If you are a small business, freelancer, or someone who is looking to start a new career due to the Coronavirus, this article is for you.
We spoke to Kristina Ross, 27, a whiz kid known for growing businesses on social media (Instagram, specifically). She has worked hard to create a dedicated and widespread following for notable Instagram page @thefabstory, which she grew from 10,000 to 1 million followers in the span of ONE single year, garnering over 35,000 downloads for the app every month. She’s kind of a big deal…
As small businesses face obstacle after obstacle, and thousands are left unemployed, searching up new career paths, we spoke with Kristina about how social media can be used to transform one’s business and how it could ideally become your business. Keep reading to learn how she learned the ins- and- outs of digital media and content creation.
Where are you from, how old are you and where did you grow up? If you are comfortable sharing your ethnic background – feel free to dive into that.
Hello! I’m Kristina, I’m 27, half Filipino and I grew up in Scotland!
How did your story lead you to NYC?
A few years ago, I finally went freelance and saw it gave me this opportunity to travel on my own terms. Before then, I worked in retail and eventually a creative agency – no matter how exciting my day would be, I was always rooted back to an office in a specific location. When the day came that I realized I could go anywhere at any time, I finally decided to take a 3 month trip to New York City.
Although I live in Scotland, I spend all my free time in NYC. My friends are in NYC, my favorite food is in NYC, everything I know and love is in that beautiful concrete jungle. I feel most at home when I’m on Canal and Orchard.
I came to NY only knowing 2 people, a guy I met on a night out in London and the other guy was a photographer on Instagram. Within 3 days, I met what felt like everyone. For the first time in my life, I felt like I belonged somewhere. Every time I land in New York, I let out a big sigh of relief to be back. I’ve never felt like that before in my life.
You’ve got a super fun job, most notably bringing @thefabstory to a million users. What is something most people don’t know about working in digital media?
So, a few years ago, I was working as a Producer and Copywriter in a creative agency. As time went by, I noticed fewer tv ads and more short videos for social media. I guess I always thought that to have a job in social media, you had to be an influencer. But when I started seeing companies and brands looking for ‘content creators’ – I realized that I didn’t need to be good at yoga to be good at social media. You just need to be creative, ahead of the social curve, and be willing to learn.
Everything you learn in advertising can be adapted to social media. It’s actually more exciting because you don’t just create campaigns and send them off to a client never to be seen again – you watch what you make go live and see people react. Comments, likes, shares – you see how people respond to what you’ve made in real-time.
It could be good, it could be bad… but the shaping experience of learning is much faster on social media because of the way an audience will let you know in real-time.
What was your journey like to work as a social media expert?
I didn’t step into the world of social media as an expert, that’s for sure. I never went to university, I did one year at art college and dropped out because I didn’t think I wanted it anymore. So I took a job in an airport Hugo Boss store where I would start my shift at 4 am and finish at 1 pm. I met people from all around the world, especially because most of the time I’d be working in that shop all by myself. I quickly learned the power of meeting people. The excitement of hearing what one person does and why another is traveling to Fiji for 3 days. I realized quickly that I wanted to work in a way that let me be one of those people in an airport. Traveling the world without a place they need to return to urgently. Next thing I knew, I was writing articles for free behind the cash desk. I started a print magazine, on a loan, which the owner of a creative agency happened to pick up on their flight to London before tracking me down on Facebook and asking me to work for them as a copywriter and Producer.
After a few years of learning about advertising, I saw a job posting for a remote blog writer. I did an interview and asked them why they thought they needed a blog writer – they told me because they’re trying to reach more people. Then I looked at their Instagram and said maybe that’s how they should be reaching people. Long story short, I ended up turning their social audience of 10k to 1m in 18 months. It never hurts to ask for the job you actually want!
Now that we are post-pandemic, many people may be out of work or switching careers. What are some actionable steps they can do to learn more (courses, online classes, sites, books)?
Damn, it’s so nice to see the word ‘post-pandemic’!
For anyone who wants to apply for a job in social media, practice running social media accounts first. Seriously. As far as I’m aware, there’s no bachelor’s degree in Instagram, so experience is key here.
Before I went freelance, I took over the social accounts of the companies I worked at and ran some of my own. Even if you don’t have a lot of followers, it’s a massive benefit to approach a company and show them an example of how YOU run a social media account. Saying, “I ran XYZ”, but not showing the posts or specifics is not enough.
The way you curate, repost, the language you use in captions, how creative you can be with stories, how you manage comments… this is everything I look at if I hire someone who wants to be on a social team. Screenshot your favorite posts, funny ways you reply to people, the assets you’re most proud of.
I’d suggest signing up for any FB groups or communities like Girlboss to learn from others in an industry you’re interested in. I learned a lot from Girlboss!
I’d also suggest reading up on books like ‘Little Black Book’ by Otegha Uwagba which was a very inspiring toolkit for me when starting out. I LOVE the Planoly and Later newsletters too. And never underestimate the power of friendship – I was really fortunate to have friends at Meraki Concept Studio (who knew A LOT more about digital marketing than I did). They took me for coffee and gave me the tips and answers to my questions that I needed to get started. Very grateful for those girls!
What is your goal with social media?
When I started working in social media, my mum gave me one piece of advice. She asked that I only work with clients who are contributing and influencing people for good. Social media is a powerful thing and in the wrong hands can become toxic quickly. I’ve always worked with inclusive brands that focus on self-care and mental health in an honest way. I don’t think the world will ever stop needing that kind of influence.
What is your best tip for the small business owner or creator who wants to transition and find new clients?
Know your analytics. Compare your numbers. Honestly assess what you’re posting.
Each week, take note of your most liked post, your most shared and if any posts received follows. Take note of your least likes, least shared too. Eventually, you’ll create a backlog of numbers (even if they’re not that high!). Compare them. Ask yourself why one week you had 20 likes on a post and the next week you had 0. Take note of the times you’re posting and what you’re posting about. What works? What doesn’t? There will be patterns. Be patient, keep learning.