Success As A Social Media Influencer

It's hard to believe that only 7 years ago Chiara Ferragni, now worth an estimated $12 million, was a law student in Milan just starting out in the world of fashion blogging.

Today, she lives in a $3.5 mansion in L.A. filled with antiques and beautiful designer clothing, like her extensive collection of Louis Vuitton, and spends her days jetting off to photogenic destinations. Not bad for a college dropout. 

How did she get here? Well, contrary to many celebrities who've found fame and fortune creating a brand around their musical or acting careers, Chiara merely created a brand around herself. Her career involves posting daily pictures of her fabulous life to all of 11.1 million Instagram followers. But let's not forget her line of shoes that sell for $500 a pop, and her Pantene ambassador campaign.  

Chiara Ferragni is what you could call a hero to the young generation of the digital era who are witnessing an increasing amount of "influencer" success stories.  

To give you a better idea of Chiara's range of influence, all we need to do is look at her 30th birthday where her boyfriend, Italian rapper Fedez, proposed to her onstage during a live concert in Verona. Approximately one million followers "liked" the video. Just like half a million followers approved of her #YSL black mini dress and 700,000 more "liked" the picture she shared of her "Leading Hotels of the World" logo birthday cake. This third image contained the captions #leadinghotelsoftheworld, #LHWtraveler #kempinskivenice. 

It is quite likely that Ms. Ferragni had an agreement with the brands listed above, and with such a significant amount of followers eager to emulate her lifestyle, you can see how this would mean a large amount of exposure and publicity with each post. In fact this has become the M.O. and major source of income of many other successful influencers. 

 

Amanda Steele, the 17-year old beauty vlogger behind "MakeupbyMandy24" was recently flown to the Cannes Film Festival for the premier of Okja, where she hung out with the likes of Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal and was dressed and made up from head to toe; making sure of course to Instagram the entire event.

This was all courtesy of the Christian Dior brand in exchange for the short caption she shared with her 2.8 million followers which read, "Thank you sooooo much @diormakeup for treating me like a princess!!"

Methods like these are now employed by many brands as a new and highly affective means of advertising directly to their target markets and, in the past few years, social media platforms like Instagram have provided the perfect outlet for this. 

In turn, Influencers have quickly learned that working to promote brands directly is the most effective way for them to earn a living from their blogs and posts. Though not all of them go about it in the same way. For instance, while some influencers will take on a few long-term campaigns with brands who they constantly promote or have an ambassador agreement with, others will attempt to a feature a maximum of products from various brands, all while making sure they fit into their own personal aesthetic and image. 

This image projected by individual influencers is of crucial importance, and as their careers become increasingly important and blogging becomes their primary mode of income, influencers often go to great lengths to keep this image carefully curated and consistant, hiring stylists, professional photographers, make-up artists, assistants and editors to keep their brand in check. This is especially important as often the influencer will have a specific theme or style to their posts that has caught the interest of their followers and it must be kept up consistently, along with the personal style and values the followers have subscribed to. 

It is important to note that because brands have understood the effectiveness of this sort of marketing, they have a large budget dedicated to it (up to $1.5 billion for Instagram alone), and will therefor be interested in all types of campaigns. This means that even influencers with less followers, but with a more niche following the brand is interested in winning over, can earn $250 for a single post featuring a product. 

 

Julia Engel of "Girl Meets Glam" success uses yet another form of collaboration with brands. Utilizing the popular application LIKEtoKNOW.it, she sends her 1.1 million followers directly to the websites selling the products in her posts, and if they buy the items, she makes commission.

Worth approximately $1.5 million today, you could say that whatever Julia is doing seems to be working for her.  She has also created a line of posts promoting the glamorous lifestyle associated with #AmExPlatinum in collaboration with the financial services brand. Whenever she creates a brand-sponsored post, it is carefully labeled #ad to differentiate it from her own personal feed as a paid-for piece of advertising. This difference is not always so clear in the world of social media marketing. 

Guy Parker, chief executive of the Advertising Standards Authority, who works with the US Federal Trade Commission and the newly formed International Council of Advertising Self-Regulation to oversee social media marketing has said, “We have no issue with social influencers working with brands, as long as consumers aren’t misled. We define advertising as a tweet, vlog, blog or Instagram post where the influencer has been paid and there has been some control over the content. We therefore expect the post to have #ad on it in a prominent position, not buried in 30 other hashtags, but in the first three lines of the caption, so it isn’t hidden to followers. It’s not fair to consumers to expect them to play detective and deduce whether something is an ad or not. Many millennials believe this isn’t necessary as they claim to be able to see whether content is ‘sponsored’, but we believe it is imperative to protect consumers who aren’t that savvy, and ensure they know.”

An interesting discussion is whether or not Instagram should begin taking extra measures to protect its users so that they are informed that what they are viewing is paid-for content. This could perhaps be done be sectioning off or more carefully labeling by the website itself for sponsored content. This is also important for the influencers themselves, so that they can keep their fans interested and loyal when they are seeing fresh new content that is original and not an advertisement. 

So far though, many influencers are making an incredibly lucrative living for themselves using the above techniques and working with brands. It remains to be seen if this will continue to be an effective strategy and if it will allow new generations of influencers to join an already crowded market.

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