Elena Hansen, a former Stuart Weitzman brand specialist-turned-corporate marketer at MetWest Terra, decided in late 2014 that she was ready to rebrand as a social media expert.
“Given how new it all is, a few years of experience in this space is significant,” said Hansen. “And for a lot of brands, it’s uncharted territory.”
In January 2015, Hansen launched her own social media agency, L.A.-based Swim Social, with one other employee and 14 accounts. The agency now has 10 employees and counts stars like Selena Gomez and Ashley Tisdale, and brands like Alfred Coffee and Splits59 as clients.
Hansen said she’s still wearing just about every hat possible at the company, which runs about 30 client Instagram accounts. Her take on the future of social media marketing is that it’s going to continue to shift to center around engagements and community, rather than follower size (although that’s not to say client Gomez’s record-holding 109 million Instagram followers are a burden).
“It doesn’t get much better than that, in terms of following,” said Hansen. “We support her projects — for instance, we ran a separate Instagram page for her Revival tour — so she can keep her personal page authentic.” During Gomez’s global tour, the side account racked up 1.1 million followers.
We asked Hansen to chart a recent day on the job at Swim Social. The diary has been edited and condensed for clarity.
7 a.m.: I wake up to the Swim team group chat, which is already active. I break all of the “healthy morning rules” and answer immediate emails from bed for the next 15 minutes. I scroll through Instagram and “like” the new photos that have been posted to the 30-plus Instagram business accounts we manage. The morning phone and social media activity may not suit everyone, but my work inspires me and gives me a great reason to jump out of bed.
7:15 a.m.: I move on to some quick voice exercises as I brush my teeth and chug a glass of water. I have a few minutes before my first conference call with a potential client in New York, which I was preparing for until 1 a.m. last night. Over the last year, I’ve learned to do these quick and effective voice exercises that sound something like a siren, to avoid sounding like I just woke up or didn’t get any sleep.
7:30 a.m.: The conference call with New York begins. The potential client asks about the future of social media marketing, how our services can be bicoastal and what results we can promise them in three months. My mind is spinning after the call, and I need to burn some energy off.
8 a.m.: I head out on a morning jog. By now, my email is filling up by the second. I kick myself that I didn’t wake up an hour before my call to have a distraction-free workout — but I also needed the sleep. Sigh.
8:30 a.m.: I hop in the shower and play Norah Jones to decompress before the day really starts. She always puts me in the right state of mind.
9 a.m.: On my morning drive to the office, I stop by Alfred Coffee, where a Swim photo shoot is already underway. Two of our photographers and an intern are there to photograph the new Disney collaboration. I pop in for five minutes to make sure everything is running smoothly, then continue on my way to the office with my matcha latte.
9:30 a.m.: I settle in at the office. The team comes in at 10 a.m., so I enjoy the quiet time there by myself, answering emails and finishing up contracts. I also prep the office, light some candles and get the vibe right for the day.
10 a.m.: The team pours into the office. Everyone pulls a chair up to the table as we get ready for our weekly team meeting. I’ve prepared an agenda that includes a status update on new clients, a creative brainstorm for a fashion brand and a team building exercise. We leave the team meeting feeling inspired and invigorated.
11 a.m.: One of our actress clients, Ashley Tisdale, comes in with her stylist. We are creating content with her today to promote her cosmetics line and personal brand. One of our resident photographers reviews our mood boards with her, and the shoot begins. I oversee the first portion to make sure the energy is right and then leave them to do their magic.
12 p.m.: Photo shoot number two begins. We’re creating shareable recipes with a new snack brand, Puregrowth Organic, so both the kitchen and the photo studio quickly start overflowing with products and props. I can’t help but pop into the studio and provide some in-the-moment ideas as they tackle their shot list.
2 p.m.: I have a meeting in an hour to present a marketing proposal to Selena Gomez and her management team. I put together my presentation with printed copies of the proposal, complete with black paper clips and matte black folders. I make sure that she and every person on her team will have a copy at the meeting. Presentation has always been very important to me ,and I have a sense of pride in putting together my pitch packages.
3 p.m.: I arrive at her house via Uber — I was able to knock out a few emails while en route. We sit at a large dining room table, and I lay out the project proposal. I always have a mixed sense of excitement and vulnerability in this moment, when my ideas and creativity are on display. Leading up to today, I paid very close attention to the goals and vision they communicated to me. I walk them through the strategy and visuals as she looks over the mood board. It shows an effortlessly cool and mature direction, and she feels like we’ve captured her essence. We get the green light on the project, and the real work begins.
4 p.m.: I head back to the office and get a random call from a client. They explain that their marketing budget has been eliminated. They’re thankful for everything we’ve done, but the bottom line is that they have to end the contract. Oh, the highs and the lows of the day.
4:30 p.m.: Back to emails. I send over the contract for our new project with Selena and provide the potential client in New York with a scope of work and budget proposal.
5:30 p.m.: I have an after-hours meeting with our account director to go over some internal changes. We discuss our bandwidth to take on new projects and restructure the accounts. In true startup style, we are sitting on the floor and mapping out employee roles on paper. We lay out the entire company in a life-sized chart with Sharpies.
6:30 p.m.: We wrap up, feeling very accomplished. We just spent an hour poking holes and finding solutions to streamline the workflow and maximize our bandwidth. The office is now empty and quiet, so I spend some time reviewing emails from the team on materials that need approval by tomorrow. I like to provide a thoughtful response on these things.
7:30 p.m.: Time to head home. I call my parents in the car to recap the day, then pick up dinner. My Spanish tutor is waiting at the apartment for our one-hour lesson. This year brought many opportunities in Mexico, and I know that being fluent will become necessary. I am also half-Mexican and feel like learning Spanish is fulfilling personally.
8:30 p.m.: Time to unwind with a bath. I like to give myself a dose of romance with some candles, bubbles and a book. Right now, I’m reading “Mad Genius: A Manifesto for Entrepreneurs” by Randy Gage. I read for a few minutes, then decide to work on some creative ideas for a new cannabis client. We have been tasked with elevating the way a weed and apparel brand can be marketed.
9:30 p.m.: I sit in bed with my laptop, creating a mood board. I work on this for another hour and hope that it relaxes me. I reflect on the day’s stress and excitement. I am grateful to be in a place surrounded by positivity.