A conversation with Alex Simons

A conversation with boutique social media strategist and former assistant to Arianna Huffington, Alex Simons.

You came up under Arianna at The Huffington Post but how did you get into the social space?

The Huffington Post is the model for social and community engagement. It's a media brand that's done a really great job getting a lot of people's voices together in one place. I was exposed to the power of social media and community engagement while I was working at The Huffington Post and discovered how many small businesses want to get in that game, but don't have the time and budget to hire someone full-time to handle that kind of presence. My company strategizes and executes a social media plan tailored to each individual business we work with.

Let's take a step back. Tell me a little about your background.

I studied Literature at Bard. After graduating in 2008, I interned at the Leonard Lopate show at WNYC which was great; I was even able to produce some of my own segments. It's a great company, WNYC and they have spectacular social media.

I got a full time offer from the New Yorker as a sales assistant and discovered how interested I am in branding and marketing. It was a great learning experience - like a one-year MBA.  I went to The Huffington Post in July of 2011, a few months after their merger with AOL.

What was the culture like overall at The Huffington Post?

The staff at The Huffington Post is among the most driven and passionate group of people I've ever met.  Arianna is extremely generous with her time and really encourages members of the staff there to pursue their passions, which I think is why you can really see the site growing and developing in exciting new ways nearly every day.

And that must have influenced you to want to launch your own business independently?

I met a lot of really ambitious young entrepreneurs in my time at HuffPost and realized that there was never going to be a better time to just take a risk and go for it.  I knew I was good at social media and when a couple companies who were interested in getting help  approached me I saw a real opportunity emerge.

Who some of your clients?

I'm working with a school based in the Upper West Side that has expanded internationally; a Greenpoint-based group of artisan furniture designers called Tri-Lox; and MyBlock NYC - a video-storytelling startup working out of Chinatown. I'll be working with six clients by mid-October and it's really exciting to watch my company develop at this pace. I think it's just a testament to the fact that many businesses, small and large, believe that Twitter and Facebook are just as crucial for establishing their brands as traditional websites are.

Where would you like to be in a few years?

All small and medium sized businesses have the power to communicate with their clientele in really meaningful, effective ways using social media. There are a LOT of talented people out there looking for work who have developed phenomenal skills across different social media networks. I'd like to create an agency that identifies strong social media operators and pairs them with the right clients, because nothing would make me prouder than creating jobs for talented and driven people.

In your opinion, who are some of the best social media users?

Obviously Arianna has been a trailblazer in the world of social media. Not only is her original content great, she she is a generous retweeter and an engaged Twitter user who responds with the community constantly.

Peter Davis, the former editor at large of Paper magazine who now runs Scene magazine, is another great example. If you look at his Twitter and Facebook feed, he's a real model for engagement with his followers and he curates THE BEST visual content. He just creates great conversations.

Also, there's a young woman from Wisconsin who is the friend of one of my friend's youngest sisters who has about 205 Twitter followers and may be the funniest person I've ever encountered in my entire life. Her Twitter handle is @JackieBeNimble. You will not regret following her, trust me.

Interview by Zack Cohn.