Rizer Social Creator Spotlight — The Makings of Jose Cifuentes
This interview is designed to profile popular influencers and small business owners making waves. The purpose of this Q&A is to inspire and provide helpful tips to like-minded individuals, providing a resource for all stakeholders in the influencer marketing industry.
In the world of influencer marketing, you are only as relevant as the content you produce. No matter you are selling, the content you create will go a long way in setting you apart from the competition.
One of the young influencers really making an impact in the Greater Toronto Area and abroad is artist, Jose Cifuentes. He paints facial representations with free-hand illustrations, using acrylics on canvas and recycled surfaces. Representing Toronto’s unique Junction Triangle neighbourhood, Jose is originally from Medellin, Colombia.
Recently, Jose took some time to share how he’s grown his business through the pandemic, and his approach to life and business, with Rizer Social. You can check out his art on Instagram and shop for sizing and styles on his website.
- RS: Tell us more about how you got into art?
JC: This happened from an early age and while drawing a Garfield cartoon, my mother saw my talent and enrolled me in art school at the age of 7. The rest is history.
Creativity and culture have been my pillars, starting from painting a canvas for an international contest in China when I was 8, to receiving many awards for my creations in high school and college. I couldn’t be anything else. I have not stopped creating art since then, and gladly say that most of those works have been documented and archived.
- RS: When did you decide you wanted to build your own brand?
JC: Graffiti taught me the importance of having your own “tag”, your own name brand.
However, it wasn’t until 2006 that I decided to honour my mother and use her last name instead of my father’s name. It was in that same year that I began my professional freelance career as an artist to develop my brand under one purpose: creative liberation, and under one message: be free.
- RS: What inspired you to become an “influencer”? Talk to me about your content strategy and how you use your art to reach clients or followers?
JC: All of this came organically. People were just drawn to my process and my message. I am inspired by our innate attraction to moments of freedom— some simple and peaceful; others thrilling and exciting. I strive to capture those emotions in my artworks.
I am old school and I value my privacy so I won’t post process videos randomly. It has to fit with a theme or an idea that I’m currently working on. A balance between inviting my followers into my life and process, and keeping some of the mystery of what’s yet to come, is the fine line I walk on when it comes to my social media strategy. The content I create has to tell a story, whether it’s about me or not. I try to make followers feel like they’re on the journey with me.
- RS: How have you’ve created new avenues for yourself over time? Talk about social media strategies, vaguely, or apps you use?
JC: I have always believed that email newsletters are where the real followers exist. Combining the powers of social media to build a healthy email list is the best advice I could give. Automation is also a good strategy, using Planoly or Hootsuite to get it done. To design cool layouts, I also use Spark Post sometimes.
- RS: You have more than 1,400 followers on Instagram. How have you built your audience? How much time do you focus on your customer engagement?
JC: Customer engagement is at the core of my social media strategy and I strive to let every follower know their voices are heard. Every follower is important and highly appreciated. I just want them to be exposed to high quality content that adds value to their lives, not the opposite. I have built this audience by staying real and showing the continuous improvement and love for my body of work.
- RS: Do you believe that social media ad campaigns have helped you in your strategy to grow your audience or is it the organic authentic following you try to build and maintain? Talk to us about your approach to content creation and marketing.
JC: Ads work to get your message out there, but organic engagement and following are what you are looking for. I use ads and see the improvements, but my organic audience is where most of the interactions happen, with a higher rate of sales than with paid ads. For me, all of the content I post has to answer questions such as: does it evoke freedom? Does it inspire people? Does it tingle your creative side? Does it make you feel part of the story?
- RS: How important has it been for you to connect and partner with other artists? How have those partnerships boosted your audience/following, if at all?
JC: Connecting with other artists has been key for me. As a newcomer artist, being in a new city with so much talent, can be overwhelming. It really pushed me to step up my game. I am an open book and share all relevant info with all creators in order to push all of us forward as so many have done with me. Community is where it is at.
Like Matty Mo (The Most Famous Artist) creator of the artist community that I am a part of says, “if you don’t need other people to achieve your dreams, they’re probably not big enough.”
Every partnership, no matter how small, is significant and it brings new ideas and challenges to the table. It is obvious today that having those partnerships makes the Instagram algorithm happy so we can confidently say that it boosts our audience and clout.
- RS: What social media platform works best for you and why? Instagram is key for creatives but there’s also Facebook and LinkedIn. How have these platforms helped you build an audience?
JC: Instagram is my social channel of choice. Everything in there is tailored to visual artists so I cannot complain about that. I also use FB and LinkedIn but mostly as information channels, but always updated.
- RS: What is your mission and goal with your overall brand? If it’s to inspire, say why? If it’s about money, or is it about expression? Both? Do tell.
JC: I strive to inspire people to let their creative side run free and show other makers and creators that a sustainable life from the arts is possible.
- RS: How has the pandemic changed your approach, if at all?
JC: The pandemic changed many things in my practice. From my studio setup, to the way I paint, to the styles I followed. This was a time for introspection and decluttering to embrace new ideas and concepts. I can honestly say that the pandemic gave me the time to become more professional and focus on painting things that challenge me.
- RS: What do you have planned for 2021?
JC: For 2021 I have planned to finally participate in Miami Art Basel, in which I was supposed to showcase some works this December but the event was cancelled because of COVID-19.
I am working putting together pieces for a solo show in Toronto. It will be more about my story, — a kid from Medellin that’s here to bring some freedom and colour into the mix. Stay tuned!