At first glance 17-year-old Nickelodeon and social media star Jace Norman looks like any other young influencer or YouTuber roaming around Los Angeles. He’s young, tall, blond, and has over 2.5 million followers on Instagram.
But Norman has no interest in being another Paul brother.
“I don’t do pranks. I don’t smash Ferraris. I don’t light things on fire. I don’t live in a house with a bunch of other kids,” he said.
Instead, Jace lives a quiet life at home with his parents and dreams of building the next great influencer marketing agency. In line with that goal he recently launched Creator Edge Media, a company that connects top influencers with brands looking to reach their audience.
He’s already signed on some top names in teen culture, including 13-year-old social media star Casey Simpson and his Nickelodeon co-star Sean Ryan Fox.
Norman, who has been a child actor on places like Disney and Nickelodeon since 2013, hopes he can fuse his experience in the traditional TV and Hollywood entertainment industry with his social media prowess to build an entirely new type of influencer agency.
“This isn’t Team 10,” he said, referring to Jake Paul’s similar endeavor. “This is an actual business. Team 10 is like a boy band, they’re a group of entertainers. We want to help people grow their own brands, not just my brand.”
Jace, like many teens, began posting content to YouTube in the second and third grade. “I deleted all my videos though,” he said, laughing. “They’re embarrassing.” But he’s acutely aware of the shifts in media consumption between his generation and the one previous.
He views 2018 as a golden year to start a company that works with influencers to grow their brands and potentially become top-tier entertainers.
“YouTube is like the Wild West right now,” he said. “The whole landscape is changing. Coming from TV, which has been going on for 50 years, there is a whole system in place and people at every step. It’s, like, first you have auditions, then you do this, and this, and this. There’s checks all the way up.”
But in digital and social media entertainment, he says, that system has yet to be put in place. Brands have no established formula of working with entertainers and there’s no one clear path to fame. You can post for years on YouTube and slowly grow an audience, you can get big on an app like Musical.ly and port your audience over, you can go viral as a meme and try to pivot, or you can make it big in traditional Hollywood, like Norman did, and become an influencer that way. The paths are all still being paved.
“There’s nothing established right now,” Norman said. “We want to come in early and establish a system because we know these people, we know how they tick, and I’m friends with all of them. It’s just natural.”
Norman is one of the most connected young influencers in the entertainment industry. He has close friendships from his Disney and Nick days, but also runs in a broader circle of YouTube stars and social media-famous teens.
He feels like being a part of this wide network gives him a huge leg up on any old people in Hollywood who might seek to compete with his business.
“The people I represent are in my circle,” he said. “They’re no strangers. I’m not coming in from a corporate level like, hey let me work with you. I know them.”
He’s also developed a gift for spotting talent he doesn’t yet know.
Like many young influencers, he claims that his youth allows him to have his finger on the cultural pulse and spot who is getting hot before they hit mainstream.
“We talked to Khalid when he only had 10,000 followers,” Norman said, referring to the 19-year-old, grammy-winning recording artist who currently has over 2 million followers on Instagram. Khalid is not represented by Creator Edge Media.
“When I reach out when they’re small people get excited,” he said. “Then they blow up.”
Because he thinks it’s important to get in with potentially famous influencers as early as possible, Norman says his company will work with people with as few as 5,000 followers.
For the smaller influencers, Norman and his team help them build sustainable growth strategies and monetize their user base.
But despite the fact that his entire life revolves around social media and entertainment, Norman is extremely selective when it comes to what he himself chooses to consume. Recently, he even deleted all social media apps off his phone.
Norman frequently works 20-hour days and said that having the lure of Instagram or Snapchat was too distracting.
“If I really want to look I can go on my computer or redownload the app or look on my brother’s phone,” he said.
He argued that when he deletes the apps, he’s “able to think for myself, which is really important to me.”
“I don’t like having that information blast. I feel like it makes it harder for me to think. You get sucked into this world,” he said.
“Overall I think social media is a good thing, just not at a rate we’re consuming it. We consume it so addictively, it’s like a drug.”
Norman thinks that in the future social media will become more focused on entertainment, like the type of content he and fellow influencers post, instead of bombarding you with updates from every person you’ve ever met.
“I think we’re going to eventually learn to use it responsibility,” he said. “Right now when you see something on Twitter it triggers you to say something back. I don’t think social media is bad or going anywhere or should be gone, I just feel like it needs to be more for entertainment.”