I’ve been using and reviewing social technology software for almost 20 years now. One of the most frequent categories of software I’m either pitched or someone recommends I try is in the social media management category. These are platforms like HootSuite or Sprout Social where you’re able to plug in all your social media channels, manage your comments and message from each in one place, publish and set up calendars to pre-load content and such.
Some of them add features like social listening. Most of them just have a social inbox and call it social listening, but that’s a different rant for a different day. But each social media management platform out there has some bell or whistle that makes them cool or unique.
Every now and then someone comes along and looks at the category from a different angle and innovates a bit. Normally when that happens the new social media management solution combines functionality from some other software category for a mashup that serves a given niche.
At a startup event in Silicon Valley recently, one such platform caught my eye.
The platform is called RellaSocial. It’s the brainchild of Natalie Barbu. If you recognize that name it’s probably because you’re one of her 300,000-plus subscribers on YouTube or followers on other social media platforms.
Natalie has been creating content on YouTube for well over a decade. But she was always frustrated with trying to manage her content calendars and creation, goals, plans and even income from brand collaborations. She was tracking things in spreadsheets and in multiple software packages. One day, she decided to solve the problem by building her own app.
RellaSocial combines social media management, content planning and scheduling, project management and even income tracking. Because this is built by a creator for creators, there’s even a handy tab where you can see what other creators are charging for various types of posts.
I’m sure I disappointed Natalie a bit when I approached her in the pitch room at the startup event. She was standing at a table hoping to talk to potential investors. I was just some dork hoping to have her on my podcast. But she said yes, so she’s here today to tell us how she became a creator, why she decided to build RellaSocial and how it helps content creators do what they do.
Winfluence is made possible by Cipio.ai – The Community Commerce Marketing platform. What does that mean? It’s an influencer marketing software solution, but it has additional apps that function to tap into your brand community to drive commerce. Community Commerce Marketing moves beyond influencers to fans and followers, customers, employees and more. Try its generative AI application, Vibe Check, with a two-week free trial at cipio.ai/vibecheck, and generate a library of social captions in minutes you can use right away.
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Natalie Barbu Transcript
[00:00:00] Jason: Do you want Instagrammers or TikTok ERs to post about your brand, or do you actually wanna engage creators who influence their audience to buy your product? If you’re in the ladder of those two, you’ve come to the right place. Welcome to Winfluence, The Influence Marketing Podcast.
Hello again, friends. Thanks for tuning into Winfluence the Influence Marketing Podcast. Before we dive into this episode of the show, some of you are seeing this on YouTube or LinkedIn.
Winfluence is now a video show as well. We’re tidying up a few things, that are more audio centric to create a good show for you video wise too.
So if you wanna see what we’re doing, see me, see the guests. I don’t know if anybody really wants to see me, but if you wanna see the guests, which is definitely the attraction point, subscribe to our YouTube channel.
That’s, Jasonfalls.co/ YouTube or make sure you follow me on LinkedIn. The short way to get to that link is jason falls.co/linkedin, so jason falls.co. And then slash the channel, YouTube or LinkedIn. And that will get you to where you can subscribe and make sure you see the shows.
I’m sure we’ll have some speed bumps in the way here as we work out the kinks, but eventually we may even live stream a few episodes. I’ve been fighting adding video for a long time.
Honestly, I’m an audio file and prefer to just do the podcast that way but, we’ve entered the era of podcasts not being able to survive much without at least video promotions on social media, if not full on social video shows. So here we go.
Okay, now back to today’s episode. I’ve been using and reviewing social technology software for almost 20 years. One of the most frequent categories of software I’m either pitched or someone recommends that I try, is in the social media management category.
These are platforms like Hootsuite or Sprout Social, where you’re able to plug in all your social media channels, manage your comments, and message from all of those channels in one place, publish set up calendars, preload content and such.
I use a Agora Pulse, that’s another example. I’m also, technically a Gora Pulse ambassador. They don’t pay me, but I use ’em and I like ’em. And so I spread the good word.
Some of those, social media management platforms add features like social listening. Most of them have a social inbox and call it social listening, but that’s a different, ran for a different day.
Each social media management platform out there has some bail or whistle that makes them cool or unique. Every now and then someone comes along and looks at the category from a different angle and innovates a bit. Normally, when that happends, the new social media management solution combines functionality from some other software category for a mashup that serves a given niche.
At a startup event in Silicon Valley, recently, one such platform caught my eye. It is called Rella or Rella Social. It’s the brainchild of Natalie Barbu. If you recognize that name, it’s probably because you’re one of her 300,000 plus subscribers on YouTube or followers on other social media.
Natalie’s been creating content on YouTube for well over a decade, but she was always frustrated with trying to manage her content calendars and creation goals, plans, and even income from brand collaborations.
She was tracking things in spreadsheets and in multiple software packages. One day she decided to solve the problem and build her own app. Rella Social, combined social media management, content planning and scheduling, project management, and even income.
Because this is built by a creator for creators, there’s even a handy tab where you can see what other creators are charging for various types of posts. I’m sure I disappointed Natalie a bit when I approached her in the pitch room at the startup event. She was standing at the table hoping to talk to. Potential investors. I was just some dork hoping to have run my podcast, but she said yes.
So she’s here today to tell us how she became a creator. Two, why she decided to build Rella Social and how it helps content creators do what they do. She is coming up on Winfluence.
This episode of Winfluence is presented by Cipio.ai, the community commerce marketing platform. It has a family of apps that helps you drive commerce through your own community.
One of those apps is super relevant to content creators and brands alike, and to our conversation about Rella Social today. Whether you are a brand or content creator, you probably spend a lot of time writing and rewriting captions for social media. After today’s show, you might be doing that in real of social, but you also have to make sure that content will perform well by keeping up with the trends on social media within your own content performance, and so on.
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The creator that got so fed up with organizing her content creation work, she built a software company to solve the problem for everyone. Natalie Barbu from Rella Social is next on Winfluence.
Natalie, you’ve been a YouTuber for quite some time. How did you get started on the platform? And then, take us through the when and why of how you expanded out to other channels.
[00:07:13] Natalie: Yeah, I’ve been doing it for quite some time now, it feels like almost my whole life. I actually started in 2011 when I was 15, so it’s been a very long time back when social media was not what it is today.
I actually started just because I was watching other YouTubers on the platform that were around my age. They were other like teenage girls that were making fashion and beauty videos, and I just thought that I could do that too. And it looked like a lot of fun. And I had a laptop that had a camera in it, so I thought I’m gonna just go ahead and film my first makeup tutorial, and that’s actually what I had started with. Which is funny cuz I don’t really do that type of content anymore.
But I started with that and then I loved it. I remember hitting a hundred subscribers and I did a giveaway. I said it was the best day of my life. Like it was insane. And I remember hitting, three subscribers actually the very first day and I thought that was crazy because this was the time before social media where followers were not a thing.
Instagram was not a thing. Twitter was not a thing. It was only Facebook. And Facebook, whereas people that you knew in real life. So I was so shocked that, random people were finding me on the internet and following me and subscribing and watching my videos.
And then when comments started coming in, I became obsessed with that community that I was building, even though it was really small. And so I kept doing it. I started filming videos almost every day. I was posting consistently. And I think once Instagram came out later that year, or at least I joined Instagram later that year.
But again it was very, private. Like it was for my friends. It wasn’t necessarily to become an influencer, cause that word didn’t even exist at that time. But I just kept doing it.
I loved the community from the beginning, and I think that’s one thing that I’ve always kept up with is having and cultivating a really strong community on social media.
So even to this day, I feel like my community is so strong because it’s very intentional. Like I really do try to maintain that and to engage with my followers and create content that they wanna see or respond to all of my dms things like that.
So, I started expanding to other platforms once they started picking up. So Instagram later that year. I joined TikTok late, I will say. I was a viewer before I was actually creating content on TikTok for a while, but I’m starting to do that more seriously now, and it’s been fun. I love social media because it’s always changing and you’re always pivoting, you never have to be stuck in one niche or one type of video or one type of content. And so that’s what I really love, that I can do whatever I want with it.
[00:09:43] Jason: That actually leads, into my second question. And you touched on this briefly cause you said you started out doing, kind of makeup tutorials and things like that, you don’t do that much anymore.
I was gonna ask how your content has changed over the years, because a lot of what you do now is based on, building a company, the entrepreneurship that you’re experiencing now as a professional, which I’m sure is incredibly popular content, but you started out differently.
So tell us how that changed and was there any pushback from your audience on that migration, from one topic to another?
[00:10:11] Natalie: Yeah, I’ve had a lot of pivots in my channel actually. So I started with fashion and makeup, and then once lifestyle content started becoming popular, I started sharing a little bit more about my personal life.
So when I went to college, I became this college influencer where I would show the behind the scenes of being an engineering student, being in school, just focusing on, Rellating to other college students.
And then once I graduated college, worked at Accenture for a little bit. So I started talking about, working a corporate job and the vlogs surrounded that. And then I had quit my job and I moved to New York. And so my content revolved around doing my own thing in New York City. And now that I’m a founder of a startup, my content revolves around that.
So I’ve been really lucky that I could really transition my content to whatever my life transitions to and I think going back to the community aspect, it’s because of that, because I’ve built a strong community that wants to follow me and what we’ve built rather than just one type of specific content, so I’ve been really lucky with that.
And of course, there are moments when I’ve gotten a lot of views. There are moments of dull periods where you don’t get that many views, but I’ve stayed consistent throughout the past decade and I think that’s what’s really helped.
[00:11:18] Jason: Yeah, consistency is definitely, a key to keeping that audience engaged.
And I’m glad to hear that they migrate with you and I would think that if you started out, 15 years old, doing makeup tips. You’re probably talking to other, 15, 16, 17 years old year old’s doing makeup tips and when you go to college, they go to college and when you get a job, they get a job.
So it makes perfect sense. But you’ve obviously grown your audience really well over the years. Take us back for a moment to the early days. You mentioned, getting the first three subscribers on YouTube was a big deal, and then a hundred was a big deal. When did you know that you had something?
Was there a moment where a video went nuts or, you got Your first big check from Ad Revenue or someone recognized you on the street, when did you think that this YouTube thing was gonna be more than just a hobby or did you start out with the intention of making it your career?
[00:12:08] Natalie: Yeah, I never had a viral video. It wasn’t something that popped off and that blew me up. My growth has always been really slow and steady. And it’s because of consistency, I would say. So nothing ever blew up.
But I would say that once I got to college, I actually started seeing other creators on YouTube that were moving to LA and they weren’t going to college. They were pursuing social media full-time. And that’s when the light bulb went off where I was like, oh, this is a job for a lot of people. This is something that I could actually make a lot of money in. It’s yes, of course I love it. And it’s a hobby, but it’s actually could be a career too. Cause I started noticing that people were doing it full-time and I was like, okay, there’s gotta be something here then that if these girls are 18 and they don’t have to go to school and they can live on their own in LA.
So that’s when I started taking it seriously and I started having a consistent schedule. I started really, focusing on building my personal brand rather than just like filming random content. And so I started taking it seriously then, and then I would say my junior, senior year of college is when I started realizing that, okay, I’m making pretty good money for the average college student.
I can’t do this full-time yet, but I’m on the track to do it full-time and I would get recognized campus just because I did post a lot of college content. So a lot of people from NC State had known who I was just because of the content I was posting.
But it hit me more monetarily when I started realizing like, the way that this is growing, I could do this full-time eventually. And then once I was able to quit my job, I had saved up so much money at that point. I was consistently making revenue. I was making more money on social media than I was at my job. So it wasn’t as big of a risk for me at that point because I was already pretty well established.
So for me, the light bulb always went off when it came to how much money is in this industry and how much money you could make.
[00:13:56] Jason: Sure. That’s a good way to judge it. I’m a heck of a lot older than you. I wish that when I was in college, I had, a mechanism like that to have fun creating content and whatnot, and monetize it. So you grew up in the right area. That’s for damn sure. You also host a pretty damn fine podcast too. Tell us about The Real Reel.
[00:14:13] Natalie: Yeah. Yeah. So I host a podcast as well. I interview other founders, other creators. Anyone that honestly inspires me then, I wanna hear their story. I’ll Invite them on the podcast.
And I also do a lot of solo episodes where I talk just about anything that I’m going through or any topics that my audience wants to cover. And it’s a really good way for me to talk one-on-one with them for like 45 minutes, 30 to 45 minutes, even though it’s a little one-sided. I use then the other social media channels to get feedback on it.
Like Instagram dms are really helpful with that. But I love doing a podcast. I think it’s so fun talking to people and it’s one of the only chances you get to say hey, I wanna talk to you for 30 minutes to an hour. And I wanna pick your brain and you get like dedicated time with someone that’s, on your wishlist pretty much. So I think it’s a great networking tool too.
[00:15:01] Jason: Accurately describes this interview, like I wanted to talk to you for more than two minutes on a trade show floor, so here we are. We’re doing a little podcast. That’s good.
We’re talking to Natalie Barbu about her career thus far as a content creator, but that led her to build a software solution for content creators called Rella Social. We’re gonna dig into that after the break, stay tuned.
We’re back with, Natalie Barbu, talking about she’s the founder and CEO of Rella Social. We’ve been talking about her accomplished YouTube and social media content creator career thus far, but it, is that life that led her to this life of being a startup entrepreneur. So, Natalie, give us the origin story of Rella Social.
What challenges and frustrations were you seeing in your life as a creator that kind of led to this idea?
[00:16:01] Natalie: Yeah, so I had came up with the idea for Rella once I started doing social media full-time. After, I quit my job, I was also helping other creators, take it full-time, monetize it, grow their social media.
I was coaching them slash consulting them, and I started realizing that the tools that I was using and the tools that they were using were not made for creators and they were really fragmented, so people were using excel. Management tools like Notion, they were using the Notes app on their phone. Things were slipping through the cracks, they were forgetting things.
It was just not a good way to actually be consistent and grow on social media, and it led to a lot of burnout and overwhelmed creators that end up quitting.
And so I saw that this was a problem because other industries have, solutions specifically for them, whereas I felt like creators really didn’t.
And so that’s why I wanted to create that digital workspace for creators where they can really manage and organize their content in one place. So we started out with a planner and a scheduler. You can track your goals, you can organize your content, you can schedule content, you can make sure that you’re going from idea to execution in one place.
And as we expand, we wanna grow with these creators. So touch on the monetization aspect. They can currently track their. earnings See how much money they’re making, see revenue insights, like where are they making the most money, which platform which month so that they can actually, plan for their future as well.
But yeah, it’s a digital workspace for content creators and right now you can really organize all your content on there. And we specifically target smaller creators that are just starting out. A lot of tools out there are made for kind of creators that already have this community built, they might be making money already, but we actually wanna target people that are just now starting out and they want to grow their social. So that’s also a little bit different about us.
[00:17:41] Jason: Well, I can tell you I logged in and created a free account, which everybody can do. I connected my channel, scheduled a post set some goals, even told the system that Rella engaged me for a post for a dollar so I could see all the monetization.
I said it was payable and high fives though, so we’re good. But I wanted to test it out. I did all that, by the way, in about 10 minutes. So for those of you listing out there who are content creators or who want to get started as a content creator, it’s super easy and even free to get started.
Of course, there’s upgrades for various feature sets and all that good stuff. So when you had this idea and I know that, you set it up, I believe you majored in engineering or something like that in college.
So I think when people think of a YouTuber content creator, they don’t necessarily think you’re also an engineer or what type of engineer you are.
I’m curious, how quickly did you turn the idea into a thing and how did that happen? Did you write the original code? Did you hire somebody? Give us the timeline and kind of path to getting to that MVP, let’s say.
[00:18:39] Natalie: Yeah, so I had this idea in September of 2019. So a long time ago I had the idea, but I didn’t know necessarily how to build it. I’m not technical in the sense of I can develop an app, like I don’t know how to code, but I have a technical background with engineering, but not enough to like actually build this application.
So I knew that I would need help, but I just kept thinking about this idea and the more and more I helped other creators, the more and more I was obviously doing it full-time myself, it just would not get outta my head how useful something like this would be. And so I decided to act on it and I started asking friends if they knew anyone that could help me develop this.
And it was really naive at first. I thought, oh, I can just hire someone to do this. It won’t be that expensive. It’ll take two months, like whatever. Like I really had, no clue about what I was really getting myself into. I just wanted this to come to life.
And then I had met my co-founders who are developers. I had met them through a mutual friend, so they had a software agency where they were already developing apps for other companies, so I started working with them and then they loved what I was doing. I really liked working with them.
So a few months later, they joined full-time and became my co-founders. , but it’s such a learning curve because you don’t know what you don’t know, at first.
I had so many dreams for this, but I didn’t know it would be technically like a big company or a startup. I just wanted this product out there because I desperately wanted to use it.
But the more and more obviously I got into it, I realized, wait, this could actually be something big and this could be something that scales. And so May of 2021 is when we started working on it. I had the idea September, 2020. So sorry, timeline’s mixed up.
[00:20:11] Jason: It’s alright.
[00:20:12] Natalie: And then in January of 2022, we launched the product, actually exactly a year ago today. So today’s our one year anniversary .
[00:20:21] Jason: Oh wow. Very nice and you know what, we’re actually recording this on my birthday too, so…
[00:20:25] Natalie: Wow, okay. So happy birthday.
[00:20:27] Jason: My thank you. My birthday in Rella, we’re birthday twins. I love it.
[00:20:30] Natalie: Yes!
[00:20:30] Jason: It’s great. So yeah it’s amazing when you get into it and realize how much work it takes just to get to an MVP minimum viable product, for those of you out there who don’t know the startup lingo, I’ve always been fascinated and amazed when I’m working with engineers and developers and programmers and designers and everybody else, but the people who actually, make the zeroes and ones make sense and make it come to life, I’m just baffled at how amazing, they do and I’ve worked with some really good ones over the years. I’m sure that’s no different for you.
So what I jumped in and played with, was free, took me 10 minutes. I was playing around. Really intuitive easy, user experience is great, thus far.
But what I did, it was free for me to do all that. What’s the business model here? Are there more features to unlock? Are there subscription fees? How are you building this as a business.
[00:21:21] Natalie: Yeah, so we have subscriptions right now, but we’ve made it pretty difficult to get to them because it’s like a beta where we wanna invite people onto it.
So we’re inviting people on to test out our extra features. But we are actually launching paid subscriptions either end of this month, beginning of next month, where you can just purchase it on, your phone and through the app store.
But, there’ll be other features. So auto posting reels, repurposing content. So if you post something on Instagram reels and you wanna repurpose it to TikTok and YouTube shorts, you can do that so that it’s just in one click instead of having to constantly, do it three separate times, which can be really time consuming. And also so that you can grow on multiple platforms.
More earnings, insights and analytics. So there’s just gonna be more things behind the paywall that we’re excited to show.
[00:22:06] Jason: The big thing that struck me as being very different from other tools that are out there, obviously because it’s made for creators, was the fact that you’ve got a component built in there for people to be able to track their earnings, track the payments that they’re getting from people and really, support the business of being a content creator, which is very unique, so love that.
Now I met you at a startup event, where you were pitching, rellative to potential investors. That tells me there’s maybe a bigger vision and roadmap for what you’re doing. What will the platform and company look like a year from now when you get the kind of funding you’re going after?
[00:22:41] Natalie: Yeah, so we actually recently closed our pre-seed round. So we raised a million dollars on our pre-seed.
[00:22:47] Jason: Nice.
[00:22:48] Natalie: We’re excited about that, but we really want to just scale this product to have any creator that wants to start and is I wanna do this as a career and I wanna take this seriously because now it’s the number one job aspiration for kids today actually.
We want them to go on Rella to actually help with their growth on social media. So, have it be the tool that people go to, to grow on social media and have those testimonies there. And then we also wanna grow with the creators.
So as they’re just starting out, and then once they start monetizing and working with brands, we wanna build tools that expand to that category too but we just wanna focus on this subset at first and then grow with them to really help them with monetization, help them get paid. And so we’re just looking, at the future, like that.
[00:23:30] Jason: Well, I have the perfect partner for you, someone that I need to introduce you to. We’re on the marketing podcast network. That’s where Winfluence resides.
And one of our, fellow podcasters is T.Adeola who, runs a podcast called Tiny Giants and it’s all about the creator economy and closing the gap between STEM education and schools teaching content creation as a STEM activity.
So he’s tapping…
[00:23:57] Natalie: Interesting.
[00:23:57] Jason: Parents, he’s tapping into young people who want to be so I’m gonna connect those dots afterwards cause sounds like two, y’all are more aligned than anybody else probably out there would be with you. So I’ll make those…
[00:24:08] Natalie: Yeah, I would love to.
[00:24:09] Jason: How about that? Awesome well, the creators out there where they can sign up and where people might be able to connect with you online if they wanna learn more or just follow on all your socials.
[00:24:18] Natalie: Yeah, you can find me at Natalie Barbu. I’m on all social media platforms and then, you can download Rella on the App Store or the Android store, or Google Play Store. We’re also on the web, so you can just go to getrella.com and create your free account. and then The Real Reel, podcast is my podcast.
[00:24:34] Jason: Awesome, Natalie, thank you so much for the time today, and thanks for helping make the creator economy more manageable for us folks, I think, hope this thing blows up for you.
[00:24:43] Natalie: Thank you so much.
[00:24:55] Jason: Awesome to see someone take a different angle on, software category and create something new and useful. Jump over to rellasocial.com or getrella.com, I’ll make sure the links are right in the show notes. So go over to jasonfalls.com and see the, links.
Sign up for a free account if you’re a creator. If you’re an investor, will have, links to Natalie’s LinkedIn profile in our show at jasonfalls.co/nataliebarbu. That’s our little pattern for our short links for all this. So jasonfalls.co/nataliebarbu for that.
If you want to follow her on the socials. We’ll also make sure we have links to her YouTube, Instagram, and The Real Reel podcast there too. So go check all of that out.
Also, don’t forget to completely change the way you produce social media content for the better. Get the community generative AI app from Cipio.ai. A two week free trial. No credit card is required. That awaits you at jasonfalls.co/cgi. That’s jasonfalls.co/cgi.
If you enjoy Winfluence, help us grow and tell someone about the show. You probably know someone who might wanna know more about Influence Marketing, so send them over to, winfluencepod.com, that’ll be fun.
Let me, I gotta hit buttons here. We’re doing this show differently, so I gotta hit buttons to make everything work, don’t I? Yeah.
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