Social media jobs have a reputation for being one of the most challenging in the industry. If they’re done wrong, company’s accounts can sound impersonal and like an ad meant for the masses; but if they’re done right, they develop a connection with their audience that sticks with them and feels like each caption and picture is speaking to them personally. The Everygirl’s social media accounts have always strived to fall into the latter—and can credit the success of that to Abigail Yonker.
In April of 2018, I was sitting in my senior year college apartment, nervously watching the minutes of my morning tick by. I had just gotten a new internship at The Everygirl, and for whatever reason, I was more nervous for my 11am virtual training than I had been for the interview. But then, when I picked up my phone call from an unknown Chicago number and heard Abigail Yonker introduce herself on the other end, all of my nerves vanished, and the next hour flew by like I was chatting with an old friend.
I already knew who Abigail was from my intensive scouring of The Everygirl when I was applying for the internship and had stumbled upon a video of her (I distinctly remember thinking, “Huh, I bet I’d be friends with that girl!”). From a mere three minutes of watching her, she had me sold: she was funny, relatable, and just had something about her that made me feel like I already knew her—something I’ve heard everyone I know agree on as soon as they meet her. From the moment I spoke to her on the phone for my training, I knew she had a quality that everyone wants, but so few have: the ability to make you comfortable from the get-go, with all intimidation cast aside and replaced with an effortless friendliness (even when taking time out of her day to train a future intern that she knew nothing about). Hell, I had a feeling the girl was special, and over two years and countless wine nights and meetings and walks to get coffee at 2pm, I was right.
If you don’t know Abigail, well, you must not be paying that close of attention. Informally known to all of my acquaintances as “the blonde who’s always on The Everygirl’s Instagram stories,” but formally known as The Everygirl’s Social Media Editor, Abigail is an integral cog in the wheel of our company, and has been for quite some time. The office doesn’t really feel open until her sunshiny face walks through the door each morning carrying her iced Americano, and her work ethic, creativity, and “sounds like your best friend” Instagram captions make up the bones of The Everygirl. Her career path was a winding road, full of a few doors being shut in her face combined with a lot of perseverance, and I couldn’t be happier that you all get to hear her story too.
Name: Abigail Yonker, Social Media Editor + Internship Program Manager at The Everygirl
Location: Chicago, IL
Education: BS in Strategic Communication from Texas Christian University (with a minor in film—I love throwing that fact in there so people take my movie recommendations seriously, lol)
Let’s start from (almost) the beginning. As the editor of your high school newspaper, you were familiar with a newsroom setting from a young age. Did you always know you wanted to pursue journalism? How did that experience affect your career path?
I wanted to be a writer before I even knew how to spell. I know that sounds made-up, but I swear I used to carry around a notebook and pencil and scribble lines in it before I could actually write. Once I actually learned that almighty skill, I obsessively collected journals and wrote short stories on my parents’ computer. I vividly remember a time when my parents went on vacation for a week, and I meticulously filled a notebook with “newspaper pages” for them to read when they came back (including the daily weather reports and hard-hitting headlines like “My Brother Was Very Annoying Today, And I Wish You Had Been Here to Yell At Him.”) I printed fake magazine covers (did anyone else make those on barbie.com?) then wrote articles to accompany them.
When my older sister went to high school, she would bring home copies of her school newspaper for me. I loved them so much, and I couldn’t wait for the day I’d be old enough to write for a real paper myself. My freshman year, I painstakingly took every assignment they’d give me, then applied for a section editor position for the following year. I didn’t get the votes (womp womp), but a few days later the newspaper advisor called and asked if I’d be interested in accepting a different position, as copy editor. As it turned out, I was a great copy editor—and that was also my first non-intern role at The Everygirl, almost 10 years later. Life is funny!
But I digress. My four years in high school journalism (including one year as the paper’s editor in chief) helped me further develop my passion for writing and editing. I also had a real knack for layout (laying/spacing out the articles/photos on the page)—and though I didn’t realize it at the time, that was a definite precursor to what I do now with social media graphics.
All that to say… I have never wanted to be anything other than a writer.
You started at The Everygirl as an Editorial Intern. How did you decide to apply? What was the application process like?
When I was in college, I somehow lost sight of what I wanted to do. I was (to no one’s fault) scared off from a career in journalism. It became clear to me that I was not cut out for a life of breaking news so much as I was cut out for a life of storytelling, and I convinced myself that that meant I should go into advertising or public relations instead of journalism. I switched my major from journalism to strategic communications so I could focus more on (or so I thought) writing witty, pithy, crafted copy as opposed to news. If I could go back, I would tell myself that my career didn’t have to be one or the other—but in time, my career trajectory (thus far) taught me that in practice instead.
When I graduated and moved home to the Chicago suburbs, I could not find a full-time job. So many jobs rejected me that I’d get rejection emails from companies I forgot I even applied to. In hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t get any of those PR, advertising, or corporate communications jobs, because they weren’t the right fit for me. But at the time, I was at my absolute lowest.
That fall, while I was working just enough hours for a family friend to earn some semblance of a salary, a few things happened simultaneously. My college friend told me that her PR firm was hiring an entry-level position in New York, and she put in a good word for me with HR. I went through several rounds of interviews with them and was just about ready to accept a job. At the same time, a different college friend sent me a link to a website called The Everygirl. I was so deep in my job-hunting obsession that, when I looked at it, I said to her, “This is cool, but it doesn’t look like they’re hiring.” “I didn’t send it to you as a possible JOB,” she said, “I just think you’d like it.” A few weeks (I think?) later, The Everygirl posted an internship opening, and I applied on a whim.
I sent a very obsequious application, interviewed with Alaina and Danielle (The Everygirl’s cofounders) over Skype, and was offered an internship at The Everygirl to begin in January 2017. In the same week, I received a verbal offer for a full-time position in New York City (at my friend’s company), so I turned down the internship at The Everygirl. I remember feeling a pang, wishing I was taking the writing job instead.
On a Monday morning in January, I received an email saying that the New York company had changed their mind about the full-time job, as they were going to hire a higher-level candidate instead. I was absolutely devastated. That afternoon, I sent a completely desperate and frantic email to Alaina and Danielle, telling them I’d do anything (“write, edit, take notes, get coffee—anything” is what the email literally says) if they’d give me another chance. They responded within an hour and said, “Can you be here Wednesday?” I know it sounds cheesy, but that email changed my life, and it makes me emotional when I think of the relief I felt when I read those words.
So many jobs rejected me that I’d get rejection emails from companies I forgot I even applied to.
We both started at The Everygirl at the same time (way back in 2017!). What do you wish you knew on your first day?
I knew I was coming in as the Desperate Email Girl, so I was very very afraid of what else the incredibly chic and talented women at The Everygirl would think of me. On my way to the office on the first day, I slipped on some ice, ripped my pants, and shattered my phone. I thought it was an omen that the job was going to be a travesty.
I wish, when I walked into the office on the first day, that I hadn’t been so afraid of what my coworkers (and what all the readers of The Everygirl) would think of me. I cared a lot about fitting the mold of what I thought The Everygirl was. In time, I’ve learned that The Everygirl’s mold is malleable and flexible, and I’ve been so honored to have even a small hand in shaping it over the last several years. I wish I could tell 22-year-old Abigail to not feel so bad or scared about speaking out with ideas—that confidence came with time.
After your internship had concluded, you created a new path within the company by becoming our part-time Copy Editor and continuing to write for the site. How did you approach that transition?
I know you didn’t ask this, but I have some advice to share about being an intern. When I was an intern, I made it my absolute mission to read Alaina and Danielle’s minds. I tried to anticipate their every need—and not necessarily as humans, but as business owners.
Yes, of course I would offer to grab coffee or lunch or to build the new desks or arrange the kitchen cabinets—but I’d like to think the things that set me apart were when I stepped in to fill needs they were just beginning to have. I tried to take on articles other people didn’t jump at, I helped conceptualize and create our first video series, and I branded myself as “the career writer” so I’d get all the best career profile interviews (full circle, baby!).
Though The Everygirl had a Copy Editor (at the time, it was a contracted position), I made sure (as if my life depended on it) that my articles I wrote were typo-free and ready for print. I wanted my bosses to know that I was a value-add as opposed to a liability. I did absolutely everything in my power to make myself indispensable, and that’s what I would recommend to anyone hoping to stand out and make a name for themselves at any new company. Find the needs, and fill them without being asked.
All that being said, I interned at a very unique time in the company’s history. While we now have a double-digit number of full-time staffers, there were only five back then (Alaina; Danielle; the then Managing Editor Allyson Trammell, who is now our Editorial Director; you, Kelly Etz, former Editorial Assistant turned Graphics and Courses Queen; and our Social Media Manager, Caitlin Brown). It was such a small team, and even a scrappy little intern didn’t have a chance at asking for a full-time role—but I did ask Alaina and Danielle if I could stay on as an intern for another season. They graciously allowed me to, and when our Copy Editor left just a few weeks (months? time is a blur) later, they asked if I’d be interested in stepping up to fill that role.
What I would recommend to anyone hoping to stand out and make a name for themselves at any new company: find the needs, and fill them without being asked.
Campaigning for yourself isn’t always easy. Do you have any tips for those looking to create their own positions within a growing company?
Like I said earlier, I made myself indispensable. If you’re interested in staying with a company long-term, the best thing you can do to stand out is to make yourself irreplaceable. Do the thing no one else is doing. Help the busy people with what they ARE doing so that they can’t imagine how they did it without you. I offered to help Caitlin with various social media tasks—so when she moved across the world and left the position, I would be a natural next choice. This obviously looks very different in different roles, but the most important thing is to know what you want to be for the company, and to make it known that that’s who you are. I positioned myself as “Caitlin’s right-hand woman who doesn’t need grammar edits on her work and also knows her way around pop culture”—which led to Alaina and Danielle, in time, feeling comfortable trusting me with the social accounts.
Now, three years after your internship, you’re responsible for everything that goes on @theeverygirl Instagram account reaching over 1,000,000 people around the world. What’s your favorite part of your current role?
If you give me a glass of wine and an hour of your time, I’ll talk your ear off about why I love social media. There’s absolutely no denying that it can be (and is) harmful for mental health—but when used responsibly (by those creating), social media is a tool for connection and inspiration unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.
It’s very important to me to answer (almost!) every single DM The Everygirl receives—because if someone takes the time to communicate something they feel passionately about, they deserve a response at the very least. I’m not a therapist, or a sister, or even a friend to about 99.9% of our followers, but I can be a respite in their day and a bright spot in their life. That’s my favorite part: the genuine connections that I’ve seen created through The Everygirl, and the knowledge that I had a hand in it.
I hope that when you visit any of our social media channels (Instagram especially, which is my baby), you’ll feel motivated, inspired, seen, and valued.
I hope that when you visit any of our social media channels, you’ll feel motivated, inspired, seen, and valued.
Because Instagram is such a huge part of your job, how do you balance your personal time spent on the app?
I wish I had a good answer to this question, but the truth is that there IS no good answer to this question. To be a good Instagrammer is to know the app like the back of your hand—and while I certainly don’t (Instagram and its users are constantly changing, and anyone who tells you they have it figured out is lying to you), I do spend an absolutely inordinate amount of time scrolling and absorbing. I would never ever ever encourage stealing content or ideas from other creators—but I do find that I come up with my own good ideas after seeing other people’s.
What does a typical day look like for you right now?
Time management is, unfortunately, not my strong suit, but I’m working on it! I find I’m most energized and productive when I get a workout in before work—so I try to go for a run or walk on the lakefront first thing in the morning. I usually check The Everygirl’s Instagram first thing when I wake up, just to make sure there are no urgent DMs or comments or any exciting messages or shares to address right away. Once I’ve exercised, changed, and poured a massive cup of coffee with CBD, I officially log in. I try to begin by checking social feeds across platforms to see what news, events, and themes are already trending for the day. Then, I spend my days hopping back and forth between planning and posting upcoming content, meeting with team members and contributors to discuss future plans and initiatives, and pulling/diving into analytics for our own team and our amazing partners and sponsors. I try to set time limits for myself to do each task—otherwise I would spend the literal entire day DMing back and forth with readers and leaving comments on other creators’ work. There’s a lot that goes into the puzzle of our feeds, so there are a lot of moving parts behind the scenes that go into each and every post.
It’s well known around the office that Abigail is a ray of sunshine. You weather stress and challenges with enviable positivity. Tell us about your strategies for any rough days or moments that might arise.
Wow, thank you Kelly! My answer to this is simple: It’s easier to be positive, and it takes more work to be negative. I genuinely believe that there is more good than bad in the world, and I was raised to believe that things happen for a greater reason. I have a strong faith, and I believe that love and joy win in the end (and oftentimes, along the way!). There are so many things we can’t control—but we can control how we view our circumstances, and that has always led to happiness for me. It brings me a lot of joy to make people laugh and smile, so I try to channel that at work, with my family, when meeting new people, and with my friends.
Disclaimer: No one is a ray of sunshine all the time. If you asked my mom, she would tell you that I cry a lot.
Followers love seeing the bits and pieces of your life you share on The Everygirl Instagram every week. Tell us about posting parts of your life to such a large following. What has been the most rewarding aspect? What has been the most challenging?
As much as I love the boost of affirmation I get when someone says “Cute outfit!” or “Where’d you get your shoes?”, the absolute most rewarding part of sharing real life is to know that it has an emotional impact on followers. Whenever I post something about a bad day, or messing up a recipe, or the fact that I buy most things at Target, that response is the most fulfilling. While social media can be a place for a very dangerous game of comparison, it is, at its purest, a method of communication and community. I do my best to portray the women behind The Everygirl as real people who want to help you feel seen, understood, and less alone in your journey (am I on The Bachelor?), and it’s incredibly rewarding when I hit that mark.
At the same time, opening myself up to an audience comes with an absolutely constant fear of saying the wrong thing or offending someone. I always worry that I will inadvertently misrepresent myself or the brand or our followers. I can think of several times I have done this, and each time makes me even more afraid of it happening again. Because of this, I try to always see things how they might come across, not how they’re intended. It’s incredibly anxiety-inducing to know that something I say (that I meant as casual or funny) could ruin someone’s day or their perception of The Everygirl. Our team is very helpful both in allowing me to talk through wording, and also in reminding me that I (and we) are more than how a few strangers on the Internet might perceive us. I hope our followers always know my heart and my intentions, but I am constantly worried about the opposite.
It’s incredibly anxiety-inducing to know that something I say (that I meant as casual or funny) could ruin someone’s day or their perception of The Everygirl.
What’s your best advice for someone who wants to work in social media? What should they know before applying?
Social media is fun, and it’s creative, and there are days when going to work feels like a dream. But at the same time, it’s nearly impossible to turn off. Checking our Instagram is often the last thing I do before bed and the first thing I do when I wake up, and I am thinking about it constantly. You have to be able to read the room and set your tone based on the news cycle and readers’ opinions, while still staying true to the brand. I understand why people think it’s easy (if I’m doing my job well, it SHOULD look easy), but working in effective and responsible social media is anything but. You don’t necessarily have to love social media (some days, I hate it!), but you do have to love the brand you’re representing (and the mission it stands for).
You don’t necessarily have to love social media (some days, I hate it!), but you do have to love the brand you’re representing (and the mission it stands for).
You know your way around a good Instagram caption. What tips do you have for writing captions that resonate with an audience?
Whether you’re writing on Instagram for yourself or for a brand, the absolute most important piece is to know who you’re writing AS. Too many people write captions knowing who they’re writing FOR (a potential consumer, the cool girls you hate, or the crush you’re trying to get to notice you), but that ultimately won’t create a substantial (or meaningful, or successful) product.
When I write an Instagram caption as myself, it’s very off-the-cuff and casual, because that’s who I am to my friends and whoever follows me and my selfies online. When I write as The Everygirl, I’m writing as your sassy but very well-rounded best friend who happens to post five times a day. Knowing yourself (or your brand) is, on social media, in my opinion, more important than knowing your audience. Audiences and their opinions change—and hopefully, they grow. If you’re writing for yourself, a wider and more diverse group of people will want to get involved than if you’re trying to write to a niche.
It’s true: social media never sleeps. How do you manage a position that often calls for after hours or weekend work?
It would be easy for me to say “I manage it because I love my job!”—and while that’s true, that’s not true every day. I don’t think a single person in the world loves their job every minute of every day. What keeps me going (and responding to DMs, and posting late at night, and obsessing over the perfect caption) is that I love the MISSION behind my job. I don’t love collecting analytics or when you (Kelly) and I are disagreeing on how a graphic should look—but I do love connecting with inspiring women around the world and helping them achieve their potential. I love what I do, for sure—but more than that, I love what happens as a result of what I do. Like I said before, if someone tells you they love writing 35 Instagram captions a week, they’re probably lying—but loving the knowledge that those 35 captions helped someone feel confident at work, with their wardrobe, while dating, or with themselves as a person? Now that’s worth getting out of bed for!
What’s something you wish more people knew about a career in social media or editorial?
I realize this is going to sound snarky or rude to some people, so I hope (as always!) that people take my intention to heart.
Social media presence is not a customer service line, unless specifically noted as such. A lot of brands (for clothing, especially) do use their DM inbox as a method to communicate issues with orders, shipping, etc.—but for the most part, the people running the social media channels have little to nothing to do with other departments. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t realize this, and take their frustrations or criticisms out on the wrong ears.
Thankfully, for me, this issue can be solved with a simple “Hey Kelly, someone DMed with a question about the Photoshop course” or “Hey Maddie, the readers want more houndstooth and less plaid”—but I feel for those who spend their days responding to complaints about products and decisions they didn’t make themselves.
All that to say, I have two messages, one for followers of social media, and one for creators on social media.
Followers/users: There are real people reading your messages and comments, and those real people have real feelings. I value your freedom of speech, and I’m always happy to communicate with our readers to get a feel for their (your!) taste and opinions—but I do want you to know that I am a real person, I read every single DM we get, and one single message has the power to ruin my day.
To anyone who is or is considering working in social media: You have to have a thick skin, you have to know when it’s time to log out (even just for an hour), and, most importantly, you have to know that your worth is not defined by the opinions of strangers on the Internet.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
It’s really hard to think of anything past the pandemic, so I’m thankful for this question. In five years, I hope to still be telling women’s stories. I hope One Direction is back together, and I hope I’m married to one of its members.
What advice would you give to your 22-year-old self?
Stop wearing clothes you hate. Stop worrying about how many boys you’ve kissed. Don’t drink the punch.
Abigail Yonker is The Everygirl …
You have a signature drink, affectionately called the ‘cano. What’s the recipe?
Ask for an iced espresso with more water than a latte but more milk than an americano. Lattes are like drinking a cup of milk, and americanos can get watered-down when made with substandard espresso. My beloved iced ‘cano is the perfect happy medium—I get mine with oat milk, as it’s the creamiest and most delicious milk of all!
Last book you read?
I’ve been reading magazines more than books lately, but in the very near future, I will begin re-reading every single one of Jasmine Guillory’s romance novels (my favorites are The Wedding Date and Party of Two). I wish Jasmine would write a new book every single week—I will never get tired of her multifaceted characters and their steamy adventures.
Favorite thing you posted on The Everygirl instagram this year?
It’s been a horrific year for a lot of us, and I’m proud of anything that has been a solace to anyone who needed respite from the outside world. That being said, I’m most honored by the ways we’ve been able to represent the value of Black women and their stories on social media. Social media has its place in activism—and while I have my own very long way to go in the fight for racial equality and anti-racism, I’m honored that The Everygirl is able to help tell important Black stories and shed light on the unique hardships of Black women in America. A contributor named Alyshia, a dancer and artist, recently shared an absolutely stunning video on our Instagram. The final product is one of the best pieces our social channels have ever seen, and I wish everyone in the world would watch it. Watch it here.
You’re the playlist queen. Current favorite?
Last three pictures on your camera roll?
A pair of boots I screenshotted from Instagram (winter 2020 has me thinking I’m a combat boot girl), a very funny meme (also from Instagram), and a zoomed-in picture of my nephew’s flawless face.
Latest celeb crush?
The way I feel about Harry Styles and Niall Horan can’t be called “having crushes”—they could more accurately be called “knowing when someone is your soulmate.” Harry Styles is an absolute icon and artist, and Niall feels like a guy I would meet at a bar and then have 14 kids with.
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and why?
I’ve been asking other people this question for over three years, and it’s finally my turn! I’m going to cheat a little bit and say this: I’d like to have a lunch PARTY with Chrissy Teigen (who I have admired for many years for her honesty, humor, and unashamed herself-ness), Millie Bobby Brown (who could teach me about handling pressure with grace and poise—she has mastered it far better than I have, despite being just barely old enough to drive), Jasmine Guillory (who, like I mentioned, could write me a grocery list and I’d pay $24.99), Amanda Kloots (whose positivity is unlike anything I’ve ever seen), and my own paternal grandmother, Lois, back when she was my age (she had a stroke when I was young and I don’t remember much of her from before that—but I’ve heard I’m a chip off the old block).