October 22, 2020
Today we got to talk to one of our best friends in the world. If you follow us on Instagram you’ve probably heard us talk about her, the wonderful and amazing Sena Nelson.
Sena runs a lifestyle and motherhood social media brand where she focuses on sharing content of her family, faith, nature, and living a life of simplicity. She built her brand as a lifestyle mom blogger and over the course of the years has now turned it into a full time job as a content creator, influencer, course creator, and preset seller. She’s a momma to four kids with one on the way and her husband Eric is in the US navy. Sena and her family have spent the last 8 years in Hawaii, and recently moved to London last year. They can currently be found traveling Europe and documenting life as expats over the next few years over on her instagram account @senaenelson.
Lindsey met Sena when she first moved to Hawaii, and they clicked IMMEDIATELY. She instantly became a fast friend and they ended up being neighbors on the island. Over the years of getting to know her, Lindsey watched her successfully navigate building an online brand around family, motherhood, and lifestyle content creation. That’s what we sat down to chat with her about!
Sena absolutely CRUSHES the very specific niche of “mommy-blogging” on Instagram and she has a world of wisdom to share when it comes to that. In today’s episode, we chat all things growing your Instagram account as a family influencer, collaborating and working with companies, balancing motherhood while also running an online business, navigating the challenging waters of having your job be capturing your family while also trying to stay in the moment as a mother, and so much more. We dive into all of that and basically have an hour long girl chat so grab some wine, popcorn, or drink or snack of choice, make sure your kiddos are napping so you can fully focus on the wisdom Sena shares.
Sena met Lindsey through Instagram and they connected while living on the island. Sena saw Lindsey at their church and recognized her! Lindsey was moving into the town that Sena had just bought a house in and they ended up being neighbors. Sena met Evie about a year after that when she was visiting Hawaii.
Sena had Instagram and would occasionally post for years. Eric, her husband, is in the military and Sena was looking for a way to connect with other people and socialize since they moved so much. She began to post consistently and engage with other’s posts. She would look through hashtags and find influencers with similar interests.
Sena began to enter a ton of giveaways! She would search #giveaway and enter like crazy! Over the course of three or four months, she picked up followers doing those. She also took away about $20,000 in prizes just from entering. 90% of the time you win a giveaway if you write a comment tagging someone. Then she would go to their photos and like a ton and they would end up picking her.
Then, she would begin curating those things to build an image and a brand. When you enter or win a giveaway, you have no obligation to photograph it or advertise it, but Sena would go above and beyond. She would advertise for those companies and tag them and they began to notice and to reshare her images. This helped her to build a following and it also built relationships with the brands. A lot of the companies would come back and ask if they could send her more products. She would accept it because it was a way for her to build a relationship with the brands as well as build her feed and practice what she wanted to do.
Around 10,000 it’s kind of hard to win giveaways so she would reach out to the brands and ask if she could host giveaways. 9/10 would tell her no, but she kept pushing in and asking. Eventually, they would do a giveaway and that helped her grow her account. When they did accept, Sena always over-delivered. She would post more than they would expect, taught herself Lightroom, and committed to using a DSLR for the images. (At the time, most people were just using iPhone photos) Then, she would send the client a Google Drive of the images so that they could use them as well. This helped continue growth.
This was her process until about 40,000 followers when she started taking paid ads.
Most people start with working with small shops as a mom influencer. You have to understand that just as influencers are friends on Instagram, shops are too! Whenever you do right by one brand, they have friends and tell their friends about their experience with you! This also goes with paid collaborations. Different brands will have the same representative so if you do well, they often offer you more opportunities.
Sena always had a hope that that is what it would become but, you never really know and you have to take a chance. You can pour into it and not see the fruits of your labor. Sena tried to be as strategic as she could, but you just never know what will happen.
There are ways to draw people in, set yourself apart, and draw in your audience but at the same time, there is no guarantee on the other end.
Mom blogging and influencing works the best when it is true to who you are. Those who succeed on Instagram with lifestyle and family blogging are typically the ones that are the same online as they are offline. If you are constantly rearranging your house for a photo or curating the perfect outfit that you wouldn’t otherwise wear then it is going to be hard to maintain consistency because it’s not true to who you are. You probably won’t enjoy it and it’s going to be hard to stick with.
Sena’s biggest advice in starting on Instagram is to know who you are and be that online and offline.
Find your nice and start pursuing that!
Come up with words that define your brand so that you have a clear and concise direction of where you are heading. As you are starting out, make sure that everything you are sharing is reflective of that.
When Sena started her account, her words were Jesus, family, nature, and simplicity. Those words were in her bio for quite some time. They were words that as she was creating content she would go back and make sure it was reflective of those words and messages.
Figure out how to stand out. What do you have that is different? Share that. At first, that thing for Sena was that she lived in Hawaii. When everyone else was shooting against a white wall, she made sure to shoot outside in Hawaii.
Figure out how you are different than the average person connecting online and figure out how people can connect with you. Are you a military family? This is an incredible niche that so many can relate to! Figure out what you’ve got and what your niche is.
Post and show up! We know that every photo is not going to be perfect. It is important to show up in your imperfection. Show up with your best, but also life isn’t perfect and there is relatability in that.
At this point, it is more of a job. It is absolutely a creative outlet, but Sena doesn’t know how she would function without it. It is a part of their life at this point and she enjoys it! It’s positive as long as it doesn’t overtake your life. As long as it is an accessory of your life and not the center of your life. Just like with a 9-5 job where you have to sign off, it’s the same with Instagram. You have to have working hours.
Sena has learned that she doesn’t have to post every day! It’s okay to take Sundays off!
It’s a great thing, but you have to know how to sign off! It also offers great connection with so many people. It allows you to build relationships with people you would not have otherwise met. It can offer a really great way to build relationships and friendships.
When your job is Instagram and something big happens your immediate reaction is to pick up your phone and film it. There is goodness in that because you have so much documentation, but you also have to consciously figure out when to put the phone down and be present. As long as you are documenting what is really going on because your account focus is your life, versus trying to create something to be your life, it’s a good thing. It needs to be an accessory to your life, but not the center of your life.
Are you documenting what is going on or are you creating what is going on? Of course, there is a time and place to create and orchestrate photos, but there is a way to intertwine it.
Very rarely does Sena post a story in the moment. This has nothing to do with making it perfect, it is often because she is captioning them. This would take time away from her kids, so she posts later! She wants Instagram to be a documentation and an accessory to her life and does not want her life to revolve around it. She records as they go and then will upload and caption later.
Sena has figured out a few things over the years that work and let the kids have fun but also let her get the shot. If you look through her feed, there is generally an apple in every fourth photo. The reason for that is because her kids love their apples! If she had to get a campaign shot and line them up in a row, she would give each of them an apple since they take a while to eat so she had time to get the photo and they don’t stain! In addition, an apple doesn’t look bad in a photo!
Ultimately, she tries to give her kids movement because they love to move. For example, she could tell them to go to the tree and run back to her. It’s mainly about having props and little tricks to allow them to have fun.
The stoic photos get boring and the kids don’t enjoy it! Nobody enjoys that. Try to find ways to let them play and enjoy it too.
From Sena’s position as a mom blogger, your husband and family have to be on board. When she started this, she didn’t know if it would become anything. She put a lot of work in, but you just never know. Before they started pushing into it, Sena and Eric had to have a conversation about what their hope was for it and what it would require of them.
Eric is the one who does all the photos. When they started Instagram, they had just bought their first DSLR and Sena taught herself Lightroom. Eric learned alongside her. He was on board and really worked on seeing her vision through. In the beginning, it’s hard because you don’t know if your labor is going to pay off. You have to communicate and have a joint vision to make sure everyone is on the same page.
As products started coming in, and Sena began making money it was really clear that what they were working towards was working so they kept pushing into it and reinvesting in themselves. They continued to buy nicer cameras and lenses and continued to level up. Sena couldn’t have done this without Eric being on board and willing to buy more gear and take all of their photos.
It wouldn’t have worked if they weren’t on the same page.
When Eric is gone, he is gone for 6-8 months at a time. He also works every 4th night when he is home. Because he is a submariner, whenever they go underway or they are deployed, there is no communication which is really hard. This is challenging with the kids.
From a business perspective, it taught her how to use a tripod and use time management. There are things in their house which she is very specific about, and that is purely due to the schedule of their lives. One of these is bedtime. All of their kids go to bed at the same time and they have an early bedtime. When Eric is away, she uses that time to work and get things done. Routine is a big key with Eric being gone a lot. Sena isn’t perfect and actually hates routine, but she gets more specific with it when he is away.
Sena was much more open when developing her brand in the beginning and took what she could get.
Often it’s about quality over quantity for Sena. She would rather have a couple of nice toys for the kids that they play with over and over again that they enjoy and last much longer.
It all goes back to who you are and what you value.
In terms of her house, the more junk they have lying around, the more the junk owns her. When they lived in Hawaii they had 1100 sqft for the six of them. They didn’t have a lot of junk. When you don’t have a lot you don’t have to constantly pick it up and clean it up.
As a mom, she knows that she is not super happy or available to her kids whenever there is a ton of junk floating around. If she is owned by the things in her life, then she can’t be the best mom that she can be. Instead, she is washing and maintaining their junk. She doesn’t want to have to maintain junk, she wants to have fun.
It is hard. With kids, it feels like you need a lot of stuff. It goes back to the fact that the more you have, the more you have to maintain.
Be who you are offline online and it will be easy and you will enjoy it. Think carefully about your niche so it fits into your life and not the other way around. When you set up your account make sure it is true to who you are and always over-deliver. Companies and influencers talk. Be a good friend and be a good business person. Operate with ethics and morals and that is the key.
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WASSUP FRIENDS. We’re Evie + Lindsey, co-founders of this wild partayyy called The Heart University. Our goal is to empower entrepreneurs to kick freaking BUTT in their businesses, dive down into the heart of their why and how, and serve you with all possible tools you’ll need to up-level your business game and CRUSH those goals of yours.
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