When social media is your business, how do you and your family balance the demands and constantly evolving world of the algorithm? This is a daily challenge that entrepreneur Marc D'Amelio and his family face. His daughters, Dixie and Charli D'Amelio, catapulted their family onto the international stage after their TikTok videos became an international sensation in 2019.
Producing primarily viral dancing videos, Charli D'Amelio was the first person to reach 50 million and 100 million followers on TikTok. Over the years, she has expanded her videos outside of dancing, encouraging a consistent growth in followers. She remains one of the most prominent creators on TikTok — no small feat on the app that has amassed more than 1 billion users.
With views of their short films numbering in the millions, the launch of their successful clothing lines and even a reality television show, the D'Amelios have rightfully earned the unofficial title, "TikTok's first family."
Recently, City National Bank CEO Kelly Coffey welcomed Marc as a guest on her podcast, "Conversations," to speak about his family's rise to fame, the entrepreneurial hustle it takes to be successful, authenticity in the influencer economy, and what's next now that his last name has become a global brand.
D'Amelio has managed his family's leap into the public eye with the acumen of a seasoned businessman and the compassion of a father. Looking back at the start of then 15-year-old Charli's career, D'Amelio recalled that things started to change as people began recognizing her around their Connecticut town. Eventually, the TikToker's following grew, and so did the number of people who recognized her anywhere she went.
At that time – when Charli had approximately 500,000 followers – D'Amelio realized the family needed to start treating her following as a business opportunity. As an experienced entrepreneur, he knew that he and his wife, Heidi, were responsible for protecting their daughters and setting them up for success.
First, D'Amelio focused on assembling the right team. This included getting help from a business manager and City National's experienced entertainment banking group. “I know what I know — and I did not know this business," D'Amelio admitted to Coffey. “One of the first things we did was get in touch with a business manager. And then we were recommended to your bank because of all the things you do with people in entertainment."
The family is focused on building the careers of Dixie and Charli for the long-term. D'Amelio realized that having a large following doesn't always translate into a guaranteed success. “We knew that there was revenue to be generated because she could do a TikTok for a record company, musician or a band," hc recalled. “But we didn't know if she could be a brand herself. And, then, could Dixie be a brand? Could our family be a brand?"
He recalled adopting a “fake it until you make it" mentality in the earliest days of his daughters' careers. This involved establishing websites, logos and merchandising for the girls early on and then allowing their fanbase to catch up to the image they had created for themselves. As they became an established brand, and their devoted following grew, the merchandise didn't stay in warehouses for long.
For D'Amelio, influencer marketers should follow one key piece of advice: Partner with the companies you like and be authentic while marketing them. He noted that the brands his family has worked with have been those they already use and believe in – a fact that helps their audience trust their endorsements as much as brands desire to get them.
“A lot of the things that Charli and our family have gotten involved with, we were consumers of prior," he said. “Early on, Charli was very vocal about the types of brands she wanted to work with. I think that just enhanced the authenticity."
As Coffey pointed out, this type of commitment to authenticity has resulted in 81% of American shoppers reporting that they make purchases based on influencer recommendations.
Financial guidance is a responsibility that D'Amelio told Coffey he is determined to handle the right way. With the family's relatively quick success, the D'Amelio patriarch said everything is about balance. He encourages his daughters to enjoy the fruits of their work in the moment. Yet he also makes sure they know there's a future to save for.
“I am protecting my kids' future. You hear the horror stories of parents who came out to Hollywood and burned through their kid's money. That's not what's happening with us," he affirmed. “I want to make sure that I do everything in my power not only to protect the money, but learn how we grow the money and make sure they're financially secure forever."
D'Amelio also encourages his daughters to take breaks from the digital world, which has become as much a place for business as it is for leisure. However, he acknowledged that smart phones are part of modern life, especially for young people. “I think any parent who tries to get in the way of that is doing themselves a disservice," he commented.
“Sometimes they want to enjoy themselves on TikTok or Twitter or whatever, and it's inevitable that they'll see something about themselves," he said. “I do try to instill in them a way to disconnect from the phone."
The D'Amelios aren't a family that's ready to be known for just one thing. They've used the ubiquitous recognition of their surname to produce “The D'Amelio Show," a Hulu series that documents the family's daily life. Additionally, fans can hear Marc and Heidi discussing everything from business to parenting on their podcast, “The Other D'Amelios."
The family is also ambitiously transforming from product endorsers to business owners. “Now we're looking at business opportunities where we're either 50/50 partners with someone or we own 100% of the company," D'Amelio said. For the D'Amelios, this means finding unique opportunities that meet the needs of consumers at the right price point. The more accessible and useful their products are, the more they can reinforce the trust they've already generated with their followers.
The family isn't done there, however. D'Amelio, his wife and their daughters want to use their success to help others. They've worked to help feed hungry families and support cancer-research related charities. “I firmly believe that we have an incredible obligation to be socially conscious and to do things that helps others," he said.
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