Traci Snowden, CEO of Apto Global, explains why she left the world of social media and what prompted her recent re-entry.
Yes, I was disillusioned with social media, and so I quit.
But as a young aspiring artist relocating from New York to Nashville in 2007, it wasn’t always that way. For a while, social media was my lifeline – a way to connect with fans everywhere.
The problem was that as my career began to “take off,” my love of authenticity felt forced to give way to what seemed like a more superficial, artificial, “social chasing” mechanism. Everything was about “likes.”
But the real me – the young heart with the old soul who had bypassed a performing arts high school because “acting felt too fake;” the polyglot, who had decided to give the language of music a shot right out of college. That me, opted for a life of authenticity when on stage. I connected with fans by greeting them in their own language, no matter what country I was in.
That “me” was very different from the images and soundbytes that were now floating around on the internet. Not to mention, that the exhaustion that came with trying to keep up that social media image and following, was way more than I had bargained for.
In 2011, came my “dark night of the soul.” I decided to discontinue pursuing the “artist” career and slowly detached from social media. I began to pursue a life of being fully present in the moment. No selfies. No tweets. No counting likes.
It was a breath of cyber-free fresh air and it allowed me to remember my passions apart from music – my passion for language, culture and travel – and to find my purpose. A purpose which was grounded in these often too rare, but exquisite moments in life, in which I had found myself at the intersection of two or more cultures and was somehow able to form a bridge between them. Moments where life was just better, because we were all able to be ourselves and fully enjoy the diversity among us.
Little did I know that this would be the foundation on which my future company would be built.
In 2013, with less than $5k, I started the predecessor company to Apto, a service-based business largely focused on helping international expatriates adapt to the middle Tennessee area. Although I launched a marketing site, word of mouth brought in more than 80% of my business. Who needed social media?
Fast forward. It’s 2019 and I have converted my small business into Apto Global – a technology platform start-up with a mission to empower internationals from everywhere to adapt to local communities and environments anywhere by connecting local Storytellers with traveling Explorers from around the world. Through language, culture and travel knowledge, they guide you to feel at home in their world. You guide them to feel at home in yours.
My little brother had given me Michelle Obama’s book “Becoming” for Christmas. I’m on a plane. My final connecting flight after five weeks of traveling throughout APAC, SEA and the MENA regions. Talk about exhaustion. Apparently, as humans, there are physiological reasons for why we might be more prone to cry on a plane, maybe that was my excuse.
Or maybe, reading the free-flowing words of this woman, who, as a woman, no matter your political leaning, represents the strength needed to overcome all odds to reach, achieve and make a real impact in this world, I simply couldn’t hold back.
I mean, I’m not gonna lie…I was embarrassed. The flight attendants couldn’t resist semi-gawking at me. I kept trying to keep a straight face, but even when I managed that, big orbital tears kept streaming down my cheeks.
The authentic leader in her was calling out to the authentic leader in me – I’m sure a lot of you ladies out there who have read this book and felt that way.
More than that – the authentic human in her was calling out to the authentic human in me.
And the truth is, as much as I value authenticity and believe in the power of storytelling – and I truly do – I love my privacy.
I may have the charisma and verbal skills of an extrovert, but I am a creative introvert and an analytical nerd at my core, and at this time, I was struggling with cultural identity issues of my own. If Apto Global took on a life of its own and became the social platform I hoped it would, where would that leave me as the CEO and Founder? Would I turn out to be one of those Founders who was hounded by the media; would every detail of my life and my familys’ lives be scrutinized? These were outcomes I certainly did not want.
But if I couldn’t tell my story, how could I expect millions of people around the world to feel comfortable telling their story? And if they couldn’t tell their authentic stories – from their hometowns, in their languages, about their cultures – what value would Apto hold?
It was around this time that an investor, a dear human being, introduced me to a firm out of Atlanta known as “Blue Earth Network” that helps innovators and entrepreneurs.
Conceptually, I knew that the work we were doing with Apto was spot on, but our product and brand had not yet matured in order to have that global impact to which we aspired.
We needed a serious elevation.
Meeting Udaiyan Jatar, Founder of Blue Earth Network, was like meeting a long lost friend. In my gut, I knew that this relationship was critical to our success.
Udaiyan told me in the first meeting that I may need to “slow down to go fast” and to “dream massive, but start tiny.” Wow, did these words hit me between the eyes. I knew they were true, as scary as it was to risk everything we had built up to that point in order to make Apto Global what it was truly intended to be.
It was through his workshops, that the concept of “compassion” through human reciprocity began to fully emerge. I knew that in order for Apto to be truly “transcendent” and to really help people learn how to meaningfully connect across cultures and thrive within global diversity, that reciprocity had to exist. And it would exist through the most natural form of communication – storytelling.
I had to find compassion for myself. I had to defer judgment and realize that as unorthodox as it may be, since I believe that the story of every human being on the planet matters, I must also accept that my story here on earth is powerful and it matters.
Being genuine with the sharing of my story can help someone else find the courage to share theirs, and ultimately dare to explore the stories of the world around them – hopefully with child-like wonder rather than fear or judgment.
Much like Michelle Obama’s story gave me the courage to open up, I hope that my story through the founding of the Apto Global platform, will give every day people around the world the courage to open up and share their own.
But wait…there’s more. Udaiyan, took me one step further by helping me to see that there are genuine and powerful conversations still happening in social media. That I could authentically venture back out into these waters and listen, learn and actively engage in conversations about topics that matter most to me.
So, if you are looking at my newly formed Twitter or Instagram account and wondering, ‘who the heck is this person and why does she only have five Followers?’ Well, room…meet elephant. I can’t effect change if I’m afraid to get in the water. So, I’m diving back in.
If you are reading this and you care about helping the world find a way to really thrive together in this big beautiful mess of global diversity, across language and culture and geographic barriers – no matter who you are, where you are from, or what you are doing…I’d like to be your friend.