Being a “digital creative” is a job that millennials have been drawn to because of the constant evolution of social media. Platforms such as Instagram and Twitter have put people in a position to where if they have a brand that they’re building and they don’t have a solid digital strategy, they’re already a step or two behind the competition. Knowing your audience and learning new techniques to grow and expand your digital presence is what we’ve come to in 2018 and people like Simone Arrington, digital marketer and strategist, is one of the leaders when it comes to that area.
From building a well-known podcast to doing digital work with companies like Bossip and Global Grind, Simone continues to outdo herself and those around her by constantly keeping herself in the loop of what’s new, hip, fresh and innovative. I spoke with Simone about her creative inspirations, the duties of a “digital content marketer”, her new positions over at Bossip and Global Grind, the Bonnets & Durag Podcast and much more in our interview below.
1 – What inspired you to get into digital marketing?
I’ve always been fascinated with digital products ever since the age of 9. I used to be a part of Nickelodeon chat rooms and AIM, then I took a stab at blogging on pre-historic sites like Xanga and BlogSpot, then I moved on to creating layouts and obsessing over Top 8’s on MySpace, to engaging with online friends on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter just to name a few. The Internet, blogs, and social media have played a major part in my (social) life because I lived for the conversation and connection I would make with other online users. I’m naturally a shy individual so digital outlets were like a safe haven playground for me. Social media platforms give a voice and an outlet of expression to people of all different personality types. Now that I work in digital marketing, I love being able to humanize content and create more memorable, interactive experiences with individuals on- and off-line.
2 – What inspired you to be a ‘creative’?
I saw someone tweet “Create the content you wish existed. Fill the gap.” and I felt that shit. That’s exactly how I started my “creative” journey. I have this constant itch to create content and experiences that get people (including myself) to step outside of their comfort zones. Back at home in Albany, there weren’t very many events or spaces for people of color to go out and enjoy doing other activities outside “turning up.” Instead of continuing to my boredom-complainer skit every weekend, I created my very first curated event called “444Mation: A Bey-Z Sip & Paint Experience” and it was beyond amazing. It was a sold out event and the outpour of love and support I got from that inspired me jumpstart another event series, the #WeMetOnTwitterDayParty experience.
3 – The #WeMetOnTwitterDayParty was very popular here in NYC. What inspired you to get into event hosting?
Instead of complaining and wishing that an event experience existed, I decided to create the experiences I wanted to be a part of. I’ve made a ton of connections with people online that have turned in to real life friendships; especially on Twitter. I met my roommates, one of my closest friends, and other amazing folks in my life directly on the platform. We all spend so much time chatting with strangers who become our Internet fam, I figured why not cultivate this digital friendship in real life and create a meetup for us all. Whether someone was looking for a bae or a business partner, creating a space for us to enhance these connections was so necessary if you ask me.
4 – You’re currently involved in digital work for multiple platforms like Bossip, Global Grind and others. What exactly do you do for these brands and how’d you get into it?
I began working for our black-owned parent company, iOne Digital, back in February 2018. As the Content Marketing Manager of Pop Culture brands, I work to streamline production and promotion of digital content for Bossip, Global Grind, and HipHopWired. (And no, I’m not responsible for writing those crazy ass Bossip headlines lol.) Much of my daily work consists of email marketing, managing advertising campaigns, and creating strategies around paid content and social media plans. Celebrities and influencers come through our doors at least twice a week so I’ve had to learn pretty quickly to turn my fan girl down. Everything isn’t always glitz and glam behind these walls, but my work environment is lit and keeps me motivated.
How I got started? Long story short, my bachelor’s degree is in Public Relations and Advertising and I had no educational experience in marketing; just personal and previous work experience. I was working as a Communications Coordinator in higher education for 2 ½ years before deciding to drop everything and move to NYC. I always knew that I eventually wanted to go from public relations to marketing (especially in the media and entertainment industry) so I made a strategic chess move and took a pay cut for another entry-level job just so I could get my foot in the door. During my transition, I did social media consulting work for small business owners on the side and continued to build out my own personal brand. Then the content marketing role found its way to me at the right moment and the rest is history. I’m just thankful that upper-level management granted me the opportunity to prove myself in this new line of work.
5 – Tell us a little bit more about Bonnets & Durags: A Pillow Talk Podcast. How and why’d you decide to start a podcast?
Bonnets & Durags: A Pillow Talk Podcast is an outlet where we have open and intimate conversations with millennials of color. I started it back in January 2016 and people still chuckle when they hear the name of the show lol. During one of the many times where the tension seemed to be at an all-time high between black men and women on Twitter, I wanted us to settle our differences once and for all: have a civilized, sit down conversation about it. As a woman, I can admit that when I’m frustrated and fed up, sometimes I don’t let my counterparts fully speak their mind without writing them off or making assumptions. Instead of continuing to silence and judge all black men, I wanted to give them a platform to explain their perspectives and express themselves comfortably so we can find common ground. I’m big on my show being a judgment-free zone. We talk about a variety of topics. Whether it’s about sex and relationships or personal growth and career development, these conversations I’ve had with millennial black men and women are ones that everyone needs to hear. All of my episodes have been learning and discovery moments for not only my guests but myself and my listeners. I can’t wait to expand the show by bringing in more guests, creating ‘Bonnet Talks’ for women and ‘Durag Talks’ for men, and even starting a video interview series.
6 – Explain what a “Digital Content Marketer” is.
A digital content marketer is someone who plans, produces, and pushes digital content of all forms. The key to great digital content is making it engaging, relevant, and relatable. Anyone can build a brand, but how many people does it really resonate with? I specialize in socializing digital content and creating more evergreen conversations around said topics, products, or events. We’re service-oriented people and it is our job to create solid partnerships and memorable brand experiences with the world.
7 – How did you get involved with The Creative Collective NYC?
My involvement with The Creative Collective NYC actually came from me attending their first CultureCon event back in 2017. It was my second week of living in NYC and when I left that event, I felt so inspired and motivated to jumpstart my career and passion projects in this new city that I’d call home. I felt like I finally found my tribe of like-minded creative folks so I made sure that I would involve myself with The CCNYC team and whatever activations they had going on from that point on. I became a volunteer in the winter of 2017 and a Community & Events Assistant position opened up in July of 2018. I loved event planning, I loved working with other creative kinfolks, and I loved everything about the organization and what they stood for, so applying for the role was a no-brainer. I got the gig and was on-boarded this past summer. Sooner than later I dove right into helping the team craft one of the most talked conferences in black culture this year, CultureCon. I’m still in awe that we were able to pull of something so monumental as that event was. I am extremely blessed to have been a part of such a talented team.
8 – There are a lot of creatives who have a hard time marketing themselves and/or their brand on social media. As a Digital Content Marketer, what tips or advice do you have to for the rising digital creative?
Authenticity is key. Find your niche market. Think outside the box. Know that no idea is a bad idea. Create with a purpose, not for popularity. Engage with your audience and tailor your content to meet whatever it is they need from you. Position yourself as an expert in your area of interest/work. Make real connections with like-minded individuals online and offline. Collaborate effectively, not desperately. Have a “how can I help them” attitude (because self-serving attitudes can be spotted from a mile away and will leave you stagnant.) Network across, not just up. Create an accountability group. All of these things are what I’ve done to develop into the person that I am today. I’m not perfect but I’m constantly evolving in this creative space.
9 – What is your overall opinion on social media and utilizing it to build a name and/or brand?
I think it’s super important! Our social media accounts speak for us before we even enter the room. They’re like pre-screenings. Be mindful of how you’re presenting yourself and your brand online. Being an online persona is only great if you have a positive reputation to match. A lot of people get what it really means to be influencer confused. Social media influencers are judged and rewarded by corporate decision makers for their follower counts. But we all know that engagement metrics are gold and if you aren’t really moving the culture with your commentary or content then who are you really influencing? I’m nowhere near being an influencer but I’ve built a solid following because my audience finds me to be relatable. I believe that me and my digital friends are pushing the culture forward with the work we’ve been doing. Make sure that every comment you make and post you create on social media is intentful — especially nowadays in this cancel culture society!
10 – Who are some people in the industry that currently inspire you to do what you do? Why?
I really look to a lot of my friends and peers for inspiration. They keep me going when I feel like I’m running out of fuel. They challenge me when I’ve become complacent. When it comes to my creative work, hearing more storytelling from people of color in the podcast space is something that really speaks to my spirit. The women from Black Girl Podcast (my favorite podcast out right now) make me feel seen and heard like no other media outlet has in recent times. Their art of being raw and vulnerable with one another pushes me to feel confident in doing the same in all aspects of my life and work. To be totally transparent, I don’t really have just one or few key industry leaders that I’m looking up to in the communications industry. I met some phenomenal change makers during my first year in NYC and I can’t wait to learn more from them, their work, and their consistent impact on the culture as time goes on. I’m honestly just so happy to be in a space where there are more black and brown leaders with a seat at the head of the table. The progressional distance between myself and them is what keeps motivated and I can’t wait to build my own table so we all can eat.
11 – What can we expect from Simone in these last few months of 2018? Any big plans for 2019?
I’m really going to enjoy this last quarter of the year taking time to myself, spending quality time with loved ones, perfecting my tasks at work, and challenging myself to shoot my professional shots. There are so many people I want to work with and things I want to be involved in that, at this point, I’m just getting in my own way by not going for it. In the media and entertainment industry, closed mouths don’t get fed so it’s time for me to level up. As far as Bonnets & Durags, aside from recording more episodes, I’m looking to build out a team, ramp up our digital presence, host another branded event experience, and even tap into doing video segments. If you’re ready to be vulnerable with the world, share your story with me on my show! I’d love to have you.