Hey everybody. Welcome to another episode on the influential personal brand. This is AJ Vaden. One of your co-hosts here CEO of brand builders group. And y’all, this is such a special treat today because I get to have an old friend on the podcast and you guys are about to meet Natasha. But she and I actually went to college together and completely lost touch for like several years. And then we both ended up in Nashville. And most recently I think this is like at the beginning of the pandemic. I don’t even know if you remember this, but we ran into each other at Starbucks. And I was like, I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen you like 10 years. And then from there I started following you online and following your blog and you’re doing so many cool things online. And then one day I remember being at green Hills mall and I was walking around.
I was like, pretty sure that’s Natasha on that. on, on that side. And we have such an amazing community of people who are trying to figure out how to monetize their online following. And you’ve done that in such a unique and brilliant way. And it really is through doing what you love. And so I thought I would have you on the show to talk about this and just a little bit of some accolades. You’ve got over 160,000 followers on Instagram. Your blog is like you’re monetizing your blog and incredible ways doing all these really cool things. And I think the biggest reason why I was so excited to have you come on is not just because you’re friends and I’ve known you for a long time, but I really think you have created this really cool niche path where you’re not like, oh, I’m gonna create a course. So I’m gonna write a book. I’m gonna do speaking. I’m gonna do a podcast where you’re going. No, actually I, I know what I wanna do and you’re doing it really well. And you’re building, you’re massing this incredible following while you’re doing it. So I want you to share all your secrets for their audience. So welcome. Absolutely.
Well, I’m thrilled to be here with you guys. Thank you so much for having me.
Oh my gosh. It’s gonna be awesome. And so we start every episode with this kind of same, and, and I told you right before we started, you’ve had approximately two minutes to prepare for this so I just want, like here’s what we wanna know is like, how did you get to be doing what you’re doing? So give us your backstory.
Yeah, I think, you know, first of all, a lot of people in social media kind of just stumble into it. And I was working in, in corporate media marketing for a big consulting firm and was just kind of doing the eight to five Monday through Friday, but not getting to use my creative brain, you know, which is what you and I studied at UT in advertising. And so I started a blog in April of 2008, which is crazy. Like I’m about to celebrate almost 14 of blogging, which, you know, back then there was no hashtag ad. There was no, you know, sponsored posting. There was no monetization of blogging whatsoever. It was mainly me sharing recipes, media events, things going on in my life in Nashville, just as a way to kind of document my life and serve as an online kind of creative journal, if you will.
And so I started doing that on the side and it really kind of picked up in 2010 when I got engaged to my now husband, Jeff. And that was pretty much when Pinterest started becoming extremely popular and everybody wanted to know all about wedding inspiration. So that was pretty much one of the early focuses of my blog and all the social media channels. And that’s where I developed, you know, an audience in a community of people who wanted to follow along. And so from that, it was all things wedding. And then we, you know, got married and got pregnant and that it was instantly all things, pregnancy and motherhood and nursery and home design. And so the cool thing about my social media channels is that it has absolutely followed me through a lot of the chapters I love and all of those peaks throughout my life. So it’s fun to see. So many of the people that have followed me since day one, believe it, or, and they’ve seen me, you know, go from a corporate marketing manager to running my own e-commerce business to a full on life and style blogger and kind of navigating all of those different paths.
Oh my gosh. And you said something that I think is so important and it’s actually something that we talk a ton about at our company brand builders group, as we talk about how it’s like to really become known for anything, you have to become known for one thing. And to hear you say that it was like really where your following started was in that wedding niche. Yeah. And then was
So crazy to me, but there wasn’t a lot of bloggers back then. Yeah. There was a handful of us. And so I think obviously the pickings were a lot slimmer ,
But it’s like, I think that that’s prove such a great point. It’s like, it’s like go all in on one thing that you’re super interested in that you’re super passionate becomes really easy to you build a falling with that and then let it naturally and organically evolve from there. Yep. And I,
It actually resonates with your audience a lot more and you build that relationship it and that rapport, and most importantly, the trust.
Yeah. Well, I think that’s huge. And it’s like, because now it’s like you, do you talk about so many different things? It’s like, you’ve got cooking recipes, you’ve got fashion, you’ve got tips, trends, favorite things that you love, you know, you still have your girls on there all the time, which I love, of course it’s such, such a family component. But you talk about travel a lot. And I love, you know, learning about your properties that you have in 30 a, and it’s like all these different cool things that it’s evolved to. And so I’m curious, and rather this is just what you’ve done naturally, or maybe there was some logic and science to it. I don’t know. I’m so curious to see what you’re gonna say, but how do you decide what is gonna be the thing and the topic that you’re focused on?
Well, obviously I think a lot of that comes from just real life. What do I have going on in any, you know, any given day, week or month? And, you know, I sit with my assistant Ashley and we kind of, you know, strategize on a social media content calendar, what things are coming up, you know, obviously Easter’s on the horizon or summer. So we’re thinking of family stuff. We’re thinking of spring break plans. We’re talking about upcoming summer destinations. So all of these things a lot, you know, just go along with this season, but I’m also thinking about what do people wanna hear. I mean, a lot of times people come to social media for an escape from the real world, but I’m also just very blatantly honest. I think, you know, I kind of show different facets of my life, which is how I’ve kind of moved more into life and style rather than just family or just fashion. You know, I get, I can get kind of bored of just showing fashion or just showing my family because I think there’s so many different things that make me, me, and I hope that that kind of, you know, helps people to understand I’m just like them.
Yeah, no, I think that is true. And I it’s like, like even I had all your stuff pulled up even before getting on here. And it’s like, I love too of like how much of it just reflects your personality. It’s like, it just everything you do screams you. And I think that’s really a huge part of just being authentic and probably why your followers continue to grow, grow and grow as they are. So I have a couple of like odd questions that I think would be just really interesting for all of our audience of do you find that there are certain things that you post that you just know, I know this is gonna, this is gonna be a win or are you always still kind of guessing of like, I don’t know, I don’t know what’s gonna be the most liked or the most shared or the most engaged. I have no idea.
Oh my gosh, I wish I knew the algorithms and how they’re always changing. And I wish I could predict all those things. I think if there was one source of content that I know is always is going, you know, to get lots of likes or comments or feedback, it’s gonna be me posting the kids. Everybody wants to see Caroline in Carson. I mean, I’m biased, but I think they’re adorable. they have grown up with me having a phone in their face or, you know, kind of showing our day in the life. And so I think people really relate to that in this journey of motherhood and trying to balance it all and not knowing everything, you know, our parents didn’t have social media to have to think about and worry about with their kids and we do. And so I think that’s something that I’m always struggling with, but I wanna be open and honest with my followers about, so I definitely think if I show family, people are gonna always just like, oh, oh yay. You know, happy family. But then I also show, you know, the crazy behind the scenes of everything too. But I would definitely say family and then travel. Everyone loves travel, I think, because it’s fun to see adventures. It’s fun to see something unique and just kind of experiencing life and doing those bucket less things. And that’s definitely something Jeff and I, I have tried to instill in our kids is, you know, collecting memories, not just stuff. Yeah. And I hope we continue to get to do that.
Oh, I love that. You know, and I think that speaks true. It’s like, you know, and one of the reasons I’m asked is like, we’ve been doing a lot of split testing with our different social channels and I can post a piece of content and then I can post pictures of me and my kids in our Halloween costumes. And that will get 100 times the engagement that my piece of content did. And I, I think it speaks a lot too. It’s like people really want to know more of who you are versus what you do. Yeah.
Right. And I think that’s also why videos, reels, and stories are. So I think more and more brands and retailers are really spending their, you know, ad dollars on the more video type of things, because you can really get to know somebody, you can see it in action and use, and it’s not just a pretty picture. And, you know, kinda like what you said, the ones where from doing, you know, a selfie of an outfit in my office, they always get better engagement rather than a style photo shoot because that’s not real life.
Yeah. I love that. So, okay. So this is a good transition then. So some tips for people out there who are building this life and style kind of business, and they’re trying to figure out how to monetize it, which we’ll get to that in just a minute, but for, for everyone who, okay, how do I increase my followership? How do I increase engagement? Do you have any best practices on the type of post or the type of reel, the type of video or the type of copy that you’re using to increase followers and engagement?
Yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, a couple things that I do very frequently I ask a lot of questions on static posts so that I am getting that engagement, you know, people are answering or if I’m doing a giveaway, I say, you know, list your favorite three things about the beach or whatever the subject matter may be. I think that always helps. One thing I am I do will never hand off to someone else as I respond to each and every DM that I get, it’s very time consuming. I will admit to that, but I do it throughout the day so that it’s not stockpiled for me. You know, when I’m in bed at night and the relationships and the rapport and the community that I’ve built with those people, because one, they know they’re talking to me and two, they know I’m going to respond as they, and it exemplifies what is missing in social media right now.
And I think, I hope that it, you know, really shows them that I’m not just walking the wall, but I’m actually, you know, if they ask me, how does that blouse run, I’m gonna text them back and say, you know, it’s true to size or, you know, this is how it fits or whatever it may be, but people remember those things. And like I said before, I think it’s all about building trust. And if you don’t continue to build that trust, they’re gonna go somewhere else. So I definitely think that’s helpful in kind of building that rapport with your followers. I think being open and upfront and honest is also, you know, I think people come to me for positive and, you know, happiness quotes and all those things and color. But I also am honest when I’m having a bad day or, you know, if I’m somethings go going wrong because they wanna know that you’re just a regular person. And so it’s all pretty to have a, you know, a, a very aesthetically pleasing fee, but that’s not real, I think, long gone those days. And as long as you’re staying true to who you are, brands will know that. And it’ll show, it’ll definitely start to show. And so your numbers will follow and you know, just, that’s all I can just, you know, that’s all I have to say about that.
I think that’s good though. It’s like authentic engagement of not outsourcing it, not using bots. It’s like, Nope, this is real life human relationships that I’m working at building. And in order to build a business, you need to do that, right. Yes. Frankly. And
Quality over quantity. I think gone are the days where people are just seeing an engagement rate or a conversion rate, or how many followers you have brands really don’t care about that anymore. Yeah. More and more I’m seeing that, which is very great for somebody in my kind of niche, because they’re like, wait a minute. That doesn’t mean she’s not engaged. That doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have, you know, loyal followers. That just means that she’s really paying attention to what she’s doing. And you’re not gonna see me taking on brand partnerships and deals with products that I don’t wholeheartedly back.
Yeah. I think that’s awesome. So, okay. So that’s a great transition to the next thing is monetizing, right? How do we do all this? Cuz I think so many people are fallen into one of two buckets. They have an amazing business and not enough people know about them or they have a huge audience, but they’re not monetizing it. Right. And it’s like marrying those two things is a really big deal. in my opinion. And absolutely let’s talk about some of the Mo a monetization thing. So as someone who is very much in this niche, you’re truly just monetizing what you’re talking about, which I think is amazing. So what are some of the different ways that you’re monetizing your personal brand right now?
Yeah, so obviously the biggest would probably be through like, to know it because it’s easy, it’s accessible, you know, many people I think through the pandemic had to become even more familiar with shopping online, whether they wanted to, or not, especially in those eight, those older age demographics specifically. I mean, my mom would come over and she’d be like, how do I do this? so I think it’s kind of getting them familiar to shop online and making it simple. You know, they know every single day I’m gonna post my outfit of the day on like to know, know it that way they didn’t, they know I’m gonna talk about the sizing details. I’m gonna talk about it if there’s a sale or if I have a discount code. So I think it’s kind of training your audience in that regard. I am still one of the people who blog continuously and ever since I started this, I was trained in that. That is the only platform that you own writes to that’s
Ram changes, Facebook changes, LTK changes all of these change, things change. And some of these people are gonna be out there without a bone when things change. And they’re like, oh my gosh, I don’t own any of this content because I’ve shared it to only these platforms. So I always try to drive people back to my blog is kind of the hub yeah. Of everything, whether that be recipes or my travel or packing tips, or obviously the life and style component or my home design, anything like that. I always try to bring back to my blog and that way it, how it stays there forever.
And I think that’s extremely important is having that platform that you own the rights to another thing is that’s been tremendous in, you know, growing my monetization is email newsletters. Again, that’s information that you solely own on your, by yourself. No one has privileged data to that. I also work directly with brands. You know, a lot of times you have to go through these middle media people. And a lot of times I’ll reach out to brands directly, whether that, you know, be searching for their PR or media email on their website, or if that’s actually sending them a DM on Instagram. And a lot of times that’s how I’ve gotten some of my longer term partnerships like Soma intimates. I work with them on a monthly basis and have done so for a couple years now. And it was me taking a chance and saying, I’m interested in working with you. I think I would be a good fit. And so I think it’s not being afraid to hear. No, I love,
Hear, love, hearing that.
I mean, you’re gonna hear no, I hear it all the time still. So don’t be, you know, don’t get upset if you hear a no, because that just means that’s not the right fit. And I’ve, you know, been able to work with some household names over the years and sometimes it simply is, you know, sending them a DM. Yeah. Cause I think that shows ins and a lot of people don’t,
I think, I think a huge part of, and I speak for at least the brand builders group community that we work with. It’s like, I think people forget the art of outreach. It’s like don’t expect the you’re just going to have all these followers and people just come and find you, maybe that happens sometimes, but you actually need to do some good old fashioned sales outreach. Right. Email someone actually pick up the phone and call them, DM them, do the research pitch yourself. Right. Don’t forget that there is a, still a sale to be made here. So you’re still finding, so that’s a great question. I would know. How do you know when a brand is right for you and when you are right for a brand?
Yeah. Well, depending on the brand I’m working with, so let’s just say, okay, right now I have a couple collaborations going on with anthropology, which every year I make a list of five to 10 brands that I wanna work with this bucket list brand, you know, that’s been included, Lily Pulitzer, that’s included Disney, that’s included you know, different cruise lines. I mean literally the full spectrum, Nordstrom, Sephora, whatever it may be. And honestly I reached out to anthropology and said, listen, I have a ton of your items. Not only in my wardrobe, but in my home, my audience knows I’m all about color. I think, to be an absolute win. And I just kept kind of building that rapport. I would tag them in outfits that I wore. So they know it’s very organic. Yeah. And then they’re like, okay, wait a minute. Natasha actually is not only a customer, but she supports us. See, she talks about promotions we have or new arrivals or whatever that may be. So I think it’s just, you know, obviously continu putting that kind of bug in their ears so that you do come top of mind when they think about the add dollars that they have to
Spend. Yeah. And it’s really just, it’s reaching out to people that you already love. Exactly. It’s who you’re already using, but I love what you said. It’s like, you make a target list of like, these are my bucket list, clients like this is, these are the brands I already love. I’m already using might as well have a partnership with them and we mutually benefit.
Yeah. I love that. And
They’re looking, I mean, they’re actively looking, they have a group of people, these huge brands have people looking to find, you make it easy to find, find
That’s right. That which is tagging them. Right.
Exactly. Don’t be ashamed. I mean, everyone starts with zero followers.
Yeah. That’s so good. Well, and there’s that, there’s this rise of these micro influencers. Yep. Right. These people that kind of have like that 10 to 30, 10 to $40,000 followers. Yes. There’s a huge rise in the importance of it’s like, you don’t have to have huge followers to make huge incomes by just, not at all, having an engaged Royal following. Cause that millions doesn’t mean anything if they don’t have engagement. And
Exactly. And I think more and more, you know, brands are seeing the bots. You know, I was in Dallas a couple weeks ago with the brand and they were showing me how they have access to all of these influencers, statistics through a, you know, a platform that they subscribe to. And it was eyeopening to kind of hear how things are ranked and you know, the response time with these influencers and how many of their followers are real and brands are starting to see this and get really smart. So it makes me very happy to know that staying true and myself and being honest, you know, is definitely gonna pay off in the long run
Preach. Always, always.
So, I mean, and you said something too, that we talk about all the time, which is, you know, if you’re only building on social media, you’re building on rented real estate, the only real, the only virtual real estate you own is your blog, your website, your email list, right. Those are things that you own. And some tips to people who are going, I mean, I cannot tell you how many people I know who are like, what do you mean an email list? Like that’s so that’s so old school. I’m like no, no, it’s not. It’s the only thing that you really own. Right. Otherwise you’re just building Zuckerberg’s platform. Right. You’re,
You’re helping them more than we have already done. I think they’re good.
Right. I think they think they have hit their, their peak. I think we’re good there. So some tips on how do you convert followers into email addresses?
You know, a lot of times I’ll simply ask, you know, how kinda you said, ask for the sale, simply say, Hey, I would love for you to sign up. A lot of times I have added content on I email newsletter that I don’t have anywhere else. So they feel like they’re getting something special. You know, I include all my special discount codes that I’ve worked in partnership with brands to have. I keep those live on my email newsletters. I talk about my target Thursday favorites there. And also I recap a lot of things going on in my life. So I kind of do a little bit more of a deep if so I think people wanna know if they know you on a personal level, but they wanna continue to know you and develop a better relationship of who you are. That’s when they always, you know, wanna do that. I’ll do giveaways to get them to sign up. You know, that’s easy and fun and everyone loves something free. So just little things here and there and I dabble it, but you know, I make it easy to subscribe on my website. I have a popup that comes when you go to hello, happiness blog.com. So you just have to make it overly easy for them to be a part of it because people will continue to ask,
Well, you said three things that I’m gonna highlight that I think are really unique and really important to make sure everyone who is out there listening, you pay attention to this one is create unique content for your eing, right? It’s like if it’s just regurgitated information that they can get somewhere else, you know, it’s like, I think there is a huge trend right now of creating unique content for each platform versus taking one piece of content and displacing it and putting the same piece everywhere. It’s like, are you creating unique content for each platform? And then making it really unique, special content, you can get nowhere else, nowhere else for your email list. I love that. I think that’s so smart. Second thing is giveaways. So are you providing giveaways to make it enticing for someone to want to give you your email? So any quick tips on like, what are the best giveaways that you’ve ever done that made like a huge difference?
Oh goodness. Okay. So as you mentioned earlier, we have rental properties down in 38. And so a lot of what I try to do is I like to haul out a lot of small businesses. That’s something that I’ve done for years. It’s super important to me, it’s the backbone of our country. And so I partnered with a lot of Rosemary merchants and catering companies and wine distributors. And I gave away a stay at our Roia boat property for somebody to come and experience 30 a. And so we had the buy-in of all of those different communities and brands and shops. And so they were just thrilled, not only because of the, you know, potential income that they were getting from that new followers, new customers, new people on their websites. But then it was also giving back to my community and saying, thank you for being here and doing this. So that was probably one of the most successful and way. A lot of the items that I design I’ve, you know, collaborated with social threads on Nerine totes, I’ve created custom collections of swimwear for the family, with the Oaks. I’ve done accessory, concierge, jewelry collections. So a lot of times I’ll buy those for myself and then kind of put them aside for weekly or monthly engagement giveaways, just to say, give back and say, thanks
Love those ideas. And it’s like the next time you do a giveaway for a free vacation on 38, me who
Doesn’t want that. So, and it really helps those small businesses and, you know, it’s, if there’s anything I can do, that’s one thing I like,
I, I love that. And it’s due, it’s like, it’s finding ways to that compliments what you’re already doing. So everything is still so synergistic and so connected. I love that. And so, so I do have a question tactical, a tactical question. So you’re these giveaways, is it only for new email subscribers?
Sometimes it depends on what the specific brands I’m working with asks for not necessarily, but most of the time I try to do it to everybody. Who’s a part of my email,
Their list, but that’s just great incentive of why you wanna be on there and stay on
Yep. I love that such good. And then the third thing that you said that I think is just really important, I’m just gonna hit it home one more time. Is that make sure you’re actually building your email list. Right? All of these things don’t matter if the algorithm can change and leadership changes. I mean, that’s such a big deal. It’s such a big, so
Make sure, make it easy for them. Have it on a dropdown on your blog, having a dropdown on your, you know, Instagram bio on your Facebook group page. Literally every place they can find you, you need to have a way for them to subscribe.
Love that. So good. All right. So last, just couple of questions. I know when we have like five more minutes together, but a last couple of quick questions and these are just personal, just for fun. What is your favorite thing to talk about? Like when you think about this, all the things that you can be talking about, is there one that just like pulls at your heart of like, man, I love it. When I get to do this,
I think, you know, every day I get on stories and I share optimistic quotes and positive things. And I think right now, even more than ever, there’s so much negativity. And if I can bring a smile to someone’s face with just some heartfelt words that I have found from Pinterest that morning, I think it really helps start people’s day out. So I do a morning coffee chat and people, you know, tune in by the thousands to see it. It’s not me doing a hashtag sponsored event. It’s not so fancy thing. It’s me, literally in my PJ is drinking a cup of coffee and that’s something where I feel like I really kind of build that rapport and that relationship. And it’s super important to me.
Do you do it every day?
I mean, if
I don’t come on, people are like, Natasha, where are you? Do the girls get on the bus? OK. What’s going on? I mean, so it’s just, it’s not anything fancy. It’s just me.
I love that, but it consistency,
Consistency. And that is key. Yes. You gotta train your audience about when you’ll be there. How many touch points, what are you posting each week? So I think it just always, you know, goes back to being consistent.
Yeah. But it’s like consistency and training. I think that’s a really big deal, but you love doing the more inspirational C that you do it every morning,
Every morning and then showing color. I think that’s probably another thing that really separates me from the majority. If you were just scrolling through your Instagram feed of, you know, life and style bloggers, everything is so neutral and that is not my life . And so when people are looking for something bright and happy, cheerful or incorporating patterns into their home, they always come to me. And I think that sets me apart and I really, really enjoy that.
I love that. I love that. So. Okay. Two other questions then I promise I’ll let you go. I love this what’s what’s one trend that you would say I see everyone else doing this, but I’m not gonna do it.
Oh gosh. Well, one kinda touches on what I just said about everything. Neutral, every home looking the same, I’m just over it. You know, I would have wallpaper in every single room in my house. If I could, my husband would want to kill me, but he knows he’s pretty much taken a backseat to all things, design and decor. So I do take risks when it comes to that stuff. And I love it. Another thing I am not a biker short person. , it’s so random. I know, but it’s just not my best attribute. And so I feel like it just plays to it and it’s just not my favorite thing. and I hope they go away soon,
But I will tell you, it’s a, like, I think the color like makes you pop. Like if you scrolling your feet, anytime you pop up, it’s like, it’s always like just bright and colorful and just it, you know, it’s like, hello, happiness is such a great title for you. It’s like, because everything you are is like so joyful and happy. But like a part of why I wanted to ask is because I think so much of what you’re saying, just rest with who you are and it really does come through. So if you were trying to just play with the trends that are popular, it would be, you know, inauthentic to just who you are. Yeah.
You gotta stay true to who you are and
Including no bike shorts. So including
No bike shorts. So if you shorts, you can come at me because I guarantee you, this is gonna,
I love that. I love that. Okay. This is my last question. And this is more of a tip for the listeners for anyone who’s listening, who’s going all right. I really, I wanna make that jump from just building my audience to actually monetizing my audience. What’s one thing that you would tell someone to do. Who’s just kind of like trying to figure out how do I Mo this thing that I’ve accidentally built. What’s the first thing that they should do.
First of all, I would find the top three things that you wanna post about so that you can have a niche. I think people get so disoriented with, oh my gosh. And having to put, you know, balls in each bucket, find three specific subject matter areas and focus on those. That would be my number one tip. My second tip would be really engaging with your followers.
So good. It’s simple that it’s not right.
I know it’s not easy. And it’s something that I’m constantly having to work at. So it’s an ever evolving marketplace and that, but that also makes it fun. Yeah. Makes it not feel like work. And I love what I do. And so it doesn’t
No, it’s not. It’s never boring.
Oh, this has been so good. Y’all if you, if you don’t know Natasha please go follow her. I would say I’m gonna drive you to hello, happiness blog.com. Sign up for email list, get some get some free tips. There
You go. Ask for the cell.
I’ll help you with that. But from there you can check her out on Instagram, Pinterest, all the places, but hello, happiness, blog.com. We’ll put all of her social handles in the show notes. We’ll put the, the blog link in there too. You’re doing amazing stuff. Thank you so much for coming on. It’s dually exciting for me to get to learn from you and also do reconnect with an old friend. So thank you so much.
Likewise. Thank you guys so much for having me a means a lot.
All right, everyone. We’ll catch you next time. I’m on the influential personal brand.