Be consistent and patient! You may hate to hear it, but virality and social media fame is the exception. It also doesn’t last forever (sorry). Play the long game.

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 Jessica Sorentino.

Jessica Sorentino is a social media expert — managing accounts, creating content, and consulting for nearly a decade. Jessica advises business owners and personal brands on how to infuse their personalities into their businesses while scaling their communities through human-first social media strategies. Her client list includes best-selling authors, Food Network chefs, professional athletes, mayoral candidates, multi-figure entrepreneurs, and more.

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 brought you to where you are today?

Thank you for having me! I studied mass communication and marketing at the University of Delaware as blogging and early social media like Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter were becoming mainstream. My first job was running a blog for a publication before I started my own. I then studied psychology in graduate school (a story for a different day) and circled back to the media industry — spending a few years at Simon & Schuster. Social media started to take off during this time (2015–2018), and I was good at it. I took what I learned in grad school and connected it with aesthetics and visual marketing to build relationships on various social platforms. I saw firsthand how relationships build trust, leading to sales, clicks, conversions, etc. Authors and peers started asking for advice and creative direction, so I decided to take the leap, leave Simon and create a social media agency. While how I work has changed throughout the years, I’ve retained a thread of authenticity in my approach, regardless of the client or industry trends.

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

A saturated market isn’t a hurdle, it’s proof your industry is thriving, and the only way you’ll succeed is to be yourself and not try to copy other brands’ marketing or their road to success. What makes you YOU is your selling point.

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

In a world of voyeurism and comparison, the best way I can make an impact is by using my platform to encourage you to share and represent your true self — whatever that means for you. If I’m calling out products or signing on a partner, I try only to feature small brands and entrepreneurs. I also love sharing different techniques for being present on social media without being on screen 24/7. Plus, most of my lifestyle circles around health and wellness, so I like to share those pieces of myself to inspire, educate and bring awareness to unselfish self-care.

Many of our readers are influencers and brands looking to connect on social. Others have tried and have yet to succeed. What words of advice would you offer to aspiring influencers and businesses?

Be yourself, but it’s not about you. You want your online presence to authentically represent your brand so you can build a loyal community, but what you share and how you formulate messaging is more about the dream people in your community. A tip I love to give my clients is to create three dream clients/customers, name them, make them real, and every time you post — whether it’s a story, reel, etc. — intentionally create for one of your three people. If you can’t link content to one of them, though it may be authentic to YOU, it won’t add value to the community you’re trying to build.

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?

Great quote and I totally agree. I define success as being able to manage time and relationships, and working in the online space across time zones often leads to a carpal tunnel-inducing social media scroll. I used to think success would come with X amount of clients or once the business hit 6-figures in revenue — which was a huge milestone — but success for me now is being able to unplug, be present with my IRL relationships and work with clients who honor communications boundaries. The ability to put the work in to keep evolving myself so I can continue to show up energized, optimistic, and on my A-game in personal and professional settings.

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

Communication. There is nothing I value more than open communication. Oh, and honoring someone’s time. If you’re really busy, set intentional plans in a calendar. You’re less likely to cancel (even a workout or movie night) if you have made a plan for it and made a place for it on your calendar.

How do you reduce or mitigate stress?

My favorite way to decompress when I’m already at a higher stress level is through movement. A walk can often do the trick, but a run is how I clear my head.

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.

Sure! In no particular order…

  1. Name your audience. (See above.) When you’re creating content and posting for your dream audience, they will feel that connection, follow you, and engage with your content because it’s relatable.
  2. Remember, the term is ‘social’ media. Social is a two-way street, and you must remember that when you’re asking people to stick around, answer questions, leave comments, etc., you have to be available to respond, connect, congratulate, and more. Give them a reason to trust you! Don’t wait for them to come to your account, be active and find them on their pages too. Plus, the more reputation you have for reposting and connecting with your crowd, the more people will test that theory and stick around because it’s true.
  3. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes. (This is my favorite one!) The last thing you want to do is have your followers see your profile pop up and think, “ugh, they’re going to try to sell me something again.” *Eyeroll* Get to know them, let them get to know you, be interesting, and they’ll be interested. A big way to make this happen is to create zero-click content. Provide value (entertainment, education, information, or motivation) without asking your audience to click out. I promise your people will notice and eventually click on their own because the match is right.
  4. Focus on your current audience. Even if you’re starting with 300 followers, think about the fact that you’re talking to 300 human beings. That’s a lot!! Respect that each one is a person and relationship to nurture while simultaneously welcoming new people into the community one by one through conversation and consistency. A smaller, highly engaged community is worth SO much more than a large, unengaged one.
  5. Be consistent and patient! You may hate to hear it, but virality and social media fame is the exception. It also doesn’t last forever (sorry). Play the long game.

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

My clients rarely know each other unless they’ve come to me as a referral! Creating a way to bring them together is on my goals list.

As a social media strategist, you help others 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. It would be the idea of valuing a leisurely life. Too often, we wake up and hit the ground running until the moment we go to bed at night, and then we experience fatigue, guilt, and burnout that lasts days. Loosening the pressure around the clock and taking the time to give yourself the mental, physical and emotional fuel it needs throughout the day, every day, is and has always been a top priority for me. When you’re healthy, not chasing time or praising the overworked, hustle mentality, your brain often opens space for better energy, creativity, and success. I share many of my daily lifestyle habits on my Instagram story to inspire others to connect more closely with what they need!

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? He, she, or they might see this. 🙂

Blanket answer no matter what: Martha Stewart. From a purely social standpoint: Nina Dobrev & Shaun White. I think we’d have a lot to talk about, and they just seem like so much fun. For connecting in work and business: Emily Oberg. We’ve spoken a few times online, but I value everything she does as a business owner and personal brand, and I’d love to sit down and explore opportunities to work together!

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

Instagram is where I spend most of my time. Feel free to connect with me directly here: @jessicasorentino!

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