Career Spotlight: Kae Lani Kennedy of Matador Network

••• Kae Lani Kennedy

Kae Lani Kennedy is a Philadelphia-based writer and photographer with a passion for travel. By day, she's the Social Media Manager for Matador Network, where she tells stories through travel. She finds her job fulfilling, as it's her way of inspiring people to step outside of their comfort zone and experience something new. She's a pro at crafting stories, whether it be through words or images, that expand someone's perspective of the world.

In doing that, she fulfills her purpose. 

In the following interview, Kennedy deciphers the world of social media, explains why it's important in the travel and social photography space, and sheds light on what travel means to her and how she translates that through her work. 

What inspired you to enter the world of social media?

I want to help bring meaningful stories to larger audiences. Through digital publishing and social media networks, I can connect with people all over the world who resonate with travel culture.

What does your role as Social Media Manager at Matador Network entail? 

My role is to promote travel stories to an audience who will find them meaningful. I do this by sharing moments. Social media is just a newsfeed of moments, and when those moments are strung together, it makes a large story. So my job is to take these larger stories and break them down into moments to share across different platforms.

Sharing a photo and a caption gives people a taste of the story - and then providing a link gives the reader a chance to find out more.

What are the day-to-day obligations of your position?

My day to day is finding creative ways to bring cool stories to readers. So I spend most of my day taking every story on Matador Network and sharing them through social.

We have a presence on all of the major social media channels, and I make sure they get updated everyday with fresh stories that are told in our brand's voice. Because digital publishing is growing and changing so fast, I have to keep up with changes to platforms as well as any new networks that pop up. It's fast paced and exciting!

Do you oversee all of Matador’s social media channels?

Yes. But I also have specialists in some platforms who help me manage the subtleties of the day to day.

What makes your line of work different from any other?

I've worked in a lot of areas of marketing, and what I love about social media is that it's telling the human stories of a brand. In traditional marketing, it's most of the time business to consumer, where the conversation is driven by the business educating and creating value for the consumer. But on social media, it's more of an instantaneous conversation that is more human to human marketing.  

In regards to publishing, social media has certainly sped up the conversation. Now, stories only live for about 24 hours, whereas in print, they last a bit longer.

What do you hate most about your line of work?

One cannot make a story go viral. Social media is socially driven.

If the story falls flat on an audience, then it was a story that didn't resonate with them. And no amount of money being thrown at it will change that. That's why I like Matador Network's community. We know our audience well and by being authentic in storytelling, we know how to speak to them. This formula of organic community building has increased. How viral a story will be is a hard thing to predict, but through this formula of organic community building, we've increased our probability of going viral.  

What do you love most about your line of work?

I love that I am getting a hands on experience with one of the most important tools in media.  I feel like a pioneer in this social media revolution!

Why is social important to you?

Social is about taking life experiences and using them to share, connect and relate to other people.

  I'm a natural born communicator.  It's important for me to express myself and connect with people, and social media is a great platform to do so.

How do you blend social media and travel?

Social media and travel go together more naturally than people think. In fact, travel is the most commonly shared experience on Facebook. Ninety-five percent of users use Facebook to plan a trip, and 84% use it to find inspiration. Social media has become an essential part of the trip planning process.

Nowadays, social media is leaning towards sharing live experiences. So it's required to have the storytelling capturing raw moments of travel while it's happening. Both the storyteller and the reporter get to experience something together, and the energy of that moment doesn't get lost by being filtered through the editorial process of traditional media. 

What is your number-one piece of advice for someone who wants to work in social media at a digital publication?

Social media isn't for selling directly to your audience. It's best to be as authentic as possible. It's more about connecting to people rather than racking up a bunch of followers.

What’s your favorite social media platform?

Facebook is my favorite. Not just because it's the largest, but there's a lot of ways to tell stories through it. There's video, photos, events, live, and more ways to combine these for even more means of expression. Also, while traveling it helps to explore businesses as well as connect with locals.

How does travel play into your work and life?

Travel is an essential part of my role. Yes, I attend and speak at conferences, but I work in the travel industry, and I think it's a requirement to have first-hand experience with how travelers use social media. 

How has social media changed you or your perspective of the world?

I used to be a little against social media. It seemed so invasive, and the content that was being perpetuated was a bunch of stories watered down into a soup memes, clickbait, and listicles. But over time, I began to see people using the things I thought were dumb in clever ways.

Social media is also evolving. It's being shaped by what people enjoy and what people are inspired by.  And the conversations that are arising from these trending stories is impressive. It's conversations that are making social change, that are spreading the stories of those who can't be heard, and it's creating a more empathetic and understanding generation.

Stories have also become dynamic. And social media users can see a story from many different perspectives and experience it through different ways with video, images, a written story, 360 experiences, and interaction with commenters.

How do you think social media effects the world’s perception of a place? 

Places change with time. But I think all too often people hold on to the old stories that they've heard about a place. For instance, I live in Philadelphia, a city that was once known for being gritty and run by crime. Some people still believe Philadelphia is the city it was in the 80s, but since the rise of social media, locals from Philadelphia can share what everyday life looks like in their city; thus, using social media to debunk the rumors that Philadelphia is a dangerous city.

Do you ever find it hard to disconnect due to your role?

It's a real struggle. I'm on the platforms all day, everyday (even weekends) and I have to make a conscious effort to step aside and take a digital detox.

Any favorite destinations in the world? 

I get asked this question a lot, and I always use this response: My travel experiences are like my children. I love them all equally for the unique individuals they are.

But I have to say I have recently been intrigued by Latin America. The vibes, the food, the people - they're so welcoming, and even though I don't speak Spanish, feeling love has no language barriers.

What are your hobbies outside of work?

For fitness, I like spinning, lifting and yoga. I'm also a photographer, and I enjoy flying drones.

What inspired you to start these?

I started doing yoga when I was 10. Not for interest, but because I have scoliosis and this was my preferred method of treatment. But an unintended joy that I've gotten from yoga is the meditation.  Reflecting inward helps me see the world around me in different ways, which has only enriched my travel experiences. 

Where are you off to next?

I'm headed to Costa Rica! I'm ready for more coffee, sunshine, and new perspective.