By: Veronica Kostinsky
When she’s not in class studying Media, Culture, and Communications at New York University, Valeria Podobniy is putting this education in cultural and tech literacy to good use. She doubles as a student and an influencer on Instagram, where she has amassed over 40,000 followers. Today, in her senior year of college, Valeria is ready to make her impact on the influencer industry and change it for the better.
How did you get into influencing?
The way I got into influencing is very interesting. My sophomore year, I worked with Patrick Finnegan, and he was one of the youngest people to have a VC (Venture Capital) fund at the time. He would invest in companies such as Dirty Lemon, Quip, Madhappy, and Koio. They are all Gen Z, direct to consumer brands. The fund was with Jake Paul and Cameron Dallas, some of the most well-known people on social media and Youtube. I was always surrounded by them and [other people] with hundreds and thousands of followers, so I thought, “Hey, all of these people are making so much money; why can’t I do this?”
How did your account begin to grow?
Someone helped me brainstorm the username @valeria, and, after that, my follower count grew, and I was doing a ton of photoshoots. Just always grinding and making content until brands started reaching out, and I started reaching out to brands that I felt I aligned with.
That’s super interesting. In that case, do you find it difficult to balance your school work with a lot of your influencer work?
It’s definitely a work-life balance. I’m always grinding, and, this semester, I’m taking 18 credits, which I’ve done since I was a freshman. At the same time, it’s a really nice side hustle. I reach out to other influencers and go to events with them and just create that community and be a part of something.
How has your life changed since you started influencing?
The summer going into my junior year, I actually interned in LA for a baby food company called Yumi. I was on their social media team, and that’s when I really began to understand the power of social media influencing. I went from just influencing to doing strategic digital marketing with this gym called Fithouse. I presented six NYU girls who had an authentic online community, and introduced them to Fithouse. They loved it so much they began posting and telling their friends, which resulted in Fithouse doing events with a couple sororities. I managed to see this “ripple-effect” on social media where, if more girls posted, then more people ended up showing up because they’re influenced by them. So I ended up doing that for a couple more brands. I ended up being an influencer who was able to see it from the other side as well.
Adding on to that, do you think that a social media presence is vital for brands trying to market themselves?
Absolutely. I think that one of the most telling characteristics of Gen-Z people is that we see through the bullshit of traditional advertisements. For us, if a brand uses a celebrity to advertise on a billboard, it hardly ever reaches us. We see right through it; we see how curated it is. It’s not real. But for Instagram, which is such a visual community, when we see our friends [and people like us] post about a brand, it can come off as much more authentic.
Is that type of marketing is a new phenomenon?
Definitely. In my marketing class, we’ve learned that there’s been more innovation in the past 5 years in marketing then in the past 50, and that’s all thanks to social media.
How important do you think it is to have women, such as yourself, leading these marketing and influencing movements?
It’s super important, especially in light of the #MeToo movement. It shows that women do have a voice, whereas in the past women have been subject to the patriarchy, and we still are, but, right now, we have more of a say about our own lives. Women should take advantage of this powerful time with social media and use the skills that they have to create businesses and mold the world to their advantage.
What issues do you feel need to be confronted in the Influencer community?
There are definitely a lot of issues with the influencer crowd. It is predominantly white, and there isn’t enough diversity in the space. It is also always a very specific type of girl that they look for. It should be more accessible for everybody and not just people who are affluent.
Is there anything that you’re working on right now?
While I was working at Yumi, I became acquainted with their consultant, Dianna Cohen, and learned a lot from her. Dianna is the founder of Levitate, a brand marketing company. Through Levitate, she consulted for brands such as The Wing and Flamingo. I’m actually working as an intern for her right now.
What have you been working on with her?
She is launching Crown Affair, a personal care company that celebrates the rituals and relationship we have with our hair through innovative, thoughtful, and effective product. The business is currently in pre-launch, so it’s been great to work with her on the go to market campaignI’m helping her with marketing and branding. Our creative director is amazing; he used to work for Away. I feel so lucky to be working with such an incredible team. Learning from Dianna is amazing as well. She also went to NYU, and, this year, she was in Forbes’ 30 under 30. So I feel super lucky.
You seem very busy!
That’s not all. In addition, I’m also interning for an app called River, which is a new type of search engine. The CEO of the app, Jeremy Fisher, pioneered Snapchat stories and Instagram stories. Now, he’s building a new search and discovery platform that lets you discover all the news and media in the past 24 hours. River has multiple perspectives and has no algorithmic loopholes for fake news or sponsored stories. When I’m not in class or working with Dianna, I’m creating strategic growth plans.
It’s incredible how you’re able to do all of this at the same time.
I’m a busy gal.
Veronica Kostinsky @verokost is a writer in her free time and an intern for Honeysuckle Magazine. She is a senior at New York University studying English and Communications.