Case study: Building a social media career in 12 months

Ana Silva O'Reilly on the job in the Maldives

Ana Silva O’Reilly on the job in the Maldives

In my travels, I meet many people who aspire to turn a love of social media and blogging into a career. This is the story of one person who did it. In 12 months!

I had the opportunity to meet Ana Silva O’Reilly during a lecture I gave at Oxford University last year and we have remained fast friends ever since. “I am intrigued by this blogging idea,” she said. “I think I’ll give it a go.”

ana silva oreillyIn just 12 months, she is travelling around the world for her social media career and has created a profitable and successful business by turning her passion into a business. Her blog Around The World with Mrs. O is growing exponentially and now receives 40,000 page views per month. She is contacted daily by leading brands and has leveraged her success into consulting and paid “influencer” engagements.

I recently had a chance to catch up with Ana and she shared the three keys to her success:

1. Don’t conform to Internet expectations

“I am not doing anything special just to perform for the Internet,” she said. “I have always loved to travel and so I have just turned my passion into my business. But I’m not doing anything differently. I’m not going to go some place or write something just because somebody wants me to. I travel the way I want to travel. I am staying true to myself, not a company’s agenda and that makes a difference to my readers.”

2. Engage tirelessly

“I have built my audience through tireless engagement,” she said. “My greatest reward is when somebody writes me to tell me that they would have never found some great hotel or restaurant without me. I love hearing those stories and helping people in any way I can.”

With her success, scaling engagement becomes more difficult. “I respond to every post, comment, and tweet,” Ana said. “I think you build loyal readers one person, one connection at a time, But I find more and more engagement is happening now, which takes more time. Certainly becoming more popular is difficult to scale.”

3. Do not compromise your integrity

“I will never, ever compromise my integrity,” she said. “People will learn the truth about a travel destination from me.”

Ana does take money from resorts for additional social media exposure. How does she align that with her need to stay truthful to her audience? “I will only provide extra social media exposure through my photographs,” she said. “I figure photos don’t lie. You see what you see. When it comes to my writing, I still say whatever I need to say.”

The issue of monetization

In addition to getting money for limited social media exposure opportunities, Ana has been approached by brands as a consultant and social media advisor. She pointed to Four Seasons as a company that is transforming its image through social media. “This is a luxury brand and their core audience was literally dying,” she said. “They needed to find a new audience and that is coming through the social web.”

Ana certainly seems to be living the dream by turning her passion into a career but I think it is worth noting the fundamentals that got her there —

  • Capitalizing on her own originality to carve a niche in a crowded market
  • Being honest without compromise
  • Consistent content creation and audience engagement

Seems to be a common theme among successful bloggers, right?

All posts

  • useradvocate

    Mark, I think this is one of your shorter posts but you packed in a lot of really useful information for aspiring bloggers. First of all the impact of the story of Ana’s rapid success is compelling – and summarized nicely with the photo! But I mostly appreciate your boiling it down to those three essential points that can be easily kept in mind.

    Personally, it’s taken me a much longer time to workout an *approach* to a viable blog but recently I think I’ve found it. So that puts me kind of at the starting gate. It’s reassuring to see that these three principles have worked so well for a new blogger such as Ana.

  • That is great Michael. Starting is the hardest part!

  • Amanda Hoffmann

    Wow! I love to read how individuals take a leap of faith and it turns out for them. Very inspirational and yet realistically written. Thank you for sharing Mark….

  • Ana is an amazing person. She approached this opportunity with joy and fearlessness!

  • Muhammad Saad Khan

    Great Story indeed….Truly impressed by the efforts she made during her journey.

  • @mrsoaroundworld

    Thank you so much!

  • @mrsoaroundworld

    Thank you for your kind words – it was a risk, but you only live once. I figured my background in marketing and my MBA would actually add value in the transition from a corporate life to well, Mrs. O’s life!

  • @mrsoaroundworld

    You are too kind! You are my inspiration (and you know I don’t just tell this to random people)

  • @mrsoaroundworld

    Michael, in my case was always about having a story to tell – and a career and background that financed the lifestyle. I did apply all my experience (15 years of marketing and an MBA) to my online persona, which is really, just me. Whatever story you tell, it has to be yours, and matter to you no matter what.

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  • On my to-do list… Thank you both for this exciting share!

  • useradvocate

    LOL. Thanks Ana, I appreciate that comment. I’m laughing because the irony is that I’ve recently discovered *my* story is it’s about telling *other people’s* stories! As a User Advocate I try to go to bat for users who have a hard time with websites and applications and such. That was really hard to put into a writing blog – so I’ve launched a video podcast called UXrevu on YouTube ( )

    @Mark, if you get a moment, take a look. You are partly to blame for this with your inspirational posts! 😉

  • Lazy Travelers

    well-deserved praise for one of our favorite blogs!! we love following all of ana’s travels, because along with being informative, she’s also always aspirational.

  • Pointsandtravel

    The travel blogging world loves Mrs O! She is lovely, as well as smart! She has made quite a journey in a few short months and I am inspired by her! Thanks for highlighting one of our own!

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  • LOVE this Michael. It’s great to see your face and hear your voice : ) Your video is stylish, informative and beautifully produced. Now, to get some traction!

  • I see where my problem is. I’ve been at this way too long. 🙂

  • Indeed, a work with passion will take you further. That’s one rule to be successful in social media marketing, it has to be authentic and is a real story. Not just some make-up facts or fiction. Way the go Ana. 🙂

  • Ha ha, as soon as I saw that face-plant water shot I knew it was Ana. Such a great shot and so happy to see her on Grow.

    Congrats Ana! It’s always a pleasure tweeting you and reading your stories!

  • @mrsoaroundworld

    Thank you so much, Tiana. This is a small world indeed!

  • @mrsoaroundworld

    Thank you so much, Belinda. The story needs to be one’s to tell – or it is all pointless, in my opinion

  • @mrsoaroundworld

    Thank you for your kind words, Cacinda. Not just a few months – the blog is not 2 years yet but will be soon. The last 12 months have been incredible – but I credit this also to the other 30+ years of my life (and all that came with it).

  • @mrsoaroundworld

    Thank you so much, you are making me blush

  • @mrsoaroundworld

    Thank you so much!

  • Ha! An interesting perspective!

  • Pointsandtravel

    yes, of course, your experience shows!

  • My pleasure…

  • useradvocate

    Thanks for the feedback and encouragement, Mark. Really appreciated. 🙂

  • Kris Bradley

    Good for you Ana. I believe that staying true to yourself is the only true road to happiness. I commend you on not only turning something you love into a job, but also not being afraid to be a real person while you do it. I wish you much success in the future. Oh and I plan on checking out Around the World…

  • @mrsoaroundworld

    Thank you Kris 🙂

  • @mrsoaroundworld

    I shall have a look!

  • TravelEdits

    Brilliant achievement Ana – I’ve often thought this anyway (even before reading this), how quickly you built up your brand is truly inspirational.

  • Raul (@ilivetotravel)

    I am a loyal reader of Ana and her content is excellent and so is her integrity. And she has been kind enough to give me a hand with advice here and there!

  • @mrsoaroundworld

    Anything I can do to help, just ask 🙂

  • @mrsoaroundworld

    Hummmm, interesting indeed!

  • @mrsoaroundworld

    Thank you so much for your kind words. I do appreciate them

  • Hi Mark,

    Thanks for introducing us to Ana. Looks like I have a lot of catching up to do at her place, but I will. Currently working on a 2nd blog which will be a complete departure from my current site, and I’ll be following around wise people like Ana to learn a wee bit more about travel 😉

  • The World Wanderer

    Great tips! Love the fact that you stay true to yourself – think that’s the most important!

  • Knowing who you are and not compromising your integrity are certainly key features of a successful blogger. And I like Ana’s comment about photos not lying!

  • Some great tips from the master Mrs. O. When Mrs. O says jump, we all say “how high?” If you have ever seen Mrs. O jump you would do the same.

  • Jetlag and Mayhem

    I’m a huge fan of Mrs O’s blog – she’s got a great voice and her posts are always enjoyable

  • GilinAtlanta

    I like this post. I’m going to check out Ana’s blog on your recommendation. I found this article on my Twitter feed. It’s good to be connected to you!

  • Sara Durán

    Can you do a case study on SerpClix? I used it to move up 5 spots to #8, but it won’t move it further. Can you test it, or link me to a study where you have tested it?

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