A Seat at the
In the torturous game of social media, there are multiple roles to play. The sideliners, trolling or devouring content behind empty avatars. The audience (most of us) filling the seats, dictating what trends and throwing our creative energy into the field. The players are the “influencers” we watch voraciously, cheering, copying, comparing. And lastly, the refs, who not only play the game but shape it. Social Media Manager and Content Creator Jordan Santos (@jordanrisa) is quintessentially the latter; swap the poly jersey for a silk top and jeans. A self-proclaimed digital content creator, Jordan describes her aesthetic as “clean, relaxed, and neutral,” but her mind is anything but.
Sure her feed oozes that tonal, minimal, effortless cool that’s IG-porn, but her voice roars with political, socially-conscious, educational fervor. Whether managing a client’s socials like @roseinc. (Rosie Huntington Whiteley’s beauty platform), or curating her own feed, Jordan’s reach goes far beyond surface level. Each post, story, and highlight is an individual opportunity for impact. She’ll suggest the brand share articles on climate change, coordinate influencer volunteer outings, or highlight inclusive women and share their narratives. She uses her own platform to promote causes she supports, organize relief funds, and start voter registration letter-writing campaigns. She wants her platform to be more than just pretty but powerful and inspire her followers to think similarly. In her words, “I want people to realize they can talk about fashion, fitness, beauty, etc., and social issues. Everyone has a voice and influence – even someone who has 10 followers. We can all do a better job of speaking out on the injustices we see and ways to fix them. We’re multi-faceted. And that’s something to share.”
Read on for Jordan’s take on authenticity, the tackiness of insta-fame and using social media for purposeful good.
Both your personal and vocational work delves deeply into social media. Why are you so passionate about it and how did that journey begin?
I’ve always loved social media, long before it became what it is today. Ever since I was young, I was very active on social media platforms – Xanga, MySpace, AIM, Tumblr… you name it. I didn’t know I could make my love for it into a career until I graduated in 2013 and was offered a job at a start-up focused on influencer marketing. I studied Public Relations and interned for various fashion and beauty PR brands, and thought I’d work for a fashion PR firm upon graduating, but that changed and I’m so glad it did. Social media became the “it” thing and I was able to go from managing influencer partnerships to managing social media accounts for various brands and celebrities to now going off on my own as a social media freelancer and what most call an influencer. I truly feel I was meant for this industry and am so glad my studies in PR transitioned well to the needs of working in this digital space.
I really admire how you use your social platforms beyond surface level and more as a social impact tool. Why is that important to you?
To be honest, it’s only become more important to me in recent years. I grew up caring about what I’d imagine most young girls care about – boys, clothes, partying. It wasn’t until 2012 that I realized how necessary it was to look beyond my own interests and think about how who we are and what we do affect so many people.
In 2012 during my senior year of college, I was a passenger in a drunk driving crash. The crash left me with a broken neck and could have altered my life drastically. I was studying at a small university and there were lots of rumors swirling around but I wanted to control my narrative. I shared my experience on Facebook. I received an influx of messages from friends and strangers alike saying they’d heard my story and never took the dangers of drunk driving seriously; promising to be more conscientious on the matter. I saw first-hand how my platform – even with just a few hundred Facebook friends – can raise awareness on an important issue.
I’ve grown a following on Instagram over the years and realized I could use that following to talk about the dangers of drunk driving and share my experience. It was worth talking about an uncomfortable subject if it meant raising awareness and preventing even just a few people from drinking and driving. From there, my need to share important topics and issues grew and I now do my best to shed light on racial injustice, gun violence, and healthcare workers’ need for PPE during this time along with anti-drunk driving efforts.
Is that mission something you bring into your consulting work as well?
It is. I try my best to improve my clients’ social media presences when I can. And I don’t mean just in numbers and sales, but also ensuring they’re making a positive difference in their communities somehow.
One of my biggest problems with social media is the lack of representation – in photography, on Instagram feeds, in online features, etc. Since managing brand social media accounts, I’ve been intentional in curating Instagram grids, gifting lists, model suggestions that showcase a variety of people of different backgrounds and sizes. One of the last shoots I produced called for a male model and I consciously hired an Asian American man for the job as they’re often overlooked and highly underrepresented as attractive figures in the media.
With social media being so visual, it’s important for those working in the industry to realize how much of what we do perpetuates a certain standard of beauty and we can improve that through the people we highlight and collaborate with.
What’s your take on the obsession to be “insta-famous,” buying likes, followers etc? How do you cut through the BS?
God, I hate it. I think it’s so desperate and tacky. I hate the goal of being “insta-famous” and wanting followers for the sake of numbers and clout. Whatever your passion is, work on that. Care about that particular passion, creativity and ability to connect with others. If followers and likes are an organic result of that, great! The end goal should never be fame or attention.
I try to mute or just not follow people who clearly buy likes and followers. It’s a red flag if someone has hundreds and thousands of followers and only a few hundred likes or if their likes are consistently around 1.8K or 2.2K or any specific number… I know many say to not compare and focus on yourself, but I think it’s unfair for those who have organic followers and engagement. It also encourages others to care about the numbers and not the message you’re putting out there. It does a disservice to the social media community.
What’s the secret sauce for killer content? What’s your advice to fellow content creators?
I wish I knew! Haha. The secret sauce for killer content is being original. My favorite content creators are those who are setting the trends and *are* the inspo – not following or copying them. It’s so hard to stay 100% original with so much time we all spend looking at photo after photo on the platform, so just post what feels right to you – what you genuinely like and what speaks to you. Don’t worry about likes or external validation.
And with the world’s increased reliance on social media, do you feel it will shift social either creatively or business-wise? What does the future of content look like for you?
With everyone at home, we’re less distracted by the glamour in one’s life – the travels, the fancy dinners, designer outfits – and more focused on who they are as a person – what they’re talking about, what they’re eating, what they’re reading, how they’re doing at this time. I think you begin to notice which brands and influencers have genuine relationships with their audiences and continue to inspire and connect. I hope the days of people just pushing product after product are behind us and that people have realized the importance of sharing helpful information and positivity during this pandemic and continue to do so after.
CONCLUDING WITH A ROUND OF RAPID-FIRE QUESTIONS:
What are you reading?
There There by Tommy Orange and This Is Not A T-Shirt by Bobby Hundreds
What are you listening to?
Classic soul music and Podcast-wise; What A Day and NPR’s Up First.
What’s exciting you, rn?
The increased representation in the media. I recently watched Ramy, Lovecraft Country, The Half Of It, Never Have I Ever and am so happy to see people of color as leads in movies and TV.
Jacquemus and Nanushka.
A tripod to take photos in my apartment. It’ll be my new Instagram husband.
Favorite LA spots?
Girls nite? A friend’s apartment.
Date nite? Gjelina.
To unplug? Malibu.
To turn up? My turn up days are behind me!
For inspo? A local magazine stand.
Favorite shop? Mixed Business in Silver Lake.
Favorite resto? Pine and Crane.