Real Business talked with Unsah Malik, leading social media expert and 5-star rated author, about breaking into cut-throat industries, thriving in self-employed life, and maintaining a positive attitude amidst the toxicity of social media.
As the world shut down, we turned our attention to the digital sphere and the demand for content increased tenfold. The social media and digital industries have thrived during lockdown as we used online platforms and sites to communicate with friends, family and to keep us entertained. Social media was suddenly one of the only ways for a brand to connect with their market and that placed a significant amount of responsibility on marketers and influencers.
Malik is no exception. With the release of her book ‘SLASHED IT’, she has established herself as THE industry expert in everything social media and marketing. But it was not an overnight success. With ten years of experience at top brands and leading publications, Malik has built a wealth of experience and knowledge that has made her a go-to for marketing advice.
Malik’s desire to work in the competitive world of journalism started from an early age, naturally interested in her family’s weekly newspapers and magazines. After developing an interest in fashion history, Malik realised she had her sight set on some of the most competitive and cut-throat industries. At sixteen, she sought out any and all work placements and opportunities she could.
I was ruthless in my approach so I would email thousands and thousands of people every week.
Her determination paid off when Henrietta Ludgate, a Scottish fashion designer, reached out to Malik and offered her a shadowing position. As social media was just on the rise during her time with Ludgate, Malik was asked to help with the fashion designers social media platforms and blog. This was her first step into working on social media professionally and it only snowballed from there. Malik went on to intern at ELLE magazine, complete a placement at IDOL magazine and freelance for E! entertainment during her time at university studying journalism. After graduating, Malik has worked for the Guardian, ELLE and the Rodial Group, an impressive list of brands for someone so young.
There was a point where I started to not tell people how old I am because I was sure they were going to start thinking I’m just this young person who doesn’t know what she’s doing.
You may recognise Unsah Malik; even be it just by her name or profile picture. Malik is particularly well-known within the marketing and social media realm for her resonating tweets and engagement on Instagram. With over a 38k following across the platforms, there’s no wonder Malik is becoming the Influencer for the Influencers.
The Road to ‘SLASHED IT’
While spending ten years in the industry boosting and growing brands for fashion and travel publications, Malik has grown her personal brand enormously and has amassed a huge social media following. Her debut e-book SLASHED IT: The Ultimate Social Media & Influencer Marketing Guide has received significant praise and its brilliant reviews highlight just how Malik’s industry knowledge and experience has benefitted her readers. Malik had been asked by small creators and brands about how she manages and creates content for social media. As the questions continued and requests for advice mounted, Malik quickly realised that consulting people on their brand’s social media was becoming almost a second job.
“People who work for small brands who knew where I worked would reach out to me and ask questions here and there and I mean ordinarily, I don’t mind helping people if it’s not taking a lot for my time. But at some point, I was just being bombarded every week with so many questions on top of my 9-5 job.”
The solution: Malik put together an Instagram post on her top ten ways to increase engagement. The post took off and on her own personal page of 600 followers, amassed almost 3000 likes. Malik immediately recognised that there was a huge audience for the advice and content she could provide. Setting up a separate page for social media and content advice, Malik found that every post generated new questions from followers.
I’m getting even more questions now then I was before because each piece of content leads to another 50 questions from people, so I woke up one day and just decided, I’m going to write an e-book.
Malik released SLASHED IT in 2020 and now guides businesses, brands and influencers on how they can grow their social media platforms and develop marketing campaigns that work for them. SLASHED IT is unique from similar books and courses because Malik is constantly sending her readers free updates with new information and skills. As the industry progresses and new technology is developed, marketing will grow and change fairly quickly. Malik understands this all too well and so, in order to ensure the book is never obsolete or incorrect, it is an on-going project.
Spending so much time working and consulting on digital media can put someone on the path to burnout. During the pandemic, the news and events around the world had an impact on everyone. So, how did Malik manage the negative impact social media can have on our mental health?
Every time an app gets overwhelming, I turn it off completely and I make the conscious effort to feel good and motivated. The more you make that effort, the easier it does become down the line. Limit your time with what makes you feel like you’re being dragged out of a positive space.
As someone who many people, young women especially, look up to, Malik’s advice for surviving social media is cemented in her own personal experience.
- Don’t listen to the haters. Critics and trolls are everywhere, especially online, and Malik has dealt with her fair share: “There’s two ways of looking at it. You can read it and feel awful about yourself or you read it and realise that’s a reflection of how they think and what’s going on there might have nothing to do with you.”
- Ask questions. During your internship, placement, work experience or volunteering, talk to as many people as possible about what they do and how they do it. Have the confidence to introduce yourself to people and build a network of industry contacts.
- Try not to compare and despair: “You need to feel happy with where you are right now and find the good in the stage of life you are at.”