G.I. Jobs Virtual Job Fair   |   June 27

Virtual Job Fair   |   June 27

Social Media Savvy


Influencer Grant Khanbalinov channels social media to address mental health among veterans. 

Grant Khanbalinov is a social media influencer whose influence started in the Navy. He trained all of the Navy’s recruiters how to use social media. He served as the social media director for the service, and began counseling suicidal shipmates who were posting anonymously on Reddit.

“My phone number is all over the internet. It’s all over Reddit. I have people texting me and calling me that I’ve—I don’t even know who they are, but I’ll talk to them, and I’ll guide them through, no matter if they just have transition questions or if they’re having some mental health emergency.”

Khanbalinov has amassed more than 3.2 million followers on TikTok and thousands more on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. He uses the platforms to address mental health issues among veterans. 

Khanbalinov shared his classic American success story, which started in Kazakhstan. Hear his full story at GIJobs.com/grant-khanbalinov.

Grant Khanbalinov

Senior Marketing Manager


Age: 32

Military Service:
Chief Petty Officer (E-7), Navy (2008–2021)

Rate: Electrician

Education: Bachelor’s degree,
Southern New Hampshire University, 2016

MBA, University of Arkansas Grantham, 2021

TikTok 3.2 million followers

Instagram 12,000 followers

YouTube 10,000 subscribers

Find Grant on Social Media:

TikTok @heyelliamfamily

Instagram @ncckhan

Facebook Grant Khanibalinov

Twitter @grantmkhan

Here are a couple of excerpts:

On His Childhood

“Originally, I’m from Kazakhstan, which was the Soviet Union when we left. My family immigrated to the United States strictly for the blue jeans. It was very difficult to find in Russia. We moved here in 1993. I grew up in Staten Island.” 

On His Navy Career

“One of my positions in the Navy, I was actually the national social media trainer. That was my second to last position. Sounds totally made up, which it was because that position was not there before. I just said, You know what? I think let’s call it the national social media trainer. I just made it up. My job was to study all the social media platforms, then train our sailors—primarily on recruiting duty—how to use them, how to find applicants, really just train them like recruiters use social media in the civilian world.

On TikTok

“While I was at that command—that Navy recruitment command—TikTok came out, and it was my job to go in there and see how we could implement it into recruiting duty. It obviously didn’t work out just for security issues … I started using it personally. From there, it just started to take off.”

On Building Influence

“Consistency is a big one. Just be consistent. Find something that can align to other people. Find your niche. Go from there. This is going to sound very weird with me saying, but don’t worry about the followers, don’t worry about the likes and the comments and how many shares you get. Once you start worrying about that, it takes the fun out of it. Just do it for you and do what makes you happy.”

On Transition

“My first job out of the military was working at an advertising agency. It was with VMLY&R, where I ran social media for Mazda North America. That was just probably not the best job for me as soon as I got out because you have that military mindset, you have those values that you grew up with for 13 years. Then all of a sudden, you’re running social for a major auto manufacturer for all of North America.

It was a big transition. I had to talk to HR a few times because there are some things that you can’t say during meetings that you could say in the military. It was a big learning process.”

This article is from the June 2023 issue of G.I. Jobs magazine.

G.I. Jobs May/June 2023 Issue

Photo ofGrant Khanbalinov
Grant Khanbalinov
Job Title
Senior Marketing Manager