379k Followers and Counting

379k Followers and Counting

Kelly Larkin ’06 in Lincoln Park, Chicago; Nina Poosikian ’17, MA’19 at Edge in New York, New York; Lauren Romano ’14 at home in Connecticut.

Clockwise, from top: Kelly Larkin ’06 in Lincoln Park, Chicago; Nina Poosikian ’17, MA’19 at Edge in New York, New York; Lauren Romano ’14 at home in Connecticut.

Three Fairfield alumnae are influencing a generation of digital consumers.

Social media was once a simple way of making connections with friends, but it has continued to evolve into a fully integrated component of our daily lives. Career recruitment, breaking news, and e-commerce sales all seem to have found a home on our phones. And we consume digital material more enthusiastically than ever: On average, Americans spent more than 1,300 hours on social media in 2021. With that kind of attention, it is no wonder that commercial brands have found ways to meet their customers where they are, and are championing social media experts to drive sales and brand awareness.

This has created a new kind of entrepreneur: the social influencer. As masters of consumer behavior, influencers, bloggers, and content creators root themselves in their passions and build online communities of users with like-interests. There’s an influencer for every industry. From $1.7 billion in 2016, influencer marketing growth is estimated to have reached $13.8 billion in 2021 and projected to reach $15 billion by the end of 2022.

Among Fairfield grads working in the space are Nina Poosikian ’17, MA’19 (@whatninaate), Kelly Larkin ’06 (@kellyinthecity), and Lauren Romano ’14 (@simplylaurenrose), who together boast a collective audience of 379,000 followers on Instagram alone. Their content contains engagement and plugs for brands in a variety of different industries, from food and beverage to fashion and beauty, but with one thing in common — powerful consumer influence in a booming space.

Nina Poosikian ’17

Nina Poosikian ’17, MA’19 waterside in Hoboken

Scrolling through Nina Poosikian’s @whatninaate account on Instagram, you’ll find organic content ranging from favorite menu items from local restaurants, to personally curated recipes like her spicy vodka sauce. Between these organic day-to-day posts are sponsored content pieces paid for by third parties.

In February of 2020, Poosikian answered the call to take part in a product development campaign for one of her all-time favorite snack food brands. “I was able to work with the Cheetos and Frito Lay team and five other influencers to develop the packaging, naming, and overall look of the new Cheetos Mac ‘N Cheese,” she said. “I received packages of possible flavor mixtures and helped develop the final product that is currently on store shelves.”

In an Instagram post from August 2020, Poosikian gushed, “They come in three different varieties — Bold & Cheesy, Flamin’ Hot, and Cheesy Jalapeno… I’ve been a diehard Cheetos fan all my life, they’re truly my favorite chip, and to be part of the process for this new line of products was such an amazing process to be a part of!”

But the Cheetos campaign wasn’t her first taste of success. As a student at Fairfield, Nina founded Spoon Fairfield, a subset of Spoon University — a nationwide collegiate-food blog that combines the talents of journalists, marketers, and event planners. Searchable as @spoonfairfield on Instagram, the account continues to document tasty meals cooked up both on Fairfield’s campus and downtown for an audience of nearly 9,000 followers today.

Poosikian recalled truly finding her voice about a year into running @whatninaate, veering away from what she thought her followers wanted to see and posting more about what felt true to herself: “I started to find my voice and really have a personality behind what I was posting, instead of the popular or trendy food posts I was doing before.” It was when she shifted her focus that brands like Cheetos began to reach out and connect organically for partnerships and sponsored campaign opportunities.

Kelly Larkin ’06

Kelly Larkin ’06 sporting a look by J.Crew, J.Crew Factory, and Madewell

Kelly Larkin has been working with iconic brands like J.Crew, Vineyard Vines, and Barbour for many years, and while you’ll see her stylized product selections on her Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest accounts, they also permanently reside on her blog: kellyinthecity.com.

“Instead of thinking about social media as my business I think of it as a tool that helps me run my business,” she said. She noted her favorite brand partnerships to be those that bring her husband and kids into the mix — venturing around Chicago (and around the country and world) to capture that special shot to act as a marketing piece. “I take photos as I normally would as a mother and photographer; I feel lucky that my job allows me to spend so much time with my family.”

Larkin’s approach has shifted over time, calling for a greater degree of focus. When she started in the early 2010s, she said, “there wasn’t any pressure! I posted whatever I wanted — whether it was a city scene or the shoes on my feet — in the moment, and interacted with the community a couple times per day. Over time, though, there was a shift away from the instant and toward more curated, perfect content.”

“Interestingly enough,” she continued, “we’re beginning to see another shift, this time away from perfection and back toward the instant. People want content that’s real.”

For Lauren Romano too, staying true to her own tastes and values has been the key to success.

“I know my audience trusts me to share things I truly love; they know I wouldn’t steer them wrong with any of my recommendations,” she said. “Whether we have a large following or a smaller following, that relationship with our audience is what’s key.”

Her blog simplylaurenrose.com is a hub for all-things in the fashion and beauty space. Her content is widely relatable and helps readers navigate the ins and outs of their day-to-day lives. Some of her recent posts include “Affordable Workwear Haul,” “New Skincare Finds,” and “Must Have Back to School Tool.”

Lauren Romano ’14

Lauren Romano ’14 sharing one of her Valentine’s Day-inspired looks with items from LOFT

By day, Lauren is a Kindergarten teacher, and her range of content online and on social act as a guide for followers navigating dualpassion careers and side hustles.

A common thread in both of her jobs is kindness — practicing and encouraging kindness in her classroom and fostering it in the way she builds her online community; a commitment to good-will acts as another example of how Fairfield’s Jesuit-inspired education has prepared graduates to pay it forward.

“I have always worn LOFT,” she said, speaking of the fashion retailer that she champions on Instagram “and it was such a ‘pinch me’ moment when I found out they wanted to work with me.”

LOFT gives back to different organizations like St. Jude’s, Donor’s Choose, and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, giving greater purpose to Romano’s work as an influencer.

Consumerism can feel overwhelming, but influencers make purchasing decisions simple. Their job goes far beyond posting a pretty product image with “#ad” in the caption below. They go into great detail, from the product’s composition and how it should be used, to what makes it stand out against competitors; they weigh the pros and cons from product packaging all the way to product value; and even go as far as answering questions personally to further ease their fans’ inquiring minds — all to make a lasting impact and urge followers to become long-term brand loyalists instead of one-off purchasers.

Fairfield grads are making an impact in this growing industry.

Other Articles in the Spring 2022 Issue

Letter from the President

Read the Article

Alumni Profile | Sarah Courtney ’03

Read the Article

Alumni Profile | Orland Bergere ’51

Read the Article

Young Alumni | Giving Back

Read the Article

Engineering for Life

Read the Article

The Acropolis Reborn

Read the Article

Fairfield Elevated to Doctoral Universities Category

Read the Article

Destination Backcountry

Read the Article

Search Results