What got me here– doing what I’m doing NOW? While I graduated from The Ohio State University with 2 majors and 3 minors (Cue: Overachiever) and intended to go to Law School…that never happened. I’m far too impatient. I dove straight in to a career in corporate sales. Why? Because people told me I was a “natural salesperson”. My dad was in sales his whole life. My brother too. I went there. For the better part of 15 years I worked in Corporate America in some type of sales and/or business development role. I did well. I made a great income, had jobs with great bosses, and then….2008 arrived. I still remember on October 30th, 2008 when my then-boss emailed me to say “Hey, remember your last paycheck? Well, that apparently was your last paycheck. The company has shut down and declared bankruptcy. I hope all of your last expense reports were paid…..” Good times. I don’t remember worrying at THAT point. After all, when one is a salesperson, you can almost always count on getting a job, even if it is selling tires or printer toners.
I learned very quickly that the crash had changed everything. I was applying for jobs and getting NOWHERE. I’d just gotten a divorce a few months before and had felt oh so confident and excited about my future. I had a new car, a new townhouse, and no job.
For 13 months, this continued. 13 MONTHS! I ate a lot of humble pie during those months but this is really when I discovered an entirely new future.
I got on Twitter. Truthfully I got on Twitter early in 2008. I remember sharing that I lost my job on Twitter. Back then, Twitter was SOOOO different. I digress.
The truth is, it was during the 13 months of no job and trying to make my unemployment income work for me (now THAT is funny) that I dove into social media. I started listening to my gut for the first time. My dad said KELLY GO GET A JOB STOP PLAYING AROUND ON THE COMPUTER. Funny. But my gut told me that spending my time figuring out these new social platforms was THE THING FOR ME TO DO.
I had already been blogging since 2007. I started blogging strictly for my own fun and accountability. Us early bloggers back then- on blogspot.com blogs usually- were blogging as a form of journaling. Back then, no one talked about SEO or email marketing or list building or sponsored content or FTC Disclosure. You just put your life out there. You made friends.
The friends I made in those early days are STILL some of my besties to this day!
When I chose to buy a $600 Canon Camcorder and start vlogging on YouTube, well, that was one of the best investments and decisions of my life. I had zero strategy. I just put videos up of my “ramble-on-a-thons” daily and that’s it. No editing. No calls to action. No fancy graphics. Just me, sweaty after my workouts sharing my ups and downs.
The YouTube thing got me noticed. Suddenly, I had big brands reaching out to me to work with them as an ambassador. I joined the Sears Fit Studio team and worked with them for 2+ years. They inevitably courted me for a senior social media position. I worked with Polar heart rate monitors, did some events with Nike, and was chosen as one of the first 100 “agents” in the Ford Fiesta Movement, one of the first sizable social media engagements by a big brand. All of this because people found me on YouTube and connected with what I was throwing down for some reason.
In 2009 I finally got a JOB. Bear in mind- never at any time during my early blogging years or in that early YouTube era did I think “this is how I will earn my income”. Never. I just wanted the “stability” of a job. I went to work for a social media agency in DC and learned very quickly about the enterprise solutions for bigger businesses in social and digital marketing. I also observed, as a social media “expert” (the words of others not mine) that although my agency was claiming to be a pioneer and all-knowing in social media, they were lacking in many areas. I began speaking up and asking why were weren’t offering this and this and this for our clients? Why not Twitter chats? Why not YouTubers? Why not live events? I also noticed something. I was becoming the go-to person in our agency and in others for finding “healthy fitness people with blogs”. This is when I began to see an opportunity.
The FitFluential embryo was born.
At this time – circa 2010-2011, the only “networks” were “Mommy Blogger” networks. Mommy Bloggers were big. They still are. But, no one had brought together all the niche bloggers for fitness and nutrition. I knew I was connected to so many from my years and years of being a blogger, reading other blogs, and bonding with other influencers. I asked my friend and business mentor, David Armano, if I should start my own fitness network and before I finished the sentence he pretty much said ‘oh hell yes Olexa’.
I put up FitFluential.com in April 2011 with a business partner (another blogger) that I’d known for about 3 months. That’s not a cut on her it’s to illustrate how little I knew about starting a business. I figured I’d spend the next 2 years on the side of my full time job recruiting bloggers to join my “club”. And I figured if I hit 150 bloggers, I’d quit my job, become a personal trainer, and do social campaigns on the side.
Instead, I ended up quitting my job in August of that year because word spread so fast we already had 75 bloggers signed up (hand recruited) and our collective reach was 5MM Monthly Views. I remember thinking that was HUGE. And so I quit my full time job (cue my father’s almost heart attack at my choice) and chose to run FitFluential full time. Somehow I convinced several others to join me working for free. By December of that year, we took on our first big client, GNC, and we became profitable. Very soon this reluctant entrepreneur had formed a successful 7-Figure business, the first fitness influencer network ever.
After running FitFluential for 7 years and executing over 700 successful social media marketing campaigns for brands like Reebok, Under Armour, Puma, Saucony, Mizuno, Sleep Number, Verizon Wireless, Gorilla Glass, Samsung, Kohl’s, Athleta, Lorna Jane, Marriott, Warrior Dash, General Motors, McDonald’s, Timex, Subway, Larabar, Clif Bar, KIND Bars, Polar, GNC, Vitamin Shoppe, Propel, and more, I needed a change.
I noticed trends in the marketplace happening back in 2015. Bloggers were becoming business owners in their own right. Their rates were increasing but brand budgets were not. Executing blogger campaigns had become increasingly MORE work and decreasingly profitable. Not a fun combo. Yet, I saw that consistent themes were arising when I talked to new potential clients.
So few of them understood how to really use social media and influencer marketing for driving sales. So many had no clue how to create content that would attract new customers and create raving fans. Most were underestimating how important digital and social media efforts ARE for generating revenue.
There is a big difference between today’s social web and the early internet days when having a website was the cool new thing. I’m not typing that to be funny. SO many businesses today when we audit their online footprint- they are all doing the same things wrong. Their content is written in marketing speak. Their messages are all promotional. They have zero engagement. They often — gulp– have their sons or daughters or an intern handling social media because “They’re on Facebook so they get it”. Seriously.
When I took on some clients personally to help them in this area, it lit up a fire inside of me. I’m a fixer. I love fixing up houses (that’s my dream job there: Joanna and Chip, call me) and I love helping businesses FLIP THEIR BIZ online. I love helping them see they can INCREASE REVENUES by focusing on digital and social for lead generation and conversion. Truly– this revs me UP!
So, Socially Fit Services is here. My new business is designed to work with companies and individuals who need that makeover. We cover whatever one might need from: social media management to content creation and syndication to brand ambassador program and affiliate program development to sales strategy design to email marketing to SEO and branding and more.
It’s funny how the drama and chaos that life throws in our face can often force us to take the best sharp right turn EVER.