This is one in an occasional series on Iowa influencers who are finding new ways to tell the story of the state through social media.
Niña Williams wants life to look and feel beautiful — on and offline.
The Waukee-based social media star brings the growing Des Moines suburb to the World Wide Web with an inside look at her life as a working mom and curated content at her family’s sprawling HGTV-worthy home.
Williams’ cross-platform lifestyle brand boasts nearly 500,000 followers on Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook combined while the Pella native has racked up 9 million TikTok likes and regularly exceeds more than 1 million views on Instagram Reels, the app’s video option.
Williams means business. The Winterset Cidery co-owner, who shares local cider destination ownership duties with her husband Nick, said she earns a six-figure salary each year as a home and lifestyle blogger showcasing her everyday life in central Iowa.
But there’s more to the story than what first meets the iPhone.
Behind the 39-year-old’s aesthetically pleasing videos is an inspiring journey of humble beginnings as an immigrant to a mom of four who worked overtime to make her American dream come true.
The Philippines to small town Pella
At age 3, Williams and her family immigrated to the United States from the Philippines, a southeast Asian country, alongside her six sisters, including twin Cecilia Moyer, who is also a full-time social media influencer.
The Nuñez family settled in Pella, the small manufacturing town in central Iowa known around the Midwest for its three-day Tulip Time Festival that draws thousands of visitors annually in early May.
During her childhood, the Nuñez family lived in a Pella trailer outfitted with one bathroom. Williams said the nine Nuñez family members shared the bathroom until they upgraded to a larger trailer later in her childhood.
She added that it does not matter where someone lives because she had the best memories growing up in the trailer with her close-knit family.
Followers and strangers online often believe Williams comes from wealth, but she worked hard alongside her husband and sister from humble beginnings, she said.
After graduating from Pella High School in 2001, the twins attended the University of Northern Iowa together.
Williams started dating Nick, a metro area businessman, in 2002 while the pair shared college classes and lived in the same dorm building during their first few years at the Cedar Falls-based university.
After graduating from college in 2006, Williams married her college sweetheart and lived in Peoria, Illinois, for seven years before doing a stint in Dubuque, Nick’s hometown, on the Illinois-Iowa border when he started work for American Express. The Williams family settled down later in the Des Moines metro to live closer to twin Cecilia and her family.
Designing a new career
The twin sisters left behind their successful photography business, where they shot weddings and other life events, after five years in the hyper-competitive central Iowa industry to spend more time with their children. Exhaustive weekend scheduling conflicts occurred while they tried to balance parenting and photography.
In summer 2016, the sisters created a joint website account called @ninaandcecilia that covered lifestyle stories spanning home decor to beauty, while the Williams family built their first home from the ground up and Niña became a stay-at-home mom.
When Williams documented how she decorated her new home by posting photographs once a day on the duo’s Instagram account, recognizable brands such as Better Homes & Gardens and HGTV began to take notice.
In 2017, the twin sisters landed an HGTV Facebook Live series 2X Design, which featured DIY interior design and home decorating tips.
A year later, the pair transitioned their shared account to solo brands.
The shared account was successful, but Williams said the twins eventually split into individual brands because followers were confusing the sisters as one another. The duo has separate interior design styles, and Moyer had a different job while Williams was working at home.
“Eventually, we decided to break away,” Williams said.
Williams officially changed her username to @ninawilliamsblog in February 2019 when the Instagram account had 94,000 followers. By December 2022, it grew to 239,000 followers.
Williams waited a year to change the username because she knew all the links to promoted products would be broken and Pinterest pins attached to the old Instagram account name would no longer work.
The Pella native found solo success on the photo sharing platform Instagram in fall 2019 as the Williams family outgrew their first home and broke ground on a larger acreage in the Waukee countryside.
The family of six built a contemporary colonial six-bedroom, six-bathroom farmhouse-style home outfitted with an office, kids loft, pool room, movie theatre, and a four-car garage in the growing suburb about 25 minutes west of downtown Des Moines. They moved to the new home in 2021.
A Reel of the family’s mailbox, which matches the white-sided home on a rural dirt road, generated more than 108,500 individual likes on Instagram and an opulent video about why Williams opposed an open floor plan (because she wanted to hide the mess of a big family’s kitchen) in her new home racked up nearly 93,000 likes.
On TikTok, the same mailbox video received more than 517,000 likes and 5.6 million views while another about the family’s new four-car garage featuring a large loft produced more than 860,000 likes and 5.6 million views.
A swift TikTok video about the construction timeline of the Williams family’s new house had 2.7 million likes and nearly 12 million views on the video sharing app.
Williams and Moyer still work together and often appear on Instagram and TikTok dancing together to recent dance trends and the duo recently launched a new series “Is it worth it?”
In the first clip of the digital series posted to social sharing apps, the twin sisters tried their own take on a viral trend: whether pan-fried string cheese tasted like breaded mozzarella sticks. The pair tossed the cheese in a frying pan and determined that it did.
“I do like how we’re our own brands, but still get to do stuff together,” Williams said.
People want to relate
Full-time influencers like Williams generate large payments from lucrative brand partnerships and content campaigns with companies like Walmart, Williams Sonoma, Pottery Barn, and Better Homes & Gardens.
Mackenzie Eddie, the chief marketing officer at Waukee-based marketing agency Bing Bang and a metro area advertising insider, said influencer marketing has become even more popular in recent years due to innovation in the marketing industry.
“Globally, influencer marketing has just taken off because people want to relate. That is just human instinct to want to be related to and relate to someone else,” Eddie said.
Relationships between followers and influencers, such as Williams, are instant and create different benefits for brands than traditional advertising found on TV commercials, Eddie said.
Influencers cultivate relationships and relatable content that gains the trust of followers, she said, which makes it easier for consumers to consider purchasing products from the social stars.
“By using influencers, you instantly have this,” Eddie said. “With traditional marketing, you see an ad on TV but you don’t see yourself. With influencer marketing, you put yourself in with the party.”
Consumers go to different stores to get a different product just as they go to different influencers to get different experiences, she said.
Ryan Stoldt, an assistant advertising professor at the Drake University School of Journalism and Mass Communication, teaches courses about advertising principles and consumer awareness.
Stoldt said that sponsored content, which includes internet marketing campaigns like videos and photos featured on Williams’ social media pages, is an interesting part of the conversation surrounding internet tastemakers.
“Sponsored content is an interesting topic of conversation around influencers because there’s so much research that people can’t tell the difference between sponsored content and regular content,” Stoldt said.
Stoldt said that the work that influencers, like Williams and Moyer, do to cultivate content is similar to any day job with its own demands such as crammed schedules and creative plans.
“I think people think of influencer’s work as what people use social media for everyday but when you actually talk to influences, they approach it more as a full-time job and there’s actually a lot of invisible labor that goes into their work,” Stoldt said.
The Drake University professor said influencers have labor-intensive tasks in their work such as arranging lighting, planning months in advance, and creating content that feels authentic to followers.
There are several hours of invisible labor that audiences never have a behind-the-scenes look at on social media platforms, he said.
Stoldt added that nine-to-five content creators who generate their main source of income from social media, like Williams and her twin sister Moyer, use social media in different ways that the average user or part-time influencer.
“It’s very different from the way most people post on social media,” Stoldt added. “You take a picture of your lunch when you’re having it, you’re sharing a dumb thought on Twitter, you’re connecting with a friend on Facebook.”
Where to find and follow Niña Williams
Known for: Showcasing her sprawling home on a Waukee-based acreage with sneak peeks at raising four children alongside college sweetheart Nick
Day job: Full-time lifestyle and home influencer, Nina Williams Blog
TikTok:@ninawilliamsblog; 240,700 followers
Instagram:Niña Williams; 239,000 followers
Facebook: Niña Williams Blog; 18,000 followers