Digital Ninjitsu and Social Media Bushido: A Chat With Luvvie Ajayi
Luvvie Ajayi is beyond a triple threat. Dubbed the ‘Olivia Pope of Social Media’ by a friend, Ajayi is a veteran blogger, digital strategist, social media star, philanthropist and honestly, an all-around hoot. With 11 years of blogging under her belt and a combined following on Twitter and Facebook that exceeds 100K users, Ajayi is certainly a digital ninja, a social media samurai. She is best known for Awesomely Luvvie, where she blogs on pop culture, TV, movies and even the merits of Starburst flavors. She launched sister blog Awesomely Techie in April, offering tips on social media and blogging as well as reviews of gadgets and apps, leveraging her experience as a teacher, speaker and consultant in the space. While Ajayi’s schedule and self-made brand indubitably demand hard work and dedication, she took a few minutes to discuss digital strategy, marketing, branding, blogging and social media.
Building a self-made brand might seem like a daunting prospect, but Ajayi makes it sound easy. “Branding is key,” she asserted. “There is so much noise online, so much content, making yourself stand out is important. You have to have a strong voice and a voice that is authentic to you . . . not trying to copy someone else’s voice, but amplifying your own unique voice.”
Ajayi puts her personality front and center in her blogs and social media efforts, honing in on the platforms we have available and the advantages they provide. “Social media is a perfect way to build your brand because your brand is really the reputation you’ve built and it’s what people are saying when you’re not in the room,” she explained. “As you create your voice, I always emphasize staying really true to yourself. The best thing people tell me is ‘I was reading your blog and I could hear your voice.’ The best thing you can do is create a blog that you would read if you weren’t the person behind it.”
The confidence Ajayi has in her own voice allows her to tackle a variety of topics, whether that be issues such as injustice in law enforcement, the contemporary trend of less-than-stellar biopic films, or why you should never offer her a lemon Starburst. “People love the fact that I say what they’re thinking, and they might be too afraid to say it,” she laughed. “I’m basically the person you’ll get a straight shot from. I think it’s important to use your social media platforms or any platform you have for the betterment of more than just you as an individual: speaking up about things that matter, educating people.”
Though she is perhaps best known for comedic writing, Ajayi was recently honored with a Cafe Mocha Radio “Mocha Maven” title as part of the Salute Her Awards, which recognized a collection of outstanding Chicago women giving back to their communities. Ajayi is a co-founder and executive director of the nonprofit organization the Red Pump Project, which aims to increase awareness of HIV/AIDS and its effects on women and girls. Offering her experience working with philanthropy, Ajayi explained: “For non-profits, a lot of the issues we tackle are not the sexy issues, the ones we would love to tweet about all day. It’s up to you as an organization to make these issues relatable and connectable.”
For the Red Pump Project, Ajayi honed in on one thing many women can relate to: shoes. “We do a campaign every year called the ‘Rock the Red Pump’ campaign,” she explained. “We ask bloggers to dedicate posts to talking about HIV/AIDS and women and how it affects women. We use cute, catchy red badges that people love to share. We ask women everywhere to pull out a pair of red shoes.”
Though the messages many nonprofits have to share are serious, Ajayi noted that “It’s up to you as a non-profit to find something that feels catchy. They might send you on an online scavenger hunt, or say ‘use this hashtag and you might win something from us.’ Don’t always think about creating this ultra-serious message, even if it’s about an ultra-serious disease. Make it something people want to retweet. Give them bite-size bits of information, or show pictures of those who have been helped by your work, show a ‘behind-the-scenes’ look at the work.”
The showing versus telling strategy is one that Ajayi says pays off in social media, and so does simply being yourself. Asked about the benefits of social media to PR, Ajayi sees a world of opportunity:
“What social media allows you to do is create a voice and allow people who have been following you for a while to really understand who you are. When you talk about a variety of things on Facebook and Twitter, people really get a grasp of you as a person. So, being human, having interesting conversations and showing that marketing is beyond always amplifying your own message. The great thing about social media platforms is that you can talk about a variety of topics, but behind it, it shows that you’re human. To me, it’s important that people show a personality of some sort. Folks don’t want to feel like they are being spoken to all the time. [Social media] allows companies to have a little fun, showing that your employees are these sorts of people. You get to see the behind-the-scenes of some of your favorite companies.”
Beyond having fun, Ajayi also recommended “reading up on social media etiquette and how to create engagement. Twitter and Facebook are tools, but they use the same concepts as any effective communication: making sure you’re talking to people rather than at them, making sure your content is always relevant to who is going to be reading and of course, giving them some personality.”
In addition to knowing her content and tailoring all pitches with demonstrated research of Ajayi and her work, she said, “For Awesomely Luvvie, people can pitch me a funny celebrity story or video. For Awesomely Techie, anything that is business or tech-related will work, like five ways to make your bookkeeping easier. Something that people can walk away with and say, ‘I can use this today for my business.’”
Photo courtesy Luvvie Ajayi
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