One of the very first influencers and live-streamers, Kelly Ann Collins is an expert in building communities. She’s been on ICQ, AOL, Yahoo Messenger, and even ran her own site with daily updates before blogging was a thing.
Kelly Ann was one of the first Google influencers (before “influencer” was a word) back in 2003, an honour that threw her into an elite circle of Internet legends, including the young man who masterminded the pop-up blocker, the creator of text ads, and the guys who launched of one of the very first ranking and online dating sites. She even (haphazardly) ended up in an angel investor meeting for Friendster.
After leaving her work as one of the first digital journalists at USA Today, then working as an employee to help launch AOL Co-founder Steve Case’s Revolution, she turned her blogging hobby into a startup business, bootstrapping, launching and running a pop-politics blog with 3 million monthly readers. She is in the top 2% of female entrepreneurs, gaining $1.5 million in funding for her blog, which was the first media website of its kind to get regular White House and presidential candidate access, taking its fans through the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election with insightful behind-the-scenes clips.
Now, she helps brands and influencers launch and run their own communities through her social media agency, Vult Lab, which works with big brands, thought leaders, nonprofits and NGOs.
Can you introduce yourself to us?
Sure. I started my career as a journalist at USA Today. Then, I got turned onto blogging, internet marketing, and public relations — and never turned back.
Can you take us through your journey to where you are now?
Yes! I love to write, I love to market, I have a deep love for social good and I’ve always been into hot new tech, so I guess it makes sense that I would end up helping organisations and brands with their social media strategies and influencer engagement, which is what I do at my social media consultancy, Vult Lab.
Where can you see yourself within the next 3-5 years?
I was born in the state of West Virginia (USA), which didn’t have a lot of opportunities when I was growing up. So, I had to leave and go to the city (Washington, D.C., and NYC) to develop my career. One big mission we have at Vult Lab is creating remote job opportunities for people who are geographically challenged. That’s why we try to hire talented people with a love for social media who are from Appalachia, as well as small cities and towns across the globe, first—so they can stay at home while doing what they love.
Can you give us highlight 3 common misconceptions about social media?
- If you build it, they will come (definitely not the case).
- The more hashtags the better (not true at all).
- Anyone can do it. (Yes and no. If you are marketing for a brand, and want to grow as you attract the right audience, you have to have proper insights to back up your strategy. Otherwise, you are just wasting time and money.)
Who does the team involve behind you?
We have a small, but mighty team. Our core team is Nicole (content and strategy), Vivian (content and research), Cara (graphic design), Jared (content development and video) and Rachel (graphic design). We also have access to one of the best LinkedIn strategists in the USA, Valerie; and an amazing podcast expert, Lance, who helps us with Vult Lab’s show, Social Talk. We also work with several freelancers on various projects.
Where can you see yourself within the next 3-5 years?
Growing, growing, growing. Vult Lab is four years old now. We have built the foundation and now we are ready to grow! We will expand during the next three years. Very excited to bring on a sales team this year.
What outlets do use to market Vult Lab?
We’re everywhere — on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram. All of our leads to date have come from my social media network and our company accounts.
What challenges have you seen to have been presented during the growth of your business?
The biggest challenge we have faced is getting people to realize that we are a remote company with team members who work from amazing locations across the globe! We had to work hard to show people that we don’t have to all be in one spot to produce amazing work. We’re all motivated and creative and we love what we do, and our work can be done from anywhere (with wi-fi, of course)!
The biggest challenge, I believe, for any business, is the first three years (building phase – branding, marketing, hiring, etc.).
Which other leading entrepreneurs and pioneering game changers do you also admire and why?
I love Arianna Huffington, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Katy Couric, Maye Musk, Oprah, Lady Gaga, Jean Case and Melinda Gates—because they are all successful women who could have stopped working and retired early (or done something else), but they didn’t because they, too, have dedicated their lives to fight for the greater good through activism, educating their communities, launching foundations, inspiring the world. etc.
How do you define your own success?
I love working to help the world, to help others. And I am a big supporter of the 2030 goals. So, in my eyes, the more people I help, the more successful I become. My goal is to help others live their dream lives as we amplify great initiatives and products, together. I want to help people everywhere live productive, full lives. I am one of those pay it forward kind of folks. All about using my powers for good.
What does #BEYOUROWN mean to you?
#BEYOUROWN means no matter what, follow your dreams and be true to you.
Finally, what are you working on throughout 2019?
For a small firm, we have had to the unique opportunity to work on the social media strategy and messaging a variety of amazing projects around the globe. This year we will be working on some exciting anti-cancer campaigns involving NFL players as we continue our work to help amplify the messaging on major social good projects with big brands, thought leaders, nonprofits and NGOs. Also this year, after a stint of earning some post-graduation certificates from MIT and Cornell I will begin work on my master’s degree at Harvard. Because you can never learn too much. And I am a true believer that knowledge is power.