Karen Civil: The making of a social media queen

Morning, noon and night, media maven Karen Civil masters the art of social networking, using contemporary media platforms to connect followers, fans and friends around the world. From YouTube to her personal website, KarenCivil.com, Civil shares exclusive content, gives words of advice, and highlights the latest news in pop culture.

But dabbling in social media is not just a hobby for Civil. Each platform serves as a tool for her to make a lot of money.

Civil’s social media savvy and influence among millennials has inspired major brands to take notice. In 2015, Civil says she earned over $500K through social media and her website.

Civil has partnered with Carol’s Daughter, CoverGirl, and served as social media manager for Beats By Dre. She operates a consulting company (Always Civil Enterprises); recently published a book (Be You & Live Civil); and travels nationally and internationally as a motivational speaker. Recently, Civil was selected to be featured in the upcoming Girl Power Tour (along with Sabrina Peterson and Toya Wright), which kicks off in Birmingham, Alabama, on April 23.

“It was important for Karen Civil to be a part of the Girl Power Tour because she has paved the way for young girls to find success in the social media space,” Peterson said. “She has taken something that is free and proved that you can turn it into a million-dollar business. I truly respect her hustle.”

Indeed, in a sea of millions of users looking to be seen and heard, Civil stands out as a social media queen.

Karen Civil

But the fact that Civil has found ways to reach millions is ironic when considering her beginnings. Born in Brooklyn, New York, and later raised in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Civil faced difficulties making friends and often felt awkward in social settings during her youth.

“Growing up was very interesting for me,” Civil recalled during our interview. “If you were Haitian, people just automatically assumed that English was a second language. So they had a special class for my brother and I, but we spoke proper English. The Black kids didn’t really get us, the Haitian kids didn’t really think we were one of them, and White kids didn’t take to us either, so it was weird. But my brother got through it better than I did because he played all the sports and was super intelligent. He eventually went to a different school than me and I just basically had to fend for myself.”

Without many friends during her teenage years, Civil found time to discover a talent that began as a hobby. She was a fan of HBO’s “The Wire” and, more specifically, J.D. Williams, who played the streetwise character Bodie on the show. Civil created a fan page on Yahoo for Williams that garnered thousands of followers and eventually led to her meeting the young actor. It was the first project that proved she had a knack for branding.
Civil eventually landed an internship with Hot 97’s Funkmaster Flex and worked as an A&R and tour manager for DipSet. By 2008, she began to brand herself with the creation of KarenCivil.com.

“When I first started blogging, it was about getting out new music and capturing artists working in the studio,” Civil says. “This was before artists were so social. They weren’t so hands-on then. But now, it’s much more difficult for blogs because you have artists with their own SoundCloud pages and they are dropping music on their own social platforms. For blogs today, it’s really about content creation and partnering with a brand. You can get the news in so many forms and so many places. A tweet now is enough to tell you about a story. People don’t have to click to go to your site. [There are] just so many different places now for people to put out content with certain things and it’s like a gift and a curse. It can definitely be overwhelming for someone who has a website. But I have to remember to keep moving with the times.”

Civil evolved as a blogger to become a social media entrepreneur by using her platforms to create experiences for companies. In turn, she has earned thousands by effectively using social media to her advantage.

“At first, social media was just about networking,” Civil says. “But now that I have to network, I make sure that every platform makes money for me. You can do something on Facebook. You can do something on Twitter. You can do something on Instagram. You can create a piece of content and do product placement on YouTube. So, I like the fact that there are so many different options, especially for social media. In 2015, those platforms made over a half of a million dollars for me. This includes the website and the advertising through Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. And then, you have YouTube. It’s great because you can make money off of it as long as you’re doing it correctly and you market yourself. You can make money on all of your platforms in different ways and you have got to make sure you utilize all of that.”

Karen Civil

Civil’s success is undeniable. But being successful can have drawbacks. Civil is now a public figure and that doesn’t fare well in the dating department for this single lady.

“It’s not easy for every man to be comfortable with his wife or his girlfriend working around men who are rappers and have certain lifestyles,” she says. “Having this type of career, people may see you as aggressive and may not view you the same and I’m OK with that. I know it is very difficult to go out on a date, to do certain things, to tell people what I do. But sometimes I find myself giving guys a very short version of what I do. Other times, I just find myself trying to guess if the person is really for me, or if the person is interested in business. Because you never know what people’s motives are so you just have to be very careful. I recently had my very first public relationship and then it went sour. There are things that I would do different. But, it’s just a situation where it didn’t work out. As much as you love a person, as much as they may love you, if they don’t see the potential for themselves, then they are never going to see it for you.”

Civil has built a name for herself that has yet to be torn down by accusations and a few negative memes and tweets. She continues to brand her company, use social media to her advantage, and give words of advice to people who are looking for the best path to success.

“I want people to know this is someone who isn’t perfect,” Civil emotes. “This is someone who did not limit her potential, who loved her life and lived her life without regrets. Someone who used her platform and her voice to create some sort of change and to help the next person move up. So it’s just about being looked at as someone who is bright, who created some sort of change and who wanted to be that change.”

Story by A.R. Shaw

Images by Steed Media Service

A.R. Shaw
A.R. Shaw

A.R. Shaw is an author and journalist who documents culture, politics, and entertainment. He has covered The Obama White House, the summer Olympics in London, and currently serves as Lifestyle Editor for Rolling Out magazine. Follow his journey on Twitter @arshaw and Instagram @arshaw23.



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