based on what isn’t working, so there’s value in learning from other people and approaching it with curiosity like you’re saying.
There’s also a major value in getting very clear on who your ideal viewers and customers are versus those who are not. As you’re creating this buffer and figuring out what you’re going to add to your list of banned words on your platform, or whatever you’re filtering, you’re also simultaneously filtering out the people that your product and services are not for.
Initially, when they start to get on platforms and start to think about their short-form content strategy or their livestream strategy, our goal is to hit as many eyeballs as possible and to be able to create content that people want to share. At the end of the day, we want content that converts. That is what we’re making content for. We’re intentionally thinking about reaching that right audience and curating your content and engineering it in a way to earn that attention.
Keeping the eyeballs that are going to buy from you is the most important piece and let somebody else that doesn’t resonate with your brand go resonate with something else somewhere else. It’s also not up to you to explain what you’re doing or why you’re doing it to everyone that’s out there in the world. We want to make sure we’re clicking with the right people.Let somebody else who doesn't resonate with your brand go resonate with something else somewhere else. It's not up to you to explain what you're doing or why you're doing it to everyone out there in the world. Click To Tweet
That’s so interesting. It’s the notion that you don’t have to try to sell and please everyone. It’s very important that you keep that in mind because we have that tendency to say, “Why are you saying that? I’m sure you can benefit from my services or my product in some way.” Keeping that in mind is important. One of the things that I like about what you’re saying is that notion of filtering through the platform. I have a very concrete example. I was talking to a client that was asking me if they can filter certain words in their comment.
It’s because during livestream, what I’ve seen and experienced is brand is freaking out about this and taking control. Sometimes, they will have a lawyer’s conversation about a banned word that you can’t say during the live, what happened if you say that, and how you react. It is this whole preparation. The idea of doing live is that it’s scripted as less as possible. The frame is scripted but the content itself is going to go naturally. It’s going to be authentic and people resonate. It’s very difficult for the creator.
You have to think about all those things and have this whole list of things that I can’t do anything. Technology can help by filtering. On the other side, what I’m seeing is a client asking, “Can I delete certain comments while they are live?” This is from a technology standpoint, but I’d love to hear from your perspective. When you have a client coming to you and say, “I want to do a livestream,” how do you manage that conversation about moderation? How would you approach it differently if any than from a regular post or a regular video? What are your tips around that?
There are a couple of different ways that you can go about livestreams, specifically for us at Attentioneers. We’re all about creative first. Whether it’s for ads, your organic content, or your livestreams, it’s all about, “What is the creative that you’re putting in front of the audience?” What we want to do is we want to help you bat outside of your average of your followers. We know across most platforms that when you go live or when you post a video, it’s going to be seen between 1% to 6% of your followers. Where we were able to get our billion views wasn’t from reaching that small percentage of our followers. We actually didn’t have a ton of followers at the time that I started making content. What we did was leverage the algorithm by creating strong creatives that people couldn’t stop watching.
The first thing that a lot of brands aren’t necessarily thinking of is, how do we get people into the livestream and how do we keep them? What are they waiting for? What are we promising them? The best post-production strategy is a great pre-production strategy. The more that you can do on the front end of how we set this up, what this looks like, and also making sure that you have a plan in place for someone moderating comments if you want them to is very important. I will say, in the times that I have gone live and we’ve interacted with our viewers, there’s always going to be somebody that has something to say that maybe popped in that wasn’t originally your audience or didn’t want to be there.
I have found that when I either take the curiosity approach or take the empowering approach and respond back to them in a way that’s very authentic to my brand, we gain even more raving fans and followers through that process. It also depends because, in some lives, you might not be engaging with the followers. In some lives, you might be doing whatever it is that you’re doing and they’re just commenting on what they’re seeing. You might have somebody that’s off-camera that’s dealing with the comments. Also, on livestreams, sometimes, especially on platforms specific, you don’t get to see all of the comments that are popping up while you’re recording.
That also can be something that you can say to your viewers of, “We don’t always get every single comment coming through, but if you leave me a comment or you’re nice about it, we’re going to go ahead and respond to you.” Also, teaching people how to train and talk to you. I don’t respond to overly vulgar comments. We delete them or block them. It’s not a big deal. Again, those aren’t your people. There are a lot of different ways that you can handle this. The appropriate thing is not everyone is deserving of your time and not everyone deserves a response. Making sure that the content first and the way that you’re interacting with the viewers that you want to interact with, that is creating more connection and more brand trust in the long run.
That’s powerful. I love the notion of what you’re saying. You say, “You have to think about your content itself and how reactive you are to the comment.” Are you responding and having that two-way conversation, or are you producing a piece of content and then commenting on more something that’s on the go that may be moderated by someone else? In the case of where you were in that conversation, curiosity or empowerment pushed your numbers.
That’s interesting because I wouldn’t anticipate from the conversation I had so far that the first thing people will do is delete the comment. You’ll say, “Don’t do that. Go after it. Try to understand that.” Maybe not all the comments, especially on special live where you have a lot of people. Especially if it provides you with more followers, that’s an interesting insight that I hope some of our audience will try.
I’m curious, Hilary, if you can give us an example because it sounded like you have had at least one impactful experience with this. If I were in this moment recording something and somebody came onto the show and said something, how could I turn that into a curiosity-type question? Do you have any examples off the top of your head, or could you create one for us so that we could hear it in action?
My boyfriend and were doing a live Jenga game for one of our lives. We had a glass of water on top of the Jenga game. Whoever pulled the brick, it was going to fall on them. We created this high stake situation. We had a lot of people tuning in and there were some people that were like, “You guys are taking forever. This is such a long game.” Other people were like, “My anxiety is through the roof.” For some, it would be like, “I know. My anxiety is through the roof too. I can’t believe it. I know this is taking forever, Marshall. Pull your brick. We’ve been here for twenty minutes. Joe is right. I can’t believe it.” There’s also an opportunity for you to use the comments as a way to add banter and play.
Again, not taking everything so seriously where that comment could have been interpreted as, “We need to hurry up.” It can also be interpreted as, “They too want to see who’s going to win. Marshall is taking a long time on his turn.” Also, taking that opportunity to switch that. On that same live, we had somebody that started cursing at us out of the blue and my response was like, “We don’t support that here. We’re all about good vibes and supporting each other. If this isn’t for you, we totally understand. You’re welcome to click off anytime.” The number of engagements, hearts, and likes that we got with me giving that little speech was incredible to see.
I wasn’t expecting it. I was just doing what I do and how I would’ve handled that situation if I saw that happening in real life. It was a great reinforcement moment, but you’ll also see lots of big brands handle this in different ways. Duolingo is a great example. They have a very sassy, funny bird duo who does all of their organic content. Duo also responds to all of these comments. Duo will get sassy and Duo will sassy back if you’re getting sassy with them. The same thing with Wendy’s Twitter account. People will go to engage with Wendy’s account because they want to get roasted by Wendy’s. It depends upon what your brand is wanting to put out there, knowing that ahead of time you’re crafting your responses to better support your brand and how you want to be interpreted.
Don’t care about what this guy is doing. This guy doesn’t have a livestream and followers. This person is watching you and trying to get a response out of you. What are you going to do at that moment to reinforce the brand that you want to have? It might not have anything, in the long run, to do with how this person perceives you, but it will impact everybody else that sees that response. That’s the more important takeaway. Instead of focusing on how I get this person on my side, it’s how I take every opportunity that’s being presented to me on these platforms to reengage and connect with the audience in the way that I want to.Instead of focusing on how to get a person on your side, it's about how you take every opportunity being presented to you on these platforms to reengage and connect with the audience in the way that you want to. Click To Tweet
That’s a cool conversation. Something that strikes me with what you just said is this notion that you could have an entire strategy and team helping you with the comment section during a livestream and when we start thinking about where you could go with that. In the livestream strategy, you can be the one showman doing everything. That’s one way of doing it, or you have one famous brand of shoe that have 150 people doing their lives in China for instance. They run a 19-hour live every day, but there are 150 people running that show. I always wonder what they are doing.
Through the journey of this show, I realize the host is so important. The comment is so important. We’re talking about the quality of the audio. We’ve talked about something that we haven’t talked about in this show, but what you can talk about is the hook. How do you hook your audience to make them going in and all that? I love the sentence where you say the best post-editing is pre-editing. I don’t know exactly how you say that, but it was so awesome. This is going to be the next Twitter line for me. When you think about this, you could decompose based on your brand. That’s where having an agency or someone like you on the team can bring a lot of value to our brand.
It’s because you understand all those elements and how those elements can add incremental value to the whole overall production of what you’re doing. To the audience out there that is considering doing livestream, there’s nothing wrong about doing it by yourself or having one person helping you out. There’s an immense journey and an immense opportunity for growth by having people that can help you through the content, posting, editing, commenting, and all those different elements that make the experience great. You bring so many different things to the table through that conversation. It’s fascinating. I’d love to have your perspective on that, Whitney, and have a closure word from Hilary as well.
I couldn’t agree more. This is such important advice for people who are considering. As you said from the very beginning, fear can get in your way of showing up on camera, especially when you’re going live. It’s not scripted and anything can happen and people can show up. It is all these fears that Nicolas often hears when working with the clients at eStreamly who are stuck at that beginning phase. They haven’t even started to execute because of the psychological side of all of this. Knowing that there are strategies is helpful but also, hearing your examples was helpful.
You providing that time with the game you were playing helped me think through that there’s a sense of comfort and knowing that someone else has experienced that, overcame it, and even got the benefit. I appreciate how you keep coming back to the core reasons that you’re doing this content in the first place. That’s incredibly helpful to remember. Things can go wrong, especially when you’re live. If you’re there for a reason beyond the challenges, it’s much easier to work through it all.
To wrap that up, a lot of people live in the fear because they’re too focused on themselves, which is a totally natural human thing to do. There’s fear around how they’re going to be perceived, but at the end of the day, when you’re showing up in your content, it’s to add value to other people and to be of service to them. You have something worth offering. You have a brand that other people need to know about. When you are focused on service and helping add value to other people’s lives, that fear dissipates because it’s not about you anymore. It’s about the viewers and creating that connection so that they can find the solution that you have. That’s a special moment when that occurs.
We’re so grateful to have you on the show, Hilary, because that’s what we want from everybody that’s reading this and works with us over at eStreamly. I’m sure you want the same thing for your clients, to keep coming back to that, or maybe even to write it down. People use the Post-It note method and they put it right there at their desks to look at their why, their purpose, the mission statement, or whatever that is, whether it’s for your whole company or just that specific piece of content that you’re creating so that you can navigate whatever the results end up being and not attach those specific outcomes, but be attached to the bigger vision in place.
That’s just such an incredible message that we haven’t touched upon nearly enough here on the show before. As Nicolas was saying, we are so grateful to have touched upon something new and refreshing with you. What a great way to start off a new year too with something that we haven’t explored from this angle. Thank you, Hilary, for being here with us. Thank you to the audience. Nicolas has been sending out a wonderful weekly newsletter that you can also sign up for right there on the site. We have a community, which I feel is an important thing to mention in an episode like this.
Our private community is in place so that people can talk to each other about their experiences, share examples, share challenges they overcame, things that they learned from doing their livestreams, and how they’re selling and approaching eCommerce. Nicolas has done a phenomenal job developing the live eCommerce community there. From that point on, we will see you next time with another episode of the show. Wishing you all the very best in the meantime.