Spend time engaging with your community! — This might seem obvious, but one of the most overlooked aspects of growing on social media is to be social. This means that once you know who your content is for, discover what accounts they already enjoy, and engage with that community. It’s more than just liking posts, it’s about adding insightful comments, and starting genuine conversations. If you want to build a community, it’s not a one way street — if you want people to engage with your work, you should engage with theirs.

We often use the term “Influencers” to describe people with significant social media followings on platforms like Instagram, Twitter TikTok, Youtube, Linkedin and Facebook. Influencers have become today’s media titans, sought after for everything from product placements to timely trends. What’s the difference between influence and impact? Fans and followers? Sizzle versus staying power?

In this interview series, called, “How To Cultivate Community In A Click to Connect World” we are talking to influencers about how they define success and what we all need to discover about the true nature of influence. As a part of this series I had the pleasure of interviewing Hayley Kaye.

Hayley Kaye is an artist, mental health advocate, and social media mentor, based in Orlando, Florida. After building an community of over 40K on Instagram in less than 8 months, she has combined her experience and passions to build A Little Drop of Courage, a brand whose mission is to manifest and celebrate the little moments of courage that happen every day through online courses, podcasts, a blog, designs, and daily encouragements.

Thank you for making time to visit with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. How did you discover your career path and what got you to where you are today?

Thank you for inviting me! As odd as it may sound, you can really say my path to where I am now started with my first panic attack at 8 years old. It came out of nowhere and I had no words to label what I was experiencing. It wasn’t until I was in college and was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety and Panic Disorder did I start to learn about mental health. That’s when I really become aware of the magnitude of what I was regularly experiencing. From there I became passionate about mental health and wanted to learn as much as I could to not only help myself, but bring awareness for those in the dark like I was.

What that looked like varied across the years, but in 2020 at the height of the pandemic, when my anxiety was at its peak, I began to channel my worries into digital art. I would create art with messages or infographics that helped me process my feelings. At the time I was working in social media marketing so I decided to create my own Instagram page with the intention of possibly connecting with others who were also feeling abundantly anxious. In less than a year I built a growing community of over 40K followers, who have not only connected with my content, but have also helped me on my own mental health journey.

Getting to know my community, and their own journeys with mental health is what led me to building A Little Drop of Courage. I wanted to give people a place they can show up as their authentic selves (mental health struggles and all), feel good about the progress they are making, and feel encouraged to live boldly.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned along the way that influences how you operate now?

All it takes is a little drop of courage to change your life — It’s a lesson I learned time and time again throughout my life and has become the motto behind my brand, A Little Drop of Courage.

When I feel I can’t or life gets too overwhelming I remind myself that growth doesn’t happen overnight. Rather, it’s by focusing on just the next step, as scary or unsure as it might be. No matter how small and tiny that step may be, taking it is an act of courage. Every time you choose to take a courageous step forward you are growing, building confidence in yourself, and inspiring those around you that they can do the same.

We’re all searching for some good news. How are you using your platform to make a positive social impact?

At the heart of my platform is encouragement and self-compassion around mental health. That is what I try to share across my social media platforms, podcast, and blog. The understanding that life is hard, and at times desperately unfair, but if we can approach our struggles from a place of grace and courage, we can overcome pretty much anything life throws at us.

Many of our readers are influencers as well. Others have tried and have yet to succeed. What words of advice would you offer to aspiring influencers, knowing what you know now?

Find your “why”.

I talk about this a lot with my community and in my social media course, but it’s easy to get distracted by what everyone else is doing and what is getting success on social media. Knowing your “why” — why are you on social media? why are you posting? why do you want to gain a following? — informs every decision you make and guides all the content you post, stories you share, and comments you leave.

Your “why” will also be the reason people follow you. It’s what makes you different and helps you stand out in the sea of other creators.

Success is often a matter of perspective. I’ve always resonated with Henry David Thoreau’s quote, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” How do you see success — or define success — for yourself now?

It’s has been and will always be those messages I receive that say, “Your work has helped me through a really rough time,” or “Because of you I don’t feel so alone now.” If I have helped just one person feel less alone and more confident in their mental health, that’s success to me.

What are your strategies to make room for who and what matters most?

It’s important to always check in on yourself. Asking yourself questions like, “Where has most of my energy and time been going?” or, “Is where most of my energy going helping me become who I want to be?”

It’s easy on social media to get caught up in the analytics — the likes, shares, saves, etc. But these things don’t bring you happiness, and they definitely don’t always reflect your goals.

Instead I focus scheduling out my days based on my priorities, especially those that are offline. This can include taking daily walks, having no-phone evenings with my partner or friends, or only answering emails and posting for select times throughout the day. These things keep me grounded, and keep my online life in perspective.

How do you reduce or mitigate stress?

I am a big proponent of listening to your body. For me this means paying attention to how I’m feeling throughout the day and recognizing if there are any patterns. For example, I know I focus best in the afternoon, so I like to ease into my workload. If I do begin to feel stressed or overwhelmed I like to get out of my workspace and move my body by either going for a walk or doing yoga.

I’m going to try a few of your tips, and I’m hopeful our readers will, too. Now it’s time for the big reveal — the moment our readers have been anticipating. What are your “five strategies to cultivate a large & engaged social media community?’ Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Determine who your content is for — This goes back to finding your “why”. The more niche or targeted your content is, the more you should know about who you’re trying to reach and the easier it is to create content that speaks to your audience. For example, if you’re a first time mom and want to create content that focuses on the reality of motherhood and the transition into motherhood, you can practically guarantee that the main group you’re trying to reach is first time mother’s and expecting mother’s. Knowing this you can guide you in what you post about, and what not to post about. For example, you wouldn’t want to post about how to build your credit score, that’s not why people follow you. Instead you could post about how having a baby affects your finances.
  2. Spend time engaging with your community! — This might seem obvious, but one of the most overlooked aspects of growing on social media is to be social. This means that once you know who your content is for, discover what accounts they already enjoy, and engage with that community. It’s more than just liking posts, it’s about adding insightful comments, and starting genuine conversations. If you want to build a community, it’s not a one way street — if you want people to engage with your work, you should engage with theirs.
  3. Be authentic. — There are millions of accounts online doing exactly the same thing, and it can be overwhelming to discover how to stand out. As cliché as it may sound, the most unique thing about you and your account, is YOU! No one in the world has your same set of experiences, or perspectives. Use that to your advantage! This goes for both the type of content you put out, and the way you engage with your audience. For example, if you like something you see, comment or message them, and share your experience. And in reverse, if there is something you don’t feel comfortable sharing about, you don’t have to post about it. Your audience is out there, but the only way to find them is by letting them in to see who you authentically are.
  4. Don’t be afraid to try new things. — No matter what social platform you are on, the creators of the app are always making changes and adding new features. This is because the way people want their online experience to be changes, frequently. As daunting as it can be to try and keep up with these changes, it’s important to remember you’re not alone, especially if you start out early. Early adapters of any new social media feature are always pushed to the forefront as the app creators want others to be inspired to try the new feature as well. So when you take a courageous step forward and try something new, the app will reward you by pushing your content to more people, which gives you the potential for lots of growth.
  5. Always, always check in on how social media is affecting your mental health, and be unafraid to take a break. — Despite the rumors that to gain a large following you have to post and engage every day, multiple times a day, it’s actually more important to listen to your body and take breaks when you need to. That can mean a few hours, days, or even weeks. If you are burned out and try to push through by still creating content and engaging, it will reflect in your work and your audience will notice. This may lead to less engagement from your community, which could cause a spiral that results in you quitting. Instead, by checking up on yourself, and taking breaks when you need to, you can remain happy creating and engaging, which will reflect in your engagement.

What do you do to create a greater sense of connection and community among your fans?

Creating a community is my favorite part of social media, and one of my favorite ways to do this is by utilizing Instagram Stories. Using Stories correctly can elevate your account from a feed to a community, by giving people a place to engage and hang out. For me that looks like doing weekly check-in’s, asking a “Question of the Day”, or even playing voting games. Overall, Stories are a great way for me to share what’s happening in my life, and more importantly, give my community a place to share what’s happening in theirs.

As an influencer, you are, by definition, a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I love this question, because bringing the most amount of good to the most amount of people is the mission behind my brand, A Little Drop of Courage. Often times, we only celebrate ourselves when we accomplish something others would deem worthy of praise. At Little Drop, our goal is to help you see that even the tiny moments that only you know about are worthy of celebration. The moments we choose to be authentically ourselves. The moments where we speak up, are vulnerable, or go with our gut at the cost of being different. These little moments make us into the person who is able to achieve the big accomplishments. No matter what life throws at us, when we celebrate these tiny moments, we can look back on a long list of times when we were courageous, empowering us to push towards our dreams. The more people follow their dreams and realize their potential, the more opportunities arise for others to follow suit. Together every drop of courage can build into a tidal wave of hope and resilience that inspires movements and changes communities.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you’d like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He, she or they might just see this. 🙂

Brené Brown — social worker, researcher, author, prominent speaker, and leader within the mental health community. Her work on vulnerability and courage has deeply impacted my journey for the last 10 years and has inspired me to pursue the career I am in now. I would love to chat with her about the future of mental health, what she thinks can make the biggest impact on de-stigmatizing it, and to soak in any advice or words of wisdom she may have to give.

What is the best way for our readers to further follow your work online?

You can follow me on Instagram, or website!

Thank you for these thought provoking insights. Here’s to your continued success!