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Social Media and UGC

What is a Social Media Coach: An Interview With Natali Chanany

Social media marketing has matured and changed since the early days of Facebook. Creating a social media presence has arguably more nuance now than it ever has before. Enter Social Media Coaches. We recently had the pleasure of learning first-hand the nuances of being a social media coach from Natali Chanany, an experienced social media coach and social media marketer. This interview explores the nuances of social media coaching, the state of authenticity on social media, and some core ways for you to grow your personal brand on social media.

Haley Fraser:  To kick our story off, tell me a little bit about yourself, your role right now, and your journey of getting to where you are now.

Natali Chanany: I've been working in social media for over nine years. It started way back in university for me when we were all on Facebook, and Instagram didn't even exist at that time. We started to leverage Facebook to host events for my friend's t-shirt company that he had started. We were hosting club nights to promote the T-shirt brand. Sometimes I feel like I'm Tom from MySpace – I grew up at the start of this, and now it's a whole new generation on social media. I was leveraging Facebook back then – and I really liked it. I was also studying marketing at school. But we didn't talk about social media, and we didn't think about social media in the same way that we think about it now. Personally, it became clear that we could leverage social media to gain some momentum. I studied in the UK, and then I moved to New York where I ended up working some side gigs in social media for some startups. Eventually, I landed at a fairly big digital ad agency. The things I learned there working with some really huge clients are still the same learnings I'm applying regularly in social media today.

HF: The channels change, but a lot of the strategy and tactics are similar?

NC: You know, it's interesting because while social media has changed so much, the basic principles are still the same. Instagram can change as much as it wants (like the algorithm, ads, stories) but a lot of the core things that worked still work. I worked at the big digital ad agency for a few years, then went into account management. Think madmen. But then, I moved to Israel. I actually stopped working in social for two years, and then got back into social doing freelance work and then ended up at Mixtiles. Originally, I joined focusing on social media and influencers, and now I'm more moved on to doing UGC. We're really leveraging the power of all this amazing content from our users, clients, and our audience, in addition to influencers. When I started freelancing, again, it felt like I was back on my route. I went back to that because it helps me really live and breathe ‘social’ in so many ways.

HF: Growing up alongside the original social networks was an interesting privilege and one that mirrors my journey as a marketer too.

NC:  It's hard to believe but much of this space matured even before Uber came out like. And that experience from a professional context is hard to replace, even with the newness of new channels.  And I think in Israel, it's still viewed as a junior role. There’s still this idea that any social presence can just be managed by the most junior person (for example, a restaurant owner/family business might assign social media to one of their kids) but there’s a lot of nuances that come with experience.

HF: Absolutely. Social media management has definitely diverged as a professional skill versus becoming a creator. But I’d also say that it’s kind of converged too – but how do creators kind of fit into that whole picture of a brand’s social media strategy?

NC:  As a coach, creators have a lot to teach us. I find that a lot of people end up wanting to work with these big-name creators who ‘went viral’ with some content or grew their followers.But for many, it remains to be seen if they know how to repeat or replicate or explain to you why it succeeded. And that's really interesting – because I think creators have so much value in their creativity, but marketers still need to be there to help articulate the value sometimes. Creator content is incredibly valuable, marketers need to help repeat that success for brands.

HF: Those nuances and distinctions within the creator space are important to call out and that's actually a great segway to kind of my next question: what's the distinction between a social media coach and any other kind of role in social media?

NC: A social media coach is a very specific subset of social roles that focuses on consultative growth. It primarily depends on who you're coaching: are you teaching a brand how to rework their social presence?In my case, it's more teaching other coaches how to brand themselves as a coach, how to relate to an audience, how to show up on stories, and for me, there’s a highly personal aspect to it in terms of showing your true self on social media. But there's so much that holds people back on social media when they have to promote themselves. As a coach, you're really teaching people more one on one or in groups how to brand themselves, how to talk about themselves, and how to still connect to an audience on a one-to-many basis. A social media manager, especially for a brand, has to create a personality, but there's no one person that's there, you have to engage with the audience in a completely different way than you would as a personal brand. Plus, teaching others (in a coaching capacity) is a very different skill set than managing social media yourself.For me and my experience, I’ve seen what it takes for multiple brands and individuals over the years. Anyone can Google “I need an Instagram Strategy” but the advice isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to social media. Ultimately, being true, authentic, and personal on social media isn’t just for individuals. Brands are succeeding at doing this too – it’s why you often see personal responses from people managing a page on social. I'm really sensing it now in COVID. People want to see what a brand stands for on a personal level, as well as the people who represent it.

HF: Everyone is craving that personal connection right now. Consumers don't want to talk to a brand they want to see another face. It sounds like, as a coach, you’re really delving into the psychology of social media a lot more than other roles?

NC: 100%. Any coach you go to is probably going to be a little bit like a therapist (not a certified one, and obviously with different goals, but there is a likeness there). There's no way you can work with people, or social media and not enjoy working with people on a certain level. Most people that I work with are like, “I need a strategy but I'm also scared to like, post about this. What if you know somebody doesn't like it and it's not getting enough likes?” You have to teach people that it's okay to show up authentically. It's okay to be yourself. Your audience will connect to you if you're yourself.

HF: What would you say is holding most people back from maybe being authentic?

NC: I think historically on Instagram, there's this idea of a perfect life that can be markedly different than your actual life. People think they have to show up a certain way or sell a certain lifestyle. And that’s not authentic. There are obvious boundaries that need to be maintained, but showing up is more important than vanity metrics.Personally, I had to remove 4500 followers the other weekend. It wasn’t about the optics, it became clear to me that those followers were ruining my engagement because they probably weren’t real. I think what holds people back is they're worried about judgment. And they're comparing themselves to their competitors. But most people can sense when you're not being authentic. And then they don't connect to you. That’s why we love certain influencers, and we don't relate to others.Even though authenticity is the right move, many are still put off by it. This is where the psychological aspect comes into play. I have a client that I'm helping and she's really worried about how honest she can be on social media. She said something political the other day, and she got some backlash – and lost a few followers. And I said, but those followers wouldn't buy what you're selling anyway. And I said are you worried to say this in real life. She goes, "no, because if you don't like it, I don't want to be your friend". So I said it's the same thing. It's the same principle.

HF: Zooming out to look at the social media landscape as it's changed with this emphasis around authenticity. What are some of the new trends you've seen in social media and kind what’s stayed the same?

NC: Some things have stayed the same, which are: engagement matters, connecting with your audience matters. That's nine years ago, and now still the same. Having some type of personality matters. If you're a really big brand, having good customer support on social for complaints mattered back then and matters even more now. I think it was like Gary Vaynerchuck who said “if one person complains in real life, six people hear but if one person complains, on social, 200 people hear it”.Yes, it's normal to want to use social media to sell, but you're selling through education, you're selling through the lifestyle you're promising, you're selling through the entertainment. And those pillars of creating a strategy are the same nine years ago as they are today. What’s changed are the platforms and our attention spans. Now you really have to be intentional with what you're posting, what you're sharing with your audience, and what you're trying to drive with every post. It’s not just about responding to complaints on social media though, engaging with those who are saying positive comments and reaffirming that engagement is just as important – especially now.

HF: Keeping with that trend of responding to the good in addition to the complaints, there are these real-time moments that brands can’t miss out on. Especially in the form of the creator and user-generated content. What’s interesting is this engaging content isn’t planned half the time, it’s just arising.  

NC:  It's so true and I think Gary Vaynerchuck was saying “one post can change somebody's life”. But a lot of brands are not prepared to react fast enough. Especially when there's a lot of corporate levels you have to go through, at least in larger brands. But, for a social media person at a brand, they’ll be the person who sees a viral post first, but sharing it and acting on it quickly might get bogged down in bureaucracy.

HF:  What would your advice be to those brands that are a little bit more bureaucratic and need to sort of enable their social media team to just go with the latest trends?

NC:  First, it's ‘make sure your playbook is super clear’. And then trust your social team, because they're the ones that are on the front line. When you let the creativity flow, it's much better for the brand.

HF: To close this out, what trends will stick from 2020 and what’s going to be different, if we had a crystal ball here?

NC: The biggest thing is that everyone's at home. Everybody's on their phone. Everybody's looking for entertainment. TikTok took off so much because people have time to create content. I think people also want to feel some type of support from the places they engage with online. And people want genuine and authentic content from brands. There's an even more conscious awareness now about brand impact too. Maybe it's that we have time to sit and think about the world and review and reflect. But I think it's a really good time for brands to look at their values and look at what they're offering, how they're entertaining, and how they're connecting. And truly, think about the value they bring on social media beyond just selling the product.

HF:  And lastly, what's your advice to other social media marketers looking to move into coaching?

NC:  You really have to like people, and if you're already on social media, hopefully, you already do! But with any sort of coaching, you need to be empathetic and patient with clients – everyone is starting from a different place. And really, just being honest and kind. It’s called social for a reason, and remember there’s always another person on the other side of the screen.Natali Chanany is a social media coach and social media manager for Mixtiles. You can learn more about her here: https://www.instagram.com/authenticallynatali/

Haley Fraser
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