I'm a 62-year-old Instagram influencer who also owns a PR firm. I worried what my clients would think, but being on social media has actually helped my career.

I'm a 62-year-old Instagram influencer who also owns a PR firm. I worried what my clients would think, but being on social media has actually helped my career.
Dian Griesel.Courtesy of Dian Griesel
  • Dian Griesel runs her own PR firm, models, and is an online-content creator.
  • She got her start by networking with people while on commercial sets.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Dian Griesel, a 62-year-old public-relations and crisis-management executive from New York, who runs the Instagram account @SilverDisobedience. Her income has been verified by Insider with documentation. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

About six years ago, Old Navy cast our son in one of its commercials. I started talking to this young girl who was taking pictures as he was auditioning, and she called me about three days later with an opportunity. I'd never done anything like that, but I told her to go ahead and submit me for a casting call. I got the commercial — it was for TJ Maxx — and within the next year, she booked me for about 10 national spots with brands like SunTrust Bank — now known as Truist — Brighthouse Financial, and Uber.

Coming from the public-relations world, I found being on set fascinating, and I started keeping track of everyone's names and numbers, what each person was doing, their Facebook pages, everything. Because I'd made these connections, I got a call from one of the makeup artists, who told me that the talent agency Wilhelmina was looking for a silver-haired model. I got signed in spring 2017. When I got my contract, my agent told me, "You're going to need to post on Instagram."

For 25 years, I've owned a public-relations firm. We work with companies in highly regulated industries like healthcare, biotech, pharma, and national defense on all kinds of messaging and crisis management. I was afraid my clients were going to think I was having a midlife crisis — why was I posting selfies on Instagram all of a sudden? I was mortified and worried about whether anyone would take me seriously. I immediately put in my Wilhelmina contract that I would wear no lingerie, no bathing suits, nothing that I could be really humiliated with sitting there looking at someone across the table.

The name of my account, "Silver Disobedience," was a play on Martin Luther King Jr.'s "civil disobedience." I wanted to respectfully start a conversation that acknowledged that any age in life is relevant. My first audience on my Instagram account was the 48-and-up crowd, but I eventually had mothers and grandmothers tell me they shared it with their teenagers and grandchildren. I now have 190,000 followers on Instagram and 57,000 followers on Facebook.


I found myself thinking, 'If I have to post on Instagram, let me write'

I'm a 62-year-old Instagram influencer who also owns a PR firm. I worried what my clients would think, but being on social media has actually helped my career.
Dian Griesel.Courtesy of Dian Griesel

I decided to use the pictures as placeholders and write about what life's like when you get older — and it took off. My longer posts caught Facebook's attention, and they assigned a team of people to me who were calling me every week to help me understand how to keep growing organically. I also do polls, and I can get 8,000 to 10,000 people to respond to one within 24 hours.

Three years ago, I got a call from someone at Lancôme Paris who wanted to talk about having me come to Paris for a campaign. I thought it was one of my brothers pranking me, so I told them I wouldn't talk to them unless I could call them back. But sure enough, Lancôme flew me to Paris five days later, and I did a campaign for Teint Idole. It was with some amazing women, and I couldn't believe they included me.

Lancôme called back three weeks later and asked to bring me onto a perfume campaign. They used that campaign to launch their first store in Paris. It was a dream. In addition to my fees, which were in the five figures, they paid for all the travel.

I also did a campaign with T-Mobile, whom I love. One day, I got an email asking if I'd be interested in doing some posts about their 55-plus offer. That partnership was purely social-media posting. It reached millions — one post alone got more than 1.4 million views. In return, they paid me five figures, I got a great phone, and they sent my daughter and me to a Justin Bieber concert.


I'm very picky about whom I work with

For my first three years, I could have done supplements, life insurance — all the things that people stereotypically think people 50 and older need and want to hear about. The 50-and-older audience is very misunderstood: They could be pushing a baby carriage for their own child as well as their grandchild, or they could be caring for not just themselves and their children, but their parents as well. It's such a full circle-of-life audience — they're consumers in every single vertical possible.

Being on social media has also generated work for me as an advisor to companies looking to understand the 50-and-up demographic. One of the first ones was Mars when the company was launching a supplement made out of a particular type of cocoa that was proven to enhance brain health. My PR team and I worked with the company for a little over a year and a half.

I've been self-employed my whole life, and I've never felt like I was working

I get up early, by 6 or 6:15 a.m. After drinking a bunch of water, I look at the headlines of the day across a whole spectrum of business and news websites to see if there's anything that's going to impact our PR clients. I work on a blog post in the morning if I haven't set it up the night before.

Our son is off to college this fall, and our daughter is 22 and already out of the house, but in previous years, I would have been getting everybody out the door to school.

Then my day starts with clients. I could be going through paperwork, I could have meetings, I could be on a Zoom call, or on set for a modeling shoot. Also, I'm launching a new company in September, Creative Content Loft, to get smaller influencers together for focus groups on brands, so I might be working on that.


If I'm on set, that's an eight- or 10-hour day. When I'm in the office, I walk on a treadmill desk while I work, or use a rebounder — that's how I take most of my conference calls. At night, I try to connect with my husband and have some time with him.

My clients' reactions to me being online has shocked me: they love it

When people say business isn't personal, I disagree with that. There's the side that you have to get the job done, yes, that's business. But how we speak to each other, how we respect each other, how we encourage each other — that's very personal. A lot of my business community has reached out and said, "I read you every day, you start my mood. I never knew you had this side of you. I tell my employees to read you."

Interestingly, it's been an incredible source of business for our public-relations firm because companies see the engagement with this community. On a bad day, an article for me would have an engagement rate of 10%, and we have engagement rates as high as 115%, so the content is really resonating. It's developed a synergy with my company.

If you want to be a successful content creator, you first need to determine what niche you want to pursue

If you don't really love what you're posting about, you'll quit long before you become successful, or you just won't be compelling enough to inspire a following.

Then, be consistent. There's plenty of room for new creatives, but you have to post consistently, whether that's daily, twice a day, or once a week, at a set time. You'll choose your timing based on the medium — for example, if you're going to primarily stick to Instagram, you may want to post daily, but if you're a podcast creator, you may upload weekly.


Finally, be responsive. The "social" in social media stands for creating and participating in a conversation. Respond to the comments you get on your posts.

Creating and growing an engaged community is a labor of love. Be prepared for it to be a long haul. If you view this as a fun hobby or side hustle, one day you may be able to develop a career as a creative influencer. In the meantime, don't quit your day job — do it all. I think online illusions of instant celebrity and fame leave too many people with the wrong idea, thinking they'll be rolling in the Benjamins right away. If you're really good at what you're doing, you'll ultimately be able to hire others to help you where you need it.