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Local Social Media Stars Run Accounts Like Businesses, Get Results

From politicians to fashion bloggers, Arlington is home to a variety of social media influencers. One common thread among them? Many run their social media feeds like a business.

Angelica Talan, a resident of the Courthouse-Clarendon area, created the blog Clarendon Moms in 2011. Talan often frequented restaurant launches or book signings in the area but noticed she was the only mother present. She created Clarendon Moms as a resource for other Arlington-based mothers to learn about these free events.

The blog eventually expanded to include travel, fitness and fashion advice, and two years later, she began to profit from sponsored posts.

“It was never my intention,” Talan said. “I really just wanted to connect people with what was going on. Never in a million years would I have guessed that you could combine your passion for writing, photography, mingling with people and connecting people, create a blog and make money.”

In 2016, Talan’s friends helped her realize she needed to create a second blog, Angelica in the City, which is geared towards single women instead of mothers. Both of Talan’s blogs strive to promote positivity and an educational purpose.

Talan’s Instagram account has 21,500 thousand followers.

Virginia Square couple Blake Davenport and Leah Virbitsky, initially started their Instagram account, Discover Arlington, as a way to enhance Davenport’s real estate business.

The couple is very particular about the images they share on Instagram; the account now has 5,719 followers.

“On Instagram if you don’t have a good picture people are going to go right past it,” Daveport said.

They launched a website last September, which has the best places to eat, explore and buy a home. The couple started hosting events with local businesses in January.

Sarah Phillips of Arlington’s Penrose neighborhood and Michelle Martin, who lives in Los Angeles, began their fashion blog 52 Thursdays as a hobby.

Both women studied fashion in college, where they were sorority sisters. In 2013, they decided to create a business revolving around that shared passion.

“We came up with 52 Thursdays because our wine nights were on Thursdays,” Phillips said.

At first they did not share the website with anybody. Months went by and the women decided to give their web page a makeover: they organized a photo shoot at a studio and hired a professional photographer.

Now, the women partner with various brands to make a profit. They enjoy working with small businesses in Arlington such as South Block and LavaBarre. The women also offer fashion, blogging, branding and social media consultations as well.

Sarah Fraser, a Virginia Square resident and media personality, has more than 18,000 Facebook fans and 49,300 Twitter followers. She also gets between 10,000 and 15,000 downloads on each of her podcast episodes.

A Fox 5 contributor and a former radio host, Fraser is no stranger to marketing, and she credits Arlington for providing the perfect environment for hosting a podcast.

Starting her own podcast was no easy feat. Fraser had to be her own sales manager, brand manager, social media manager, podcaster and producer.

“I think lots of times people go into blogging and podcasting as a hobby but expect back a salary,” Fraser said. “But if you’re not doing it five, six days a week and I’m talking every spare moment, you cannot expect to make money.”

Rep. Don Beyer (D), who represents Arlington in the House of Representatives, doesn’t fit the business-blogger mold, but he does have one of the biggest local social media followings.

Beyer says social media is a way to maintain instant communication, reaching constituents, journalists and anyone else in real time. Beyer has 31,000 followers on Twitter and more than 26,000 people follow his Facebook page.

Beyer uses his accounts to discuss topics like climate change, federal employees, the local economy and his vision for the country. He also uses it to sharply critique the Trump administration.

“The toughest challenge since November is keeping up with the pace of change,” Beyer said, via email. “Three times as many people are following me on Facebook and Twitter since the election.  That is very heartening and I attribute it to people taking stock of how government affects them and making the decision to get involved.”

Beyer is impressed by Arlington’s  diverse interests including environmental protection, immigration and animal rights. Yet, representing so many different areas can be a challenge.

“One of the big challenges facing me and my staff every day is how we can talk to everyone and be responsive about the issues that matter to them. It would be hard to do without social media.”

Beyer isn’t the only figure in the political world with an Arlington connection and a large social media following, however. Chuck Todd, moderator of Meet the Press, is an Arlington resident. Todd has 1.65 million followers on Twitter.

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