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The Hard Reality of What It Takes to Become a Social-Media Icon

The people who attain stardom on social media make it look effortless. It's anything but.
The Hard Reality of What It Takes to Become a Social-Media Icon
Image credit: Georgijevic | Getty Images

Social media is where millennials live today.

It's where they connect, unwind and even find information about jobs and businesses with which they'd like to connect. As the largest living generation today, millennials have a sheer spending power that's difficult to ignore. With Facebook boasting more than 2 billion users, social media is where businesses go to get their attention. And these businesses trust top social media influencers to help.

I had the privilege of talking with a top social media influencer, Simonetta Lein. She shared her story and how she's managed to become one of the top influencers of our age.

Related: 5 Reasons Why You Need to Take Advantage of Influencer Marketing

Becoming a social media icon is the dream of many young people. The allure of having hundreds of thousands of followers around the globe waiting to share your witty tips and food pictures is a dream many hope will come true one day. While the likes of Lein are already living this lifestyle, one should not be misled to assume that getting there is a walk in the park.

Here are some insights from Lein on the backstage of social media success.

1. You need to build on something.

For most millennials dreaming of becoming a social media star, the missing link between them and achieving their dream is the "substance" needed to build a platform upon. What you're doing that makes "listening" to you and following your story worthwhile is where the substance lies.

For Lein, it started with being a novelist and a host for a popular radio show in Italy. After spending five years in the traditional media setting, a social media manager told her she could have done things differently with social media.

"I started five years ago when I was launching my first novel and working as a radio speaker for one of the most important radio shows," she said in an email interview. "A social media manager heard about me and said I should have been on social media with a different approach. At that time, social media was just my way to communicate with friends and family. I immediately understood the immense value of that tool if used properly. Plus, being a millennial, everything came easy."

Now she reaches more than a million followers across her social media accounts.

Related: Enough About Millennials! You Can Use Influencer Marketing to Target Older Audiences, Too.

2. Be willing to make big changes and take risks.

Being a popular radio host and having a published title to your name is a good life for many. But Lein wasn't ready to settle with that, so she made a decision that, as she put, "changed our lives." Two years ago, Lein and her husband moved to America. They settled in Philadelphia, where she admits they knew no one at the time. "But it felt like home to us," she said.

Being in the U.S., the couple was able to pursue even bigger dreams -- and make fashion a big part of their lives. A former Vanityfair columnist, Lein found that her style was well received in the U.S., and as a result, she started The Wishwall Foundation.

3. Be a part of something bigger.

Embracing a calling bigger than you, such as participating in a cause or championing a foundation like Lein did with The Wishwall Foundation, gives you a clearer sense of purpose, she explained.

"My love for inspiring others became The Wishwall Foundation, and I started contributing to The Huffington Post," Lein said in the email. "My blog The Wishmaker and the project The Wishwall started to take form, and that was the moment in which I was able to clearly understand who I was and what I wanted to communicate on social media. With the right algorithms, content, projects, strategy and some luck, I became recognized as one of the 100 top fashion icons and influencers. To me, that is the American dream."

While it's hard to say Lein wouldn't have found her big break without the foundation she started, it did give her a clearer sense of understanding and opened her to learn what she wanted from social media.

Related: 11 Ways Social Media Will Evolve in the Future

4. Be professional all through.

When I asked Lein what tips she wanted to share with millennials wishing to become successful at social media, one of the tips that resonated the most was to be thoroughly professional. This includes getting training from experts and finding the right professional tools to produce better content. "Ask professionals, and use professional tools to help you. There are some good apps out there that work according to hashtag methods and can help to better find your audience."

Reaching people through social media can help young people build a brand of their own. This, however, takes a lot more work than we think. With experience as vast and impressive as Lein's, she's on the radar as one of the top influencers today.