In the Business of Looking Good: A Behind-The-Scenes Look at the Golden Age of Influencers
Pop quiz! What is your following count on Instagram? Let us take a guess, upwards of 200 and over? That's probably about right. But really, how many of these accounts belong to people we know personally - or at least on a vague, acquaintance level? At some point, we start to ponder if one can really have that many friends (I'm sure we all wish we did, but nope).
So what are all these other accounts we follow? We did a quick poll in the Stylinity office and there are funny meme pages (just to keep up with that Gen Z lingo, because what does “oof” mean?), a sprinkle of cute animals, to the occasional brands we love, and finally, a whole bunch of our favorite influencers.
According to Wired, in the year 2018 alone, influencers posted more than 3.7 million sponsored posts on Instagram. Various media companies estimate that the number of sponsored posts (or “#ad”) is going to surpass the 4 million mark this year. That’s almost 20,000 sponsored posts a day!
With that much sponsored posts going live each day, how much do we (or, can we) even know about this newly minted industry? We sat down with Esther (an influencer writing on esthersanter.com) for a chat to get some insider thoughts on this new and almost nebulous industry.
It’s the golden age of influencers - but what does it mean, really? It’s time to let that cat out of the bag
HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE, AN INTRODUCTION
What have you done to establish your personal brand?
Six years ago, I was blogging under a different name, Louboutins & Love. After I rebranded, I told myself I was not going to wear sunglasses so that people could recognize my face. I kind of became a blogger’s blog, because a lot of bloggers told me that they read my blog for tips and tricks, and advice. I continued pushing the same kind of content so that I can establish myself for other bloggers to read my content. Or, for regular people who want to see what goes on in the industry.
How can others establish their own branding, especially if they’re a young influencer, looking for certain forms of recognition in the industry?
You just have to network like crazy and talk to as many people as you can. Sometimes, you can try to DM other bloggers to see if they want to get coffee. Just do whatever you can to put yourself in the industry.
I always reference Gossip Girl, because it’s one of my favorite shows.
Spoiler alert if you haven’t seen the show! So when Dan Humphrey came out as Gossip Girl, there was this line that was particularly memorable to me: “he wants to be in the world so he wrote himself into it”.
That’s how I feel about what I did. I’m from St. Louis, my family isn’t in the industry, I have no friends in the industry (now I do!) and I literally just want to be in the industry that I just wrote myself into it.
I believe that everybody can do it! Especially with social media, if you want to be in the industry, just start pushing out content like crazy.
Do you have any advice for young influencers who are looking to be true to themselves online while looking for brands to work with?
I often get DMs from very new influencers, asking me about how to get branded collaborations. I think the focus shouldn’t be on working with brands. The first step should be about building your audience and showing your audience what you like even if the brand is not sponsoring you. Just to build trust between yourself and your followers. The brand deals will come after you’ve established yourself.
Sometimes, I’ve started working with companies because I’ve spoken about them so much on social media and tagged them on Instagram (which their social media team sees!). So I think young influencers just need to work on building trust between themselves and their followers and the brand deals will follow.
HELLO, IT’S YOUR ANXIETY CALLING
In one of your blog posts, you open up about your anxiety and the ways that you deal with your anxiety. Could you share a little bit more about your anxiety and how it manifests?
I have always been a more anxious person and a little bit of a perfectionist.
At the end of the day, a lot of my anxiety has to do with perspective. Once I get a new perspective, or I see things from a fresh set of eyes, it helps to shrink my anxiety. I realized that everybody has their own struggles -- I just need to tell myself that everything is going to be okay - everybody’s got their own things, so I should just go at my own pace.
I do know a lot of bloggers with anxiety as well. There’s just so much pressure in this industry, you know -- whether it’s comparing with other influencers or hustling everyday just to try to get brand deals or collaborations.
There’s definitely a ways to go when it comes to helping people with mental health issues, what else do you think you can do to help speed the process along, given your platform and influence?
I recently read a blog post by Diego from Dandy in the Bronx that he posted during Mental Health Week about loneliness. In it, he was talking about social media and how these platforms both connect and subtract you.
This is definitely something that nobody really talks about! Influencers seem to lead really glamorous lives on social media, but nobody really talks about what is happening behind the scenes and the mental toll it sometimes take to constantly be working alone on the computer, rushing deadlines.
It’s very important to share and talk about things like that, so that you can build trust between yourself and your audience. People need to know that they can connect to, and with, you, so that we can all start a discussion about mental health, and create a whole trickle effect with the discussion.
BACK TO THE FUTURE
What do you think the future for influencers is going to be like?
I think that industry definitely keeps getting saturated, or even more saturated, and the bar is going to raise. Standards will be sky-high and everybody will have to step up their game like crazy. We have to get better at what we do and connect with people better.
There are so many people who want to grow up to be influencers, so we definitely have to figure out a place for these people.
There are several influencers who are afraid that the influencer industry might not be very sustainable in the long-run. Do you share their belief?
I think the industry is pretty sustainable because it’s such a great method of advertising. Maybe a new social media platform would come up, but the industry is here to stay.
I’m excited to see what’s next, but brands are getting smarter so bloggers would definitely need more “qualifications” and bloggers will have to be better at what they do, whatever that looks like.
With the influencer industry here to stay, what are some of the changes that you hope to see in the blogging industry?
I think that the blogging industry is moving in a great direction. I’ve been seeing a lot of “blogger squads” or “girl squads” and these groups tend to include a wide range of influencers and bloggers. The more I’ve worked in the industry, the more I’m seeing a push towards inclusivity.
Speaking of inclusivity, it does seem that the influencer industry is moving towards including influencers with diverse identities. Do you have any recommendations or suggestions to help minority influencers gain more recognition and work in this industry?
Through writing and using their platform to talk about social issues.
Nycxclothes, run by Shelcy and Christy, have done this so well. They create content and make use of their platform to talk to their audience about diversity. We need more influencers like that, people who are not afraid of speaking out about the diversity or social issues close to their hearts.
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“Yes, we can be strong alone. But we are more powerful together.” - Kicking off our next round of the #nycxstyleswap with @thevicstyles who dressed us in her classic silhouette with a feminine sensibility. We then opted for this pink set because you can be both soft and strong. - This style swap series isn’t just about having fun with clothes. We want to uplift women and sprinkle our magic everywhere. #BlackGirlMagic ????????
Want more of Esther? Check out her blog and catch her in action over on her Instagram and stories!
Psst… I can read your mind and I think you’d enjoy this article too: Organizing Tips for the Busy Girl Boss