Interested in developing your personal brand, story or ideas on social media? Clare Hooper embodies the "just have a go!" attitude with style and creative flair. She's a natural in front of the camera and loves kick starting social media newbies' confidence. Her art teacher creds are evident. She's a coach rather than a hard to reach influencer. I've learnt tons from her attitude. On the quiet, she's sharing her grombre (that's grey + ombre hair colour if you're not there yet) videos to nearly 3 million people monthly on Tik Tok.
This transcript has been edited to include the highlights of our conversation.
You might not even think it's naturally brave or courageous… but one thing I find about your social feeds, is a level of spontaneity and a massive lack of self consciousness. And that was something that has always made you stand out for me on social media. And I'm just really curious about how you cultivate it? You've kept that quite consistently for a long time - just being yourself on social media, would you say? Does that involve acting?
Clare Hooper 7:29
That's triggered so many different pathways and thoughts. When you have kids, my kids were a huge help to me to be myself because you can’t hide anything from children. I actually was a child minder for a period of time as well, and kids see everything. Even if you don't verbalise it, they act it out, they become your mirror. So your insecurities, your lack of courage, or whatever it is, they see it. They smell it. And they either act in a certain way, like animals do! If we're having an anxious moment in the house, the dog starts to act up, and kids do the same sort of thing. They're a product of their environment. They're really impacted by the environment they're in. So my kids really taught me a lot about what my behaviour meant to people.
I don't think I could even tell you that I've manufactured it. When it comes to social media, I don't think it's about me. For me, I'm in it, because I want to bring something to you. So I think it makes it easier for me to use social media in a less toxic way. I don't actually feel like I ever want to be a big influencer. I know all the rules that you have to play because I managed social media accounts. I know the analytics, the strategy, the scheduling, the detail that you have to go into, I am not interested in that. So for me, I can enter social media in a very liberating way, because I'm purely there to bring and provide a service to the people that I'm in community with. I see it as a digital conversation. I just follow the rules of conversation, I talk, you talk, we each have a thought together that's interesting, it triggers a new thought.
You'll probably see over the years, my social media has changed greatly. I'm trying to move with the community. I feel like I'm there as a servant of the community rather than they're serving me. I don't have an ulterior motive. In the last couple of years, I think it probably was easier to engage with social media than before I was a consultant because I've not had to monetize it. I've not had to go after that. I can be playful, I can enjoy it.
When you should say do you act? I definitely go into a mode, because I think I don't want it to consume me. And I don't want it to be all of me. I'm quite a private person. So I don't put a lot of my private life on social media at all. If you look back over my feed, there's hardly anything about who I'm with when I'm with them. I don't like people to feel like they're a commodity. I don't want people to feel like they're in a transactional relationship with me. I don't want you to ever feel like you're feed fodder. That stuff is where it gets toxic for me. My kids don't really want to be involved in it in the same way. So I don't share a lot of their life. I ask permission for anything I do share.
I came to the Instagram party late in the day… what would be your advice about how to get braver with that platform? How do you actually lean into it where you’re being yourself?
Clare Hooper 14:31
I've got a fake account that I practise everything on. I want to always measure myself against do I sound like me? Do I look like me? Does this hold up to my values? Is this the kind of person I want to present? Would I be the same on camera as off camera? Those things are really important to me. They’re the values I hold really. And even if I want to present my best self, I don't think that's a problem. I think it's right on these platforms that you do. Because I see it as entertainment. And I'm entertaining people, I'm comfortable with that. I'm really happy to make people laugh or bring some joy into your day. I don't think those things are an issue.
But when you present a version of yourself that you're not proud of, that's not you. I think that's a whole different camp. So I've got a fake account. In the early days, I would post things there, write things that nobody else saw, just me. I would do Instagram stories there until I sounded like myself. So my voice was me. I lived with it, I posted things. How does this feel? Like when I hit send, you know, do I feel proud of it? Am I being fake, or will my friends sniff it a mile off? So now when I come to put things on my main feed, it's already gone through those filters. I've already done the work to make sure that I'm not faking my life.
I think as well, the church element that we're part of, I don't want people to think that life is perfect. I want people to know that life is not perfect. But the God I choose to believe in will meet you in that human imperfection and meet you there. Not that your life needs to be perfect. And that's not what God makes your life. I think what's true is having the courage to walk through being human and fragile. The God that I believe in meets us in the middle of that fragility, and brings comfort, restoration, hope, opportunities.
Can I talk about this one great story which massively intrigued and inspired me - you going viral on TikTok! I know there's a load of people that have jumped on TikTok now, and it has its controversy as well… but from a purely joyful view… tell me about the moment things blossomed?
Clare Hooper 21:21
I joined TikTok out of necessity, for the church and for my job. I'd seen it was really poppin. I'm in social media, my job mainly is to agitate people. I'm not very good at helping people set goals, targets, analytics. But I'm really good at helping and coaching people to become confident at getting started in social media. So that's more what I do - I want to get you moving. So I went on TikTok purely and simply for that. I did two videos. I was like, ‘I don't get this. I'm way too old for this. I'm 46. I'm not going to go back on again.’ That was last September. And then in January I made a video about my grey hair because I've been transitioning to grey hair.
So when I made it, it was me standing in front of my living room window with a tripod, moving my hair from side to side and I put a really old fashioned song on it. It's not even contemporary. It's was Silver Haired Woman. I posted and I didn't go back on for about a month. I put two hashtags on silver sisters and grombré. It's a mix of grey and Ombré. That's the hashtag. I went back on a month later and it had 30,000 views at that point.
My kids had told me, ‘don't go on TikTok Mum, we will be really embarrassed. All of our friends are on TikTok, we don't want you on TikTok, you're already embarrassing on Instagram!’ So I was like, ‘what do I do now?’ So I showed my video to one of my sons. And he just went, ‘Oh, well, it's obviously a thing. You should make another video.’ I spent two weeks, an hour a day on the For You page learning. And I was like, if I'm going to do this, I'm going to do it the best I can. And so before I did anything else I went on everyday and did hour long tutorials. I found things I liked and saved loads of things. I could do that. That fits me. Oh, no, that's too young. I don't want to do that, it’s not me. That's not the vibe. I got into loads of tutorial accounts and followed people teaching you how to do well on TikTok. And after two weeks, I started to make videos and yeah, now we're there. I’ve probably reached about 3 million people every month with TikTok.
Clare Hooper 24:33
I feel like I've probably hit the platform at the right time in the right place. So I can only assume that everybody went into lockdown - people had their roots growing… I do it in my house, in my bedroom. I'm an ordinary British woman. I'm not I'm not trying to pretend to be, you know, a fashion influencer.
Knowing your niche seems like a big part?
Clare Hooper 25:44
You have to be super specific about your niche, don’t confuse because the algorithm works differently than other platforms. You create content and the algorithm will surface your content to as many people that want to watch it. Whereas on Instagram, it doesn't work like that - you have to slog to build an audience, and then your audience share your content. And that's when you know you've done well. That's the only way to go viral on Instagram - if somebody else shares your content for you because you've produced something and it captures a zeitgeist. TikTok works differently, you use very specific hashtags, the algorithm, the AI feeds it to as many people as possible that might be interested in your content. If there are 100 people that like it, it gets shown to 1000 people. If those 1000 people like it, it then gets shown to multiple 1000s. At that point, there's a fourth tier where it's actually manually reviewed. Then the video has the potential to go viral. It's very rewarding because you produce content that automatically gets shared for you. Even on YouTube, you don't have that many people find you, it's a search engine. People search what they want.
If you play the game on Instagram, people don't even search what they want. It only comes up in their feed if their friends show it to them. So it's different again, but TikTok is a totally different algorithm. It sends your content anywhere across the globe, who’s interested in what you produce. So yeah, that is very rewarding. But it also makes it addictive because the algorithm works so strongly. If you're on it as (a consumer), and you're on the For You page, you can spend hours, because intuitively learns what your appetite is. So it will feed you content to keep you on the app for as long as possible. So you have to be really strict with yourself and your boundaries. I've watched another 15 second video of somebody's dog doing something stupid, you know?
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