Olia Kedik on Building Her Blog and Instagram Following

Photo courtesy of Oliamoda

Olia Kedik has a loyal band of followers — 85,400, to be exact — and that’s just on Instagram.

The stylish mom and restaurateur, who came to the Bay Area from Moscow in 2003, shares fashion tips and the latest trends on her rapidly growing blog, Oliamoda. For Kedik, what started as a hobby now has grown into something that allowed her to quit her full-time job and pursue blogging as her career path. Due to her following, and her ability to make a career out of it, the Academy of Art University alumna is what is referred to as an “influencer.”

Influencers are often people who have a significant social media following that looks to them for advice or recommendations on topics such as fashion or beauty. The term “influencer” refers to the power they have to influence trends and purchasing choices among their audience.

Brands are still exploring how to approach influencer marketing, meaning paying or working with influencers as an advertising technique. This is also still working to be taken seriously by the public. Kedik has proven that being a successful social influencer is not just a myth.

Photo courtesy of Oliamoda

The Social Media Center is thrilled to have Kedik on its team; she shares her real-life expertise by teaching LA 218 01: Blogging: Content Creation & Promotion. Here, she discusses her path from marketing student to fashion blogger and teacher.

Social Media Center: You graduated from Academy of Art University with a marketing degree. What was your most memorable experience as a student?

Olia Kedik: While I was studying advertising at the Academy, I met my husband, Andy Mirabell, when he and I were working for a restaurant group. We ended up dating and falling in love, then eventually opened our restaurant, Skool, in San Francisco. Everything that I learned at the Academy, I pretty much applied when I was writing our business plan. The benefit that I got from it was tremendous because I was able to do so much without having to source professionals for branding our concept. There was a lot of error too, of course, but that was probably the main message that I want students to hear through this experience. If they are passionate about something, and if they have an idea, school is the perfect time to test-drive it as your homework assignment since you still have room for error. Now my restaurants have been in business for 10 years. When we look back at a lot of it, my husband and I are very thankful for the fact that we were able to test-drive the plan through my thesis paper.

SMC: What is the story behind Oliamoda?

OK: For the longest time, I was a restaurateur and a fashionista. It started when I looked at the restaurant floor as a runway. I knew there were a lot of women who were coming in to see what I was wearing and see how I was wearing it. I saw how much of a following I had for my clientele in the restaurant, and that’s how my passion for sharing my outfits began. I started with tagging all my outfits and sharing tips, then all of sudden I went from 1,000 followers to 5,000 followers. I never looked to become famous on any of the platforms, but my goal was to inspire other women.

SMC: After you decided to approach Oliamoda as a business, how did you build your following into more than 85,000?

OK: I started thinking locally. I signed up for pretty much every meet-up platform. I was everywhere, and I made sure that everywhere I went, people knew me. In these local events, I also met some fantastic talents who had a similar vision and following as me, with whom I was able to do great collaborative works. That’s what I did for the longest time — three to four years. Nothing brought me a substantial income, but I was able to work side-by-side with some creative people and get featured on their pages or get reposted. We were able to help each other cross-promote and that allowed me to grow my audience at a pretty fast rate. Until recently, I still did a lot of in-kind projects, which is a trade for a certain thing. It could be a trade for an item or followers, as long as it was something that can add value to my brand.

Photo courtesy of Oliamoda

SMC: When regular people see an influencer’s life on Instagram, most would think it’s all about the glitz and glamour. What’s your opinion on this?

OK: Yes, there is a huge misperception, because with Instagram you are pretty much looking at a perfect picture. People really think that I have a perfect life. My babies are perfect; my husband is perfect, my house is perfect; it’s not. It’s only perfect for the picture. That’s why it is essential to engage with your audience on the story, comments and direct messages on Instagram, so you create a relationship besides the perfect picture. You want to make sure your audience knows the real you.

For example, I was doing one photo shoot with my daughter practicing yoga outside. I had my husband take the picture, and out of the 60 shots that we took, there was probably only one that I was comfortable using. I purposely put the rest up on my story, and I had a good laugh about myself because I wanted to show my followers how hard it was to get that one perfect picture.

SMC: Talking about Instagram posts, what is your approach to creating sponsored content?

OK: There is a lot that goes into creating content, including choosing who you are working with. If you have a little bit of a following, you are being approached by brands, because everybody wants to tap into each other’s audience, and that’s why it is so important to only work with a brand that you believe in.

I post sponsored content a couple of times a week, and sometimes I have to do more because I have scheduled posts, but I try to keep a good balance of niche topics and personal topics. I see a bunch of bloggers and influencers online that only have pure sponsored content. I don’t think they have a lot of room for growth, because you still want to have that authenticity that comes from you, not your sponsors, from being true to yourself and putting yourself out there.

SMC: What do you think about the recent FTC Endorsement Guides, which requires bloggers to disclose when they have been paid to post something?

OK: I agree that it is beneficial to have these rules in place because it is fair for the consumer to see this disclosure and understand which post is sponsored and not. However, it makes it so much harder for influencers to deliver an organic message.

I often see how much judgment there is toward sponsored content. For example, I just posted about a child seat, and my girlfriend asked if I actually liked the product. The reality is people are skeptical toward advertisements.

An influencer has a voice, and brands are deciding whether they want to use this influencer’s voice to position their product. Influencers have to smartly pick what brands to endorse. It is a new form of advertisement. That’s why in this ever-changing influencer business, you’ll always to adapt to the change that comes with it.

Photo courtesy of Oliamoda

SMC: What is your advice for students who dream of being a social media influencer?

OK: Start today. You have to pick a scene that you are most passionate about, then you have to stick to it and be true on what you put out there.

For students who have this big dream because they see examples from the Kardashians, I want them to understand that you don’t get a million followers and engagement like that in a day. All of this takes a lot of investment of time and effort. You have all the time to tweak your idea down the road, but start now.

SMC: You’re now a blogging instructor at Academy of Art University. How do you define a successful blog?

A successful blog knows its audience and creates content for that audience. You want to create valuable content for your reader. When I look at the analytics of the blog, posts that get the most hits are always content that gives a solution to my reader. I have a mixed audience of modern mothers; they are edgy and like to try new things, so I need to make sure that I am tapping into that audience. For example, I do a lot of “how-to” posts and review products that will help my readers.

A successful blog also has well-crafted search-engine optimization. They are posting answers to questions that people searched on Google, since most of the time people are looking for advice online. I remember the Director of the Social Media Center & Fashion Journalism, Stephan Rabimov, once had a joke: “If you want to bury a dead body, you better hide it on the second page of a Google Search.” No one is going to find you there, so you want to make sure that your content is on the first page of Google.

Photo courtesy of Oliamoda

SMC: What do you think is the most common blogging mistake that we all should avoid?

OK: Ninety percent of blogs fail, and I believe the biggest mistake is starting to write without understanding who you are writing for. You are writing about what you think is a great idea, but is it worthwhile? Right now in this busy world, our number one task is to simplify people’s lives by making information more accessible. If you are putting noise among noise that is already out there, then you are wasting people’s time.

SMC: What has been your classroom experience? What do you most look forward to in your class?

OK: It’s an interesting chapter for me to teach blogging at the Academy because this is a great extension of something that I’ve been teaching myself to do in the past six years. I am also learning a lot myself.

For students, I want to remind them that networking is the number one thing in any business, especially in fashion. Networking can begin with your fellow students in your classroom. Throughout my semester, I will be covering how to grow your following using just your friend’s account. I started my brand from networking locally, and I want to teach my students how to do that. Sometimes success is just around you, and you just have to figure out how to reach and touch it.

Learn more about Social Media Center courses here!

Text by Marisa Tania, BA Fashion Journalism, and Contributing Editor at Social Media Center, Academy of Art University