Behind the Scenes Q&As

How podcasting helped these social media influencers expand their brand

Influencer culture has become increasingly mainstream. From promoting products to sharing lifestyle tips, influencers have created significant online identities and brands to interact with tuned-in users across several platforms.

Among them are Caroline and AnnCatherine Conneen, both also enrolled at Northeastern University. The twins share valuable insights into fitness, self-confidence and nutrition on their respective Instagram accounts. Building upon an existing combined following of approximately 114,400 people, they expanded their digital presence by launching the “Girls with Goals” podcast.

Through this platform, the Conneens candidly explore their personal struggles with self-esteem, eating patterns, mental health and more, and how those experiences have propelled them to become physically and mentally stronger individuals. As of Nov. 2023, their podcast has an average rating of 4.7/5 on Spotify, from approximately 1,900 ratings, and they boast more than 2 million downloads.

Storybench spoke with Caroline and AnnCatherine about how they develop content for their podcast and social media accounts, as well as their overall goals with their online prescence.

The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Why was a podcast the optimal medium for engaging in compelling discussions about fitness and self-confidence?

Caroline: The Instagram content that I began to feel most passionate about were those about mental health and self confidence, and also those that had long written captions rather than short trendy ideas.

AnnCatherine: We keep our individual social media [accounts] independent, but we really wanted something we could do together in support of this larger mission to share and inspire healthy lifestyles. So, the podcast was really the space for that.

What choices are involved in curating your social media feed or determining the subject matter for your podcast episodes?

AnnCatherine: As international business students here at Northeastern, we really appreciate and enjoy spending time working on the business and strategy side of everything that comes with “Girls with Goals” and our personal platforms, just as much as the creative and execution side of it. Making sure we have a strategic mix of topics and content and striking the right balance of integrating trending concepts while sharing information of our own is really difficult, but it’s so much fun.

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Is it challenging to open up and be vulnerable with your followers?

Caroline: I think the longer that I’ve talked about vulnerable topics like body image, eating disorders, the more comfortable that I’ve gotten with it because it’s less of a shock knowing that it’s something that I’ve shared before and has become a consistent topic of conversation. But I don’t think it will ever be 100% comfortable to talk about my own experiences with mental health and disordered eating or to share some of my least flattering moments. What I do know though is that it’s the type of content that has the most positive impact on the women viewing it, and for that reason I’m motivated to continue putting myself out there in vulnerable ways.

AnnCatherine: Selfishly, I think the podcast has helped me open up, which has been really, really beneficial for my own growth. Being vulnerable and honest and sharing our own experiences is crucial to having a valuable show. We do this because we enjoy it, but most importantly we do this because it has helped a lot of young women through their own journeys.

What is the significance of podcasting in your life?

Caroline: It’s hard to always show up as the person you want to be in life and always make the best decisions for yourself. Knowing that people are listening to me motivates me to take my own advice and show up not only for them but for myself. Podcasting has given me flexibility and independence in my career, which is incredibly empowering, but more than anything it has fueled my self growth and helped me build both self belief and self compassion.

AnnCatherine: Working in this space of health and wellness, we’ve been able to meet so many amazing people. Be it influencers or other podcast hosts, brands with amazing teams, other people in the industry that all share similar values and energy, [they] have been huge for learning a lot and having some unbeatable experiences. But overall, the show has had amazing impact on both my personal growth, business growth, social connections and how I value friendships.

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What kind of influence do you aspire to have on your followers?

Caroline: I want everyone who follows me or comes across my content to gain something positive from it, whether that is as simple as a new recipe to try or a small quote to hold on to, or as significant as a body image transformation or eating disorder recovery.

AnnCatherine: The main goal of our show and personal socials is to provide value to our audience and inspire confidence and healthy lifestyles. I want to make positive impact for my audience and watch how their lives just get better for them as they strive for that themselves. We, of course, watch the numbers and want to grow our audience and take that into consideration on the business side, but it’s really important that we continue making that positive impact on an individual level.

The sisters pose for a photo together. (Photo courtesy of Caroline and AnnCatherine Conneen)

What do you envision for your future?

Caroline: When social media is unpredictable –– trends and algorithms change, new apps pop up and drop off –– it’s hard to have a super specific vision of what this career could look like. All I know is that I want to feel passionate and fulfilled by what I do, continue to feel independent and creative in my career and work my hardest at every step along the way.

AnnCatherine: It’s a goal to host in-person events and connect with our listeners in real life too. We always have new goals and projects and ideas that we want to act on and, long-term, see “Girls With Goals” as a lot of different things that we are excited to grow.

Alexis Zacharakos
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