Episode 45: How To Go Viral with Value with Chris Russo

From the allure of short-form video content to the finesse of building not just an audience, but a true community, Chris Russo has the lowdown on what it takes to go viral while creating genuine brand impact. His company, Russo Strategic Partners, has helped clients go from zero followers to hundreds of thousands, that’s led to corporate partnerships, national television appearances and real money for creators.

Are you struggling to break through the tough shell of Instagram and its reel game or feel like you’re late to the party on TikTok? Or perhaps you’re a Pinterest enthusiast itching to boost your SEO or a professional navigating LinkedIn’s new frontier of video content? We’re peeling back the layers on it all, and Chris is here with strategies guaranteed to push your digital presence from being unnoticed to unforgettable.

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

Chris, it has been so fun watching you win and cheering you on from the sidelines. Thank you so much for being here today.

Chris Russo, Russo Strategic Partners

Thank you so much, Aundrea. I feel the same way about, I remember you were in journalism, and then you left your job, and we sort of connected. We knew each other before that, but we connected right after that. And then we met up again like a year later. And just seeing the growth that you’ve had and how you’ve stepped into your confidence as a badass entrepreneur and really figured out how you can transfer your amazing skills and experience into something new that brings you joy. Not only that, inspire other people to do the same. I just absolutely love that. And I’ve loved seeing you grow and cheer you on as well.

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for all of your advice. You have really helped me think differently about this whole phase of my life. And that’s really what I want to talk about today and really kind of start with maybe best practices first and then talk about some of your client wins, because I really want to make sure that we get to that in our conversation. So as we were saying before we hit record, I’m not a digital native. You are a digital native. The way I came up and how social media was introduced into our lives and how work thought about social media is just very different. So it’s been hard to kind of break those old ideas about the role social media can play.

And I know a lot of your client partners, they’re also not digital natives. So hen they call you and say, you know what? I know I need to have a better online presence. What are some of the things that you have to really work with them on so they can really show up fully online?

Chris Russo, Russo Strategic Partners

Absolutely. Yeah. A lot of people are always asking about how do I build my brand on social media? And not everybody is a digital native and understands how do you create that content? And that’s a lot of what my team does. We work with people, but also brands about how do you have a more multimedia approach to your digital presence to really grow an engaged audience? So typically where we start is figuring out what’s your unique value proposition, right? What is it that you bring to the table, and how can you convey your value in a way that’s unique and in a way that grabs attention? Because as we know, social media, there is so much content coming up, people, our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter and shorter. And so a lot of times it’s figuring out how do we take what it is you do and really distill it down into something, into bite sized pieces that really grab people’s attention and then get them to engage with your content and ultimately convert to a follower and then convert to wherever you want them to be. 

So I think part of the question is also, what are your goals with social media? There’s a lot of people that say, I’d love to have a million followers. And you sort of try to dig deeper and say, okay, well, why? Why do we want one million followers? What are we going to do with that audience? And do you have something that’s important that a million people are going to want to tune into everyday? Right. So part of the work is figuring out what that is.

It’s also figuring out who your target audience is. What do they care about hearing? Where do they live? What platforms are they on? And then really, honestly, also taking a look at peers in your space. Right? So what are other people doing in your space? What’s working for them? And perhaps what’s something that they’re not doing, that is an opportunity that you can seize. And I think what we’re seeing on social media right now is that short form video content is really the most effective social media content. It is the number one way that people are consuming content across a lot of popular social media platforms. And so right now, the key to growing an audience on social media, at least most platforms, is understanding how do you create short form video content that grabs attention and then ultimately converts into something meaningful for you and your brand. And that’s a lot of what I coach both people and brands on how to do for platforms like TikTok, Instagram. Now, even Facebook and YouTube have adopted reels and short form video. So it’s really where everybody’s attention is. And the key is, how do you master it?

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

And that’s the thing, is what is grabbing people’s attention, because for me, I would always say, like, all right, I’m going to do it, but I’m not dancing. I always put I’m not dancing. I’m not doing that. And then also generally feeling like I don’t know, I don’t have the most gregarious personality either. So I think it’s just,  really hard trying to figure out, okay, what is it that’s going to capture people’s attention?

Chris Russo, Russo Strategic Partners

Yeah, it really depends on what your area of expertise is. And that’s why I always say, take a look at who else is in your space and what they’re doing and kind of what’s working for them. But we also have to understand that not everybody is great at being on camera. And so you kind of have two routes. One is you suck it up and say, I really got to get better on camera because that’s how we’re all communicating these days. Whether it’s through Zoom, whether it’s through social media, whether know also translates your ability to public speak. I believe it’s a lot of similar skills. So you suck it up and, you know, Aundrea and Mountain Court Media to media train you and make you an on camera superstar, right? That’s one path.

Or you decide, know being on camera is not for you, and then there’s other routes you could take. I would say if you’re trying to grow an audience right now on platforms like Instagram and TikTok and Facebook, really being on camera and doing short form video is really, you know, I think once you’ve gotten comfortable with really what I help advise my clients with is like, okay, how do you capture attention and also what’s going to be engaging. Right? So my sort of social media, I call it my social media smell test, is when you’re creating your content or even before you go to film it, think about is this something that people, that a person is going to either comment on, save, or share with a friend? If not, don’t post it. Don’t even make it, because those are the sort of engagement metrics that are really helping people go viral on platforms and helping their content get viewed by new eyes. It’s all about comments, saves, and shares. And that really goes back to what we all know about social media, which is there’s been a number of studies done. If you post something on Twitter that’s sort of neutral, it does. Okay, when you post something that is crazy and call somebody out, it does much better.

And that’s all about driving conversation and driving shareability. So you don’t have to be necessarily divisive or say anything crazy to do that. But thinking about when you’re creating something, is this something that’s actually going to be of value to somebody that they’re going to comment on, share, save? That’s the way that you’re actually going to reach more people and then achieve virality. Which is like, what everybody salivates over is how do I go viral? How do I go viral? Which is great, but also, when you’re going viral, is it with the right audience, and then how are you translating that to something meaningful for your brand? That’s a lot of the work that me and my team do.

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

I think that’s a great distinction, too, because just because you have viral content doesn’t mean… One of the things that I’ve learned in entrepreneurship is the difference between an audience and a community. And a community moves. A community will ride with you. A community hangs on your every word. A community, you ask them to do something, they will do it and an audience just kind of sits back. And I’ve been in a situation where I was privy to a brand that had an audience and not a community, and they went viral, and they were so happy about these numbers, but they couldn’t sell any product. Even though they had all these numbers, it could not translate into sales.

Let’s break down some of these platforms. All right, so we’ll start with TikTok, because that’s the hottest thing out there. When it came out, I was like, my nephews. My nephews were on it. So I was like, that’s where I certainly don’t need to be. But now I am on TikTok, and I don’t know how to Tik or Tok. But what works on that platform?

Chris Russo, Russo Strategic Partners

Sure. Yeah. So TikTok really came on the scene in about 2016 and changed the way that social media operates. Right now, every other platform is copying TikTok in terms of prioritizing short form video in their algorithms. So what I always start to say about TikTok is, first of all, TikTok isn’t right for everybody. You might have concerns about privacy concerns. It’s ownership. I won’t get into that conversation.

What I will say, though, is, if you do the research and you decide, look, I’m not really comfortable being on TikTok. That’s okay. The same principles that apply to TikTok, most of the same principles that apply to TikTok apply to all these other platforms because it’s still short form video. So I think what’s really great about TikTok and what’s unique about it compared to other platforms is that it’s based on discoverability, right? So when you open Facebook or Instagram, you tend to kind of be tuning into content that your friends or people that you are following are posting. At least I know I am. When I’m on Instagram, that’s what I’m looking for. As soon as I see something that’s sort of outside of what’s going on with my friends, I quickly scroll past it, whether it’s consciously or subconsciously, because I think it’s an ad and I’m not really interested in it.

So a lot of these legacy social media platforms are more social based, whereas TikTok is uniquely wired for discoverability. And that’s because the default when you open the app is the for you page, which is an algorithm tailored to you based on content that TikTok thinks you’ll like. And what I have to say is that TikTok is a master at the algorithm. I’ll be on the app for 20/30 minutes, and it really knows how to feed me more things that I’m going to like. And that’s how I get caught in this endless, addictive scroll. So I think the great part about TikTok is when you’re putting out content, you are sort of more likely to reach new eyes and have new people engage with your stuff, because if you do all the right things, if you have a strong hook, you have valuable content, you use the right keywords, the hashtags, all the strategy that goes into TikTok to master the algorithm, once it gets in front of the right person, they’re more likely to interact with it. And that what we’re seeing, especially earlier on in the TikTok days, was a huge surge of engagement and following and people growing much faster compared to other platforms.

I think all the other platforms have been really playing catch up with TikTok, and now we’re seeing Instagram reels doing really well. YouTube is putting a lot into shorts. So again, you don’t really have to be on TikTok to achieve kind of this level of success. But it all comes back to short form videos specifically. And the last thing I’ll say is, you don’t have to dance if you’re on TikTok. And TikTok is not just kids anymore. I mean, it really wasn’t, except for at the very beginning, and now it’s people of all ages. I had a client that was a TV news anchor who grew an audience of hundreds of thousands of women around she was talking about her menopause experience, right? And so I worked with her a couple of years ago and helped her grow her 1st 100K followers on the platform. And it was amazing to see how many women over 50 there were that wanted to talk about their hot flashes on TikTok. Right. So I would sort of get rid of all the conceptions or the beliefs that you have about TikTok and think more about how do I master short form video and kind of go from there.

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

Yeah, no, that’s great, because you can find your tribe, because the algorithm is so good. How about Instagram? I find Instagram to be really hard to break through beyond the people you already kind of know. 

Chris Russo, Russo Strategic Partners

It is harder. My clients, when they’re posting an Instagram, it’s literally, we’re posting Instagram reels every single day. Because if you put up a photo or you put up a story, if you look at the insights on it, you’re going to see that really, it’s 99% of people that follow. You look at that content when you do a reel, on the other hand, it puts it into the Instagram reels algorithm. And we’re seeing more than half of the engagement, usually coming from new people, new eyes. And so that’s why investing in the short form video is super important. And a lot of those same TikTok principles also apply to Instagram in terms of how do you capture and keep attention, and then again, most importantly, converting to something meaningful. So I always like to tell my clients, you have to understand what it is that you want to say and what it is that you want people to do.

Where do you want them to go, ultimately? And that’s something to really think about before you invest a single dollar or a single minute of time in content creation is where do you want them to go.

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

Got it. So there has to be a call to action with everything or no?

Chris Russo, Russo Strategic Partners

No, not necessarily with every single thing. But I think once somebody becomes a follower and then is in your orbit, there needs to be a strategy around how do we pull them from a follower, which sometimes means something, and we could talk about brand partnerships and how do you monetize an audience? We can get that. But ultimately, one day, when TikTok or Instagram, whatever goes out, all those people go away. And so you really have to think about how do I then own that person, own that contact, whether it’s through my email newsletter. Right, or bringing them in, into basically like a marketing or sales funnel, if you’re getting to be that advanced with it, thinking about where ultimately you want them to end up. Because I know, for one, I don’t want Instagram to be the owner of my entire brand, my income, my message. I got to pull them into a space that I own and that I control eventually.

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

Yes, 100%. And we’ll delve deeper into that in a little bit. The sleeper LinkedIn is cool now. I love it. I really love LinkedIn. But I know a lot of people are like, I’m not really comfortable there. I enjoy Instagram as my favorite platform, just for fun. But LinkedIn, I really enjoy LinkedIn now as well.

Chris Russo, Russo Strategic Partners

I think it’s a really great platform for all different kinds of professionals. We’re seeing kind of a few different trends on LinkedIn right now. One is that LinkedIn is also pushing video content now more than ever. So my approach probably be a little different from TikTok of how do you do LinkedIn video, but it’s still short, bite sized video that tends to perform really well on LinkedIn, which is great. But then also they’re introducing all these new features, having people basically contribute to different articles to become like a top voice in their area. And I feel like depending on what your niche is, there’s actually a lot less competition on LinkedIn for share voice than a lot of other apps. So, for example, I have a friend that is a great LinkedIn creator, and she is the founder of this community called Gen Z VCs. It’s like a venture capital community for people in Gen Z, and she posts so much great content on social media, LinkedIn specifically.

And she’s become the top voice for Taylor Swift on LinkedIn. Okay, that was even the category. But she’s the number one person talking about Taylor Swift and the business behind her concerts and her content and how she markets herself from a Gen Z perspective. And it’s really amazing to see that she’s built out her own niche in sort of Gen Z venture capital. But then also, she’s a big Taylor Swift fan. And when she posts about that, she gets a ton of engagement. So I think part of success on social media is not just doing what you think you should be doing, but also doing things that are true and authentic to you, things that you like, talking about, things that will resonate with your audience. Because ultimately, I think it’s cliche, but really, when you do stay authentic and true to yourself, I think that the engagement will follow.

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

I’ve transitioned in terms of one of my goals this year is to post on LinkedIn at least four times a week, like at least Monday through Thursday. That’s where I’m transitioning to. And with the podcast, I always have content, so I always have some video to post, so it’s not hard in that way. And how about Pinterest? Because from what I understand, I’ve dabbled in it a little bit. But if you have a product or if you have like a blog or something, that it’s a higher rate of people going to your website, like the conversion rate. But nobody talks about Pinterest. But from what I understand, those who are on the platform are ready to spend money.

They’re ready to spend immediately. They want to discover new products, things of that nature. So the conversion rate is pretty high.

Chris Russo, Russo Strategic Partners

100%. And I think it depends on really what your business is. But I think there’s sort of a subsect of Pinterest people that are doing really well. And I think part of it is the SEO of it, all right, is becoming more discoverable. I think it’s a great platform that can boost your SEO more than a lot of other platforms. So people are seeing a lot of success with it. And it’s interesting to note that Pinterest introduced this feature called idea Pins, which is essentially copying TikTok with short form, bite sized video content. Right.

So again, mastering. I keep coming back to it. Mastering the short form video thing really will determine success on a lot of the social media platforms out there. I don’t have a ton of experience with Pinterest, but I know, a lot of people are seeing success on it. I think if you’re a retail person, your lifestyle, your food and beverage, I think there’s a lot of opportunity there. I think for most of the folks I’m working with, we’re really focusing on TikTok, Instagram, and LinkedIn and sort of deploying similar content, but slightly different strategies for each platform depending on really what’s trending, what the algorithm is doing that day. It’s very much a game of cat and mouse, I feel like, to chase, like, what’s the next thing that we should be doing? Because it is constantly changing. And so having somebody in your orbit, whether it’s somebody you work with or even just a friend or following what’s trending on your own, I think is a really good way for you to sort of stay on the cutting edge of what you need to do to be prepared to continue to grow your audience.

Because what I’ll say is that people that are doing the same thing now as they were doing a year ago on social media are totally flatlining. Totally flatlining. So part of success is being nimble and constantly changing your approach and trying new things and testing new things, because that’s ultimately what I think will really get you that engagement and that growth on social media.

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

I need to hear that. I need to hear that. I do. I’m taking that to heart, for sure. And I want to go back to what you were kind of talking about before, is the partnership. So this month for February, we are really focusing on how to make money. Like, how do people really use this to make real money? And people are out here making real money. Is it all about follower count? How do you even start the process? I don’t even know.

Chris Russo, Russo Strategic Partners

Sure. Yeah. So I’ve worked with a lot of people, growing them from zero to hundreds of thousands of followers, and watching how monetizing their platform changes as they grow, as they grow a following, but also as they grow more into themselves and more comfortable with the kind of content that they create. Right. So when it comes to partnerships and sponsorships with social media, I think your first focus when you’re going on a social media venture should not be, how do I make money from this? Because the truth is you’re going to be very disappointed because it takes a while before you can really monetize a digital community that you’ve built. I think your first focus should be building an active, engaged community on social media, creating great content that really delivers value, that sparks conversation, that really boosts your engagement and then allows your account to grow. I think from there. Once you’re on the radar for brand, we could circle back to what it means to be on the radar.nHow do you be discoverable? We’ll come back to that. 

But once you’re on the radar for brands, whether it’s for your content or for the fact that you built a following, there’s sort of two ways that you can work with brands to monetize your content. One tends to be being a part of their creator program, which is essentially you creating content for the brand that can be used on their social media. So we call that like UGC or user generated content. So typically you’re tapped for this when you make great content, but you don’t quite have a large enough audience to be considered an influencer. Being a sort of a UGC creator is not something that’s incredibly high paying, but I think it’s a really good way to sort of sharpen your content creation skills and get experience in what it’s like to engage with a brand or work with a PR agency that works with those brands, understand what it is they’re looking for. I just think it’s a really great place to start and it’s some good experience once you’ve built up a significant following.

And what does significant following mean? I mean, I’ve seen people have brand partnerships with 10,000 followers, but they’re very niche and highly engaged. 10,000 or 10,0000 or a million followers. Once you have that sizable target demographic that the brands are looking for, brands will reach out to you for brand partnerships. And so as you get larger, you may want to consider bringing in sort of like a business manager, which is kind of what I do for my influencer clients, where that person negotiates those deals for them to make sure that you’re getting paid fairly, because some of these brands want to be able to use your video as like a paid ad and run it on tv and social media ads for like a year. And that’s more exposure for you and that should cost more. Right. So I think working with somebody that understands the space is important before you sign any contracts. But really how to be on the radar for different brands, once you build up a following is one.

I think there are a number of influencer or creator platforms that you could sign up for, right? So there’s platforms you could put in your information, you link your instagram, and all of a sudden you’re sort of discoverable and searchable among people that are seeking influencers for brand partnerships.

Another way to do it is to really pitch yourself out and figure out who are your favorite brands or what are brands that you think are going to align really well with your audience and your content, and you find out who the PR agency is that represents them and send them basically your media kit that has your number of followers, your kind of content, any past brand partnerships that you’ve done, if you have any, and you could really reach out directly to them with an idea or an offer of how you can work together. And then the last thing I’ll say about the partnerships is that it’s not always like creating TikTok content. Like, partnerships with brands can take a number of forms, depending on your industry and what your skill set is. So for example, a brand partnership might not be posting a TikTok, but it might be hosting an event for the brand, or attending an event for the brand, or a speaking engagement, a tv media appearance on their behalf. Right? There’s a lot of directions you can take it in, but I think, again, what it really starts with is honing your unique skills and then building your brand around it, and again creating that engaged online community before you can really then monetize it.

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

So what’s the baseline? What’s the baseline to even begin these conversations? Is it 10,000 followers? Is it 5,000 followers? Or is it the type of content that you’re putting out there and the quality of that content?

Chris Russo, Russo Strategic Partners

I say you could reach out to brands, or if you put yourself on these platforms and you only have, only have 5,000 or 10,000 followers, you will get offers to do content. A lot of the time, what it’s going to be is terms that I think are kind of unfavorable for you. So, for example, they might say, hey, create a video for us and we’re not going to pay you, but we’ll give you a 30% commission on every sale that you generate from your post. The truth is that driving sales from an Instagram reel to your 5000 or 10,000 followers, it’s very slim. They’re probably not going to generate a lot of sales from it. And then a lot of the times you read the fine print and they say that they can use that video for up to a year, for example, in ads. So you’re really giving away your image, your likeness and your expertise for a very little amount of money. So I would try to avoid those kinds of low ticket items and again, focus and invest more on growing your social media.

But I’ve seen people that have 20 or 30 or 40,000 followers that are getting paid a few thousand dollars to do something for a brand. And it’s not for everybody necessarily paying all their bills and life changing money, but it’s certainly a place to start. And I think creating content for brands is definitely a skill. 

And I think my number one tip for people is, depending on who you’re trying to partner with, how do you be brand safe and brand friendly? A lot of my clients tend to be really engaging, but also neutral in terms of maybe they’re not talking about world events or politics or different things because it opens them up to more things. Yeah, you certainly can be very vocal in your opinions, but recognize that that might limit the kinds of brands that you can work with, or you might be pigeonholed to being only working with certain brands that might have certain affiliations or causes. So that’s the one thing I would say when you’re thinking about creating your platform and who do you want to align with values wise?

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

And that’s really important, especially since social media, the people who have sometimes extraordinarily divisive opinions, are the ones that are getting all of the attention, but also, they might not be brand safe. Right. So it just really shows that if you have a long term goal, to really watch what you’re saying.

Chris Russo, Russo Strategic Partners

I want to say there, there are so many people that have a million followers on TikTok that aren’t making a dime from it. And at the same rate, there are people that might have 10,000 or 20,000 people on TikTok that are doing okay. So what I always tell people is, don’t get so caught up in, oh, this person has this many followers or so many views, because a lot of times they don’t have either the business expertise or the strategy to understand how do you translate that to something meaningful.

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

Right.

Chris Russo, Russo Strategic Partners

So I always tell people to really work with the right team or the right person that’s going to help you figure out the strategy behind, okay, how do I build this audience and then again, translate that into something that’s going to boost my bottom line? Because again, there are so many people that spend all this time creating content that go viral that for them, it’s just for fun and they haven’t really figured out what to do with it, which is really, we have to figure out at the end of the day, we got to make money this February. Let’s figure it out.

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

Right? No, it’s like, what’s the point? And I also want to go back to something else that you were saying. Is that how to make sure that you’re not having your whole business on a social media platform? What is the best way to get people off platform to subscribe to your thing or to capture the email or whatever so you can grow your email list? What do you think? Because it’s very hard to get people off platform. How do you approach that?

Chris Russo, Russo Strategic Partners

Yes, you’re right. It’s very hard to get people off platforms. And these platforms are making it harder and harder every day. I’ll give you a quick example on TikTok. If you say the words, check out the link in my bio to sign up for my email list. TikTok hears link in bio and then shadow bans your content, in other words, purposefully will not show it to people because you’re taking people off the platform.

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

I think I’ve been doing that.

Chris Russo, Russo Strategic Partners

There’s people that do that and they’re like, why am I stuck at 200 views?

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

No, that is the number!

Chris Russo, Russo Strategic Partners

There could be a number of reasons people get stuck there. And it’s like, well, you’re in TikTok jail because you keep trying to take people off the platform. You can’t do that. You can’t do that. So these platforms make it really hard to get people off. What I will say, though, is think about short form video and platforms like TikTok and Instagram reels, as if you think about a marketing funnel. I want you to think about all this video content at the top of the funnel, right? It’s brand awareness, it’s buzz, it’s how do you reach the most number of eyes? You put up a video, it reaches a million people. Fantastic.

That’s the top of the funnel. I would not expect a million of those people to go and do something quite yet. Once you’ve reached that and then convert them into a follower because they continue to see your engaging content on their for you page, they follow you. Then from there it becomes a nurture. So a lot of times for my clients, it’s like we have a big audience on, then they build up enough of a fandom where they also want to follow this person or this brand on Instagram. And then Instagram is a great place to, as what I would call, basically nurture your followers. So then it comes to things like Instagram stories, polls, lives, basically other engagement tools that are left top of funnel. Like, hey, look at me, I’m trying to grab your attention and pull you in and more so delivering value and delivering specific messaging that’s going to then translate to a newsletter subscriber.

So, for example, I had a client that had a couple of hundred thousand followers on TikTok that translated to maybe 50,000 followers on Instagram at the time. And then we nurtured those 50,000 with lives, with Instagram stories, with different offers that then pulled people sort of down the funnel into ultimately where they wanted them to go, which was a newsletter to subscribe to. Right. So I think it’s about looking at each platform and each kind of content as they have different goals and making sure that you’re implementing all of them and not too much of one and not enough of the other.

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

Fantastic. I hope people really let that set in honestly and replay that. That’s the part where people need to replay over and over. I think that’s gold. Complete gold. 

ACT Up Segment

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

We end the discussion with the act UP segment. Act. Those are my initials. Somebody is saying, you know what? I really want to establish my brand online. It’s not even always for followers. I think it’s just really necessary in this economy to have a unique brand offer proposition. So no matter what job you have, you can remain marketable. So if they want to do that and they’re just kind of like, it makes me a little uncomfortable, where should they start?

Chris Russo, Russo Strategic Partners

So I think when it comes to the steps people should take when they notice they need to kind of shift, make a shift, I’ll speak about it more generally first, and then we talk about social media. But when you feel like, okay, I need to shift in my life. I need to shift from one place to another. Because that’s where you were. I mean, that’s where I was. I quit my secure full time job during COVID and then started my own business. We all reach this point in our careers, a lot of us, multiple times, where we realize, okay, there needs to be a shift. So kind of the steps that I would take is first is sort of like meditation. It’s like, meditate on what you want. What is it that makes you happy? What skills do you have that you can offer to the world? Figure that out on your own. 

The next step for me is social support. So leaning on other people around you for advice first, the people that are closest to you, your family, your closest friends, your mentors, and then kind of widening that circle to your larger network that’s in the space that you’re interested in moving into. So for us, Boston College and the Boston College Media Alumni network.

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

Yes, that you created.

Chris Russo, Russo Strategic Partners

Has been a great place for us to lean into, because that is such a supportive network of people that want to see you thrive. And for other people, college alumni networks are such a great way to continue growing and moving into your next. So meditating yourself, finding your social support and the next is really investing in yourself. I don’t think we do nearly enough of that, especially those of us who are in corporate nine to five or nine to nine jobs. We’re so focused on delivering for our boss, our manager, our employer, that some of us aren’t spending enough time honing our own skills. So investing yourself might look like researching the space you want to move into, taking a class that’s going to educate you on that space. For example, my dad retired after decades of being a real estate attorney and decided that his next act was going to be to focus on sort of real estate development and real estate investment, which he knows about the space from his work. But he decided over the age of 60 to take a course at NYU with a bunch of kids to really make sure that his knowledge was up to date.

Yeah, and he met a lot of interesting people, the people that were the instructors of the course that really sparked new ideas and opportunities for him. I would say actually more so than some of the younger people that were in the class. So I think part of it is like stretching outside of what’s comfortable to you and investing in yourself for your next. 

And the last things I’ll say is really don’t forget about your health. I think in a transition period, some of us find ourselves with a little extra time. So use that time to really focus on your health, your wellness. Are you sleeping? Are you eating well? Are you moving your body? I think that’s really what’s going to make you your best, to position yourself for the next kind of job experience chapter. 

And then the last thing is really, for me, it’s been saying yes a lot. Yes to meeting new people, yes to attending a lot of new events. Yes to taking on different projects or opportunities that maybe seem a little bit below you, especially when you’re starting out. But you probably are going to need to do that if you’re entering a new industry or going out on your own as an entrepreneur. When I started my business, I took on a lot of work at the beginning that paid very little. But what I did was I overserved my clients. I got great feedback that either led to increasing my scope of work with them or them referring me to bigger business. So I think it’s key to be open minded and say yes to a lot of different things. And if you do all those things. I think that really helps you get to your next in a better way.

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

That’s all great. That’s all great. And before we go, I want you to talk about your wins. I mean, what you’ve been able to do with these brands, when you first talk about them, and then I always follow them, and then you’re like, oh, my God, they are on this show or that show, or they’ve got this great opportunity that’s come down the line. Talk about your wins.

Chris Russo, Russo Strategic Partners

Thank you. Yeah, no, it’s been so great. I mean, I worked with a really diverse client base. I mean, that’s one of the things I love about being an entrepreneur and having my own business is, especially in my 20s, I’ve been awarded such amazing opportunities where people have trusted in me and given me a lot of say and control over their marketing strategy and their digital presence, which is a lot of responsibility. But I’ve been fortunate enough to work really hard and be surrounded by a really great team that we produce really great results. And so we’ve worked with a lot of amazing people. So two examples. 

One is we have a client that’s a chef and a baker. Her name is Chef Danielle Sepsy. She was on this HBO Max show called the Big Brunch with Dan Levy. She is a baker that’s based here in New York that produces over 100,000 baked goods each month in her commercial kitchen for some of the biggest coffee chains around the greater New York area, like Joe Coffee, Birch Coffee, Bluestone Lane. She makes amazing biscuits and scones. You have to get into them.

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

Yeah, I have to get those scones because I’ve following her.

Chris Russo, Russo Strategic Partners

They are so good. You would love it. She’s very talented. And so she was put on this HBO show and it gave her great exposure. But then the question after that was, how do we sustain this? Right? How do we keep the momentum going? And so part of that was investing a lot in short form, video, TikTok, Instagram. And so what we’ve seen with Danielle was she’s really skyrocketed in terms of her engagement, her following on social media. She’s really leaned into what makes her uniquely her, which is being Italian American and being from Long island and being a foodie. And by leaning into that, she’s really built up a really loyal audience. And it’s awarded her so many opportunities from lucrative brand partnerships with brands like Barilla, the pasta company. TV media appearances from Good Morning America to Tamron Hall. We’ve been at The View a couple times. It’s been so amazing to see how social media has really translated into real things of TV and money hitting the bank account. At the end of the day, she’s doing what she loves, which is sharing her perspective on food and is being her at the end of the day. And all it took was a little bit of strategy for my team and the work it takes to produce that amount of video content, which is a lot of work. But she’s seeing such a great return on the other side of it.

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

I love it. I love it. Chris, thank you. This is like nerd stuff, but I’m writing this whole thing for social media strategy, for the year. And I’m going back and I’m changing it now.

Chris Russo, Russo Strategic Partners

It’s a lot of work and again, it’s about being nimble. There’s constant changes that you need to make to stay top of mind, but what I tell people is come from a place of strategy. But also don’t give up. I mean, don’t do it for three, four, five months and then say, oh, it’s not working for me, and give up. I think a lot of times social media can be a little bit of the long game. You’ll have little wins and little spikes that are great, but you got to play it for the long game. Think about your audience, how you’re delivering value and make sure at the end of the day it’s something that is serving you. It’s not just something you’re doing for fun, but it’s something that is translating to success and boosting the bottom line for you as well.

That’s really a key part of it. But thank you so much for having me on and allowing me to share my little nuggets of wisdom on all things social and branding. I appreciate it.

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Stay In Touch with Chris:

Website:https://www.russostrategicpartners.com/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/christopherrussobc/

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