Unsah Malik Interview: The Social Media Expert’s Growth Tips For NSFW accounts

In my first interview of 2021, I speak with leading social media expert – and former uni classmate – Unsah Malik. Unsah’s SLASHED IT eBook and the advice it shared massively helped me grow my following and launch the petition for Instagram to review their moderation of nudity and sexuality last year. Considering that December 2020 and early January 2021 were not short of social media upheavals, I thought it was only fair I could share some of Unsah’s wisdom with the world, with a Q&A aimed to help NSFW creators, who are often particularly affected by lack of visibility on social networks.

Who is Unsah Malik?

Unsah Malik always knew she wanted work in digital media as a journalist. She says:

“I had grown up with a family who read newspapers and magazines religiously and was always writing in some form from a very young age (fun fact: I won a poetry completion hosted by the Tower of London when I was in primary school and my poem was framed for a whole year in the Tower of London!).”

Unsah started her career at the age of 17, with internships writing for whoever would take her on. She says: “Back then, to get into journalism, you were either white and privileged or had connections in the industry… I had none of that at my advantage so it was truly up to me to get it for myself.”

She continued interning through A-Levels and university where social media became her specialty, then took a gap year to intern further. During that gap year, she also won a writing competition and internship hosted by ELLE and scored her first paid job at SUITCASE Magazine.

Unsah continued freelancing in social media while studying for her third year at university, getting an extended position with E! Entertainment UK. The week before graduation, she landed a job at The Guardian as their Social Media Editor for the Travel desk. Afterwards, she was back at ELLE, but this time as the Social Media Manager instead of the intern! Unsah has now left the 9-5 life and is self-employed, having launched an uber successful social media marketing eBook / course that made £15,000 on launch day – more on that later!

Unsah’s SLASHED IT And Me

As a slightly NSFW social media account and a former social media strategist, I’ve experienced everything from shadowbans to post removals. Yet, as a blogger and a pole dance instructor, I do need to grow to reach more audiences and, well, make money.

In 2020, one of my lockdown goals was improving my knowledge in a variety of fields, and since I’d been out of the PR / social media marketing game for a while since retraining as an academic, I thought I’d invest in Unsah’s book (currently priced at £55, with an automatic affiliate link for you to earn money by sharing it with your followers).

While it might look slightly pricy as an eBook, the thing is: it’s more than an eBook. It’s a social media marketing course. It’s updated for life with new trends. And it’s brought me from 7,000 Instagram followers and 6,000 TikTok followers to 14,000 and 27,000 Instagram and TikTok followers in less than three months respectively. My growth and Unsah’s success with SLASHED IT are for me a testament to her social media expertise and to her eBook’s worth. So read on to find out more about Unsah’s story, approach and tips.

Buy Unsah Malik’s SLASHED IT eBook here

The story behind Unsah’s eBook, SLASHED IT And how it proved so successful on launch day

When Unsah moved to the brand-side of social media as Influencer Manager, she became acquainted with thousands of beauty influencers. She would regularly be asked how to grow on social media, whether a myth is true, how brands really create guests lists or send out PR packages, how to pitch etc. This led her to post an Instagram carousel on her (then public) personal Instagram account, titled ’10 ways to increase your engagement if you’re a brand or influencer’.

Her post went viral enough for Unsah to see there was a demand for information from someone who’s been in-house for long enough and understands the industry as an ‘insider’, as opposed to someone who has grown only their own brand or blogger account. So, she set up a separate Instagram account to just provide free value while ‘slashing the BS’ shared about social media.

Eventually, Unsah’s posts alone weren’t enough because as she began to grow, so did the number of questions she got. Responding to this demand, she decided to make her hefty e-book to teach everyone everything she knew, complete with her self-developed rules that can work across every social platform for every niche or type of social media user. She says:

“The content I posted for free acted as a taster and proof of someone who knows a thing or two about this world. I wanted to write something people could make physical notes from, take actionable steps, be motivated about their journey… and not feel ripped off by another generic, google-able guide that teaches basic things like ‘this is a hashtag.’

As for making a good sum of money when I first launched… I believe that’s a testament to how much value I was giving for free, how much attention and effort I put into building a community, and how I really capitalised on the two-way communication social media allows us to personalise.”

Unsah’s social media growth tips for NSFW accounts and creators

“Sexy” brands – e.g. lingerie and sex toy companies – have struggled using social media advertising and promotion tools due to censorship. Here, Unsah shares her tips on growing as a NSFW account in a Q&A format. She says:

“This is very much an issue Instagram/Facebook needs to work on and pull their socks up. I think there needs to be a level to the censorship in relation to the country’s law on such things. For example, I see why it might be a problem in a Muslim country but I don’t see the need for censorship in the UK, US and most of Europe specifically. For growth, it’s otherwise no different to what I share with everyone else on how to grow as my rules are irrespective of niche/industry or platform.”

Which social network should you choose?

It really depends on what your goal is. If I want to build a community and your main content medium is longform video, then YouTube is best. If you have a mixture of images and shorter videos, Instagram is your place. If you want to attract a younger audience and have less filtered quick videos, then TikTok is your place. If you want to put spend behind a product that attracts a wider demographic, then Facebook is a good idea. You need to take a look at where your content fits natively and where your audience is. Whatever feels the most natural and authentic to your brand will feel like your favourite because that’s where you’ll grow.

Post like a journalist

I 100% think everyone should view their social media feeds as if they were working for a publication and as if they were a journalist. This is because so much about being a journalist is on giving content for the receiver to enjoy and/or learn from — and that’s essentially what you want your follower to see on social media. I don’t think the social media and PR industry lacks content, but I do think there are areas where they lack in conveying that content. Everyone has content, but how they package it and what they decide to do with it is another story. 

Use PR to top your efforts – but make sure you have good content to promote in the first place

PR is good for overall awareness, but what niche accounts really need to focus on is growing their own invested and loyal following. I think of PR as the cherry on top of the cake. It isn’t going to help you grow unless have something solid to begin with. You don’t want people to just view your profile… you want them to have a scroll, think you’re awesome, give you a follow and thereafter continuously engage with you.

Unsah’s thoughts on shadowbans

I haven’t personally suffered from shadowban, not myself or any brand/influencer I’ve worked for or consulted. But, if you think you are, your best bet is to first check you’re not using any banned hashtags (use Google to see the most updated list) and to also give your Instagram a breather. Stop posting content for a while and then go back to introducing valuable content. The shadowban is a tricky area because while some do qualify for it, I do think others are accidentally thrown into the mix. Although, I should add, most people aren’t shadowbanned and are actually just working with slow – or an abrupt halt – progress. 

What if you’re deleted / banned?

Keep reporting and complaining when you’re kicked out for no reason! This is a struggling area, unfortunately, and I don’t think there is yet a solid answer for it. Other than that, continue working on targeting those who’d be specifically industry within your niche and creating conversations with those people. Don’t worry about what others who aren’t right for your brand are doing — providing your strategy is right and tight, the people who are good for you will land at you too. 

Debunking Social Media Myths

Debunking myth #1: Is Instagram headed towards high spend content to grow a page, like Facebook?

I don’t think it will be quite the same. Yes, Instagram will continue to be commercialism and will, of course, encourage spending by businesses but I don’t think it feels as impossible to grow organically on Instagram like it does on Facebook. This is because Facebook’s algorithm is built on the whole ‘friend’ and ‘personal’ aspect, so the brand posts and News Feed section takes a back burner. Instagram feeds you content on the same timeline, not a separate one. So unless they end up creating two different tabs/sections for people to view, it won’t be as difficult as Facebook.

Debunking myth #2: The algorithm changed so that text-heavy posts are now more popular

I don’t think anything has changed. It really just depends on what resonates with your audience. People come to me for advice, so they expect text [Unsah’s Insta is very text-heavy]. They follow me because they see the text. If I started with heavy video content, I’d attract people who followed me for that and the text wouldn’t have worked so well if I suddenly introduced it. When people become familiar with what you’re about and how valuable you are, the prettiness of the post – or aesthetic – doesn’t matter.

Debunking myth #3: You always have to worry about the Instagram algorithm

I think there’s always a chance for a new Instagram algorithm, but I don’t think this is something people need to worry about as much as they do. It’s part of the challenge of the job. There will always be algorithm changes and some will be more frustrating than others… you just need to work with it. 

And finally, Unsah’s thoughts on lockdown social media fatigue

I think there’s huge fatigue because we’re bombarded with more content than ever, and we’re also spending more time than ever on social media. Brands and influencers need to take a step back and give their followers/customers some breathing space. Focus on the quality as opposed to quantity. People’s automatic assumption is to posting 10x more than normal because people are scrolling 10x more, but, actually, it’s quite off-putting when you’re a general user and you’re being fed so much. You want to be the breath of fresh air on social media, not part of the noise people are being clouded with. 

Find Unsah Malik on:

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