From Actress to Social Media Marketer and Businesswoman: The Story of Polina Nioly
Polina Nioly is a Russian actress, film producer, Instagram blogger and marketing powerhouse. Her fearless, glamorous personality has inspired tons of attention online – and she is just as adept at creating buzz for clients of her highly successful marketing agency.
Polina, you’ve achieved considerable accomplishments at such a young age. You’re the founder of your own successful marketing agency and as an actress, you’ve been in films with Mickey Rourke. How did you get started when you first came to the US?
My success story is the result of daily, painstaking work for the past four years. In 2018, I started working in social media. It all started with promoting one company, and then, I was organically brought on to other projects. At that time, I was promoting commercial accounts and personal blogs, and I realized my ideas were having real results for my clients—not just in terms of audience growth, but in achieving concrete financial goals.
Gradually, I began to delegate tasks and build a team so I could keep up with the scale of work that was coming in. I started with a single assistant, and now I have a total of over 150 people (including contractors) working for me. Every month, I’ve been intentional about growing my business. In 2021, I started working with American influencers and in early 2022, I began the process of expanding internationally.
Thus, when I moved to the US, I did not start from scratch. I had clear goals and plans. In April 2022, I translated my blog into English and began to gain a global audience. Over time, more people learned about my results and were interested in my services. Currently, if clients want to work with me personally, projects start at $30,000, and personal promotion starts at $70,000 per month.
Did you focus on a specific industry or clientele niche when you first started Nioly LLC?
Initially, my company specialized in managing bloggers and SMM training projects. I helped bloggers manage stories, write posts, and grow their Instagram accounts. But at some point, I realized that I needed a team and decided to launch my own project to train blog managers. I invited the best students to join my team and that’s initially how I started building my company.
Why did you decide to create Nioly Media Group?
Last year on Richard Branson’s Island, I met the members of OneRepublic. We followed each other on Instagram and I ended up having more followers than them. I thought to myself, “How is this possible if the guys and their songs are known all over the world?” I was very surprised and did some initial research on their social accounts as well as other major artists and celebrities. It turned out that many well-known people do not put effort into managing their social media presence. For those who care, it means they are leaving a lot of money on the table.
I realized that I could be the person to help them reclaim that value due to my social media management experience. I took on my first test client and the results were excellent. Soon, new clients began to contact me based on word of mouth, but I could not handle all of the inbound business by myself. At that point, I began to hire employees and build my agency. At the end of the day, if you can identify an important problem for someone and offer a great solution, you can build a business.
How did you select team members for your agency?
My employees are not only professionals, but also like-minded people. We have “veterans” who have been working on the team for a long time and new employees, hired just in the past six months. At this point, we aren’t accepting applications as we are inundated with talented folks sending in their resumes. The only opportunity we currently have is an internship, where we can give a select group of gifted applicants a chance to work alongside us. Finding and cultivating star talent to take our clients’ goals to the next level and move up in their careers within NMG is a big priority for us.
Describe some of the challenges you overcame when you first started your business.
Probably the most difficult period was the transition from Nioly LLC to Nioly Media Group. We completely rebuilt the company for the international market. Hitting tight deadlines, handling a colossal amount of work and managing 150 employees in Russia while simultaneously building a company in the US was no small feat. Building a business in the US with few contacts was especially difficult. I had to hire new employees, and continue to nurture my established employees at the same time, or risk destroying what I had already created.
However, in 6-8 months we managed to completely rebuild the company, including beginning to generate revenue in the US, restructuring our personnel and completing projects in the CIS countries. During this time, much to our delight, we set a new record for earnings. At this stage, Nioly Media Group has become a competitive player in the market, with tons of inbound from well-known personalities. And this is just the beginning.
Your agency has over 150 employees. How do you manage such a large team and do you have time for a personal life?
The secret is simple—I delegate absolutely everything I can. I have a dogsitter, I have a chef, I don’t iron or do household chores. A personal assistant takes care of my schedule and runs all sorts of errands. And the company and all internal processes are handled by my top managers. At the moment, I am only engaged in client promotions, strategizing and consulting. Therefore, thanks to my incredible team, I have enough time for work, meetings with friends and dating.
How does social media differ in the US compared to other countries?
In the US, social media is less developed than in the CIS countries. Many businesses and influencers still treat Instagram as a portfolio and do not understand why they should invest in growth. They do not have a strategy, they haven’t properly monetized their presence, or they are missing out on other opportunities. There are not that many bloggers with well-executed social media strategies and strong followings. Brands often perform even worse when it comes to social. Many large and medium-sized businesses have little or even no social media presence. Famous people, too. It’s all a big loss financially for them.
Social media is such a powerful and strategic tool. When properly managed, it improves your relationship with your audience, increases your popularity, builds your personal brand, and increases your income. It’s my passion to empower people to use it well and expand both their influence and earning potential.
Describe Nioly Media Group’s work culture. How do you collaborate and do you encourage folks to ever take a break from work?
We do not have a corporate culture in the traditional sense, because we are 100% remote as well as international. But despite this, we have managed to build a close community and we love to joke around and have fun. For example, we recently did a challenge to see who could improve their English the fastest in a given time period and the winner received an iPhone. Things like this really create unity and team bonding.
Another aspect of our culture is that the majority of our employees are very young, most are between 21 to 29 years old. This is probably one of the reasons folks tend to feel so comfortable with remote work and traveling meeting in person.
Tell us about your most difficult client and how you handled the relationship.
I would not say that we have had any particularly difficult or problematic clients. No matter how big the client is, we establish a respectful and professional rapport that tends to set the tone for productive collaboration. Our work speaks for itself and our clients respect our expertise.
One thing I can share is we have seen situations when a client is lazy and does not put out the content we have produced, which prevents us from doing our job. In these types of cases, we tend to set up a call and have a conversation around our goals and how we can best work together to keep the project on track. Generally speaking, this tends to clear up any issues and we are able to continue moving forward with the client.
On Reddit and other online platforms, there are some posts stating that, allegedly, you have problems with taxes and with money in general. What is your response?
It’s very hard for some people to accept that someone can be very successful at a young age, especially if they themselves are insecure about their own level of success.
I am absolutely calm about online criticism, I have nothing to hide. I am not faking my life or lifestyle, it would be impossible for me to do so. However, I don’t like to spend my time trying to convince strangers on the internet, it tends to be a lost cause.
It’s true that there are people who put out fake content or make money in questionable ways; however, that is none of my business and I simply try to focus on my company and my goals.
When it comes to online haters, I treat it as a tool. Similar to Google searches, the more people who talk about you, the faster your recognition and media exposure grows. While it can be uncomfortable, I see it as an opportunity.
You are often compared to Anna Delvi. What is your reaction to this?
To be honest, this doesn’t surprise me, since the Netflix show was such a hit. I tend to get a lot of comments from people who are suspicious about my standard of living and success. A lot of people don’t believe 25-year-old girls are capable of earning millions of dollars. To them, they assume there must be some sort of “sugar daddy” or fraud. This is pure misogyny. Some people are triggered by my success and feel better by saying that it is all fake. It’s much easier to continue sitting on the couch, criticizing a successful person because of envy and insecurity.
You’ve also earned credits as an actress and producer. How did you get into the film industry?
I got into film by accident. Before that, I had never acted and did not even dream of acting. But an opportunity presented itself and I thought, “Why not?” I considered it a cool and interesting experience and wanted to give it a go.
For this particular project, the filming took 4 days in Latvia and I did not sleep for all 4 days. I learned a ton; I met the other actors, asked for advice and got acting coaching. When Mickey Rourke came in and started to improvise, I had no idea what to do. But at that moment I had a choice: to give up or just follow my instincts and be open. Luckily, it all worked out.
I started producing films and also invested in the projects. I wanted to do this because, first, there is money to be made when a film is successful. Second, I’m interested in changing this industry, which, in my opinion, seems to be stuck in certain ways. It needs fresh blood and fresh ideas. Plus, as an investor, I could really do what I wanted and not have to bend to anyone else’s opinions.
How do you see yourself: a blogger, a businesswoman, or an actress?
I don’t want to limit myself to any one definition. I like to try lots of new things, even if they seem totally different or even contradictory. To achieve success, it is not enough to be one thing. Excellence requires flexibility and versatility. My focus now is on business development and brand awareness. Therefore, by combining blogging and running several projects, I create much better results than if I were to limit myself to influencers alone.
Tell us something that Polina Nioly that followers don’t know.
I would say that those who have been following me for a long time already know everything about me. My blog is truly an open book, I let it all out. I don’t have any secrets.
For me, blogging is not about building an image or a character to grow an audience. In my case, my blog is the true story of my life, including successes and failures. Self-doubt, mistakes, it’s all there. I don’t hide anything about myself.
In the past two years, you have come a long way. What are your goals for the next couple of years?
I would say “Napoleonic plans” are next. In 2023, I plan to open a Nioly Media Group office in New York, my own restaurant and launch a lingerie brand, Nioly Underwear. We also have big plans for Dubai. We are expanding there because NMG has many clients from the UAE, and we see tons of opportunities with local experts and influencers. But my main focus, of course, will be the development and growth of Nioly Media Group. Our main differentiator in the market is that we combine PR with marketing and make brands and personalities recognizable outside of social media.