Bethany Thielen: Innovating on the job-hunt

At a glance

Name of campaign: Hire Bethany

Industry: Creative

Key learning points;

Don’t state capability, demonstrate it

If you’ve been reading around Inkbike much, you’ll know that the above is one of my biggest mottos.

In the context of job hunting, it’s even more relevant than ever, because you can guarantee that all the other applicants you’re up against going to do nothing more than state their value by simply handing in a CV.

If, instead, you’re willing to invest some time, you can end up leaving that competition behind entirely, and instead make companies fight for yourattention.


Understand your strengths

Where do you find you come across to people best? If you’ve been unsuccessful on paper, then maybe it’s time to consider whether another medium might be effective for you.

Bethany understood that she tended to get further when she met people in person and so catered to that by using video (to great effect)!


Don’t be shy

Reach out to big presences on a platform and ask for their help. Bethany had one LinkedIn influencer interact with her campaign and it resulted in its engagement figures doubling.

The worst thing an influencer you contact can do is nothing, meaning that there’s absolutely no harm in asking. Remember that most influencers are constantly on the look out for inventive content to share so you might be pleasantly surprised by how willing they are to help out.


The power of a network

The true value of a professional network is in its ability to connect you with others that you would never have had any opportunity to reach before. These new connections can create new opportunities for work and take your career in brilliant directions that had never thought possible before.

Building such a network can be extremely difficult, and most of us overlook the idea that we can simply ask influencers directly for their support in raising your profile – there’s nothing to lose.

Let me frame this article with a universal truth that every single person who’s studied at any university knows: job-hunting as a recent graduate is brilliantly sh*t.

It certainly was for me and a lot of my peers, and the reason is because experience talks. Employers don’t want to spend time training someone up, they want to hire people who already have experience doing what they need them to do.

Simply having a degree, even if it’s in the same field as a position you’re applying for, is not generally worth much to a lot of recruiters.

Enter Bethany Thielen, the graduate who decided to turn this common struggle into her advantage in the most fantastic way possible — through an epic job-hunting judo move that meant she had potential employers’ scrambling for her attention instead of the other way around. 

Simply put — her approach was genius.

She decided to market herself like a product to businesses, by creating a sponsored (paid-for) campaign on LinkedIn using a video and landing page, and targeted business owners with her content. 

As part of her campaign, she used all of the skills required of the position she was hoping to fill and in doing so, demonstrated that she was a capable candidate despite not having a wealth of experience.

I interviewed Bethany about the exact steps she took to execute her campaign, and whether — ultimately — it was a success.

Her answers were completely open, honest, and I believe should be required reading for every graduate so that they can be inspired to follow her footsteps and stand out. 

Enjoy!

Chapter 1 Header

For the readers who might not have seen your campaign, could you introduce yourself and explain the Hire Bethany campaign?


I’m Bethany Thielen and I’m a 22-year-old designer living in the Bay Area. I graduated college and set out to find a job! Little did I know, finding a job as a recent college grad was going to be tricky.

A picture of a woman sat looking over a San Fransisco skyline

I had 2 years of professional experience from internships, yet 407 applications and 0 offers later, I was no closer to a job than when I began.

That’s what led to my #hirebethany campaign. I shot a video of myself giving a 50-second elevator pitch and sponsored the video as a paid advertisement on LinkedIn for 2 weeks.

I accompanied my video with a company page called Hire Bethany and a social media campaign.

What was happening in the lead up to you deciding to launch the campaign and what was it about the conventional method for seeking employment that made you decide that it wasn’t the way to go?


Honestly, my campaign was fuelled by a lot of desperation! I had just become financially independent and moved to the 3rd most expensive city in the United States. I REALLY needed a job. I had an internship, but it was ending in just 2 months.

Basically everything about the traditional job hunt is broken. You might have incredible skills, passion, and a personality to match, but you’re only as good as you look on paper. If your resume displays 2 years of experience and the hiring manager wants someone with 5, your chances drop from 1 in 250 (the average number of resumes submitted to an opening) down to a big fat zero.

In my opinion, minimum requirements filter out perfectly capable candidates before they’re even given a chance. This is especially tough on recent grads.

You’d be surprised at how many requirements in a job req are completely arbitrary and sometimes even unreasonable. Recruiters even have a name for this: “The Purple Squirrel,” AKA the candidate that doesn’t exist.

A screenshot of the Hire Bethany campaign video

Where did the inspiration for the Hire Bethany campaign come from? Had you seen something similar done before?


I just ranted about the broken system that is the hiring process. However on the occasions that I was selected for an interview, nearly all of them had ended in offers. Hiring managers like the real me better than my resume.

So I targeted my video directly at hiring managers using LinkedIn’s advertising tools, in hopes that I could bypass the resume stage completely.

I had built similar campaigns for clients at a marketing agency I had worked at previously. They all used the exact same techniques I employed in my #hirebethany campaign.

While these campaigns focused on selling products or services, I thought, why not try selling myself, the Hire Bethany package? After all, I only needed to find 1 buyer.

What was your strategy for building the campaign and for marketing yourself? Has that strategy evolved after your campaign was launched?


My strategy was all about making connections. I built my campaign to include as many “contact me” calls to action as I could. I included them in the video, in the video’s description and even embedded a contact form on my landing page.

A picture of a woman sat working on a MacBook

My purpose for these connections was originally to find someone to hire me, or to be referred to someone could. However I realised I needed to expand my definition of success. Many of the people who reached out were offering freelance projects. I had completely overlooked the possibility of freelancing as a career path.

While I’m not giving up on my job hunt to become a freelancer, because of this campaign, I decided that I’d like to work full time while completing freelance gigs on the side.

Chapter 2 header

Was the type of branding you did for your campaign tailored to the industry you were looking to find work in or do you think that your approach could be a template for others to mirror regardless of the industry they’re looking to work in?

The most notable parts of my campaign (paid ads, a company page, a hashtag, etc.) actually belong in the digital marketing industry. I did brand myself as a designer, of course, but what people really noticed as unique was my marketing style.

I actually attracted a lot of people seeking freelance digital marketing services. However this didn’t hurt my campaign, as it simply helped me meet more people. I think anyone could use this approach, no matter their industry.

My strategy was all about making connections

If you don’t mind my asking, how much did you invest in setting up the campaign and what was that money spent on?


Not at all. Here’s my exact breakdown:

  • Ads: $430
  • Landing page subscription: $14
  • Domain name (hirebethany.com): $13.60
  • I filmed and edited the video for free. It involved a lot of stacking Mac & Cheese boxes to get the camera at eye-level. 🙂

Day 1 of the campaign, what did you do to kick things off?

I hit “publish” on my ad sets. And then installed every analytics tracking application I could find. I used LinkedIn’s campaign manager dashboard to track my ad’s metrics.

I used LinkedIn’s chart tool on my ad sets to find out the demographics of the people that were most responsive to my ads.

A picture of a MacBook screen with analytics displayed

For example, I learned that the top 3 job titles most engaged with my ads was CEO, Founder and Co-Founder, in that order. I also used Google Analytics to track how people interacted with my landing page.

I installed LinkedIn’s Insight Tag in my landing page to track how many people from the ads submitted the form once they landed on my site.

I spent the next 2 weeks glued to my screen, answering emails, comments, and constantly optimising my ad sets based on the data from the analytics.

Chapter 3 header

What have you learned about creating a campaign like this that might inform any similar campaigns you might run in the future?


About 50% of my engagement came within 24 hours of a well-known LinkedIn influencer commenting on my video.

Considering I spent $430 to promote my ads (which had been running for a week by then), that was one valuable comment!

Next time I intend to contact influencers directly and ask them to share my post. I’ve found LinkedIn influencers to be very kind, obliging people.

I had initially set up my campaign so that anyone interested in contacting me was routed to my landing page to fill out a contact form, but people managed to track down my personal LinkedIn page and even my email!

50% of my engagement came within 24 hours of a well-known LinkedIn influencer commenting on my video

I built my landing page using Carrd, a sleek tool that enables you to make a landing page using drag-and-drop, no code required. I included examples of my work, testimonials, my skills and my bio in the website, sprinkling it with “Contact Me” calls to action.

I designed my landing page as a hybrid resume/portfolio experience, but a lot of people skipped over it entirely in favor of contacting me via LinkedIn. I eventually dropped the link to my landing page from the ads entirely, replacing it with my personal email address.

I learned that the LinkedIn community eagerly responds when people show their human side. Next time, I’ll use my personal profile instead of a company page and skip the landing page.

Do you feel like there are any significant differences in marketing when you are ‘the product’ as opposed to other marketing campaigns you’ve put together?


Yes, people are a lot more responsive to humans than to products! About 10% of the people who viewed my ads ended up clicking, commenting, or otherwise engaging. That may not sound like much, but most ads average about 3%.

I A/B tested 2 videos. One featured an animation I had created and the other was a video of my face. The video that showed my face performed 2x better than the animation! It really reinforces what I learned about LinkedIn responding when people show their human side and ask for help.

Chapter 4 header

The biggest question: in your view, has it worked and what are your thoughts on the campaign now it’s run?


I want to preface by saying I’m really glad I did the campaign. The insights and connections I gained from it were invaluable.

However if you’re asking about my initial goal of getting a job, no, it didn’t work. It has been 4 weeks since I started and campaign and I have not received a single job offer.

It’s been a very emotional journey. I’ve had people in other states offer to hire me, except they don’t offer remote positions.

I even got to the 2nd round of interviews for a position I really wanted when I was abruptly dropped and my next interview was canceled. I never found out why. I feel like I’ve come so close to getting hired, but haven’t succeeded.

I’m still glad I did it. I don’t have a job yet (if it’s still the year 2018, chances are I’m still looking. If you’re reading this and know someone hiring, email me: bethany.thielen@gmail.com).

But I’ve met some incredible people who have given me support and advice beyond what I could have asked for. Worth every penny.

How have companies responded to you? Has it resulted in any interviews or particularly interesting connections being made?


It’s resulted in a few informal interviews over the phone. I’ve gotten to chat with a couple CEOs and some marketing directors.

All extremely inspirational people who took time out of their insane schedules to chat with me and even tell me that they admired what I was doing. I’m really grateful to all of them.

Have there been any particular highlights in the responses you’ve received?


A girl who ran a similar campaign contacted me. Her video had actually gotten so popular it was promoted by LinkedIn and received millions of views! The first thing she said over the phone was “Hey I’ve been exactly where you are now and I just want to give you a big air hug over the phone.

I nearly started crying she said that. It meant a lot to me that a complete stranger wanted to call me just to ask how I was doing.

This entire campaign has been so entangled in every aspect of my life –  in my emotions, my goals, my dreams, and even in my relationships. I guess it all comes full circle.

It started with my humanness, my very vulnerable video asking strangers to help me find a job. And it ended not at a desk in a fancy office, not with a salary, but with real human emotions and connection.

This whole campaign has made me realise how dependent we are on one another to care about each other’s plights. And my goal moving forward is to always, no matter where I am in life, be the person who’s never too busy to help change a stranger’s life.



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Fin.

Gem Turner: From blogging in bed to joining stars on the red carpet

At a glance

Type: Blog & Content Creation
Blog Name: gemturner.com
Key Learning Points:

Write as you speak

First off, it makes the whole writing process a lot more enjoyable if you’re able to write comfortably, and without second guessing whether the tone or language is ‘how it should be’. Also people love personality, it’s personality that will build a following of readers.


Don’t get hung up on the name

As a natural consequence of building a website or blog, you’re forced to name and label it immediately, before you’ve had a chance to fully realise it. Don’t worry about this too much, this isn’t permanent and it’s easy to change later by purchasing a new domain.


Images are important, but good content is key

As Gemma puts it, the sad truth of current online trends is that it’s hard to keep a reader’s attention throughout blocks of text without having images to break things up. While it’s easy to be put off by the work of professional bloggers like Zoella and their photoshoot worthy images – remember that the content is the most important thing.

As long as you have a decent camera on your phone and a good eye, you’re set. Don’t bother with big expensive cameras unless you’re sure that blogging is something you enjoy, and intend to do long-term.


Just start the thing!

You don’t need an expensive computer, the latest gear or anything like that to get started with blogging. Gemma is an award-winning blogger with an international readership but she built her website and wrote her first article entirely on her phone! If you want to start, just start! You can figure things out as you go, and your readers will love watching you explore things as you do.



Get your nearest and dearest to spread the word

It can feel a little bit cringey at first to ask the people you know to share your stuff with their friends, but everyone has to start somewhere and it’s a great way to build an initial audience.

I’m starting this boldly – Gemma Turner is not only my favourite person I work with, she’s without a doubt one of my favourite people I’ve met. She’s one of those people that just lights up a room when she comes in, causing smiles from even the rustiest of cheeks in the grumpiest depths of our office (usually mine). Her brilliant humour and positivity radiates from her, and this absolutely shines through in the interview.

This is also the most useful I’ve personally found an interview so far, and is an absolute must read for anyone looking to start a blog. I was really, really at pains to trim the interview transcript down as there’s so much useful stuff in here – but I was worried 10,000 words might be too long (let me know how you get on)!

This interview focuses on Gemma’s blog, gemturner.com, which is a fantastic, witty and honest account of Gemma’s day-to-day life and interests – plus it’s only gone and won Gemma a Blogger of the Year award as well! Read all about Gemma’s brilliant story for creating and keeping up with the blog below.

LM - GT Full chair shot


 

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Let’s start off at the top – for the wonderful readers out there, could you describe what you’ve created with GemTurner.com?
My blog…say you met me in a lift, and we had a bit of small talk, it’s like that.

So, if we were to speak, I might say, ‘oh my god, you’d never guess what happened to me…’ and it’s just that but in weekly or monthly snippets of my life. It can be anything from conversational stories, advice, life or reviews of what I’ve been up to. But yeah, like this is what happened, how about you.

Just a conversation.

The thing that I love most about your blogs is that the way you write is just so natural with such a great sense of humour. It’s the same way you speak and when I’m reading your blog, I’m hearing it in your voice and I love it.

 

But I was wondering how you found your writing style and your digital voice?
Ok so, it all stemmed from people having a certain expectation of me when we first meet, they might not know whether I can speak or might not even speak to or look at me at all because they don’t really know how to act around me.

So when I first meet people, I’m purposefully like ‘Hiya, you alright?’ because it’s like a slap in the face. It’s like me saying ‘I can hear you, I can see you, so come and say hello‘.

I get a thrill out of changing perceptions in seconds, and I wondered how I could  do that on a larger scale. Obviously you can change individual perceptions by talking to people, but that’s a slow process and you can’t change the world one conversation at a time.

So I decided to start blogging and I figured that the only way I could show who I truly am is to write how I would speak, and I think that that’s one thing that readers have consistently fed back – that they really enjoy the tone.

So I just think the more real you are, the more believable it is – and the more believable it is, the more people will listen to what you say.

Did you find that writing in that way felt natural from the start, or is it something where you  had to consciously think about while you’re writing?
See when I was at school, that was the negative feedback I used to get from my teachers. They’d tell me ‘you’re writing like you speak and I can tell it’s you when I’m reading your work‘.

The tip they used to tell me that I needed to write like I was a 50-year old and I was like ‘I don’t know how to write like a 50-year old, because I’m not 50’.

KM - GT How to walk book.jpg

But now, it’s a positive because that’s just who I am.

When you say it’s difficult to change how you write but with, for example, your website, I wouldn’t change the way you write for something else because then the people [who knew you] reading it would be like, ‘well that’s not you’, do you know what I mean?

So you just gotta do what you do and it’ll come across.

One problem you get is that you look at people like Zoella and all them massive bloggers and you just think, ‘oh I couldn’t do all’ that but the point is that we’ve all been there, we’ve all been at the beginning so don’t let that put you off.

Great point. So with it in mind, is there much editing involved with your writing?
I mean yeah, I can turn over blogs in an hour, so it doesn’t take that long because it’s just like me, as we are now, having a chat – but I do have to be careful because I can write too much.

What I do is write on a Saturday and then I sleep on it – I really think about it, because whatever I blog, my dad….because my dad works in a factory, his workmates read it and then they all talk about it in the canteen.

Like my dad will just be like ‘yeah we were chatting about your blog at lunch yesterday’ and I’ll be like ‘DAD!

So I’ve really got to be careful, because whatever I write I’ve got to think ‘I’d show my dad, I’d show my mum, I’d show my grandparents’.

That’s intense! Was it like that right from the get-go?
No, that built up so…luckily from the job I used to have, I had quite a lot of friends who I could share it with so that helped to build it up.

From there it’s just grown and grown…that’s one thing about blogs, you can’t just expect an audience straight away. Like you have to build it and build it, it’s like a snowball…but like a really small snowball.

You’ve got to just keep building it and your audience will grow every week but it just takes time.IMG_0544

That’s a great point. What would you say are the manual steps you’ve taken to build the snowball?
I’d say that when you’re first starting, it’s all about the content. Like don’t worry about what it looks like, don’t sign up to like £100 content packages because there’s just no point.

Before that, you’ve got to make sure that you want to do it and it’s actually something which you enjoy. For me it’s just a hobby, and it’s like having a chat every week.

So mines on WordPress. I just got the free version of WordPress, signed up, literally put my email in and off you go.

And, oh god this is so cringe, I called it shortsparkle.com, because I use the word ‘sparkle’ all the time. Not just for like young and naive, but for me the energy you bring…like I want to make sure the energy I bring into a room is the best it can be, do you know what I mean?

Then as I grew it, I realised that if I wanted to build it people aren’t going to be like ‘oh that shortsparkle…’ and also I didn’t want people to call me shortsparkle because that’s weird, so I called it Gemturner.com.

But it’s just things like that where you might start with one idea, but then you think about it and grow and it might change, so I think don’t be afraid to just sort of develop the blog as you go along.

I like that point – changing the name partway through also, because that’s something that I’ve been concerned about. You know when you build your website for the first time and before you do anything, you have to choose your domain, and it’s like…before you get started on anything else, you have to name it?
Yeah.

And it’s a difficult thing because, it forces you to name it before you’ve started working on it or know what it really is? You start off with an idea and then very early in the process of developing it, you have to stick a name on it. I’m pretty unsure about the name ‘Inkbike’ so far – is changing the name difficult to do?
Erm, well…for WordPress I’ve still got Shortsparkle.wordpress.com but I could add a domain on so now I’ve got gemturner.com and that’s the default one, but shortsparkle is still there. So if say, a reader read it when it was still shortsparkle then they’d still be able to get to the page. It’s another address.

Oh ok, so they both point to the same place? You can enter either and still get to your blog?
Yeah.

But that’s another thing, don’t get to that point where it overwhelms you because then you’ve lost. You’ve just got to do the project and if you change it, then you change it and you just move the content over.

And I know I’m speaking from a little bit of privilege because I was able to pay to change to Gemturner, but if you’ve got the means then it’s easy to change the name but…it was worth it for me.

Did it cost much to get the domain?
Erm, I was trying to think about this last night, I think it cost like £20 for a year – then obviously you have to pay for each year, but then I found that I wanted to do it because it’s worth it.

Yeah definitely. And how was setting up the website in the first place?
Mine was so basic. Like when you look back, oh god…I mean it was so pixelated and because I used to do a bit of design before, and I tried to do it myself but it wasn’t great.

But again, it’s not the be all and end all, it’s what you put in it. And just to get the subjects out there for now and then you can build on it. But yeah, I used to just take random pictures, you know like Facebook profile pictures and use that like the profile picture…it wasn’t fancy.

One problem you get is that you look at people like Zoella and all them massive bloggers and you just think, ‘oh I couldn’t do all that‘ but the point is that we’ve all been there, we’ve all been at the beginning – don’t let that put you off. But it is difficult, and I did eventually get a camera because I did want to compete with everyone..

That was actually something I did want to ask you, because all of your pictures are so crisp.
It is one piece of advice I’d give to anyone starting,  images are really key.

And it’s so annoying, but if you get a really good quality picture as the feature image of your blog – so when you share it and stuff, it just makes [the post] so much more visible and that’s just the way it is at the moment.

If it hasn’t got an image on it then it’s really hard to push because people like to see instantly what it’s about. If I get my wheels out *laughs* then there’s more engagement which is a bit weird but also, if people are looking for articles on disability, then it helps if they can identify right away.

KM - GT Roses.png

Do you have any tips for structuring text?
Yeah, I usually do between 300-700 words – but I don’t hit 700 and then automatically stop, it depends what kind of topic it is. But structurally, I always introduce a topic, then have a story.

If I talk about something that happened, I start with a question, then put a story angle on it and wrap up with a joke that tries to answer the question I raised at the beginning.

I always found that really easy because I’m not a very structured person and I think ‘How would I talk about this in a conversation?

I’d start it with ‘So guess what happened today?’ then I’d tell the story and finish with something like a ‘…so next time you see someone, don’t do that.’ Do you know what I mean? But it took me ages to get that.

But you’ve just got to do it, you’ve got to learn yourself and then figure out what’s popular, what isn’t, what people like and don’t like.

A tip I would give is to not do loads of uninterrupted text. Because people will just scroll and scroll and scroll, but if there’s no picture they’ll just go off.

But this is all just my way of working and it might not work for someone else. Someone else might do the Buzzfeed type thing where it’s a title and five things listed underneath, like people work in different ways. But I just like doing stories really.

That makes sense, to find the way of telling the story which suits your personality.
Yeah and like, if you can’t read it back and laugh (if it’s a funny blog) or if you don’t enjoy it yourself then don’t post it.

That’s what I stick to. I know it sounds really big-headed, but I like to look back on my own blogs, because it’s like a diary of my life as well.

But if you do and you don’t enjoy that then something’s not right. So you just need to write something where you can look back and be like, yeah that was a good one!

Yeah and I guess that’s something that helps you keep going as well. If you write about something you enjoy writing or reading back then it helps you keep moving on to the next topics.
*Laughs* If you can’t read it yer sen then don’ write it.

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So you mentioned building up your readership, I noticed that at the bottom of your articles you have a section saying ‘Reach out to me’ or ‘chat to me’ and I really like the way you it’s phrased.

Rather than just ‘follow me on social media‘. When I saw it I just thought it was so simple but so impactful and I loved it. It makes things instantly personal.
One of the first reasons that I started the blog was because of a lady called Stella Young.

She had the same disability as me and she was a massive activist and blogger. At the end [of her posts] she used to say ‘Come and chat to me on social media’ or like you know, find me here or watch this YouTube video.

And I just thought, if there are any other people with brittle bones that wanted to have a chat, then I’d just want them to message me.

I think, if you say ‘follow me on social media‘ then that’s like a one-way thing. Instead I want to reach out to the people who don’t have others like them. I wanted them to be able to reach out to someone as well, it’s part of the reason why I started the blog.

if you say ‘follow me’ on social media then that’s like a one-way thing whereas I genuinely want to reach out to the people who don’t have others like them

Growing your following to the point where you had people engage with you, how did you start that process?
For me, it was about doing different subjects – like I didn’t know this until it happened and it kinda just blew up – or not blew up but it grew. One day, one of the biggest ones I wrote about the weird things that people ask me, so I think it was with international people with disabilities and because a lot of people reached back and said ‘I get this too’.

And I think it was one of my most popular posts, like it got maybe a thousand views in a day and I was like ‘Oh my god I’ve made it ahhh’ *laughs*.

So that’s where I think that started and I realised the more I talked about my life personally then the more it grew. Which is good but it’s also a little bit dangerous so you’ve gotta be careful.

And then in the next one I talked about disability in kids and then that went on mumsnet because that one’s talking about parents and y’know, being a mum and all that. So I realised that with different audiences it’s different things, and different subjects are really key.

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That’s incredible – and did you know it was going to be featured?
No, they just got in touch with me and asked if I minded if they put it on mumsnet. It ended up being one of the top blogs of the day. It was only on for a week for but for that week I got my highest viewing which is 7,000 in a week and I was just like ‘whaaat?!’.

And it’s just stuff like that where you can’t plan it and just someone will really enjoy it and share it and they’ll share it and it’s just that kind of thing you know?

And would that just be people finding you naturally? You wouldn’t be plugging yourself on social media and things – more that they’d just find you?
I retweet…I cringe retweeting myself but I do it because I just think you’ve got to be a little bit bold and just think, someone might catch it. If it’s going to go out there then it’s going to go out there and just make sure that you hit different platforms.

I only just recently started doing paid adverts like two months ago? Like paying Facebook to push a blog which is like…you can pay £1 a day, so I paid like £3. But I just felt personally that I was paying for something that…it’s such a niche subject that it’s really difficult to push.

Like you can put disability and things like that but…I think one person liked it and messaged me and commented saying ‘I’m a disabled blogger as well, I’d love to collaborate’ so that was really good. So it’s like you don’t pay for mass, you pay to find individuals who really are interested.

So yeah, I really am just sort of dabbling with different stuff, like you never really know what works, you just have to keep trying different things. Still I don’t really like paying…

You’re a brand now – gotta get that brand out there!
*Both laugh*
I know but…I still feel really weird about it, but you gotta try it – and I’d never pretend that I hadn’t and be all like *posh voice* ‘oh no, it’s all organic’ because its not.

So before you did your paid ads, would it just be you posting to social media platforms and parking it there?
Yeah exactly, and basically just relying on other people sharing it because I do think that when other people share it then their friends are more likely to read it. Like if their friend’s have enjoyed it then they’ll read it rather than you having to be like read this! Like if your mate when ‘look at this, it’s well good’ then you’ll be more likely to read it.

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So then, on starting your blog in the first place, I was wondering what motivated you to take it from the idea to ‘I’m doing this, I’m getting on it!
Ok, if you want the honest answer…I had broken my hip and I was in bed. I’d had a week off work and was fuming at life. I think it was January so it was the start of the year and you always get that ‘I’m going to start something really cool’ thought, and I literally just started it on my phone.

I had the idea that this is one way to communicate and reach out to people. I’d been wanting to do it for so long and I just thought I might as well…I’ve got a bit of time on me hands, and I just did it!

I remember thinking ‘oh god, I’ll post it on my Facebook and see what happens‘.

I love that! Were you just writing out like a text? Like on your phone keyboard?
Yeah I just wrote it on my phone, I thought ‘Ahh I’ll just do it on here and it’ll be fine‘.

Ahh I love that!
Yeah but that’s what I mean, it just shows you that you don’t need an artist or whatever, you just gotta…it’s not gonna happen straight away, you just gotta keep working on it. Like a drawing, it don’t just happen, you just work at it and work at it and you never really have a finished product because there’s always something more that you could do.

So yeah I wrote it on my phone in bed and posted it to Facebook and I remember being amazed by how many people liked it. So that gave me motivation, and from there people shared it like ‘My friend’s doing this and somebody might like it’ and that really helped. So yeah, that’s how it started.

So good, getting help from your friends to spread it is such a cool thing.
Yeah, and I think that networking personally with people and saying ‘I’ve just started this you know, if you enjoy it, could you share it?

And it might sound a little bit ‘ugh’, but if you believe in it and you like it then it’s not ‘ugh’, it’s just what you’re doing.

Since you started it, have you found there’s any technique to keeping yourself motivated to write?
See I’ve got a rule, if I can’t think of anything to write then don’t write it. Like don’t just pull something out because it’s not real…or it might be real but for me it’s like, because it’s about me and everyday life, if it’s not worthy then don’t write it.

Like I’ve gone a month without writing and some people will be like ‘omg no, consistency is key’ but if it’s consistently rubbish then it’s not what I want.

I know that some people get so caught up on ‘I’ve not blogged this week’ and you do feel a bit guilty, but I just think that a really good post will compensate the few weeks where you haven’t written.

It sounds like the way that you do it is a much more pleasurable experience as well because when you’re writing you’re actually motivated.
Yeah deadlines, I hate deadlines. If someone gives me a deadline then I don’t do it because of principles. On principle I won’t do it because someone’s given me it. So if I’ve given myself a deadline then I’m not doing it.

*laughs* So you’ll rebel against-
-myself, yeah *laughs*.

I remember my neighbour once said to me ‘it’s Sunday, I’m ready for your blog later…’ and that really freaked me out because I hated the idea of being so consistent with when my posts came out. So even though I was going to post that Sunday, I did it on the Monday instead just to make a point.

The magic happens when it happens.
Yeah it’s true though, it’s not a job. At the end of the day if it was a job, then I could totally see why people would panic and you know…if people rely on views and stuff. But when people don’t rely on it then you just do it when you want to do it.

 

Do you ever go back and amend some of your posts from the earlier days to try and make the content on your website consistent?
No, let it evolve naturally, but maybe that’s my personality type as well.

I like that ‘What’s in my bag’ post I made in the first year has a terrible picture. It’s literally a black background with my bag…it just looks awful but that was where I was at at that time and I want to show that it’s grown.

The only thing anyone’s ever said to me is, ‘so where’s your blog this week?

And I have to tell them that it’ll come when it comes, but inside I’m dying. Like I feel really embarrassed, but then I just think; where’s your blog? You haven’t got a blog, where’s your post today? *laughs*

So in my experience, not many people put pressure on you, but when they do just don’t let them ruin your experience for writing because then it’ll just become a chore.

 

Great point! Ok so looking back since you’ve started, are there any particularly fond memories you have or where the blog might have created opportunities for to do cool things or anything like that?
I think when I get comments on the blog I love that. I get comments from parents of disabled people and they’re like ‘Yeah, we experience this as well, so glad you’ve said it’ and then you get people who might be ignorant of certain things and they might say something like ‘I’ve never even thought of that before’. 

That’s an amazing feeling because then I feel like I’m achieving what I set out to achieve originally with the blog.

But also when it just gets recognised and creates opportunities for me. For example, I’ve been able to do adverts on my blogs that I’ve been paid for and I’ve been offered theatre tickets this week to the Yorkshire Play House; so it’s stuff like that where I’m like, well if I hadn’t started the blog then I wouldn’t have had that before.

And obviously the awards was just the icing on the cake.IMG_0546Well I’m glad you mentioned it….so with that, I was wondering if you could go through that whole process.
Ok, so it all started with the founder of diversity in media awards, I already knew him from when I was young I wanted to be on the telly. He was on Channel Four, we just met in a workshop and he offered a chance to audition for the Paralympic Games to be a presenter.

So I just auditioned. I didn’t get it, but it was just cool to be asked, and we just knew each other from there. That same person created these awards, and I heard I was nominated.

So I’ve gathered that he’d put me forward, but we’ve always kept in touch on Twitter and stuff, so that was all really him. But it just shows that it’s who you know sometimes…

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Yeah but it’s also that you put yourself out there to network in the first place is how that opportunity came about..
Yeah well it was just, like it wasn’t an audition for disabled people so I’d really felt like I was out on a limb.

And then I got nominated and I found out on Twitter. But I didn’t think anything of it because it didn’t say shortlisted, I just thought it was a nice thing so I posted it on my personal Facebook and retweeted it.

But THEN, I got invited to the awards. I thought they might be doing it because of tick boxing – you do think that sometimes, but I shouldn’t have.

The event was hosted at the Whaldorf in London, and I brought my friend along who has always been really supportive.

We decided to get a room and make a good night of it, I was just like, ‘we probably won’t know anyone, but we can just use it as a networking thing, see what happens and if we don’t know anyone then we’ll can have a couple of drinks and go’.

But we got down the lift and there was like a red carpet and flashes which was absolutely not what I was expecting.

We followed people onto the red carpet and I turned around and saw Nadine from Girls Aloud was right behind me. It was about then I realised that this wasn’t the night that I was expecting.

We got into the room and to our table. Opposite me was my childhood love, Harry Judd from McFly and I think, I just turned to my friend and was like ‘I can’t do this, I don’t think I can do this’.

Long story short, we saw Lily Allen and saw loads of huge people there and then I thought, ‘well I’ll just clap when it’s my category, have a drink of wine and it’ll be fine, won’t win, it’ll be cool‘. Because there was another blogger there who was like, a really big deal, like I knew them and had read their blogs so I thought I definitely wouldn’t win.

And then they announced my name and I was like *mouth drop* and I still couldn’t believe it. So, I got up on stage, but the weirdest thing was that earlier my friend got called to do something but I was just so like, Harry Judd in front of me, so I wasn’t concentrating.

It turns out she got asked to test the ramp out on stage because she knew I’d won and she didn’t tell me. And so all the way through the dinner, she knew I’d won and didn’t tell me!

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That’s such a dream moment. But terrifying to have to get up on the stage completely unprepared and completely off-guard!
Wine really helps. And you just gotta be genuine, as long as you’re yourself then it doesn’t matter but it was the best night ever and I was on such a high, like Whatsapp-ing my mum and dad like ‘I’ve actually just won’, so yeah!

Everyone was really lovely and it was just one of those nights where, because it was focused on diversity, it felt like there was a good sense of community where everyone was there for a common passion.

I genuinely love the topic of diversity; I talk about it a lot and it was a huge part of my old job so if there was one award I could of won, then this one is just the greatest.

It was just one of those nights where I’m like…I still think now it’s incredible now to say that I’ve won an award and it just means it feels now that it’s something.

Yeah, I mean you’re a professional blogger now!
I know, it just…it doesn’t feel like it….I don’t know, you don’t have a badge or…it’s just a hobby and that’s all it is really.



So just to wrap up, one of the sections that I try and include with every interview is a takeaway for people who might want to get started in the same field…so are there any tools which have been particularly useful in getting things up and running with the blog?
Ok so, WordPress is the first one and the others are free photo editing apps, I’ve got an android phone and so I use photoshop just to brighten my images.

I would say that images for me, the brighter the better but just making it as bright as possible just makes it look a little more professional erm, and I just try to lower the warmth (that’s just me).

And I’ve now got photoshop on my computer so I blur the background but obviously when you’re first starting, you don’t need to do that.

Otherwise just photoshop on your phone which is free did you say?
Yeah, definitely recommend that. And when you’re first starting out, like using your phone is absolutely fine for writing and taking pictures…you know, just depending on what phone you’ve got (i.e. smartphone or not), but definitely don’t be afraid to use that.

I think that’s it for tools, I mean you don’t need…like I did it in bed, on tramadol and so if I can do that then anyone can start. It’s so easy to start if you’re physically able to do it.

Brilliant. And the next one is…with every interview that I do, I try and ask if there’s any subject that you feel like you might want to learn more about that might help you with your blog, because what I do is I got away and I research that and create that as a separate post to be as helpful as possible.
OOOH, I think for me it’s that I’m still learning and I’d like to learn how to work with brands because I’ve got my own spin on blogs and that’s not really what I do with blogs at the moment, I’ve not started out with that, so just to learn how to move into that field. Because sometimes I think it can be a bit ‘who you know’ urm, so yeah.

More like, using products, so like I love make-up and technology so if I can show people that I enjoy it then you never know. I don’t do it because of that, you gotta do what you like but so yeah, more like working with brands to promote things that’s out there because I do like to go out there and buy things and try them out, especially with technology.

So I want to know how to reach brands and be noticed against all the other blogs out there!

Thank you so much!


Now you can’t tell me that that wasn’t inspiring! This is one of those articles where as soon as I finished editing it, I felt so motivated to keep working on the website for hours!

Like I said up top, if you haven’t already, you should definitely read Gemma’s blog and if you want to keep up with what’s she’s doing (wholeheartedly recommended) then you can follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

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Four Feminism: Building engaged communities on Instagram

At a glance

Type of Project: Social Media Content Creator

Project name: Four Feminism (Instagram page)

Key Learning Points:

  • Finding a community
    Creating something as simply as a social media page can be a fantastic way of having or fueling the kinds of conversations which aren’t always possible in your day-to-day life


  • Get Noisy
    Interact with other people’s content, especially in the beginning. The more people you interact with, the more you’re going to appear on other people’s feeds.


  • Content is Queen
    Many articles (or even courses I’ve attended) recommend that you post on a regular basis – typically one post a day on Instagram. While regular posts definitely help boost your number of followers, never sacrifice the quality of your posts just to keep up the consistency of your content. Quality content equals quality engagement and engagement builds brands not followers.


  • Look outwards
    Maintain enthusiasm for your topic by looking for inspiration outside of just social media. Sources of inspiration can come from anywhere like BBC News, things shared between you and your friends, magazines, newspapers or anywhere else! Don’t limit yourself to just one source.


  • Useful Apps for creating content on Instagram;

    [Whiteagram, Free, Available on IOS] – Add decorative white borders to the images you post to create a neat, personalised and curated look to your page.[Phonto, Free, Available on IOS] – Useful for creating plain text images which are perfectly square-sized so that none of your image is cut-off when posting on Insta.

Talking to Hannah, you can’t help but admire the careful thought she gives each question before answering. She’s passionate about her subject but it doesn’t stop her from considering anyone else’s point of view – no point is disregarded, everything is considered and she’s open to being challenged.

This is something that I can’t help but respect of someone who deals in a subject as complex and frustrating as Feminism since it encourages the kind of constructive discussions that the subject deserves – a far cry away from the impatient arguments which such conversations can often devolve into.

It’s also hard to ignore how comfortable I felt straight away. It could be because of Hannah’s friendly, quick-to-smile demeanor putting me immediately at ease as I bumble through my questions on how she was able to grow such an engaged community on Instagram with her Four Feminism page.

Although admittedly it could also be partly because she’s been my girlfriend for the last 4 years and we’re currently sat in our living room where I’ve employed the buttery smooth attention-grabbing move of jabbing her foot to ask ‘Cool if I interview you for a thingy I’m doing?‘ I dunno, I dunno. It’s anyone’s guess really, but it goes without saying that she is my absolute favourite human.

3C53A0BF-2543-4C12-B726-F7CA8058BDC1To start off with, I’d love it if you could describe the four feminism page in your own words.
Hannah: I would describe it as somewhere to post things that I think are interesting or discussion provoking. I wanted it to be a safe place for people to discuss feminism without feeling like they would get abused by people. Just a place for open discussion on topics, relevant topics, relevant posts.

Is it something that you felt like wasn’t there before four feminism?
When I post on it, I post just things that I think are relevant to me or that I find funny or interesting. I think when you go on someone else’s Instagram, especially if it’s political or especially in feminism, a lot of the time they can post things where you think ‘mmm…don’t really agree with that point‘.

I didn’t think that people who followed my personal account would be particularly interested in what I had to say on politics or sexism. So as well as a place for other people to have a discussion, it was also probably more selfish…a place for me to express my thoughts and a safe place for me without people who know me knowing that it was me and making comments or things like that in my real life.

Did you feel like there were any particular catalysts which resulted in you creating the page or starting the process of creating the page?
I think it was probably a build-up of wanting to talk about sexism and starting to feel a bit more comfortable talking about it – but then realising that there’s a limit to how much people who know you are interesting or willing to talk about it on a regular basis.

I think it was just something for me to focus on and  make myself feel better about the sexism I experience. In fact, not just sexism, but political things as well.

I feel it’s good for me to have a place to express what I think with people who follow me or see the posts, because they are generally people of a similar opinion so it feels like a safe place. It’s comforting to have people who feel the same as you do.

Hannah Shard

That absolutely makes sense.
I think I always feel like people will talk to you about sexism or politics, but there comes a point where people are a bit over it, or they don’t really care or they get a bit sick about hearing about it.

It’s just that it’s not funny or cool, or some people don’t find it interesting and probably  a bit depressing sometimes – I think people only have a certain amount of time where they can feel like that.

9BD8F57B-6C8D-4F60-8A6E-6D17C6B5899BDo you have a background in developing social media pages like this either professionally or personally?
No, I only really use Instagram for my personal life. I guess through work I learnt a bit more about how people use social media for marketing but it’s not really at that stage for me.

For the topic, I’d say just my personal influences were my parents and friends at uni who feel quite similarly to me about certain topics.

I’d say that work influenced me in the sense that I felt frustration by not being able to say what I thought or how I felt about things, But I don’t think that helped me understand how to do it.

That makes this next part even more impressive! Before certain parts of the feminism discussion were recently launched into the centre of public attention, within just a couple months of creating the page on insta you went from 0 to just under 500 followers [at the time of writing] which isn’t easy! What were the steps you took to make that happen? 
In the beginning, I was trying to comment a lot on other people’s pictures, ‘like’ other people’s posts and follow a lot of similar pages. The more people you interact with, the more you’re going to appear on other people’s feeds.

Or, say I followed a hundred people, I might come up on 50 peoples suggested ‘people to follow’ or something like that.

And I tried to do like 2-3 daily posts. I think a lot of my followers are in America so I’d try to post in the evening – one when I get home from work and one when I go to bed because that’s a good time to get them to see it.

I go through phases now where I don’t necessarily find things I want to post every single day and I’ll just post when I find something – but I don’t really force it and think ‘oh I really should post something’. Though if I haven’t posted anything recently, I’ll typically log on and find that I have new comments or followers or something.

So, it sounds like you won’t just post things for the sake of posting things, but you’ll wait until you find something that you’re particularly passionate about?
I think in the beginning I did probably have a kind of a stockpile of images. I always screenshot something when I think it’s good to post and people send me stuff too.

But I’d always post stuff that I thought was relevant. Now I don’t really go through the internet or Instagram to find things to post, I just do it when I find something that I want to talk about.

You said that people send you content?
Yeah but not really people on Instagram, more my family or my friends will. They won’t do it for the point of the Instagram page because I think only my mum knows about the page but people send to me or tell me about things they’ve read and then I can go and have a look. People know what I’m interested in, so they send me things.

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So you kind of look outwards from Instagram rather than focus on what’s already on the platform?
Yeah because I always feel bad about scrolling through and stealing other people’s content. If I’m just naturally on my Instagram and I see something that I think is funny or I appreciate it/agree with it then I’ll repost it. I will always credit the creator.

Do you feel that by crediting people on content you repost that its helped you build a network on Instagram?
Maybe. I don’t really keep track on analytics so I don’t know how much tagging someone would impact the activity on the page but I imagine it probably does.

People will also repost things that I post and tag me in it which helps as well – but a lot of the time people will comment if I’ve reposted it and say thanks for the credit, because a lot of people don’t.

Good etiquette.
Mmm.

0C5C3164-F3CC-4910-ABB1-D3A173885B1A How do you choose the content you post? Do you have any criteria which your post has to meet or ways of structuring the content you’ll release on the longer term?
I don’t really have any rules or a theme. I just post things that I think are interesting or funny, just stuff that I’d want to see or find interesting when I’m browsing.

Do you create any images yourself and if not, how do you go about finding them? 
So, yeah some stuff I’ll get sent by people and some stuff I’ll find on Instagram. Some of it will literally just be me screenshotting the BBC news page or an article which comes up on Facebook.

Sometimes I’ll see a quote and I’ll just use an app to write the quote on a background So yeah it’s kind of a mix of things really, if there’s something I want to post and it’s not out there then I’ll just try to create it I think but I’m not a designer, so it’s just an app I use to post something on a white background or a plain image.

What tools have been the most useful for you to use in creating the Four Feminism page?
I use the ‘Whiteagram’ app to add a white border to all my images because I think it looks neat. I use an app called ‘Phonto’ to write text on a picture with a white background and then just Instagram and safari to find content.

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A screenshot of Phonto in use from the App Store

Both of those apps you got on the apple app store?
Yep, and they’re free.

Have you noticed a particular crowd who’s been attracted to your content or the page in general, and if you have noticed a particular crowd, is this the crowd who you thought you’d attract when you first created the page?
I think Instagram is difficult because it’s hard to…especially with the kinds of pages which follow me, it’s not really their peoples personal accounts..

Oh, really?
Yeah or if it’s their personal account, they’re not posting pictures of themselves so you don’t necessarily know much information about them.

But with the kinds of comments they post, I always think they might be American…like if I post things about Trump or something similar, the responses I get makes me think that a lot of followers are American people.

I think there are a lot of women of colour who come up in my feed who are particularly vocal or engaged with political issues or sexism or racism. So I think that’s quite a big part of my audience as well.

B5ED0F00-01B5-4824-A228-17B398D6AC1FHow do you go about community management and managing comments on the content of your page?
There was a good one I saw yesterday; I posted a quote from the character Joan in Mad Men. The quote was ‘All you’ve done is prove to them that I’m a meaningless secretary and you’re another humourless bitch’.

My caption was:

It’s really difficult to stand up for yourself as a woman if you speak up against sexism, you’re uptight with no sense of humour and if you don’t say anything, you feel disappointed in yourself and you know nothing will ever change’.

Someone commented on it saying ‘I don’t know, women have a lot of advantages in the first world, it’s pretty great’ *laughs*.

Did anyone else reply to that?
I can’t be bothered to engage in Instagram arguments and I think if you’re commenting that, then I’m not going to change your opinion over Instagram so…

Leave them to it.
Yeah.

Do you remove any comments?
I only remove comments when people are being aggressive. I think it was that Blade Runner post where people were kicking off. It was along the lines of ‘why does sexism still exist in a future society’.

That was controversial, but that was the post I have which has the most engagement. It ended up getting over 400 likes.

400!
And loads of comments yeah. But there was one guy who was being really aggressive by swearing at everyone and calling them f*cking stupid etc. so I blocked him.

So his comments are still on there?
No it deletes their comments if you block them. But yeah, lots of engagement.

That’s so cool, it shows how much you’ve struck a chord….


Screenshot of FF

Fun fact: a little after this interview took place, one of her posts absolutely blew up and got almost 7-times the engagement of the previously discussed post! At the time the pictured image was posted, Four Feminism had approx. 500 followers.


How did you go about finding an audience that resonate with your content on Instagram? Hash-tagging for example, how important did you find that?
I think when I first started posting and until a couple of posts ago, I would put certain hashtags.

I just did that on my own back though and didn’t research which hashtags other people were using. I think when I first set it up when I was looking at following people to get it started, I probably searched for feminism or Parks & Rec, or you know, the kind of stuff that I post about, those kinds of pages to kick-start it.

So you feel like it’s more important to go out and find those other pages rather than hashtag the living crap out of your posts?
Yeah because my understanding of what comes up on my ‘explore’ section is that it recognises the kind of people that you follow people and the people who they follow. I think it takes a look at the activity of those people and uses that to determine what shows up on your feed because I think a lot of the posts which come up on my ‘explore’ don’t even have hashtags on them.

I don’t think people hashtag as much anymore, they come up because of who I’m linked to. Although maybe they do, and I just don’t notice has-tags any more.

Well you definitely know enough to get 423 likes on a single post so I’d say you’re doing something right!
I don’t even know why, that wasn’t my favourite post but hey!

I guess you never know what people are going to pick up on.
Yeah, obviously struck a chord with some people!

D962A68D-3B00-4268-9668-6ED970807934In that case, outside of the page, is there anything else that would be useful for you to personally develop skills?
Well I had my book which was good, ‘How to win friends and influence people’.

I just feel like I’m not very good at small talk so it’d be good to learn more about how to express yourself eloquently. I think I’m good at writing things down, but verbally I find it hard to express what I think sometimes.

Was there any advice that you could give to people who might want to create a page over something they’re passionate about?
Just do it, if you’re genuinely interested in what you’re talking about, people who are interested in the same thing will recognise that. If you have something to say then say it!

And the last question, so I’m trying to…through Inkbike, create a central resource for people who want to get started running things for themselves with things that they’d find useful.

A big part of that is the interviews that I’m doing with people such as yourself, and another part is a blog on the website which just contains useful information, nothing opinionated, just useful resources.

So are there any skills or topics which you would like to learn more about which would be useful for you to use to run your page on Instagram that I could go away, research and write?
I think it’s always interesting with Instagram, there’s so much that you can do with it like there are certain times you can post where you’re more likely to get more engagement on it but it would be useful to know how that changes with different countries and how to coordinate posts.

For me personally – this probably isn’t very helpful – I’m not necessarily doing it for recognition. For me, Four Feminism is more about self-expression than anything else but obviously it would be good to learn about how to reach the more people.


That’s great, thanks so much for your time, congratulations on everything you’ve achieve with Four Feminism and I can’t wait to see what else you have in store.

Interested in joining the discussion on Feminism?
Connect Four on Instagram: @Four_Feminism

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