Sabrina Torres’ path to becoming one of Nashville’s bright, young, independent social media managers began as a challenge to herself to meet a specific need: to be able to provide for, as well as be present to care for, her family, she needed to work from home and to work for herself. She set the audacious goal of starting her own business by the time she completed college, and that set her on a path that would lead to her employing multiple contractors and serving clients across the country and internationally.
So, tell us a little about what you do!
I started a social media marketing company called Be Truly Social. We run social media for businesses around the world to help them increase brand awareness, find new customers, and build community with their existing clients. Most of my clients are what I call, “hand over the keys” clients, we take care of it all. For smaller businesses, I do a lot of hourly consultations, which just about any company can fit into their budget. I’m also part owner of Do Something Films with my partner, and I advise our clients on social strategy for their video releases.
How did you get into this line of work?
It was actually a bit of an accident! I was recently divorced, had three little kids, and I was back in school getting a degree in Mass Communication & Media. I wanted to start my own business by the time I graduated. I was specifically looking for a way to work for myself and take care of my family. Then I stumbled across a social media management job listing and I thought to myself “Wow, that’s a real job?” It seemed creative and interesting and I could do it from anywhere.
From that point, how did you begin to make that dream a reality?
Well, I started with the “school of Google” [laughing]. I started learning from people who were actually doing it, and who were really good at it. And then I jumped in with both feet. The best way to learn something like this is by doing it. Social media is constantly changing and evolving, you’re always learning. I started by offering my services for free, with the understanding that there would be a learning curve. It was a great experience. I was ready to go by the time I graduated.
So, when did you get your first paying client, and what was that like?
I think it was 3 months after graduation, and I do think there may have been some breathing into a bag [laughing]. But I had a track record now, I had proven results. I’d been working on my own social media, and doing social for our film company, so I had done enough to convince somebody to pay me, and I guess they were happy with me because 2 years later, they’re still my client!
How did you grow your client base?
Initially, I promoted myself by creating a 60 second video series on social media tips, that worked really well. Got referrals, that was helpful. But the real magic happened when I started to focus on LInkedIn. I’ve developed some tricks there that can generate a lot of leads, I get the bulk of my clients via LinkedIn now.
Ultimately, your business outgrew your ability to service as a single individual. You have a team now?
I do have a team now. I come up with the strategy, and have my team of 5 contract workers, all standouts in their individual areas, execute our plans, and I’m working on possibly adding my first employee. I knew that in order to keep up the level of service that I value and still bring in new clients, I absolutely had to build a team of talented people that I could trust.
So, what does your average day look like?
I’m not sure there is any such thing! Most of my days include phone calls with current clients, chatting with prospective clients, checking in on all the platforms, running the day to day. It can be anything from developing the rollout of a client product launch, or handling a social media crisis for a client. And that’s what I enjoy, that every day is different.
What else have you enjoyed most about the work? Aside from the excitement and having achieved your goal of being able to support your family, and be available to them?
Getting to interact with people every day, online or on the phone. And getting to celebrate things with my clients. When you prepare for two months for a product launch and it goes out and you get to see real-time feedback on social media, it’s pretty exciting! And great opportunities come up all the time because of what I do. Last month, we were invited to speak on our LGBTQ video and social strategy work we do for our film company at the legendary Stonewall Inn in NYC, it was such an amazing honor.
What are some of the most common problems that you find in a company’s existing strategies, when you take over or start consulting?
The biggest problem is usually that there is no strategy. Most businesses that don’t have a knowledgeable person handling their social media are trying to figure it out on a day to day basis. And so overall strategy is the number one thing that I can usually help them with.
What do you do to maintain your own personal brand, while taking care of everybody else’s?
It doesn’t always take top priority! I’ve actually joked with people that you don’t necessarily want to choose a social media manager based on their own social media, because, chances are, they will always put their own at the bottom of the list. I’m busy taking care of clients. But I’m always on LinkedIn no matter what, because that is where my market is. I always tell my clients, invest the most of your time and money where your target audience is.
What general advice would you give to somebody who thinks of themselves as having a personal brand, or as an influencer?
Well, even a personal brand or an influencer still needs to think about the person on the other side of the screen. So, as long as you’re consistent in putting out content that people care about, you’re going to have success. Follower count really is not the most important thing. At this point, I have one client who has 5,000 followers, but every single post gets 3-500 engagements (likes, shares, comments). Whereas you can have a list of 20,000 and get just 5 engagements per post. Which is more valuable? Who’s making a bigger impact? Businesses have learned they want an engaged audience, because they know those are more likely to end up becoming paying customers.
How do you think being out as a lesbian has impacted your career?
I am a very loud and proud, out, Latina lesbian [laughing]. Starting out, people warned me not to be out in my business. The entrepreneurial marketing world is very conservative. But it’s actually been much more successful for me to be out, it helps me stand out in a crowded industry of very similar people, and the hair helps do that, too [laughing]. Sometimes, clients seem to reach out to me *because* I am out, because of the way I look, they feel more comfortable with me because they feel I may share their values. I’m glad I didn’t take that advice in the beginning.
So when you were in college, you set this audacious goal of starting your own business by the time you graduated… What’s your new audacious goal?
Well, my goal for 2019 is to double my revenue from last year, which is only kind of audacious, right? [laughing] But my 5-year goal, I want to have a thriving marketing agency where I get to work with even more brands, causes, and people that I love, that I care about. You know, I think one of the hallmarks of success is getting to work with the people you want to work with, right? And that excites me.
To learn more about Sabrina and what her business can do for you, visit her website, betrulysocial.com. And for those of you who are intrigued by her use of LinkedIn to grow her business, be sure to look on her website for her course on perfecting your LinkedIn strategy!