‘One part luck, two parts ingenuity’: Students gain large followings on social media


When Frannie Acciardo, ’20, was 13 years old, she casually started a life, style and travel blog with the intention of keeping it up for about a week, if that.

Now, five years later, Acciardo’s blog boasts nearly 9,000 followers.

Frannie Acciardo, ’20, runs a popular blog. Acciardo started her blog five years ago. (Emily Preble/B&W Staff)

“The first time I felt like a big deal was when I was at J. Crew and a girl walked up to me and said, ‘Oh my god are you Frannie? Are you the blogger?’ and I said ‘Yeah!’” Acciardo said. “I think I was more excited than she was. It was like the greatest day of my life.”

Acciardo said her blog started as a fun way to tell her friends what earrings she thought were cute and what her dream travel destinations were. But the more people started to become aware of her blog, franacciardo.com, the more Acciardo realized people cared about what she had to say.

Given the pace of today’s media, takeoffs like Acciardo’s aren’t unheard of. Maggie Gross, ’20, experienced a similar follower swell when the culinary Instagram account — “Eat, Sleep, and Eat More” — she started with two cousins grew quickly into a profile with approximately 29,000 followers. Gross said she grasped just how big her Instagram was after she got home from summer camp and saw a flood of notifications.

“One time we got like 4,000 followers in one day,” Gross said. “I think my notifications just shut off . . . I would refresh every second and it would show more and more new followers. I was like, ‘Oh my god how is this happening right now?’”

Jeremy Littau, an assistant professor of journalism and communication, said the art of being well followed is one part luck and two parts ingenuity.

“It’s a little bit of getting noticed, but there is an art of self-promotion that is involved in getting that kind of following,” Littau said. “You have to be strategic about every time you produce something . . . It’s one of those things that kind of happens organically, but at the same time, you kind of have to seek it, because (this) generation has been taught to lock down on their social media.”

Yet with a great following comes great responsibility. Littau said professional social media managers are on top of their accounts all hours of the day. He said he respects the students who manage to dip their toes into the pool of personal brand management.

“I don’t know when they sleep,” Littau said. “I can’t imagine doing that with school full time. It starts to consume your life. When I talked to people who do that professionally, they said that it’s a 24-hour job.”

Acciardo and Gross agree. Between homework, social events and other on-campus responsibilities, finding time to keep up with their accounts becomes challenging.

Maggie Gross, ’20, runs an Instagram account called “Eat, sleep and Eat more.” Gross’s account has almost 29,000 followers. (Emily Preble/B&W Staff)

Gross said it’s hard to remember to keep up with her account because she simply isn’t thinking about it as much. If Gross is in the library, she only thinks about being in the library, not keeping up with her Instagram account.

When they do make time to post, Acciardo and Gross stressed consistency in their accounts. Garnering followers is one thing, but keeping them interested requires a separate level of commitment, Acciardo said .

“You get more followers when you’re consistent . . . so I try to post once a day,” Acciardo said. “On average, a post takes me about an hour and a half to write. In an ideal world, I’d know what I was writing about every weekend and I’d write it all on Sunday and have it all scheduled out, but I usually don’t.”

The management of blogs like Acciardo’s and profiles like Gross’s requires not only good time-management skills but also internet know-how. Littau said successful internet persons understand what makes their followers stick around and are constantly learning about what to do next to stay in the game.

“You need to look beyond yourself to be successful on social media,” Littau said.

Littau said it’s about being introspective and learning about what gets people to interact, touches a nerve or gets their attention, all of which is external to the person behind the computer or phone screen.

Gross, for example, said she learned quickly that her teenage followers were hungry around 3 p.m., so at 3 p.m. she got on her account and made sure they saw something mouth-watering.

“Our followers want to see caramel dripping from an ice cream cone and mozzarella sticks,” Gross said. “It’s really fun figuring out what times to post certain pictures.”

Gross’s and Acciardo’s passion for social media, while rewarding in its own right, has monetary perks as well. Acciardo said her blog includes links that give her a commission every time a follower buys a certain item. She also occasionally writes sponsored articles that could earn her up to $500 a post.

Additionally, Littau said the nature of social media gives students like Acciardo and Gross a leg up when later applying for jobs in the marketing industry, for example. Littau said social media gives students a megaphone for their ideas.

“That kind of exposure I would’ve killed for as a college student,” Littau said. “People being able to know who you are is huge.”

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