Be yourself. It’s cheesy, but true, and will get you very far. Nobody is you, and that holds a lot of power on social media. Gain inspiration from others, but maintain your own creative direction! Nobody wants to follow an unoriginal account — people are following you for you.

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 Mads Maley.

Mads Maley is an NYC based content creator who focuses on health, wellness, fashion and a bit of travel. Behind the scenes, she works full-time in corporate healthcare, but you probably couldn’t tell from her Instagram. Balancing both jobs has not been easy, but she’s here to share her tips and tricks on how to grow a platform with you.

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?

The pleasure is mine! I’m currently juggling two very different career paths, one being social media (primarily Instagram), and the other being corporate healthcare. Whenever I meet people through social media, they usually never have a clue that I also work a 9–5 job every day. It wouldn’t be too interesting if I posted about sitting at my desk all day, so my content is geared towards my passions outside of my job which are health, wellness, fashion and travel. When I first began Instagram, my account was strictly food posts…I would take photos of my healthy meals and create recipes to post too. Once I started posting a bit more about myself and began getting more personal, I started to gain more of a following. Soon I shifted my content to be more fitness and lifestyle focused instead of just food focused, and now I just post anything and everything going on in my life whether it’s food, fashion, health or lifestyle related. I’ve always loved social media & the way it allows people to connect with each other, but I never thought it would have this much of an impact on my life. During COVID, I dedicated all of my time towards content creation, and I think the fact that I never got bored or tired of developing and creating content really showed me that I wanted to turn social media into a career. It’s not my full time career just yet, but maybe down the line it will be.

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

Don’t be afraid to post what you want. If I had been embarrassed or scared to create an Instagram account and begin posting about my passions and my personal life, my entire life today would be completely different. When it comes to social media, if you care about what others think or if you hold back from posting stories and photos because you think others may find it cringey or weird, you’re only hurting yourself. Who cares what other people think? Life is way too short to prioritize the hypothetical thoughts of others over your passions and desires. Your social media account is yours for a reason. Post for yourself, post what makes you happy, and post what you’re passionate about.

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

The main message that I try my best to convey is that balance is everything. When my account had been solely food, I was dealing with a toxic food obsession. My life revolved around eating healthy, and it consumed me for years. It took a lot of time, but I have overcome this unhealthy obsession and have realized that life is so much more than having a perfect body, a perfect diet, or a perfectly healthy lifestyle. Health is not just physical health…mental health is just as important, if not more important. I really try to promote balance in all aspects of life, and just being present instead of fixating or obsessing over things like food and healthy eating.

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?

As far as growth and engagement goes, my overall advice is to just keep posting. Consistency is everything! Posting daily and engaging with your following or community is key, and interaction will really elevate your platform. Something really important to me is authenticity, and I think it’s really easy to spot out accounts that genuinely love what they post versus accounts that only care about growing a following. Figure out what it is that makes you feel most fulfilled, and ride with it. My passion for food is still very much present, but I discovered a love for other things like wellness, health and travelling which is why I have shifted my content focus away from just food. If I had just pushed through and forced myself to only post about food because I knew that’s what my followers wanted to see, then my content would have lost its ‘oomph’. Be genuine and engage with your community!

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, it’s extremely true. It’s easy to gauge your social media success based on numbers…whether it’s likes, followers, or views…but you can’t view success that way. It will drive you crazy. It’s like gauging how healthy you are based on your weight on a scale…numbers are not all-telling, and weighing less isn’t equivalent to being a healthy individual. But anyways, I feel the most successful when I feel fulfilled. Whether it’s receiving kind messages from followers letting me know that I have positively impacted their way of living, or whether it’s piecing together content and captions that I feel proud of…I feel most successful when it comes to things like that.

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

I have been getting a lot better at saying ‘no’.. I barely have time for anything these days, from working my 9–5, to social media, to taking care of myself…so I don’t really have another option but to be picky when it comes to who I spend my time with. When it comes to spending time with others, really tune into how you feel when you’re with them. If someone in your life isn’t making you feel like your best self…stop seeing them. Your time and energy is way too precious to be spent on people who aren’t lifting you up or making you feel your best. It’s not selfish to say no to spending time with people you don’t want to see, and it definitely took me a while to realize that.

How do you reduce or mitigate stress?

I prioritize alone time over a lot of things. I’m the type of person who recharges by being alone, so I make sure to set aside time every day to take care of myself and truly to just take a deep breath. Having a routine also alleviates a lot of my stress. Every night I always write down my schedule and to-do list for the next day so that I don’t have to wake up worried that I’m going to forget anything. For some, excessive planning is a stressful task, but for others like myself, I’m much more at peace when I have a schedule or routine down.

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.

Hmmm, this is a tough one. I think that everyone goes about this in a unique way, but here are my biggest tips.

  1. Find a focus or a passion. If your social platform is scattered and not fluid, you won’t be able to attract specific audiences. Even if your content ranges and isn’t honed in on one category like fashion for example…there are still ways to make a variety of content look cohesive. Get into a habit of editing your photos (or not editing your photos) the same way. I know for myself, I enjoy a very specific aesthetic, so I tend to only follow accounts that are consistent with the aesthetic I visually am drawn to. Bottom line is to narrow down the mood or focus for your account.
  2. Be consistent! I know I mentioned it before, but if you’re not consistent, there’s no chance of growth. I try to post in my feed at least 5 times per week to keep a consistent posting schedule, but at the same time if there is a day when I’m not feeling excited about posting…or I’m not in love with any photos at the moment…then I’m not going to post anything. You have to find a balance between posting consistently and posting quality photos you want to share.
  3. Interact with other accounts and get personal. When I say ‘get personal’, I’m not saying you should tell your entire life story online. What I mean is show your followers that you’re a real person! Reply to comments, post question boxes and polls on your stories, message people…things of that nature. Interacting with other accounts similar to yours is great too. Social media isn’t a competition, it’s a space to get creative and to connect with one another. Support other accounts and they will (usually) do the same for you! You may even make some great friends by doing this too!
  4. Stay on top of trends & what’s new. By the term ‘trend’, I’m referring to content style rather than mimicking what’s trendy at the moment. For example, if Instagram photo dumps seem to be gaining high engagement, maybe try one out. Or if vlog type reels have been doing well, maybe try one of those. While sticking to your own style and creative ideas is the priority, it’s important to observe and incorporate strategies to help your engagement as well.
  5. Be yourself. It’s cheesy, but true, and will get you very far. Nobody is you, and that holds a lot of power on social media. Gain inspiration from others, but maintain your own creative direction! Nobody wants to follow an unoriginal account — people are following you for you.

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

Be real! Most of Instagram is simply a highlight reel — because of course we all want our followers to see the best versions of ourselves. With that said, it’s such a nice breath of fresh air when other influencers show more raw, in the moment photos and videos. Instagram only shows a small portion of reality, and it’s easy to misconceptualize what reality truly is when you’re looking at your curated feed. Being authentic really creates a stronger bond between you and your audience.

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.

A movement to be more human and to be more present. We are so consumed by technology and so overly reliant on it. There isn’t enough physical interaction anymore, as we rely on our phones for so much. Instead of walking up to others in person, it’s now easier to just follow others on social media and message them instead. Technology has been an amazing way to connect and communicate, but we are far too dependent on it and it has negatively impacted our ability to socialize and connect in person. It’s very general, but that goes along with being more present, which is something I’m continuously working on myself. It’s easy, especially living in a big city, to always be thinking 5, or even 10 steps ahead. If we keep doing that, we will never be able to enjoy the moment we’re presently in. Be here now!

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. 🙂

Hmmm, at the moment the first person who comes to mind is Matilda Djerf. I wasn’t a fan of hers until recently, but she has really impacted social media & fashion in such a positive way. Watching her grow from a social media influencer to having her own clothing line has been crazy, and she really promotes body positivity, which has been a huge issue in the fashion industry. I really admire business owners like her, who have worked their way up and used their platform for good. She doesn’t retouch any of her models’ photos for Djerf Avenue, and designs her clothing for all shapes. It’s really inspiring to watch her build her business, and I really hope to have my own business of some sorts as well.

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

My Instagram and Podcast! My Instagram is @MadsMaley, and my podcast is called ‘No More Small Talk’, which is on Spotify currently. Just released it, but more episodes to come soon 🙂

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