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Calgary Public Library gets first influencer in residence

Starting this month, Calgary Public Library is turning a page in its long-running series of creative and professional residencies with the addition of CPL’s first influencer in residence.

Although in some circles the term influencer is perhaps more pejorative than positive, well-known Calgary food blogger and marketing professional Chanry Thach is aiming to help small businesses and professionals learn to navigate the world of social media.

Thach said there are soft skills that everyone every day uses to influence others.

“I definitely don’t want people to think I’m just gonna come in and do dancing TikToks and take pictures on Instagram,” she said.

“If I can help a small business who might not have a budget to hire a social media manager, to hire a marketing team to strategize with the big wigs on how to market their business: That’s me. The library has now given my skills up for free to anybody who’s willing to come and tap my brain on ‘how do I get my business to the next level.'”

Thach has been running her own marketing firm Ask For Chan for the past half-decade, successfully helping brands to build communities through social media.

What influencers really do, she said, is leverage the right social media tool to build a community that is authentic to them as a person or as a business.

She uses the example of a small business owner who’s passionate about making amazing cat mugs and wants to reach more customers.

“We just sit down and we talk about where they are in their business. Are they just launching or have they been doing it for three years, and they’re plateaued? What can we do to strategize? What your campaign be for the next season?”

“You pretty much get to hire a social media manager for the next three months.”

Thach’s residency runs from May 15 to July 31.

From chef to foodie to marketing guru to creative in residence

Thach entered into the world of influencing after being laid off from the food industry.

“I went to culinary school, I was going to be a chef, and I worked in four-star hotels and the hospitality industry. I actually got laid off, and I realized if I want to work in the industry I needed to support the industry. So, I started going out and eating at local restaurants, taking pictures,” she said.

“Back then, like when dinosaurs roamed the earth, it was just Twitter… there was no TikTok, there was no Instagram, and you were just doing it for fun. There was no such thing as influencer marketing back then.”

She said that she still has the very first cheque she was given for blogging, saying it was wild that anyone would pay her for it.

But that local interest turned into being asked to help grow interest in other small businesses organically, eventually becoming a way for those brands to have their own voices in the marketplace.

“I think that’s why I’m so passionate about small businesses and giving them a voice because I was that small voice. My community gave me an audience, they gave me a platform, and now I love to do that for others,” Thach said.

Amanda Arbuthnot, librarian and service design lead for reading, literacy, and storytelling, said that after having many different residencies so far, it became obvious to the library that there were infinite directions they could go with the creative residency program.

“We thought maybe a better approach would be to open it up a little bit more and let the creators in Calgary come to us and tell us what we should be doing. So we changed the composer and songwriter to a more general musician in residence,” she said.

“Then thinking bigger, we realized everyone during Covid had changes in their lives, whether for good or worse. Whether it was realizing they wanted to shake up their career, finding a new hobby, and so we wanted to give those creators and artists a chance to share what they had learned.”

Arbuthnot said that she has been very interested in influencer culture, and when the opportunity opened to add an influencer in residence she immediately suggested Thach.

“I’m a mom of two kids, one of them has a disability, and so for me, I find a lot of interesting information and community on social media. I started to reflect on this as such a rich information source, why is it something that’s not taken seriously?” Arbuthnot said.

She said that providing information is what the library does, along with helping people to navigate information in a way that feels useful and accurate.

Thach doing 1-on-1 sessions, group seminars

Anyone wanting to meet with Thach can book appointments through the Calgary Public Library at www.calgarylibrary.ca/events-and-programs/arts-and-culture/creatives-in-residence.

She is also going to be holding a series of group seminars on the topics of how to influence and all of the types of equipment you need to create content. That includes one for teens on how to influence to get jobs and also find a side hustle and one for seniors on how to use social media networks to stay connected with friends and family.

“It’ll be smaller groups that we can do things in person, and I’ll be able to kind of discuss and just talk about social media and growing and influencing,” Thach said.

For people who can’t make it down to the Central Library to meet with Thach, she is also offering virtual sessions through the library.

The advice she gives is that doing something on social media is better than doing nothing and that the interest of the public has shifted away from perfect videos and photos to being more authentic.

“I always just say start. Just wake up in the morning and take a picture of your coffee and tell your audience I had a coffee this morning and ask what did you have this morning? How was your day today? That’s how you build community,” she said.

“Being authentic, being natural, speaking to your audience on social media the way you would speak to your friends. I always say ‘would I say this to my mom?’ If probably not, then I’m not putting it on social media. That’s my number one rule.”

Thach is also helping people pick the right social media network to be on.

“I think whichever whatever you’re selling, be where your audience is. If your audience is Gen Z you should be on TikTok, but if your audience is a little bit older, maybe it’s millennials, older millennials, it should still kind of hang out around Instagram, and then maybe dip your toes around TikTok,” she said.

“You definitely should know your audience, and I think if you’re a business owner, if you’re just an influencer always be where your people are, where your community is. That’s where you’re going to grow.”