TL; DR: In just five short years, Rachel Pedersen has gone from a college dropout to an expert social media strategist recognized by the Content Marketing Institute as one of the most influential online marketers. Rachel, also known as the Queen of Social Media, helps her community of social media managers employ strategies that result in significant business growth. Ultimately, Rachel strives to equip individuals and teams with the social media insights that evolve too rapidly for most traditional educational institutions to teach effectively.
In 2015, Rachel Pedersen was a single mom and college dropout working in Minnesota as a hairstylist when one of her regular clients sat down for an appointment.
“My husband and I just bought a chicken chain, can you show me how you use your Tweeter?’” the client said.
Rachel was confused — chicken chain, Tweeter? — until the client continued, explaining: “You know, with the little blue bird?”
“She was talking about Twitter,” Rachel told us. “I didn’t feel like a huge expert in social media or marketing at the time — I just posted hairstyle photos on social media and clients would come in and request the hairstyles pictured — but I thought I could be an expert for her.”
The owner of the fried chicken chain, a Southern staple of the ‘80s and ‘90s called Mrs. Winner’s Chicken and Biscuits, became Rachel’s very first social media client. Rachel quickly proved she was a cut above the rest in social media, using her skills to help the regional fast food restaurant capture consumer attention in the Southeastern U.S.
“I jumped right in, and in less than a year, I had built an entire portfolio of clients,” Rachel said. “I left my job as a stylist, and since April 2016, I’ve officially run my own full-time business. And I still have great hair!”
Today, Rachel is the CEO and Founder of two multimillion-dollar social media marketing companies — SocialWorks Digital and Social Media United — that she built on her own terms. She was even recognized by the Content Marketing Institute as one of the most influential online marketers.
Through her podcast, social media platforms, videos, and community, she consults thousands of interested individuals each day, across industries. Whether you’re a business owner looking to attract clients or a manager overseeing website-building and content teams — and anything in between — Rachel has something for you.
Becoming the Queen of Social Media
You may have already heard of Rachel Pedersen from a Facebook post that went viral in April 2016.
By then, she had met the love of her life, Poul Pedersen, with whom she eloped 13 days after they met in a Perkins restaurant. The pair now have three children. In the post, Rachel defended the size of her wedding ring, shutting down those who said she needed to upgrade to something bigger.
“I didn’t even THINK about a ring until my husband surprised me before the ceremony,” she stated in the post. “He drained his savings to gift me with a small token of his love. I say small, only because it pales in comparison with how big his love is, even now, after years of marriage. That, my friends, is success to me.”
The post quickly garnered attention and support, drawing in more than 11 million views before it was picked up by the “Today” show, among other mainstream media networks.
“I knew at that moment that there was a lot of power in organic social media growth,” Rachel told us. “When I got started in organic social media, a lot of people didn’t value it and were instead focusing on paid acquisition strategies. Over the last four years, I feel like a lot of people have gotten away from organic growth and are recognizing the power of building and serving an audience.”
If 2020 has shown us anything, it’s to be prepared for the unexpected. Rachel said that’s the lesson many marketers have had to learn the hard way.
“This year, everyone has started to realize the importance of having a well dug before you need it,” she said. “In other words, you’ve got to show up, serve people, and produce excellent content because sometimes — especially in seasons where everyone’s fighting for inorganic traffic — it gets really expensive and not everybody can win.”
Acknowledging the Value of Exceptional Content
Website-building teams, take note: Rachel said searchable content is the queen of organic social media because it promotes engagement. Examples include blogs, YouTube videos, and podcasts, among other digital media.
“Personally, I’m not great at blogging, but I love creating YouTube videos, I love creating podcasts, and I love websites that are partially searchable like TikTok, Pinterest, and, to some extent, LinkedIn,” she said. “The more time people spend sitting around and searching, the better.”
When working on social media campaigns for herself or for clients, Rachel aims to create evergreen content and make the most out of it.
“I always try to determine what will be the most leveraged content that we can create — meaning we create it once, and it can serve 10 people, a hundred people, or a million without us having to put in additional work,” she said.
It’s a powerful strategy that Rachel said results in an incredible snowball effect.
“Every piece of content is almost being entered into a lottery, and while not every single piece of content is going to be a winner, there’s a cumulative effect that happens where you start to see that hockey-stick growth,” she said.
According to Rachel, one of the biggest mistakes social media marketers make is assuming that quality content requires a lot of money. But expensive cameras and ghostwriters are not always the answer.
“The reality that we’ve found is quality content is connected to someone’s heart, to their soul,” she said.
Another mistake? Treating each social media platform as if it exists in its own universe.
“A lot of times businesses see Instagram as a place for posting cool quotes and YouTube for polished videos, but what they don’t realize is that it’s an entire ecosystem,” she said. “If you don’t clearly know how each platform plays into the strategy, you may want to actually save yourself the time of being on that platform until you understand how it plugs into the overarching marketing ecosystem.”
Building a Free Community of Social Media Managers
In addition to doing consulting work and building relationships with business clients, Rachel and her team deliver best practices and courses for aspiring social media managers via educational ventures like Social Media United.
“It’s interesting because I started as a freelancer offering done-for-you services to clients, and that continued to grow until it became a full-on agency,” she said. “But, behind the scenes, a lot of people were asking me questions about social media.”
So Rachel created content that would help business owners get a head start on their social media journeys before, hopefully, hiring her.
“But through that process of creating content, I accidentally attracted a ton of people who wanted to be social media managers and do exactly what I do,” she said. “At first, that was kind of scary. I didn’t want to train all my competition. But I’ve learned that the more I can equip social media managers with quality training, the more the rising tide lifts all ships, and the more opportunity there is for all of us.”
Her other venture, List Building Party, helps marketers grow email lists in just five months via organic social media posts and paid advertising.
“Social media without an email list is crazy, so we have the List Building Party to support social media managers who need help with implementing that for their clients,” Rachel said.
Equipping Businesses with Knowledge that Universities Can’t
Rachel — who describes herself as a bubbly business version of Elle Woods from “Legally Blonde” — said she’s excited about pretty much everything that is coming down the pipeline.
“We’re going to go even deeper, providing more value and training, both for free and paid, but mostly free to equip business owners with exactly the information that colleges and professional education is missing when it comes to digital marketing,” she said.
That real-world experience is invaluable, and hard to come by in a four-year institution. Unlike writing skills or the code you need to learn for website-building, social media marketing is in a constant state of change.
“They can’t keep up,” she said. “The digital and social media marketing world moves too quickly. Once a day I have to check out the latest news to make sure I don’t accidentally say something that’s totally invalidated by adjustments.”