Be Your Authentic Self — one of my highest performing campaigns was with a specialty company that developed a baby food to introduce early allergens. I did all the pretty and polished content but do you know what made conversions? Me, on stories, in a dark kitchen, feeding my baby in sweat pants. The best advice I have is that if you’re going to influence anyone of anything, you have to absolutely show up as real and be certain of yourself.

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 Jenny Meassick.

Jenny Meassick is a blogger, influencer and community leader of the life and style blog ‘Chocolate & Lace’. ( ‘Chocolate & Lace’ features verticals of simple recipes, travel, working motherhood and and home. Jenny and her family reside in Philadelphia, PA.

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?

I started my blog when I was on my first maternity leave as a creative outlet and as a baking blog. I’ve never been the type to sit still! Ironically, I taught myself WordPress from a book of all mediums and leaned into my love of cooking and photography. This was just before platforms like Instagram really started to blow up. You could say I got to the game early. Before I knew it, more than just my best friends were reading my blog. In 2015, I changed the name and expanded beyond just baking and into lifestyle to expand verticals. My website now serves as an online business including content creation services, digital products and a print shop.

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

Many of the lessons I’ve learned include working smarter, not harder. Like any other business, process and workflow really matters in your ability to be efficient. When you’re new, there is of course a trial and error period. In addition to a streamline work flow it’s been an important lesson to only say yes to things I am 100% aligned with. Say yes to the brands and collaborations of products you already organically use, who’s values you believe and who respect your rates.

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

What’s really incredible is the amount of people who will support what you support. A simple share of a link or charity can garner hundreds to thousands of dollars and I think that’s one of the most impactful ways someone with a large following can use their channels in addition to being a voice. This not only goes for donations but for the woman looking for her dream career or the small business that needs to be highlighted. Distribution is pretty powerful after you’ve build that up.

Through 2020’s social in justices a powerful moment can for me when stating what I stand for and encouraging followers to hit “unfollow” if they didn’t feel aligned. There are thousands of influencers and communities to be a part of and if someone is going to make the choice to follow me and provide me the honor of being in my community, then they should ensure they are aligned with my strong belief. Doing so empowered others to vocalize what they stand for.

Lastly and most recently, I’ve been using my platform to highlight the work that Marshall Plan for Moms is doing to support working mothers, all mothers and #savepaidleave.

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?

The first foundational roadblock I would lay is to carve out your voice by being your authentic self and get crystal clear on who it is you’re serving. It can be challenging to show up every day when you’re just trying to give people what they want but can’t be yourself. Carving out a mission statement and values can be a helpful part of the process just like any other business, it starts with your values.

On the business side, lean into the parts that you love doing and outsource the rest as soon as you’re able to.

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?

I love that quote as it’s often our ability to reframe that allows us to pivot and start again when challenges are faced. Success for me is about the way I feel at the end of every day. I have both short and long-term goals. Behind those goals is my “why” but even if I don’t achieve those specific goals, I have so many things to celebrate and have proven to myself over and over that I can pivot and what’s meant for me will find its way. To some success is hard work or money or material items or titles, to some it’s luck…to me it’s about living a life I’m proud of.

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

Competing priorities will always be present and there will never be enough time in the day. Motherhood was a lesson in putting family before work all the while still instilling how important my work is to me. It’s less about checking off a to do list and more about what are my top 3–4 priorities and getting those done well. I’ve always loved juggling multiple balls in the air. You can’t do that successfully without also being okay when one or two balls drop. I understand that by saying yes to something, I’m saying no to something else so becoming super selective in where I put my efforts into is a part of the process.

How do you reduce or mitigate stress?

I know the typical response from a blogger on this one should be yoga and a good face mask but I actually think that acceptance of and managing stress starts with your perspective. I used to have a saying “If nobody died, everything else can be fixed.” This served me most of my life until I met my physician spouse where death is in fact part of the job. Even though I don’t use that saying as literally these days, the same attitude applies. There will always be something left for tomorrow and there will always be things that go wrong. The ability to critically look at what is causing the stress and reframe is crucial. Leaning into my creative side and chopping a few onions always helps at the end of a long day! Cooking is a wonderful way to ignite your senses and get involved in something else other than the day’s challenges.

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. Be Your Authentic Self — one of my highest performing campaigns was with a specialty company that developed a baby food to introduce early allergens. I did all the pretty and polished content but do you know what made conversions? Me, on stories, in a dark kitchen, feeding my baby in sweat pants. The best advice I have is that if you’re going to influence anyone of anything, you have to absolutely show up as real and be certain of yourself.
  2. Establish Trust — establishing trust with your audience comes down to you setting values for your personal brand and exemplifying them. You can’t control if someone trusts you, you can only do trustworthy things.
  3. Serve Your Audience — Are you solving a pain point for your audience? Are you clear on the value you provide? Content creation has to be for the end user in mind and it has to include something that will help, educate or entertain others. As you build out who your exact follower is, continue to ask and survey your followers of what they want to see from you and how you can help.
  4. Communication — Being accessible from time to time but also responding to comments and DM’s is so important. Your community wants to make a connection. The highlights of my blogging career are when another woman sends me an email to say I’ve helped them in some way. Making an impact no matter how small is important and having an open place for established and safe communication is key.
  5. Extend the experience — growing your community means taking them beyond the gram’. Invite them to sign up for your email list, send along valuable digital products as freebies and invite them to a private community. People want to feel like they are a part of something. Create the space for others to belong.

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

I think building connection is a crucial miss on many and what keeps someone from success as an influencer. Not only do you want your followers to share in your story, but connection needs to be built by listening to them. I build connection through first and foremost being super responsive. Every DM, email or comment warrants a response. Next, sharing your community stories or giving them a seat at the table shows them that their voice matters too. There is no one that doesn’t love a quick “this is such a great idea do you mind if I share it?” or “Your story made a difference to me and I’d love to offer you a guest post to impact others”. Lastly, offering a safe space where members of your community can congregate and talk online for support is key.

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.

While there are so many things that need to be done in this world across varying critical topics, the topic that I am most aligned with as a micro influencer is providing resources for moms through pregnancy and beyond. From a lack of child care options, to learning how to negotiate a raise, to providing support for under privileged mothers to paid leave for all parents, this is a place I can truly show up. As a single mother for several years I had people who helped me along the way. Aiding in the movement for mothers is a place I aim to inspire support for.

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. 🙂

It’s so hard to say just one as I keep a physical dream list of people that inspire me. You know, I’ve been following Sarah Blakely for years but how she celebrated her company’s sale recently moved me to tears. She shows up so genuine and authentic and here is someone who truly gets it. As an inventor, as a founder, as a woman, as a mother. I feel that most people know what’s important at their core, but as their businesses grow their core values become less important. It truly seems as if she’s operated under her core values this entire team. Inspiring is an understatement.

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

I’d love for you to shoot me a DM on Instagram at @jennymeassick and say hello.

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