Today, we dive into the world of influencers in a little Q&A with a few we’ve collaborated with. Keep reading to find out what they think about working with brands, changes in the industry, and tips for keeping your audience engaged. Shout out to Taylor Love, Valentina Perez, Robin Plotnik, and Jessica Taylor Stevenson for chatting with us!
When did you start working as an influencer?
Taylor: “I started two years ago and about a year ago it turned into my full-time business!”
Valentina: “I started my Youtube channel exactly 3 years ago, but I don’t think you are an influencer since day one. I actually started calling myself an influencer a few months ago.”
Robin: “I don’t think there’s an actual “start” date but I created @whatrobineats in January of 2016! I had been using the hashtag #whatrobineats for years before that so I thought it deserved its own Instagram. My account grew organically and I think I started getting paid for content within a year.”
Jessica: “I stared as an influencer my senior year of college after I started dating my boyfriend, @luda_. He had been increasingly making a presence on Instagram for years and I was taking his photos/creating his content. I began being included in campaigns with him until I grew individually. It’s been my full time job for the last 6 months, although, I’m still considered micro.”
Any tips for people that want to start as influencers?
Taylor: “Find what makes you unique and stick to it. Filter every piece of content through the lens of what your key messaging is.”
Valentina: “Be yourself. Maybe it’s cliché, but we already have too many fake people on social media so that’s the most important advice. Also, I always suggest having a schedule and being consistent when it comes to posting on your main platform.”
Robin: “Post about things you love, have fun with it, and simply be YOU. Trying to be someone else who is already successful won’t be fun and people will want to follow you for YOU!”
Jessica: “Be original. So many people want to join this community but feel like there’s a specific look they have to accomplish to fit in. As James Nord once said in his Podcast A Drink with James, “Just because Tezza’s feed is orange doesn’t mean we all have to be orange, too.” Also, prepare for the time commitment and the workload. It’s not a traditional type of job so you’re not signing up for regulated work hours. I’ll receive calls from my manager at 9:30pm on a Friday night, while at an event she sent me to, asking me to review a contract and send it back to her ASAP. The career isn’t all fun and free clothes and it takes being true to yourself and being willing to share that with everyone all the time. It’s a huge commitment! But, there’s room for everyone in the industry so why be anything but yourself?”
What do you feel the biggest obstacle working as an influencer is?
Taylor: “Honestly, being a one woman show! I work with a manager but other than that it’s all me.”
Valentina: “Personally, I struggle with networking. Getting to know the right people is extremely important if you want to keep growing on social media, but I think that’s the hardest part.”
Robin: “Being a one woman show. You’re the creator, accountant, manager, and everything else a business needs. It’s a lot of work but if you love your content and have fun with it it’s all worth it!”
Jessica: “As mentioned, there aren’t traditional regulations or protections to this job because it’s fairly new to the world. Early on, and even now, brands constantly try to take advantage of you, asking you to shoot tons of content and give them the rights to your intellectual property in exchange for a free item because the item is “valued” high. I’m sorry but a $300 watch isn’t going to pay my bills, and to be honest, I have enough $300 watches from companies who actually respect my rates. Having a manager has eased some of that for me but it can still be baffling to have someone asking me for an entire written blog post with images in exchange for a sheet mask.”
If you could give brands that use or want to use Influencer Marketing one tip, what would it be?
Taylor: “A good partnership should be mutually beneficial.”
Valentina: “Trust the influencer. If you picked someone to work with you, you have to trust her/him on what they decide to post (of course, following the brand guidelines), because no one knows the audience better than that person.”
Robin: “Let the influencer be creative and advertise your product in the best way they feel is right for their audience.”
Jessica: “When reaching out to an influencer, I suggest asking what their rates are before making an offer. It comes off super respectful and most people are willing to negotiate if their rates are out of your budget. This allows you to gauge their experience and professionalism as well. But, do your research! See what that influencer’s engagement rate is (how many likes/comments they get compared to followers). 6%+ is pretty good and shows a level of authenticity in their audience.”
Do you have an Influencer idol you look up to/admire? If so, why?
Taylor: “I love Julia Engel. We were in the same sorority together in college and I just think she’s amazing. She has really paved the way for the blogging industry and inspires me constantly.”
Valentina: “I have a couple of people I really admire on social media. I am from Latin America, and I know how hard it is to get into the American market as an influencer, so I really admire those people that stay real to who they are but still found a positive way to succeed.”
Robin: “Love @thedefineddish! She’s a killer recipe developer and a stellar mom.”
Jessica: “There are so many who I admire! @tezza is probably my biggest idol because we have a similar background. Like me, she went to school for Fine Art with emphasis in photography but always wanted to bridge photography with her interest in fashion. And she did it via instagram in this new and innovative way that has paved the way for people like me to do it too. She’s incredibly creative and we’re both 6’ tall (haha). I also love @weworewhat, aka Danielle Bernstein. She’s such a powerful businesswoman and started her own clothing lines after working in fashion and on Instagram for so long. It’s incredible to see where the platform can take you.”
How do you consistently engage your audience?
Taylor: “By being real and vulnerable. It’s important to balance the beautiful curated content with parts of real life & telling a story!”
Valentina: “I honestly love responding to every single comment people leave, even the craziest ones.”
Robin: “Replying to comments, messages, commenting on their photos, and sharing stories on my page all day (aka when Poppy is napping).”
Jessica: “I engage with my audience every single day. I try to respond to most of my comments, or at least acknowledge their comments with a ‘like’. I also check my message requests regularly to answer DMs and get back to people in reasonable time frame. Without my audience, I wouldn’t be able to do what I love every day and showing my appreciation is extremely important to me.”
Have you witnessed/seen a change in the influencer field since you started? If so, what has been the biggest change?
Taylor: “If anything, it’s become such a legitimate career path.”
Valentina “I’ve seen more people “wanting to be an influencer” because of the wrong reasons. Fewer people enjoy creating content and sharing their passions with an audience and are expecting just to make money from it. In terms of working with brands, I feel like there are more and more opportunities every day because companies realized the power of influencer marketing.”
Robin: “There are so many Instagram accounts now that it’s tough to not get lost in the crowd. Staying true to myself, staying positive, creating content my audience enjoys, and continuing to engage with everyone I can really helps!”
Jessica: “I think the most beautiful thing about the platform is that it’s a space for self expression and that sharing what you enjoy doing, whatever that may be, can captivate an audience. That being said, Instagram has given the power to ANYONE. Brands now work with and repost influencers of all kinds, inclusiveness is growing more (even though we have ways to go!). But things like body positivity, embracing race, culture, and sexuality are becoming more common, especially in the fashion industry. I think the individuality and the personal aspects of people’s feeds are changing brand approaches to advertising and allowing for more conversations around representation and inclusion in a natural way.”
Stayed tuned for our next blog post where we give the run-down on Influencer Marketing from macro to micro and all the stuff in between. And for more content, follow us on Instagram, Twitter & Facebook!
To learn more about the influencers we interviewed, be sure to check their Instagram pages!
Valentina Perez: @breakconvalen
Robin Plotnik: @whatrobineats
Jessica Taylor Stevenson: @jessicataylorstevenson