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Inside Influence: One On One With Jordan Lee Dooley

I spoke to social media influencer Jordan Lee Dooley about her best advice

Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to go behind the brand. First things first, though, what is something about you that the many people who follow you don’t know? 

Jordan: Thank you for the opportunity to share my story, Adam. To answer your question, I think that something very few people know about me is that I have a degree in Healthcare Management and Policy. I am often asked if I studied entrepreneurship, journalism, or something related to Public Relations. People are often surprised to find out that according to my degree, I should be working for a hospital, insurance company, or the government...none of which relate to what I do now! However, I couldn't imagine doing anything else. It's funny how life works itself out.
 
Adam: How did you become an “influencer”? What is the inside story?

Jordan: I often joke that I became an influencer by accident. I got started in the online business and social media space before the term "influencer" became a widely recognized title so you could say I didn't quite set out with that in mind. On the contrary, it all started with a creative idea and learning what an Etsy shop was. I considered the idea of selling crafts I would make during college online. This wasn't something my friends were doing - and was still a newer space when I started out - so I thought it would be something fun and different to try. Within a few months, I opened an account on Etsy and began selling hand-painted mugs, canvases, and other little products. Alongside that shop, I decided to create a social media page to share what I was making with family, friends, and anyone else who might be interested in a hand-lettered mug. I simply saw it as a fun hobby to make a little side income as I finished up school but I never imagined it growing into so much more.

Here's how it happened: Sometimes, I'd ask my roommates in my sorority house to help me package and ship the items after I had created them...and as we sat there for hours and stuffed packing peanuts into tiny boxes, we got to talking about everything 20-something college gals talk about. From relationships and body image to uncertain plans and our biggest dreams, we talked about it all. We'd support one another and offer wisdom and advice as we could. This was significant because those conversations inspired me...and incredible life lessons were tucked inside so many of them. 
Since I was personally inspired and impacted by all the late night chatter, I began sharing some of those stories and bits and pieces of what I learned from our conversation on my social media pages alongside photos of my items. Although I didn't have a large following at the time, I learned very quickly that those messages resonated with more women than just the few who helped me pack items and boxes. 

Less than a year after starting that small Etsy shop, several of the articles I'd written alongside photos of my shop items or even of myself now and then began to pick up traction. 100 shares on Facebook turned into 1000 shares. 1000 shares turned into 10,000. And although it happened over the course of several months, it seemed as though I suddenly had a growing audience asking for more inspiration, ideas, and advice...and so, that slowly became a much more prominent piece of my brand. 

What began as a simple hobby and small business to make some extra cash for late night pizza runs grew into something so much more than I ever imagined. You could say it's been a wild ride.

Adam: What advice do you have for those interested in working with influencers? How do you do decide who to work with? 

Jordan: I take any kind of influence I have very seriously. That said, I'm very specific and mainly focus on creating and promoting my own resources rather than depending on brand deals. It's just the route I've decided to take my business. 
When I do work with brands, I only consider working with those that I believe in, use regularly, personally benefit from, and believe will actually help my audience. 

It's a big deal for me when a company values and understands that I am also a company and a brand, makes an effort to build a working relationship, and offer flexibility on how I can best share their resource or product without damaging my own brand or rapport with my audience. When I find a partnership like that, I'm much more likely to work with that brand again in the future. For me, a working relationship trumps a transactional promotion every time.

Adam: What advice do you have for those interested in becoming influencers? 

Jordan: Consider what you really want...and what the word "influencer" means to you. I think, nowadays, the term is basically assumed to mean "advertiser," but you need to understand that being an influencer of culture, people, and even customers is so much bigger than that, and does not mean you are limited to promoting other brands. 

If that's what you ultimately want to do, there's nothing wrong with promoting some brands and resources that you truly love. However, I personally advise anyone who wants to be an influencer to really consider what that word means--and how you will work to be more than an advertiser. If you have influence, how you are impacting or influencing someone's life for the better (beyond what you can get them to buy)? 

That said, my number one tip to any person who wants to have influence online is to really listen to your audience rather than trying to get them to listen to you. That's when you'll understand what problems their facing and how you might be able to positively impact and even help solve those problems. In other words, when you understand your audience, you can create your own resources to serve them (and then promote others alongside that now and then, without feeling obligated to do so).

Money is obviously important but get ready to say no more than you say yes when it comes to partnerships. Watch out for yourself, people will always want something from you and even try to take advantage of you. And you need to be a little business savvy if you're going to step into that ring. It's a lot of work and success in it requires a lot of intentionality.

Popularity doesn't necessarily mean profitability, and online influence doesn't always mean impact. Choose wisely. 

Adam: What is the biggest misconception about the influencer world and life as an influencer?

Jordan: I think one of the biggest misconceptions about the influencer world is that someone is paid for being popular online. Nothing is further from the truth. Most influencers I know are business savvy, strategic, often have their own products or projects and resources available, are incredibly intentional, and willingly sacrifice profit if that means compromising their purpose. I wish people understood this more. 

Adam: What has being an influencer taught you about branding and marketing? 

Jordan: Everything. I personally geek out over branding and marketing strategy so it's been fun to learn this new space to do business, build a career, and impact people. I've learned the importance of listening to my audience and what they're saying, rather than just talking at them and selling to them. I've learned how to invite them into a story and help offer solutions for the pain points their experiencing. When done that way, it doesn't even feel like branding or marketing in how we often think about it. It feels like building a meaningful connection. And I can't help but think that's what it' supposed to be.

Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you? 

Jordan: I love to go for long jogs down country roads and enjoy DIY home projects. My long runs shape not only me but also a large portion of what I put out into the world because that's often when I get my best thinking done and let my imagination run a little wild. Some of my best ideas have come from those runs. Our DIY home projects, such as painting our chicken coop or building a table for our home, have shaped me into someone who values hard work and excellence in any project - whether it's a chicken coop or a big piece of content I put out. Life is an art form that requires precision in executing a vision. DIY projects refine skill in me.

Adam: Who have been the biggest influences in your life and how do you pay it forward?

Jordan: My grandmother who passed away several years ago was a big influence in my life. She immigrated from Mexico City to the United States and made a way for herself and her four children. She was known for giving back and helping so many others in the community in my hometown - even when she didn't have much. Additionally, she was a teacher who helped equip minority children with the reading and language skills they would need to get their education and make a way in the workforce. Her love for life and service of others inspired me to follow in her footsteps. Now, my business gives back in a similar way by donating a portion of proceeds to women and children in crisis and provides work opportunities for college-age students and young adults to gain skills they will need to succeed. It wasn't what I planned on doing when I started an Etsy shop that day but is a privilege and I wouldn't have it any other way.

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