Kerry Washington isn’t just a movie star, brand ambassador, and THE Olivia Pope on ABC’s hit series, Scandal. To her nearly 4 million Twitter followers, 2.4 million Instagram followers and over 4 million Facebook fans, she’s also a — dare we say it — social influencer. Yuck, okay, we’re never using that phrase again. But in all seriousness: how does she make it work? And how does she leverage her social accounts (which, by the way, she absolutely runs herself) to build her career?

“To this day, I know we would not have had a second season [of Scandal] were it not for social media,” said the actress in a discussion earlier today with InStyle magazine’s Ariel Foxman at SXSW. Here are her six biggest takeaways from being a successful social media manager while also, you know, having a life and career and being a bonafide celeb.

1. Be authentic. Washington got into social media, she says, the same way she got into fashion: out of a sense of brand necessity. Women who were dominating on the red carpet seemed to get more roles; the same, she figured, would be true of social media prowess. But the key to being a SUCCESS and building a community is to be true to yourself and your voice.

2. You don’t need to follow a strict social media “diet.” “I usually check it in the hair and makeup chair in the morning and depending on the day… I don’t have rules about how I do it,” she explained when asked about her digital routine. On set she might check her phone in between takes, but she might not — especially if the scene she’s about to film is super demanding.

3. Read the comments at your own peril. “People can be so mean!” Washington exclaims. Comments can show the worst sides of some people, and that can be a huge bummer. But at the end of the day, negative comments are a reflection of the commenter first and foremost.


4. Recognize your power. As Washington puts it, social media is “the great democratizer. “It puts power in the hands of the individual,” she says. “EVERYBODY can be a celebrity and EVERYBODY can be a critic and EVERYBODY can write an op-ed.” Social media gives us all the potential to amplify our voices, and that is a beautiful thing.

5. Embrace your activist moments. Washington is vocal about social justice, and she thinks that social media can play a part in moving our society forward. “We live in a world where not everyone gets their story told,” she explains. “For most of my life, and today, women weren’t considered the leads for their own story. The same is true of a person of color.” She considers her leading roles onscreen as “activist moments,” but thinks that ANY opportunity for silenced or sidelined people to tell their own stories (hellooooo social media) are little activist spotlights too.

6. Don’t be afraid to stir sh*t up. When Washington signed a deal to be a brand ambassador for Neutrogena, the healthy cosmetic company didn’t offer a foundation shade that was dark enough for her skin. This created quite the social media stir… and Kerry Washington encouraged it. “For me, it was important to expand the line,” she says. “People all over the world don’t have access to this healthy skin cosmetic line [in their skin tones] and that’s not fair.” When the company tracked the uproar, they expanded. (The shade Cocoa was made expressly with Washington’s particular complexion in mind.)

What are YOUR social media tips? Tell us (on social media) @britandco!

(Featured photo via Jason Merritt/Getty)