With nearly one million followers on Instagram and 300,000 followers on TikTok, @TonyaMichelle26 -- or Tonya Michelle -- is well-known to many people throughout Loudoun County for her posts about fashion, food and beauty products.
The Times-Mirror recently sat down with Tonya virtually to discuss her business and how she has become so successful.
Where do you live?
I live in Ashburn and have lived here for six years.
What do you love about Loudoun County?
I love the sense of community, the history, the future education for my children and how up-and-coming this area is.
How did you get started as a social media influencer?
I started in 2013 on Instagram then grew into having a blog in 2015. It was a hobby for me. I enjoyed trying new products and sharing where I got my deals from. Everything from beauty, fashion to food. I started to grow pretty quickly over the past five years, and I'm almost at a million followers on my social media and around 200,000 hits a month on my blog. I never thought when I created something for fun that it would turn into my full-time job. It's a blessing to be able to love what I do and make a great income from it. I love being able to connect with my readers and feel as though we're online friends. I really enjoy being that person people trust with their questions and ask my opinions on things.
When did you start doing paid sponsorships?
I started paid sponsorships in 2016, I left my full time job June 2017 and have been full-time since.
Have you ever done any collaborations with other influencers?
Yes. We have teamed up to give back to our readers with giveaways -- everything from beauty boxes filled with products to luxury handbags.
What is your favorite type of content to cover?
I'm a lifestyle influencer so I cover it all. It's basically my life online. I started only doing beauty and fashion, but now I have covered all the bases from traveling worldwide to baby items and food too. I recently started an "Eat Local" tab on my blog since COVID-19 and have been featuring local businesses and trying to help people venture out to new restaurants for their lunches and dinners. It's been a great way to support local, and I also have been able to try new restaurants myself, which has been great.
How did you grow your audience?
Everything from brands reposting and tagging me in my content on their page, using hashtags properly, brand collaborations, introducing new bloggers to our readers on Instagram stories and then teaming up with brands and bloggers for fun giveaways.
Do you know who typically follows your posts?
I have a 86 percent female following. My top states are California, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Texas. I also have a food Instagram account @foodwithtm26, and my top city is Ashburn.
What has been your most successful post so far?
Either me getting engaged or the birth of our son. People like to see and feel real moments and connections, which makes total sense.
What trends are you seeing as an influencer?
Being authentic. Photoshopping your photos and your skin is out. Be you and be proud.
Has your following grown since the coronavirus pandemic began?
Yes. My blog last month had more than 500,000 views. I was pushing out a lot of content for how to manage your time while working from home to even free printables and activities for kids and adults (coloring book pages, learning activities and games) You have to listen to what your audience wants and needs, then provide it.
What are your top three must-follow recommendations on social media?
Be yourself, use social media as a POSITIVE platform to share your voice and to encourage people. Engage with the content you love. If you like someone's posts, like and comment. It helps their content and also let's Instagram know that you would like to see more of it. Follow people that make you happy, don't follow accounts that make you feel bad or bring you down. Some favorite accounts include @verbalgoldblog, @classycleanchic, @amberlancaster and @balancingpieces.