How social media is making dreams come true

Social media began its reign in the late 1990s and continues to grow in popularity almost 20 years later. It is said that on average people spend around 2 hours in one day on various social media channels, which roughly translates to 30 days in a year. With the growth and impact of social media; different terms, lingo, and roles have emerged and now “influence” all those engaged in the social media world.

One of these roles is that of a “Social Media Influencer.” By definition, a social media influencer is someone who wields influence to a larger audience through social media channels such as Instagram and Facebook. Celebrities, athletes, and politicians are whom we see most often as influencers, such as singer Selena Gomez and soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo. We wanted to look at some of our local social media influencers and see how they got started, and what impact social media has had on their lives. So close that news feed, finish that post, and read on to delve into the lives of these local influencers.

Angie Barret @bigbearswife

SM: Can you tell us a bit about yourself/your story, and why you decided to launch your account?

AB: Hi Y’all. My name is Angie, and I am a food blogger and travel photographer from Danville. I live in my very own stone fairytale storybook cottage in the city with my husband, our son, and our 2 dogs. I own the blog, BigBearsWife.com where I share southern recipes, DIY craft tutorials, as well as a few ideas for travel and vacations.

I started my journey as a blogger without the intention of actually becoming an influencer/blogger. When I got married, my husband Thomas was in the military, so I moved down to Camp Lejeune, NC with him. Since I didn’t know anyone there, I spent most of my time working on hobbies and teaching myself how to cook with the goal of becoming the “perfect housewife.” I used the Food Network as my “in home” cooking class and I used my husband as my taste testing guinea pig. Fun Fact — I watched a lot of Paula Deen when I was learning how to cook and a few years ago, my friend Crystal and I actually got to meet her and her family at her house and have dinner there.

I actually started my blog just as a place to type up and save the recipes that we liked after I learned how to make them. After a while, I noticed people were visiting my blog, trying my recipes, and some people where even leaving comments. Then after a few years of randomly adding recipes, we moved back to Danville, and I started to take my blog a bit more seriously. With the encouragement and guidance from some popular bloggers and influencers I managed to turn my little blog into my very own recipe and food photography business. I still share recipes that we love but my blog is also my full-time job now and along with posting our family favorites I also develop recipes for and work national brands including, Disney, Dixie Crystals, KRAFT, Sabra, Kroger, Walmart and others. My blog also allows me to work with a few vacation destinations and hotels to promote their locations. I started my social media accounts to connect with people that follow and read my blog. The Big Bear’s Wife social media accounts are great for staying in touch with fans and updating everyone when I post new recipes or posts to my blog.

SM: What are your 3 favorite tools for doing something your audience cares about?

AB: As far as social media tools, I love Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram. They’re easy to use, and I get a lot of engagement from readers/followers on those social media platforms.

My top 3 tools for creating content for my audience would be my kitchen (all of it), my camera, and my computer. Without those 3 things I couldn’t do what I do.

SM: What does a typical day in your week look like?

AB: The best part about owning my own business is that fact that I can make my own schedule for the most part. I stay at home with our toddler, Jackson, so my days start off a bit different from a typical work day. I normally start the day around 6am, and I spend most of the morning doing mom things and house work. Then around lunch, after I take care of Jackson’s meal, I start working on recipes or photographing finished dishes depending on what brand deadlines I have lined up for the week. My afternoons are filled with more time with my son and family once Thomas gets home from work. After dinner is when I spend the majority of my time testing recipes, answering emails, writing blog posts, working on my social media accounts, and talking to clients until about 11pm.

I love that I get to set my own hours, but I still have to hold myself accountable so that I don’t fall behind. I normally don’t have photography work to do every day which means more time with my son, and I also try to keep weekends open for family time however, as a business owner, my brain is in work mode 24/7.

SM: In what single way has social media most changed your life?

AB: It’s helped me connect with other influencers while sharing my blog with thousands and thousands of people that I would have never met without social media. Social media makes it incredibly easy to connect with people/brands and share what I love.

SM: What is the best thing about being an influencer?

AB: To be honest, for me, the best part about being an influencer is being able to make a full-time income doing what I love while I stay at home with my son.

SM: Who is someone you enjoying following on Instagram or Facebook?

AB: I love following Amanda from KevinandAmanda.com @kevinandamanda — Amanda was the first person to really teach me about blogging. I absolutely love following her adventures around the world.

SM: Do you have any interesting stories about a follower?

AB: A few years ago, I was at Walt Disney World for a food blogger conference. We were staying at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and on the way to one of my classes I passed by the most beautiful bride having her wedding/bridal party portraits done on the staircase in the main lobby. I couldn’t resist taking a snapshot because she looked like a Disney princess. Later in the day I posted the photo on social media with a caption about how perfect she looked and how amazing it would be to have a Disney wedding. Come to find out, the bride followed my blog and followed me on social media. She was ecstatic to see her picture on my account and told me she wished she had known I was there.

Blake Jones @reddogandcompany

SM: Can you tell us a bit about yourself/your story, and why you decided to launch your account?

BJ:My Name is Blake Jones, I’m 24 years old, and I am the Founder and President of Red Dog and Company. I started my company in May of 2017 right here in good ole Danville VA and by November it took off. I’ve always had an interest in comfort and fashion and owning my own business. So, I tried to put both of those together, and I came up with a T-shirt company. Red Dog and Company is not only a T-shirt brand. It tells a story behind every shirt in some way. Every shirt design is inspired by our mascot Scout. He is a three-year-old Fox Red Labrador Retriever. Scout has love and passion for our hometown.

SM: What are your 3 favorite tools for doing something your audience cares about?

BJ: Inspiration from my dog. My desire for comfort and fashion. And staying true to our hometown history.

SM: What does a typical day in your week look like?

BJ: I’m the retail manager/creative design manager at Commonwealth Home Health Care. I also keep Red Dog merchandise up-to-date and new. Running and exercising with Scout in the River District is part of my daily routine. And on any given day, I could be attending a local community event.

SM: In what single way has social media most changed your life?

BJ: Noticing the love and support from others enjoying my T-shirt brand.

SM: What is the best thing about being an influencer?

BJ: Knowing that I will always have a purpose in my community.

SM: Who is someone you enjoying following on Instagram?

BJ: “The Brick” Running and Tri Store.

SM: Do you have any interesting stories about a follower?

BJ: Following “The Brick” has been a huge influence on me and my T-shirt brand because they have motivated me to never give up on your dreams, to work hard, and stay positive. I hope that my social page for Red Dog and Company can inspire many people like “The Brick” has done for me. I enjoy receiving positive feedback and pictures from my fans wearing and representing my T-shirt brand.

Brandon Thompson @Your_Favorite_Mixologist

SM: Can you tell us a bit about yourself/your story, and why you decided to launch your account?

BT: I have been bartending on an off since 1998. I started in Greensboro NC. Through the years I developed the craft that allowed me to work in many top restaurants in the city. I moved back to Danville and started bartending for a restaurant here. I decided to go into the business for myself in October 2015. I was able to showcase my talent at a Halloween event. This is where the DJ announced, “whoever is making the drinks is really doing their thing” from there my bartending business took off. I have been booked ever since, and I am taking bookings out to the year 2020.

SM: What are your 3 favorite tools for doing something your audience cares about?

BT: Over the past four years, I had to figure out ways to expand and display my talent. I am quite frequent on Facebook but wanted to reach a broader audience. Especially people with the same craft or better yet a lot more knowledgeable. I decided to make an Instagram profile. @Your_Favorite_Mixologist really allowed me to see what was out there in the (bartending world).

I have learned a lot through reaching my audience. I had to show them consistency. To show them that this was not just a hobby but also a passion that has led to a business. My biggest obstacle at first was creativity. I wanted to create these amazing beverages but wanted different ways to standout. I started watching, experimenting, and creating these mind-blowing cocktails. I wanted to get the newest spirits first and take them to the highest level possible. From infused ice cream to enhancing ordinary cocktails. I had to show them my professional side as well. Followers want to see how organized or how uniformed we look for events or even presentations. I try to be captivating especially with color sometimes sweetness and most importantly taste.

SM: What does a typical day in your week look like?

BT: This is my busy season. Summertime is great weather especially for outdoor events, receptions, birthday parties, anniversaries, or life celebrations. A typical day for me is figuring out how to make my next event mind-blowing. Talking to potential clients about how to make their event an “experience” of a lifetime. Listening to them and making sure I catch every detail.

SM: In what single way has social media most changed your life?

BT: I have been able to reach a broader audience with social media. This has really changed my life. I have been able to learn watch and grow with people all over the world.

SM: What is the best thing about being an influencer?

BT: It is an amazing feeling to be out and hear people who follow me or have been a part of the EXPERIENCE, say they are proud of me. That I have given them hope with starting something of their own. I almost feel like a local celebrity, but humble.

SM: Who is someone you enjoying following on Instagram?

BT: I follow a few different Instagrammers. A lot of them really are experts at what they do. To watch their growth and to see the level of creativity is very motivating.

Katie Church @katie.wineandweekends

SM: Can you tell us a bit about yourself/your story, and why you decided to launch your account?

KC: My name is Katie Church, and I run a travel and style blog called WineandWeekends.com. Until this May I was a high-school algebra teacher. In June, I officially took my blog and social channels full-time. I have always loved to travel and visit new places; and I have been fortunate enough to travel quite frequently throughout my life. I’m also very good at finding deals and creating itineraries based on interest and location. I wanted to use all of this passion and knowledge to inspire others to get out more and to visit new places versus taking the same week-long vacation to the beach every year. I believe that spacing out your time off and your budgeting needs into multiple “mini trips” not only allows you to travel more and see more places, it also keeps you happier and more productive at home. My business motto is “Inspiring the world to live out their dreams, even if only on the weekend.”

SM: What are your 3 favorite tools for doing something your audience cares about?

KC: 1. Lightroom (photo editing software) is by far my favorite tool. Having excellent photos is the key to this business, because that is what catches the eye. Obviously, you want to be genuine and informative to keep your followers around. However, creative photos help to drive new interest to your page. Now when I say photo editing, I don’t mean to use it to do crazy photoshopping to my photos. However, getting the colors and brightness to the proper levels is game-changing.

2. The LIKE.to.KNOW.it app is a free app that anyone can download to shop the looks that I share on my feed. I had to apply and be accepted to become an influencer in their program. But now I can easily create links for the clothes and products that I love and use frequently and make a small commission from them when people shop through my links. You can follow me in the free LIKE.to.KNOW.it app @Katie.wineandweekends

3. While Instagram itself is really considered one of my favorite tools. I specifically think Insta-stories have given people a better way to showcase the “real you” and more behind-the-scenes information. I know the people I love to follow are the ones that let their true personality show on stories. I feel like I know them because of how much they share in real-time.

SM: What does a typical day in your week look like?

KC: Rarely will two days ever look the same for me, and it is usually one extreme or the other. I am either at home in my pajamas writing, e-mailing, editing, etc. or I’m off shooting looks, dressed to the nine on a trip. But one thing I am trying to do a better job at showing my audience is that there is a TON of behind the scenes and at-home work that has to be done on my end to make all of these trips and collaborations possible.

SM: In what single way has social media most changed your life?

KC: It’s hard for me to say any one “single way” because it has quite literally changed my entire life. I have made a business out of it, and I get to see the world — what more could I ask for?

SM: What is the best thing about being an influencer?

KC: I really hate the word “influencer.” It feels like I’m trying to say that I’m better than other people or “hey, look how many followers I have.” Because in reality, the best thing about being an “influencer” is being able to reach and actually connect with so many people that you never would have otherwise. I’ve had so many people reach out to me and tell me different things about them, what they like, how I’ve inspired or helped them in a variety of ways from confidence to knowledge.

SM: Who is someone you enjoying following on Instagram or Facebook?

A few of my favorites are @champagneandchanel @dressupbuttercup and @daniaustin.

SM: Do you have any interesting stories about a follower?

KC: Not really. Just that they are awesome, and I love being able to inspire and interact with everyone.

Sara Turner @therunningwife

SM: Can you tell us a bit about yourself/your story, and why you decided to launch your account?

ST: I created my account and blog about 6 to7 years ago when I was starting to run more while we were in Pennsylvania for my husband to attend medical school. Running was my outlet and stress reliever from working full time and also being so far away from our families.

SM: What are your 3 favorite tools for doing something your audience cares about?

ST: I just try to be relatable. I try to share the good AND the bad. I feel like so much of Instagram and social media is just the good and often not realistic. If you want to be relatable, you have to share the highs and the lows, because let’s face it the lows are just as big of a part of life. By doing this, you help others to realize they’re not alone when they struggle, and that we all do from time to time.

SM: What does a typical day in your week look like?

ST: I’m now the mom of 2 boys (we just welcomed our second on May 7th). I am blessed to be able to stay at home with them right now so most of my day is spent being Mommy. But I always try to include some way to keep myself active and running to help me get back and ready to train for my next goal.

SM: In what single way has social media most changed your life?

ST: The wonderful people I have met through it. Without a doubt it has been so rewarding to meet so many amazing people.

SM: What is the best thing about being an influencer?

ST: For me it’s just helping others. When I first started my account, I just used it as a way to share my training and hold myself accountable. Now I use it to encourage other women (and men) that no matter where you are in life, what obstacles you face, or how far away from your goal you feel it’s important to keep setting those goals and chase your dreams. Yes, I know it sounds corny, but it’s so important to keep reaching for goals in life.

SM: Who is someone you enjoying following on Instagram or Facebook?

ST: I love following other runners, and if they are a mother runner even better. Those who inspire me to do just a little more and get a little better every day.

SM: Do you have any interesting stories about a follower?

ST: As I mentioned above, meeting some of my followers has been the most rewarding. Some of my closest friends now are people I met through Instagram that followed me to start. It’s amazing the wonderful people social media has introduced me too.

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