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Lana Berry notes authenticity and open conversation as two constants in the social space. As relationship-building continues to act as social media’s cornerstone, those who succeed in building strong followings on are often the same brands and individuals who find ways to tap into these pillars.
Lana is Exhibit A. The social media manager-turned-influencer has worked on all sides of the social media equation, holding experience in community management, consulting, coaching, and most recently, influencing.
Lana got started in social media at a publishing agency, where she was responsible for building the group a large Twitter following. She accomplished the task in an impressively short time span. At the same time, she began developing a social following of her own.
A life-long baseball fan, she sought out individuals talking about the game on Twitter and jumped into the conversation. Lana didn’t turn into a broadcaster or try to be a breaking news source. She didn’t (and doesn’t) deliver hot takes or controversial opinions about the game. She simply tweeted like she was catching the game with friends. The more she tweeted, the more like-minded ‘friends’ joined the conversation. As a result, her following took off.
While she was growing this following, however, her office to-do list stayed minimal. This caused her mind to wander, and she started looking towards what’s next, eventually transitioning into a role as an independent consultant.
There are many questions surrounding both social media and making a living as an independent contractor. Being an independent contractor in social media is all the more daunting. The list of questions and concerns writes itself, and atop that list stands the client roster. What industry should I work in? How big is my target client? What services should I provide?
With a knack for networking and reputable agency experience, Lana quickly built a client roster. She focused on brands who aligned with her personality rather than limiting herself to a specific industry or client size. In doing so, she allowed herself to be, well, herself.
“I think too many times, brands are more worried about sounding like their brand than they are about sounding like a person, and that doesn’t work on social media,” Lana said. “The brands that are doing well on social are the ones who make consumers feel like they’re talking with or following a person, rather than a corporate entity. When I work with a brand, I don’t look to change my voice for a given brand, I look for a brand who’s willing to fit my voice. That level of authenticity is key to success on social media.”
Lana focuses on brands that align with her personality, rather than basing her search on a product. This puts her in a position to provide valuable insight regardless of industry. In an age where brands are constantly trying to mold tweets to fit a company-created voice, the human element tends to be the key factor in the audience’s perception of a brand.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re doing social media in sports, food, or anything,” Lana said. “The teams that are succeeding and the brands that people like on social are the ones who are authentic and tweet people like people. They’re the ones who are present in conversations, not just scheduling posts to go out at a certain time.”
Tweet people like people, an undervalued sentiment on the corporate side of social media.
If a prospective client questions Lana’s ability to grow a follower base, all she has to do is point to her personal accounts, which now boast a cumulative total of over 130,000. That number alone is a great asset in client negotiations.
Regardless of profession, though, Lana is a strong advocate for growing one’s social following.
“Building an audience on social media is useful regardless of what you want to do in life,” she said. “It can build credibility in a job that you want. It can help you learn about a business if you’re an entrepreneur. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing. It adds something. People think that having a lot of social media followers is just for bloggers or influencers. It’s not. Sure, you can make money from it, but it can be useful no matter what your goals are. You can build the most amazing network. I love sports, but I didn’t have a single contact in sports as of 4 years ago. I did it all through social media.”
In recent years, she’s grown pickier about those lucky enough to earn a place on her client roster. With a lighter client load, Lana’s again looking towards the next venture. She’s turned her attention to what is working for others, gathering inspiration from admirable individuals across varied industries. Observation aids in identifying practices that will allow her to remain authentic and generate open conversation.
As a result, she’s recently launched a blog and has been hosting a podcast for over a year. Both have been well-received among her followers, and she’s featured a host of individuals from around the sports industry. An unmentioned, unifying element in her guests is a strong social media presence on social media across all participants. While the final product is enjoyable to a given reader or listener, the process can be arduous, leading to a lesser-known benefit found in having a strong follower base.
“I actually struggle with finding motivation in some of my day-to-day projects,” Lana said. “It’s hard for me to sit down and just write a blog, whether it’s because I hit a block or I simply don’t want to on a given day. That’s another spot where having a large social media following is helpful. One of the most motivating factors for writers is knowing that someone is going to read what you write. I always have people tweeting me, asking when my next blog or podcast is coming out. Knowing that a large number of people are going to read or listen to what I post is extremely motivating.”
In fact, Lana’s social following has grown so large, she’s made the move into the world of influencing. A booming trend in marketing, influencer marketing shifts away from traditional practices of brands telling consumers why they should buy a given product. These brands are instead turning to people with strong social media followings, sending products to these influencers in hopes of receiving a positive review in the form of a social media post. That review serves as a first-hand recommendation which is invaluable in terms of ROI.
Lana’s social media following makes her an ideal target for businesses not only because of its size but also in its level of engagement. Whether through retweets, replies, or narration of a given event, Lana’s social presence thrives on open conversation, and her audience is ‘here for it.’ Live commentary, inside jokes, and snarky one-liners are shared not only by Lana, but her followers routinely dig up past tweets, jokes, and events as they return to relevance. Often times this gives the content even more momentum than before. This is recently indexed in her affinity for baseball, and pitchers hitting dingers.
An engagement level this high is scarce in social media, giving her an ace in the hole when pitching brands for influencer partnerships. Of course, these partnerships center around a familiar principle.
“There has to be a line in being an influencer, where at some point, you’re just selling yourself to business, rather than giving to your followers,” Lana said. “I don’t ever want to be on the side that I’m just pushing products, so I make sure that the brands I partner with know who I am, what I do, and what I’m about on social media. It all goes back to staying authentic. If I’m working with a brand, it’s because I believe in the product, and they align with my personal brand.”
Lana expressed her interest in continued influencer work and added her desire to help people succeed both on and off of social media. While predicting the next hit social platform is next to impossible, Lana noted the industry always looks to remove the walls for its users. Recent examples of this include the rise of live video, virtual reality, and augmented reality features. Regardless of where the industry moves over the coming months/years, you can be sure that Lana’s principles of authenticity and open conversation will continue to help brands separate themselves from the pack.
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