SOCIALYTE

Selfie, Bikini, Thousands of Subscribers then Advertisements: The Recipe for Making a Fortune on Instagram

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Bloomberg unveils the techniques of these young women to the perfect plastic become rich by playing advertising placards on social networks. This is the case of Caitlin O-Connor, American actress of 26 years, 282,000 subscribers on Instagram on the counter in May 2016.

"Social networks have built 100% of my career," she admits. The young woman knows how to combine the different social platforms like Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat to increase her audience and access the much-desired status of influencer, whose accounts exceed 100,000 followers. Because brands love these "big bosses" of the internet to advertise their products, attracted by the young audience present on these applications and difficult to reach by other means.

On Snapchat, O'Connor regularly poses for the borders of the eroticism ArsenicTV, where women with the measurements of mannequin strut in little outfit and which reached half a million visualizations. A decision that has earned 100,000 subscribers on Instagram since its first appearance.

With its tens of thousands of subscribers, it regularly contacts brands of all kinds to offer e-marketing services. For example, she promoted the amino food movement or the casper stamped bedding.

And this approach pays off handsomely. Each Caitlin O'Connor publication brings in about $ 300. Normally, she gets between 6,000 and 10,000 dollars a month thanks to her daily posts on Instagram. According to Daniel Saynt, CEO of Socialyte, an agency specializing in influential castings for advertising campaigns, about 100,000 people have already adopted this new way of making a fortune thanks to social networks.

Famous on Instagram

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Boutique owner Yoyo Cao reaches for her phone at least once a day to snap a photo of what she is wearing.

She started documenting her outfits on Instagram, a social media application, as a hobby about a year ago because she was interested in photography and fashion.

But she has since found that it is a good marketing tool as well.

The 25-year-old, who owns Exhibit, a boutique at Far East Plaza, takes pictures of her outfits every day to show the 21,000 followers of her Instagram account, yoyokulala, how to mix and match items from her shop with other pieces.

It is the only form of advertising she uses and, out of all her 21,000 followers, only about 100 are her friends.

"I've noticed that business has become better with the increase in the number of followers," she says.

She adds that she gets customers going to her shop armed with their phones, asking for entire outfits that were featured in her account.

Ms Cao is among the many tastemakers showing off their styles on Instagram.

The photo-sharing application was started in 2010 by two Stanford graduates, Mr Mike Krieger and Mr Kevin Systrom. They sold it to Facebook in April for US$1 billion (S$1.26 billion). With 130 million users worldwide, it offers filters and editing tools which allow users to enhance photographs and broadcast them with the click of a button. In turn, followers can "like" what they see.

Fashion, food and travel are among the most photographed topics on Instagram.

Fashion stylist Karen Ng, 41, says that uploading pictures of what she wears, also known as OOTD or Outfit Of The Day in Instagram-speak, allows people to take fashion cues from her.

"I do it when I feel like I've captured a great dress-up moment; it's a compilation of my different looks," says

Ms Ng, who styles socialites and professionals such as bankers and doctors.

Within a year of opening her Instagram account - karenngkarenng - she has garnered more than 5,200 followers, of which only about 150 are people she knows personally.

POWERFUL MARKETING TOOL

While many of those with large followings have blogs, they say that Instagram allows them to reach out to more fans because it is more immediate than blogging or going on Facebook.

Ms Linda Hao, 23, a designer and DJ, used to upload photos to her blog, but she now uploads them to Instagram several times a week under her account lindahaoliyuan.

"With a blog, you have to upload the pictures from your digital camera and edit them; only then can you post them on your blog. With Instagram, it's instant," says Ms Hao, who blogs only about once a month now.

In Ms Cao's case, her shop's Facebook page would get only about 10 new followers a day, but her Instagram account gets about 100 new followers daily.

One of her followers, student Elizabeth Seow, 21, agrees that Instagram is a more convenient way than blogs to keep up with her favourite style icons.

"I can view all their pictures on one platform. On their blogs, there is a lot of text. Now I can skip that and go straight to the visuals."

It is no wonder that fashion brands have jumped on the Instagram bandwagon. Luxury labels such as Celine and Louis Vuitton each has more than 100,000 followers, as do designers such as Rebecca Minkoff and Prabal Gurung.

A spokesman for Club 21's digital marketing team says Instagram is a useful tool in helping the home-grown multi-label retailer reach out to new customers. "We connect with customers on a day-to-day basis by answering comments and queries about our posts and the products posted," says the spokesman. Since it joined Instagram in 2011, Club 21 has garnered more than 8,700 followers.

In an e-mail interview, Mr Daniel Saynt, creative director of marketing agency Socialyte in New York City, tells Urban that Instagram is a powerful marketing tool that gives brands the ability to expand beyond what is published in magazines.

"Facebook and Twitter provide ways for brands to connect with fans, but Instagram provides a way to tell a story," he says.

Adding to the appeal of Instagram is its video function, which was launched in June and allows users to post videos of up to 15 seconds long.

Ms Hao, who has 25,000 followers, says she occasionally uses the video function to capture her outfits better. For instance, details on a long skirt can be seen only when the wind is blowing.

DARK SIDE OF INSTAGRAM

But with the good, comes the bad. Some Instagram accounts have become a medium for showing off wealth. Take, for instance, the Rich Kids Of Instagram blog, which has become so popular it is being made into a reality TV show.

The blog is a compilation of photos taken from the Instagram feeds of wealthy young people all around the world.

It includes images of fast cars, watches that cost tens of thousands of dollars, meals at Michelin-starred restaurants, Hermes bags and other extravagant purchases.

On their photos, these "rich kids" add hashtags such as #hermes or #christianlouboutin, so people know what they are flaunting.

Local Instagrammers who frequently post pictures of their pricey possessions, such as socialite Jamie Chua, 38, and entrepreneur Kane Lim, 23, have been criticised by netizens for being show-offs.

Through her account ec13m, Ms Chua gives her 88,000 followers on Instagram a glimpse of her high life by uploading pictures of her expensive outfits, outings with friends and, notably, her extensive Hermes Birkin bag collection.

Mr Lim, who goes by kanelk_k on his Instagram account, is among those featured on Rich Kids Of Instagram, but it is something he says he is not proud of.

"I don't want to be associated with popping bottles and posting receipts," says Mr Lim, whose Instagram account is filled with pictures of his extensive designer shoe collection - more than 200 pairs at last count - which includes brands such as Christian Louboutin and Giuseppe Zanotti.

Despite the negative comments, Mr Lim has more than 27,000 followers, including pop star Rihanna, and the number is growing.

Psychologists say Instagram can breed insecurity in both the user and the viewer.

"It tends to create resentment and anger because those who work hard but do not have such means will be filled with disappointment, regret and envy," says Mr Daniel Koh, a psychologist at Insights Mind Centre.

"The person who owns the Instagram account may get more egotistical if his audience gets bigger and he gets more responses. As a result, he may need to do even more to uphold his standing," he adds.

Agreeing, Dr Brian Lee, head of the communications programme at SIM University, says: "Pictures can say a thousand words, but they can also hide a thousand problems. Photos may not reflect the reality."

Dr Lee notes that as social networking sites, such as Instagram, gain popularity, counsellors are also seeing a rise in youngsters seeking help for self-esteem problems.

But engineer Eric Ng, 29, says that Instagram can also help to motivate people.

"Many of us may not be able to afford the luxury items, but we can aspire to own them one day," says Mr Ng, who follows Australian blogger Nicole Warne (garypeppergirl) and model Miranda Kee (mirandakerr).

"Of course, many are just showing off, so I'll only follow those who are also stylish."

 

YOYO CAO, 25, OWNER OF EXHIBIT, A BOUTIQUE IN FAR EAST PLAZAInstagram:yoyokulalaFollowers: 21,000

Originally from Macau, Ms Cao, who is single, has lived in Singapore for 10 years. She uses her Instagram account to promote her shop as well as show off her personal style. Many of her photos are stylishly shot, use interesting effects and show her in quirky poses.

Why do you upload Outfit Of The Day (OOTD) shots?

I've always been interested in photography and this is a way for me to show people how to mix and match items. I don't believe in wearing labels from head to toe. Money cannot buy style.

How often do you upload OOTD shots?

From Monday to Friday.

Describe your style.

It's minimalist. I'm not girly; I wear more pants than skirts.

Who takes your OOTD photos?

Mostly my friends and my boyfriend. They're very supportive. When we get a perfect shot, they will shout "Yes". My friends also post OOTD photos. If I'm around, I give them tips on how to pose.

What are some of your favourite brands?

Celine, Alexander Wang, Givenchy and Maison Martin Margiela.

How do you dress on lazy days? Do you post pictures on those days?

Denim shirts and shorts. I love denim.

I try not to take pictures during weekends, just to draw the line somewhere. I don't want my life to become too public.

Who are your favourite Instagrammers?

Los Angeles-based fashion blogger Jayne Min (stopitrightnow). She also posts OOTD photos. Her style is similar to mine and I like how she mixes clothes from Zara and Topshop with designer labels such as 3.1 Phillip Lim.

What else do you shoot?

I travel a lot, so I like to take pictures of the places I visit. Japan, South Korea, Thailand and, of course, Macau, are just some places I've posted pictures of.

What is the worst comment you've received?

I haven't really had any and I wouldn't respond if I did, because everyone has their own opinions.

 

KANE LIM, 23, ENTREPRENEURInstagram: kanelk_kFollowers: 27,000

It is no wonder that this Los Angeles-based Singaporean has made it to the Rich Kids Of Instagram blog - his account is filled with photos of his huge collection of Christian Louboutin shoes, designer togs and lots of bling. Pop star Rihanna is one of his followers and even helped him pick between two jackets to wear to her Diamonds World Tour concert in Los Angeles in April by commenting on his account. The bachelor recently started his own bespoke line of jackets and handbags.

Why do you upload Outfit Of The Day (OOTD) shots?

To share my passion and also to get inspired by incredible people every day. It is great to find so many people out there who share my interest in fashion.

How often do you upload OOTD shots?

Every day, even when I'm travelling. As long as there is Wi-Fi, I'll Instagram my outfit. Fashion never stops. I want to be known as someone who dresses up daily and who is a representative of men's fashion.

Describe your style.

Bold, wild, crazy and gloriously free. The great Coco Chanel once said: "In order to be irreplaceable, one has to be different". That is why Coco Chanel is Chanel and Kane is Kane. I always say, why blend in when you can stick out?

Who takes your OOTD photos?

My friends, my helper and just random people, such as the valet or sales representatives of shops that I'm at. I'll take a selfie (self-portrait) if I can't find anyone.

What are some of your favourite brands?

Most definitely French labels, such as Balmain, Givenchy, Chanel, Hermes, Cartier and Christian Louboutin.

How do you dress on lazy days? Do you post pictures on those days?

I dress up even to go to the doctor's or the supermarket. There's never a dull moment.

Who are your favourite Instagrammers?

My friends, socialite Jamie Chua (ec13m) and stylist Nini Nguyen (ninistyle).

What else do you shoot?

Cars, food, art and my pets.

What is the worst comment you've received?

Some people assume that because I'm Chinese, my things must be fake. Negativity makes me stronger. I focus on the positive comments and they inspire me to take risks in fashion.

 

KAREN NG, 41, PERSONAL STYLISTInstagram: karenngkarenngFollowers: 5,271

Ms Ng, who is single, provides styling services to professionals such as bankers and doctors, as well as socialites. Her photos show her at local and overseas fashion events, as well as hobnobbing with celebrities such as former model Yasmin Le Bon.

Why do you upload Outfit Of The Day (OOTD) shots?

In the past, I would put a whole new look together and just take it off at the end of the day. I realised that it was such a waste, as so much effort went into putting it together. I decided to take pictures, so that I remember the look.

How often do you upload OOTD shots?

About two or three times a week. It's not a daily diary. I upload only when I want to show a different style or outfit. Getting followers and likes is not my focus.

Describe your style.

It's eclectic, dramatic and bold. I always want to make a statement. I'm always looking for interesting structures and striking silhouettes.

Who takes your OOTD photos?

Usually friends or random people on the street who look happy - if the person isn't happy, you'll never get a good shot. Because I'm using a mobile phone, I need to take about 20 photos before I get the right shot. I'm quite a pain and some of my friends are quite agitated with me already.

What are some of your favourite brands?

Balmain, Givenchy, Mugler, Christian Dior, Celine and Chanel.

How do you dress on lazy days? Do you post pictures on those days?

My casual look involves throwing on a Givenchy or Balmain T-shirt. I don't usually post pictures of myself in my casual clothes because they would all look the same. The only thing different would be my accessories.

Who are your favourite Instagrammers?

Former Harper's Bazaar Russia editor Miroslava Duma (Miraduma) and editor-at-large and creative consultant for Vogue Japan, Anna Dello Russo (annadellorusso). They're trendsetters and I get inspiration from them to style my clients.

What else do you shoot?

Art and also food, but only at restaurants that are difficult to get in, so that people who can't get in can see what the food is like.

What is the worst comment you've received?

I'm lucky, I've had only two "haters" so far, who called me names. I deleted their comments and blocked them.

 

MAX ANG, 23, SALES ASSOCIATE WITH CHRISTIAN LOUBOUTINInstagram:maxan9Followers: 6,267

Mr Ang, who is single, is known to his followers for emulating the style choices of K-pop star G-Dragon - think loud prints and coloured hair. A friend of popular Instagrammer and socialite Jamie Chua, he often posts photos of them together.

Why do you upload Outfit Of The Day (OOTD) shots?

To help guys who are more conservative in their fashion choices. I want to show them that dressing up can be more than wearing a grey or black suit.

How often do you upload OOTD shots?

Usually every day.

Describe your style.

I try to dress in all ways: street, formal, casual and crazy. Dropped- crotch trousers and studded Christian Louboutin sneakers are among my wardrobe staples.

Who takes your OOTD photos?

Friends or strangers if I am desperate to share my outfit and my friends aren't around. I don't feel weird posing in front of strangers. I don't really care what people think.

What are some of your favourite brands?

Rick Owens, KTZ, Balmain and Hermes. I also wear Zara. I'm always seen in Louboutin shoes because most of my outfit shots are taken on days when I work.

How do you dress on lazy days? Do you post pictures on those days?

I always make it a point to dress up; it has become a habit.

Who are your favourite Instagrammers?

My friends Jamie Chua (ec13m) and Arthur Soo, a sales associate at watch retailer Yafriro, (arthurkinggggg). We exchange fashion tips.

What else do you shoot?

My designer shoes, T-shirts and accessories. I don't feel bad about showing off my items because I work very hard and I'm proud of them. I spend about $2,000 a month on shopping. I get a discount on Louboutin shoes but I have to buy them at full price if I reach my allotted limit.

What is the worst comment you've received ?

Occasionally, I get comments about how I don't dress in a very "masculine" way. I respond to some of them by saying "it's all right if you don't like it, it's my style".

 

SHAREL HO, 39, MANAGING DIRECTOR OF DEFRED JEWELLERSInstagram:sharel89Followers: 1,968

Mrs Ho, who was born in Ipoh but is now a Singaporean, is married to Mr Fred Ho, the owner of jewellery shop, DeFred Jewellers, who is in his 50s. They have two daughters. She joined Instagram at the end of last year. Her photos show her at society events and riding horses at the Singapore Polo Club.

Why do you upload Outfit Of The Day (OOTD) shots?

It's entertainment for me. I'm quite vain; I think I'm the only one among my friends uploading outfit pictures. Every woman should be vain to a certain degree; only then will she take care of herself.

How often do you upload OOTD shots?

Almost every day.

Describe your style.

Girly, but from last year, I decided to try edgier looks, such as putting on a denim jacket with a very feminine organza skirt. I just want to be more versatile and to have more fun with my looks.

Who takes your OOTD photos?

My daughters, Khailie, 14, and Khailing, 10, and my helper Loreta Tablizo. I don't need to train them as they're natural at taking photographs. They are the ones telling me what poses look good and if my hair is out of place.

What are some of your favourite brands?

Miu Miu, Lanvin and Alexander McQueen.

How do you dress on lazy days? Do you post pictures on those days?

Shorts and singlets from brands such as Alexander McQueen and Zara. I post pictures of myself and without make-up sometimes. We don't have to be perfect all the time.

Who are your favourite Instagrammers?

Malaysian model Venice Min (venicemin) and other Asian celebrities. Asians are more petite, so I identify with them better.

What else do you shoot?

Almost all my photos are of my outfits. I just want to concentrate on fashion. I started horseback riding three years ago, so I also have some photos of me horseback riding, taken by my trainer and rider friends.

What is the worst comment you've received?

I haven't had any so far. I think it's because I don't identify what I'm wearing through hashtags. It's about my fashion sense and not the brands. You have to put yourself in the position of others - not everyone can afford luxury items.

 

NICOLE WONG, 24, CREATIVE DIRECTOR AND CO-FOUNDER OF WOMENSWEAR BRAND AMEN AND MENSWEAR LABEL CRAWFORD & SONSInstagram:ncwongFollowers: 4,855

Ms Wong, who is single, graduated from Lasalle College of the Arts in 2009 and started her clothing labels in 2011. Dark and edgy outfits and jewellery feature heavily on her Instagram account.

Why do you upload Outfit Of The Day (OOTD) shots?

To showcase my clothing brands and also to show people how to mix and match other clothing with items from my brand.

How often do you upload OOTD shots?

It's usually spontaneous.

Describe your style.

Minimal and clean, with a mix of tailoring.

Who takes your OOTD photos?

My fiance, Mr Clinton Leicester, 25, who is the co-founder of my brands. My photos are almost always shot against a plain background.

What are some of your favourite brands?

Apart from my own brands, I like Ann Demeulemeester and BLK DNM, as well as jewellery brand Beneath The Roses and local hatmaker Hat Of Cain.

How do you dress on lazy days? Do you post pictures on those days?

Usually jeans and Chelsea boots. Why not?

Who are your favourite Instagrammers?

That's tough as there are so many who inspire me creatively. For instance, some Instagrammers I follow find ways to turn ordinary things, such as magazines, into tables.

What else do you shoot?

Clean interiors and greenery. I've always loved being outdoors. Clean and minimal interiors reflect what my two brands are about.

What is the worst comment you've received?

I am very fortunate that people have been very nice and open. So far, nothing negative has hit me and, if it ever does, I doubt I will be bothered. I believe different people have different views and opinions.

 

LINDA HAO, 23, DJ AND OWNER OF ONLINE CLOTHING STORE, YESAHInstagram:lindahaoliyuanFollowers: 25,000

Originally from Shanghai, Ms Hao, who is single, moved to Singapore when she was seven to attend school here. She is known for her love of brightly coloured outfits, which she occasionally posts videos of.

Why do you upload Outfit Of The Day (OOTD) shots?

It's not about showing off. I love taking pictures and I love fashion. The two just come together.

How often do you upload OOTD shots?

I upload whenever I'm dressed nicely. It can be every day; it can even be twice a day.

Describe your style.

I'm very versatile and I love to explore new trends and unusual fashion accessories. I'm a very colourful person.

Who takes your OOTD photos?

Most of the time, it's my boyfriend, Jacky Lee, 28, a film-maker. But if I can't find someone to take them, it's no big deal.

I am usually the one telling him what to do; they are photos of me after all. But normally, we just take one picture as there's no such thing as a perfect shot.

I take videos once in a while if they help to bring out certain details of my clothes, but it's too time-consuming.

What are some of your favourite brands?

None at the moment.

How do you dress on lazy days? Do you post pictures on those days?

Boyfriend jeans and T-shirts. It really depends; I would if I'm doing something hilarious or Insta-worthy, such as wearing bedroom slippers in public.

Who are your favourite instagrammers?

New Yorker Naomi Davis (taza).

She is a hipster mum of two super adorable kids. I need to look at her pictures before going to bed or when I'm feeling down. She posts mainly pictures of her kids.

What else do you shoot?

I love shooting special moments, such as when I'm having fun with friends. Instagram is a way to collect memories as no one prints photos any more.

What is the worst comment you've received?

I always take photos of myself in different make-up looks. There was one person who kept questioning each make-up shot and asking me if I was a boy or girl.

Perhaps because I have short hair and the pictures were in black- and-white, he could not tell. I reported and blocked him because he did it more than once and my friends kept stepping in to defend me. I just didn't want a commotion. I'll block people if they ask stupid questions repeatedly. Simple.

 

VALERIE WANG, 22, STUDENT Instagram: valerie_wangFollowers: 10,000

Ms Wang, who is single, is an illustrator who studying in fine arts at Lasalle College of the Arts. A part-time model for some blogshops, she is known for her casual and chic style. Her Instagram account, which she started about a year ago, has a clean and simple aesthetic. Some of her photos are shot with a digital camera, while others are shot with her mobile phone.

Why do you upload Outfit Of The Day (OOTD) shots?

It was partly a "monkey-see- monkey-do" situation; some of my friends were using Instagram and uploading outfit photos and I wanted to see what it was about.

I'm also paid to showcase clothes from blogshops that I model for and I find that Instagram is the fastest and easiest way to share what I'm wearing. I don't think I'm popular; it's mainly exposure from the blogshops.

How often do you upload OOTD shots?

Almost every day.

Describe your style.

Simple and casual. I wear flip-flops a lot. People may say it's sloppy, but it works for my style.

Who takes your OOTD photos?

Most of the time, my maid as she is the only one at home. All the filtering and editing is done by me. I tell my maid what I want her to do and she just snaps the picture.

What are some of your favourite brands?

I'm not into brands. I'll wear whatever looks nice.

How do you dress on lazy days? Do you post pictures on those days?

Every day is a lazy day; I dress with comfort as a priority.

Who are your favourite Instagrammers?

American leather goods brand, Stitch and Hammer (stitchandhammer) and interiors blogger Jennifer Hagler (amerrymishap). They're not celebrities, but they have pictures of nice products and home interiors.

What else do you shoot?

My illustrations. They don't get as many likes and comments as my outfits, but it doesn't bother me. Art, like fashion, is subjective.

What is the worst comment that you've received?

I have not had any bad comments, but if I did, all one has to do is to ignore them.

The Market for Influences: How to Turn a Hobby into a Digital Phenomenon?

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What is hidden behind each like? What are the most relevant figures in the influencer universe  ? Which platforms are the most relevant to this day? The influencers  have become the main ally of fashion companies to build their reputation and raise sales of products in the digital world. The sector has become professionalized and now a constellation of actors such as representative agencies and independent representatives make a link between  influencer  and fashion company. With the sponsorship of  Launchmetrics, Modaes.es will carry out over the next few weeks a series of reports that analyze the phenomenon, while pointing out which are the most relevant characters of the sector in Spain and the rest of the world.  

Fashion enthusiasts, art and travel with the soul of communicators, emerged thanks to the birth of tools for creating content on the Net as Tumblr and Wordpress. That's how bloggers were a little less than a decade ago. Today, many of these figures have turned their names into millionaire businesses, thanks to the money they generate from their collaborations with fashion companies to raise the visibility of their products and actions.

The professionalization of the sector has turned bloggers into figures spoiled by the sector, turned into machines to make money to blow of like and brief commentary. Around them, the industry has developed a constellation of intermediaries such as representative agencies and representatives, dedicated to hunt for talent to monetize their activity. These actors make a nexus between brands and influencers , dedicated to selecting the most interesting profiles for each brand and managing the details of each collaboration to ensure its success. With the sponsorship of Launchmetrics, Modaes.es starts today the series Influencers: the business behind likes , to analyze the business model of the major influencersIn the fashion sector.

The most emblematic case of blogger as a hobby turned into a successful businesswoman is the Italian Chiara Ferragni and her platform The Blonde Salad . The portal is now an online medium with its own editorial content and an ecommerce portal that generates two million dollars of estimated profit, through advertising and affiliate marketing. The shoe line that bears his name reaches fifteen million dollars in annual sales.

 

The professionalization of the sector has made bloggers into figures 'spoiled' by the sector, turned into machines to make money to blow of like and brief comment

 

"Chiara Ferragni and Leandra Medine have passed the title of influencers ; They are now megacompanies with a very loyal following of followers, "says Sarah Owen, head of digital content and marketing at the consulting firm WGSN .

One of the main intermediaries is Socialyte , a New York agency dedicated to the discovery of talents and the rent of their services. Its founder, Daniel Saynt , reveals astronomical revenues among influencers : annual profits of $ 50,000 to $ 250,000 for profiles with between 100,000 and 500,000 followers. Individuals with more than half a million fans on social networks are pocketed between $ 100,000 and $ 500,000. Finally, profiles that exceed one million followers in social networks have incomes of more than half a million dollars a year. "These figures fluctuate according to the type of influencer, The frequency and quality of the content, the interaction generated by its audience, its consecration in the press and if the profile has the ability to successfully sell the products it promotes, "says Saynt.

The agency of reference of the sector in Spain is Okiko Talents . Among its portfolio of represented are names such as Gala Gonzalez , Miranda Makaroff , Mike & Gabi ( Cup of Couple ) and Miguel Carrizo , among others.

 

Profiles that exceed one million followers in social networks have incomes of more than half a million dollars a year

 

But at what point did bloggers make the leap of amateur commentators to become the favorite contributors of fashion brands to raise the visibility of their products and actions? For Owen, the birth of Instagram in late 2010 and the rapid adoption of the platform by the bloggers put these figures as successful business models. "They realized they could use platforms to make money, encouraging a lot more bloggers to follow their trail," he adds.

In Spain, figures like Gala González (Amlul) , Alexandra Pereira (Lovely Pepa) , Aida Domenech (Dulceida) or the now well-known Pelayo Díaz (Katelovesme) were pioneers in the world of blogs and embraced all the social networks that emerged later. Despite the birth of thousands of profiles over the last few years, these names continue to be part of the reduced oem of the gods of like and online visibility in all existing social networks that have managed to turn their hobby into lucrative jobs.

"A brand can spend from 1,000 euros to 1,500 euros so that an influencer with a range of followers between 500,000 users and one million social networks upload a photograph sponsored in one of its channels," confesses Carlos Vidal , responsible for the team Of digital marketing in the communication agency Equipo Singular . Vidal leads ePR, the department that designs, controls and invests the budget for digital campaigns with bloggers and influencers . Although Team Singular has been working with these figures for nearly eight years, the ePR department was born less time thanks to the increase in the demand for services provided by bloggers and influencersBy the brands that Singular Team represents. "While a few years ago a blogger meal was organized two or three times in half a year, we now manage about three hundred actions with influencers a week," explains Vidal.

 

"A brand can spend from 1,000 euros to 1,500 euros so that an 'influencer' with a range of followers among the 500,000 users and the million in social networks upload a photograph sponsored in one of its channels," Carlos Vidal (Singular Team )

 

Market development and role of influencers

In recent years there has been an incessant growth in the number of influencers available in the market. However, the community begins to show signs of saturation. Owen of WGSN and Vidal anticipate that the figures already consecrated in the world of the influencers will become bigger and acquire still more relevance, whereas the profiles with numbers of followers of average rank (10.000-50.000 followers) will have it more difficult to survive In the long run or make their hobby a profession with stable incomes.

What kind of actions are attractive for bloggers and influencers ? According to a study by the consultancy Econsultancy , 69% of the marketing managers surveyed indicate that influencers play an important role in product launches. Also, 75% of respondents indicate that their role is important in the promotion and distribution of branded content.

Measuring the effectiveness of these campaigns was the first cause of contention between fashion companies and influencers , given the intangible nature of some of its benefits, such as brand reputation. However, there are concrete variables that help quantify the success of a collaboration. "In the brands we manage, they are very focused on ecommerce, the success of the campaign always has a lot to do with sales," explains the director of the digital department of Piazza Comunicación , Jesus Barreda . In addition to sales generated, interaction is the other fundamental pillar of collaboration. "The emphasis is on strong interaction. Those influencersWith an active community that gives likes and comments will have more opportunities to collaborate with companies, "says Owen WGSN .

 

"The emphasis is on strong interaction. Those influencers with an active community who gives likes and generate comments will have more opportunities to collaborate with companies, "Sarah Owen (WGSN)

 

Tous has collaborated with many of the national and international figures previously mentioned, among many others. "We were a pioneering brand, and we continue to be working with influencers internationally in different collaboration formats, combining global profiles with locals accumulating this 2016 reach of more than seventy million fans with these collaborations," says corporate vice president Rosa Tous .

In addition to the signing of influencers for specific collaborations, Tous and many other companies have tightened their links with these personalities until directly involving them in internal projects. In 2015, for example, Gala González designed a jewelry capsule collection for Tous that was "a success", in the words of his vice president. 

The Krack footwear company has also made such collections in the past, designed with the support of influencers such as Lovely Pepa or Lady Addict. "The influencers have a lot of credibility because they are like friends who give advice, something that we see very powerful", recognizes Sebastián Troyas , manager of marketing and communication in Global Retail , parent company of Krack . Troyas is very satisfied with the results achieved, especially at the branding level. "We could never have done so with the same investment in other media." Krack invests 20% of its marketing budget in campaigns with influencers .

The professor of digital marketing at Esade business school in Barcelona, Franc Carreras , confirms the theory of Troyas in relation to the great effect of the campaigns with influencers . "Social networks have a frequency of visits of 150 times a day, which means that brands have 150 opportunities to reach their target," says the expert.

"Social networks have a frequency of visits of 150 times a day, which means that brands have 150 opportunities to reach their target"

Faced with the influential giants of the world , which will continue to grow and gain weight in the market, Owen and Vidal claim the role of microinfluencers . They have a relatively small number of followers in social networks (around 5,000), but they are nevertheless of great interest to a brand sector because they target a niche audience. Having a narrow audience, companies do not hesitate to hire their services because, although they reach fewer people, these are the most reliable reflection of the target of their products.

In parallel to the microinfluencers , the professionals consulted for the elaboration of this article point to a new profile in vogue: that of the youtubers and vloggers . These are mainly influencers whose favorite platform to broadcast their messages are video platforms. The rise of these figures is connected to the significant increase in the consumption of information through videos dedicated to the youngest. Vidal mentions Marta Rimbau and Patri Jordán , with more than three million subscribers on their Youtube channel, as two of the most important youtubers for the fashion and beauty sectors in Spain.

Bloggers Mean Business

There was a moment after New York’s 2009 Fall Fashion Week when fashion bloggers had officially, as the press likes to call it, “arrived.” They had blogged their way to the front row of Bryant Park’s most exclusive runway shows; they were the new army of digital Anna Wintours. They wrote in Internet slang and posted photos of themselves mixing vintage with Valentino. They were so quirky! And also, influential! Or so news outlets gushed. Stiff, walled-off fashion editors, once secure in their self-preserved ivory towers, were trembling in fear of a coup.

Fast forward two years and fashion’s digerati have shown they actually have no interest in Wintour’s job. They’d rather sit across the table from her, as the faces of the companies whose ads keep publications like VogueHarper’s Bazaar, and W in the black. Bloggers don’t want to be editors, because they’ve built something much more valuable: brands.

For the past four years, Midwesterner Jessica Quirk’s blog, What I Wore, has featured photos of her wearing outfits she’s styled. She details the origin of each item, lending an implicit endorsement to the brands she’s sporting. It’s not journalism; it’s talking about oneself. Which is to say, it’s branding oneself.

The explosion of this type of blog and the influence of the women behind them are due, in part, to readers of magazine glossies wanting to see relatable ladies in “real world” clothes. Independent Fashion Bloggers, an online community, has more than 30,000 members; Technorati lists 8,117 fashion blogs in its directory. Sites like What I Wore garner 20,000 unique visitors per month, according to Web traffic measurement site Compete; around half of those readers return daily.

Now fashion bloggers are leveraging their followers to become marketing machines for brands other than their own (in other words, to earn money), augmenting those companies’ advertising and PR strategies. They’re taking on numerous roles including guest bloggers, models, designers, and endorsers. They’re maintaining credibility with fans—they hope—by choosing partnerships discerningly, while discussing deliverables, audience composition, ROI, and conversions with their sponsors. The opportunity to convert their readership into customers for brands is huge—apparel and accessories was the second-largest category for e-commerce spending in 2010, beating out even consumer electronics with $20.5 billion in sales, according to comScore. “People are doing their best to find an audience like mine, a 25- to 34-year-old woman who spends X dollars shopping online,” says Quirk, who blogs as a brand ambassador for Timex on its website and on What I Wore, and has blogged for Ann Taylor LOFT on its site while posting photos of herself in LOFT clothes on her own. A former designer, she also designed a bracelet for charity that will sell in LOFT stores this fall.

These brands could hire a celebrity spokesperson. Instead they’ve hired a celebrity spokesperson who has her own distribution channel. Coach probably started it. In 2009, its marketing execs noticed that bloggers, not magazine editors, were driving social conversations online. To put it in corporate terms, “they adeptly used the aspirational and visual nature of blogging to share a unique and authentic perspective,” David Duplantis, evp of global Web, digital media, and customer engagement at Coach, told Adweek. Last year, the company recruited four bloggers to custom design, for pay, limited-edition Coach bags. Karla Deras, Kelly Framel, Emily Schuman, and Krystal Simpson worked with Coach to create purses named after their blogs, which they promoted on those blogs, and on their Twitter and Facebook accounts. (They quickly sold out.) Coach is expanding its design collaboration concept to a larger group of global bloggers, Duplantis says. It also features bloggers as models in digital and in-store ad campaigns and has a monthly Guest Blogger. For last week’s Fashion’s Night Out, blogger partners, including Framel (The Glamourai), hosted an in-store party featuring clothing displays they styled around Coach bags.

The blogger-brand marriage reaches the highest of high fashion: Susie Lau of Style Bubble has worked with Valentino and Furla for events and editorial features. Rebecca Minkoff even hired Daniel Saynt, founder of blog network Fashion Indie, as its CMO earlier this year.

It cuts across the spectrum to mass market brands, too. Blogger/designer Keiko Lynn Groves hosts Facebook chats for CVS Beauty Club. Framel and Schuman modeled in ads for Forever 21. Gabrielle Gregg of Gabifresh collaborates with The Limited on designs and promotions for a plus-size brand, eloquii, launching in October.

Juicy Couture even turned to bloggers to reverse an unsavory image when it found itself boxed into a tracksuit ghetto of sorts. Through blogger outreach like events featuring after-hours shopping with DJing by India Jewel-Jackson of Glam.com, it massaged its image. “Many of my peers have a new respect for them . . . and they did it without forcing themselves on anyone,” Framel says.

Gap takes a similarly low-pressure approach, seeking to generate feedback with impressions as a secondary (and yet often successful) consideration. “It’s a constant two-way dialogue,” says Gap’s Olivia Doyne, director of partnerships, brand engagement and PR. In August, the company offered to outfit speakers at a conference run by blog network BlogHer; nearly all opted to don a Gap-provided outfit on stage. The brand received almost 2 million online impressions related to the conference without a single piece of paid media or advertising.

Several previously cold-faced fashion houses have even developed their own down-to-earth blogger voices, including Oscar de la Renta’s OscarPRGirl and Donna Karan New York’s Twitter account (@DKNY), an insider-y peek at the brand and its author’s “life as a PR girl.” Personal? Check. Relatable? Check. Aspirational? Check. Branded? You bet.

But elaborate deals involving giveaway contests, blog content, design collaborations, photo shoots, and appearances are difficult for fashion brands to pull off. PR reps are still learning to treat bloggers as more than an easy PR hit, says Jennine Jacob, founder of IFB, who blogs at The Coveted. Too often, a brand hosts parties and distributes free samples, expecting a fawning blog post, she says. It’s a turnoff. “My student loans don’t accept free products from a brand and neither does my landlord,” Jacobs says. And the quid pro quo agreements are not just tacky, they’re illegal.

Ann Inc. learned that when a January invite for a schmoozy party to preview LOFT’s spring collection promised gift cards to attendees, but only after they blogged about the event. The result: an FTC investigation, since it happened shortly after the agency had adopted rules requiring bloggers to disclose when they’ve received payment or goods related to coverage. (The investigation concluded with no fines to Ann Inc.) Standard practice now is to note an item is “c/o” or care of the brand.  

Other complications: As blogging talents grow in influence, so do their fees—some bloggers command $5,000 for a one-day appearance. And as fees for design collaborations can range from $5,000 to $30,000, according to Macala Wright, former account manager of GCI Group and publisher of Fashionablymarketing.me, convincing brands to shell out has been an uphill battle.

Compensation is also muddled by the fact that fashion bloggers occupy an in-between area in endorsement contracts. They are technically the talent, like any celebrity. But unlike a celebrity, bloggers offer a package—Facebook fans, blog visitors, Twitter followers—and need to engage free of wording restrictions and exclusivity clauses. Brands, accustomed to working with advertorial teams, struggle to give up control. “[Brands] have to know that nobody is jeopardizing anyone’s image,” says Karen Robinovitz, co-founder of fashion blogger agency digital brand architects. “A blogger knows what will resonate with her audience, even if it means never capitalizing her ‘i’s.”

Robinovitz started DBA with former Fleishman-Hillard vp Kendra Bracken-Ferguson after watching bloggers undervalue themselves in deal negotiations. She represents more than 50 fashion bloggers. “We don’t believe every moment has to be paid for,” Robinovitz says, “but once the brands realize what they’re paying for is above and beyond basic editorial coverage, they start to understand.” Driving the point home: Bryanboy, one of fashion’s most famous bloggers who earns six figures a year from appearances and ads on his blog, recently signed with CAA.

(Not everyone agrees that bloggers need agents. Wright has written that bloggers need lawyers, not agents. Others say agencies prey on bloggers.)

But perhaps the most important question for a marketer is: How do brands measure the success of blogger collaborations? The ROI metrics aren’t easy to articulate and there are no best practices. Juicy Couture looks at everything, such as share of voice, sentiment, awareness, referrals, resonations, support response, clicks, fans, retweets, views, etc., says Michelle Ryan, its vp of digital and social media. DBA is developing an algorithm for a brand perception metric that links traffic from its bloggers to purchasing data.

The issue found its way into the news last week when reps from Ann Taylor, Kate Spade, and PR firm Starworks publicly trashed Tumblr’s attempt to sell them expensive blogger-driven marketing partnerships related to Fashion Week, when the platform doesn’t provide basic analytics to its dedicated brand users. But blog-brand partnerships are still relatively low risk, which is why more brands are trying the campaigns on for size. “The beauty of doing something online is that it’s much more forgivable than spending $1 million producing a TV commercial,” Wright says. And with fashion bloggers’ uniquely deep engagement and influence, “the return on that money is much higher than giving Kim Kardashian 10 grand for one tweet.”

Social Media in the Beauty Landscape

Talk about a meteoric rise. Two years ago, Katy DeGroot quit her job as an executive team leader at Target. Today, she’s recognized practically every time she steps into one of the retailer’s stores.

“Usually, the first thing people say is, ‘Oh my God, you’re so small’,” chuckles DeGroot, a 5-foot-3 tomboy version of Mariah Carey in her “Butterfly” phase who is better known by her social media handle LustreLux, “but it’s never really awkward. It’s like seeing one of your friends.”

DeGroot started LustreLux as a Web site with no grand ambitions to become a social media sensation. “I just wanted to create something that mixed my sarcasm and humor into writing and doing a few pictures,” she says. “It was very Millennial of me to not want to listen to anybody and do whatever I wanted to do.”

The appeal of her approach soon became apparent. Two months after LustreLux started posting on Instagram and YouTube, DeGroot was picking up 10,000 subscribers a day. She crossed 500,000 subscribers in eight months and has now amassed more than 2.6 million followers. She’s partnered with brands including Make Up For Ever, Benefit, NARS and Philips to promote products, signed up as a stylist for Ipsy and recently settled in Los Angeles to pursue a full-time career as a social media makeup buff.

DeGroot’s swift ascent from nobody to somebody parallels rapid changes in the beauty landscape caused by social media. “Social media is shaping consumer behavior,” says Shelley Haus, vice president of brand marketing at Ulta Beauty “Scrolling through Instagram, the pictures and videos bring things to life in a way that’s superabsorbable. [Consumers] go to Instagram for beauty inspiration and to learn how to wear this or do that. They relate in a really visual way, and they are getting a sense of urgency.”

The sea change is creating a new generation of consumers, a swelling group of young women who devour beauty content, determinedly search for details about products they covet, itch to try new brands and crave great scores. Increasingly, brands are responding by unleashing newness at warp speed, solidifying relationships with social media stars, ambushing trends and quickening the pace of their marketing efforts. With social media inflaming desire for products, it’s a kill-or-be-killed environment in the beauty business, and the kills can be immediate and very, very big.

To wit: Kylie Jenner’s Lip Kit, $29, sold out in minutes when it launched online. Becca’s Champagne Pop highlighter, cocreated with YouTube personality Jaclyn Hill, generated an estimated $20 million in sales during the second half of 2015 and was the biggest single-day seller in sephora.com’s history. Tarte’s Amazonian Clay Matte Palette doubled its sales expectations after the brand partnered with 12 influencers during the year, and the Too Faced Stardust palette, designed with Instagram influencer Vegas Nay, propelled the brand into being one of the strongest performers at Ulta.

Mary Beth Laughton, senior vice president of digital at Sephora, says Instagram can stoke unprecedented demand. “There is so much more content available to help clients over that decision-making threshold,” she says. “The rise of visual social media has powered not only the ability for a client to explore more, but also make more informed decisions by seeing more images of product on faces and how to use products.”

Survey results bear out the impact of Instagram on sales. In its 2015 study of the U.S. cosmetics industry, TABS Analytics found Instagram is very important in the purchasing decisions of 31 percent of Millennials who are heavy buyers of cosmetics, an 11 percent increase from 2014. “Instagram is becoming much more important to the women who are the drivers in the category,” says Kurt Jetta, ceo and founder of TABS, noting African-Americans and Hispanics are more than twice as likely to say Instagram is important in their decisions. Heavy buyers are 30 percent of the shoppers in the beauty category, but account for 60 percent of sales.

The power of social media to move the merch has given rise to a new breed of brands that live primarily online, such as ColourPop, Sigma Beauty, Dose of Colors and BH Cosmetics, all of which have greater Instagram followings than established brands including Revlon, Cover Girl and Wet ‘n’ Wild. And it has propelled existing brands who have mastered the medium—such as Anastasia Beverly Hills, Tarte and Too Faced—into exponential sales increases.

Wende Zomnir, founding partner and chief creative officer at Urban Decay, says the new breed of brands are effectively mining a distribution channel their larger rivals haven’t mastered—much as the first wave of Indie brands did during the Nineties when Sephora opened in the U.S. “It reminds me of when we started, and [bigger brands] would not go into Sephora. So, Sephora was our venue, and it created a new way of doing business,” she says. “I love watching all of these brands on Instagram. We can completely learn from them. Looking back at department store brands that eventually went to Sephora, you would be mistaken not to.”

Thus far, social media’s impact has been seen primarily with makeup, but as marketers look to apply their insights to other categories, the lessons about what works—and what doesn’t—are being applied across the board. Thus far, the mix includes initiating affiliate programs, linking with social media influencers on limited-edition products (palettes anyone?), peddling vibrant and inexpensive hero items, and celebrating user-generated content.

Visually, Instagram has evolved relatively rapidly. Photo albums rather than billboards garner the highest engagement. A case study by Curalate shows that the brand Sigma Beauty posts four to five user images per day on Instagram to push 24,000 clicks per month to its online product pages. Leveraging a Curalate service titled Fanreel, those pages contain user images pulled from Instagram exhibiting looks fashioned with the brand’s products. Consumers who check out those images spend 12 minutes and 25 seconds on Sigma Beauty’s site, compared to three minutes and 12 seconds when they don’t.

“Consumer behavior is driven by showing the product as it is being used in real life, not necessarily on a white background,” says Matthew Langie, chief marketing officer of Curalate.

Ricky’s NYC president Richard Parrott believes professional hair care will be the next category to take off on Instagram. “That’s a huge opportunity,” he says. “They have the content, but they are not using it so much on social media. They are using it in the professional world.”

On the skin-care front, Haus says, “[Instagram] has lent itself to products that are sexier and, obviously, color is sexy, sexy, sexy, but as people are getting more into skin care, even Millennials, a little bit of the sexy is being put into skin care.”

Masks, which can be displayed in a highly visual manner, are a case in point, with links to how-tos on the immediate horizon as well. Estée Lauder has high hopes for its metallic Advanced Night Repair PowerFoil Mask on social. “It is great to experiment on Instagram with a really visual skin-care product to gauge engagement versus [engagement from] an image of a serum or a cream,” says Geri Schachner, senior vice president of global communications at Estée Lauder.

For its part, later this year, Juice Beauty will launch a mask with a colored formula that contrasts with skin tones to make a skin-care statement on Instagram. To circumvent the issues skin-care posits, brands have honed in on featuring packaging—ingredients such as apples or roses, or symbols marketing like beakers or egg timers.

Because newness is a key driver on Instagram, companies are evolving their launch strategies accordingly. Some brands like Winky Lux introduce new products every three weeks to a month; others, like Urban Decay, introduce iterations of existing bestsellers, such as its Naked Smoky Palette. Taking a cue from Beyoncé’s surprise album, brands are also launching products on unexpected dates like Winky Lux’s product timed with the first snowfall in New York or ColourPop’s to celebrate a collaborator’s birthday.

New trends don’t occur as often as new products, but, when they do, they spur crazes on social media that savvy brands are cashing in on. “The brands that are going to win can capitalize quickly on a certain trend, whether it is through optimized content, a quick-thinking influencer mailing or repurposing products in their line to fit that trend,” says Julia Sloan, vice president of global communications and fashion relations at Nars.

Tarte, for example, jumped on the baking trend with its existing Smooth Operator Clay Finishing Powder and Maracuja Creaseless Concealer, which resulted in a 48 percent bump in concealer sales. When Benefit’s marketing department saw strobing emerge, they packaged together four legacy products in Strobe Your Ego kits and sent them to influencers. The brand’s Watt’s Up Cream-to-Powder Highlighter, included in the package, sold out on sephora.com. “To have a product that’s been around for four years sell out was massive,” says Claudia Allwood, U.S. digital marketing director for Benefit. “That was a lesson. We have to have our finger on the pulse of what’s coming next.”

Both retailers and brands are working harder to get the earliest possible reads on trends. At a gathering of YouTubers, three attendees had colored eyebrows. A month later, Winky Lux released Rainbow Brow Palette, a consistent bestseller that allows users to colorfully brighten their brows.

Ulta scours influencer content daily to detect looks or products that are being repeated and generating their own vocabulary. “Once people attach a name and a how-to to it, that’s when it starts being a trend. We know there’s a groundswell when there is user-generated content around it,” says Haus. Ulta is also working with manufacturers to shorten the nine to 12 months it takes to go from product idea to execution. “We are continually thinking about how Instagram and other social channels have created an immediacy and how do we keep up with that,” says Haus.

Social media is like bam, bam, bam,” says DeGroot. “If you’re not doing it tomorrow, you’re late.”

As user-generated content explodes, brands are ceding control of the flow of information. For the launch of its spring collection, Tarte opted for social media influencers to unveil the products before doing so itself. That strategy netted 20 million Instagram impressions prior to the collection being available for sale, leading to a growth rate of 80 percent for Tarte on Instagram and a 38 percent boost in engagement on the brand’s Instagram account.

Marketers are also improving on identifying the right influencers rather than the most prominent ones. “A brand might have a location in Boston they really want to pay attention to, and they find an influencer who has an audience there,” says Daniel Saynt, founder and ceo of influencer casting and creative agency Socialyte. “They are looking for a demo and audience to hit.”

Long-term deals with DeGroot and other influencers—six-month to two-year contracts—are escalating and the compensation can be eye-popping. Fashion blogger Kristina Bazan, who has 2.2 million Instagram followers, set a new bar by nabbing a reported seven-figure contract with L’Oréal in October. “For the proven influencers, brands are going to try to create long-term relationships,” says Kenn Henman, ceo and founder of uFluencer Group. “Instead of a one-off palette they will create a collection around an influencer. For the smaller influencers, they are going to still be one-offs.”

Going forward, brands hope Instagram and other social media platforms will make images shoppable. Instagram inched toward commerciality last year with the launch of new ad formats but advancements haven’t yet made social media a formidable vehicle for direct sales. During the most recent holiday season, the analytics firm Custora found that social media channels were responsible for a mere 1.8 percent of online sales. “Social media works more [to push] in-store purchasing because it is almost entirely the people who are really into the category that are on social in high numbers,” says Jetta of TABS.

The other challenge is staying ahead of the game. Much as Instagram exploded over the last 24 months, other platforms are gaining speed exponentially, particularly Snapchat and Periscope. Bullish on Periscope, Tarte chief marketing officer Candace Craig Bulishak says it’s ideal for education and live product demonstrations like painting swatches on skin. “People aren’t looking for that highly edited content any more,” she says. “They want to see relatable, raw content. It’s a departure from the highly edited videos and polished photographs we created in the past. Because of this idea of conversational marketing, it makes sense that the future of social is all about live-streaming and connecting with consumers in real time.”

Snapchat captures spontaneity, says Allwood, underscoring Instagram content is becoming curated and intentional. “Snapchat is for those silly moment-to-moment experiences that are fun to share, but aren’t worth crafting a clever caption, filter and requiring an elevated creative effort,” she says, noting unboxing has moved to Snapchat.

DeGroot, who had 1.3 million followers on Instagram as of press time, is spending more and more time on Snapchat. “It’s basically like texting your viewers,” she says. “I’ll ask them about products and what kind of video they’d like to see next. It makes it a lot easier to connect with them. People see who you really are on Snapchat because it’s so unedited.”

Why Some of Vines’s Biggest Stars are Fleeing

Andrew Bachelor is the single most popular human on Vine, the Twitter-owned, short-form video network that was once described as the future of popular culture. Under the handle @KingBach, Bachelor has developed his own genre of slapstick, seconds-long sketch comedy and amassed a following of 16 million.

When Bachelor finished his last video clip, though, he did not post it to the app that made him a star. Instead, he put “Pervert Life” on his popular, verified Facebook page; it landed on Vine a full two days later.

Three-and-a-half years after Vine launched, and three years after Vine launched him, Bachelor has become one of a growing number of former Vine stars who no longer sees the platform as crucial.

      “Vine never really was dependable,” said John Shahidi, chief executive of San Francisco-based Shots Studios, which has helped Bachelor and a number of other top Vine creators diversify their output to other platforms. “I wouldn’t put our brain energy or focus into making anything exclusively for Vine anymore.”

      These are dark days for Vine, previously one of Twitter’s more successful experiments. Launched as a community for users to share short, six-second lifecasts, Vine quickly found a different purpose: an incubator of Internet meme-makers and comedians. Vine brought you “on fleek,” Damn Daniel, “what are thoooooose?!” and “why the f— you lyin.” It amassed millions of zeitgeisty, younger-than-34 fans: At one point, 1 in 4 American teenagers said they had the app. 

      But a recent report by Markerly, a firm that tracks online influencers, found that 5,000 of Vine’s top 9,725 accounts — including media outlets, professional athletes, brands and celebrities — have stopped posting to the platform. Those who do, like Bachelor and his Shots colleagues Rudy Mancuso and Lele Pons — who have 36 million followers, between the three of them — frequently post their material first to Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram. New user growth is stagnant, search interest is way down, and almost all of Vine’s product and business executives have fled in the past four months. 

      “The allure of it has dropped off completely,” said Daniel Saynt, co-founder of the casting agency Socialyte, which tracks and manages social media stars on behalf of major brands. “Once Instagram introduced video, it was over for Vine.”

      Vine’s problem, as Saynt sees it, isn’t so much with Vine itself — it’s that, in the two years since the app’s heyday, other platforms have copied and improved on its concept. Instagram introduced 15-second videos in June 2013, more than doubling the video length and adding editing tools not available through Vine. When Snapchat rolled out Stories four months later, they came complete with stickers, text overlays and illustrations, plus the experimental, disappearing format that had earned private snaps so much hype.

      Meanwhile, YouTube began courting top creators with promises of special perks, such as continuing education and professional studio space. Facebook invited social stars to use Mentions, its specialized app for public figures, and provided tools to help them reach more people and moderate the resulting communities. For creators such as Brittany Furlan — Vine’s fifth most-followed star, with almost 10 million subscribers — that safer and more controlled environment seemed far more conducive to their work long-term.

      “A lot of people chose to leave Vine, including myself, because for me personally, it just turned into a very negative space,” Furlan said by email. “When I first started most of the comments were supportive, then as I gained followers things just got uglier and uglier and it didn’t seem like Vine was interested in doing anything about it. I was getting told to ‘kill myself’ on pretty much a daily basis, and already being someone who struggles with anxiety/depression, it just wasn’t a healthy environment for me anymore. … For some reason, the comments on Instagram and Facebook seem to be more positive.”

      More recently, Facebook has begun offering social stars lucrative contracts to produce live videos. Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Bachelor, Logan Paul (No. 8 on Vine), Brent Rivera (No. 12) and Jon Paul Piques (No. 42) were among the first batch to ink $119,000 to $213,000 contracts with Facebook. Paul’s Facebook profile is particularly striking, given that the 21-year-old started out filming subway splits and banana peel falls for Vine. Now each of his videos, some with 4 million or 5 million Facebook views, are captioned with an entreaty to like his page and check out his Instagram profile. 

      Desertions like that have further damaged Vine’s cultural cachet, already a fragile and fleeting thing among the Internet set. These days, when brands such as Audi and Moet come to Saynt looking for buzz, they’re only looking at Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and Facebook — in that order, he said. And when Shahidi coaches his stable of Vine stars on their next moves, the strategy typically straddles YouTube and Instagram.

      In a written statement, Twitter voiced optimism for the future of Vine, even calling creators one of the company’s five current “product priorities.” In June, the app debuted 140-second videos, which exceeds the length limit on Instagram. They’ve also begun hyping “monetization opportunities for creators” — which sites like YouTube and Facebook already have.

      “Vine is an important part of our strategy, particularly given its vibrant community of creators,” a Twitter spokesman said, “and we’re excited about what the future holds with new leadership.”

      The real question is whether, by the time that future comes, any Viners will be around to see it.

      Market Changes: Goodbye Mega-influencers, Welcome Micro-influencers

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      Today it’s commonplace for top influencers to earn $5,000 per Instagram post, get free trips around the world and even be gifted new luxury bags every week, but the market is changing, and industry insiders think a lot of this easy money will be gone in 2017.

      Today, having millions of followers is no longer that unique, but the number of companies who can afford to offer long-term collaborations with these influencers are decreasing. What happens when companies can’t afford these collaborations anymore? What happens when the influencer outgrows the brand they used to support? Today I am diving into this topic with the superstar former influencer Elma Beganovich, founder of the first influencer marketing and social media oriented social media agency – Amra and Elma

      Elma and I both agree: companies are becoming more savvy when working with influencers, and it’s probably because in the early days they saw that campaigns weren’t terribly effective. Influencers deleted posts by the end of the day, or they posted about another brand the very next day, diluting the effectiveness of previous campaigns, or the engagement was terrible. If someone has 5 million followers and only gets 5,000 likes on a picture, that’s not a very compelling result, and brands won’t really see it as a success.

      If reach is a brand’s main goal in working with an influencer it’s not enough if they have millions of followers. We all see influencers coming out of nowhere and gaining a massive following, but as a brand, my only question would be if I organized an event with this person, how many of these “followers” would show up? Compare this to a smaller, but more actively engaged account. For example, in Hungary my main Facebook page and Instagram account have around 200,000 followers. Whenever I organized an event in any part of the country, at least 300 people would attend. Would some of these “mega-influencers” be able to attract a similarly sized in-person crowd? I’m honestly not sure, because most of them just build their brand by posting about what they have and how great their life is, instead of focusing on having meaningful conversations with their followers.

      And aside from the quality of interaction these influencers have with their fans, sometimes even the largest accounts are all a house of cards, as Daniel Saynt, CEO of Socialyte, told me recently. Anyone can gain a massive following by posting pictures of luxury bags next to their morning coffee, when in reality the the bag might be fake, and they can barely pay their rent.

      Elma Beganovich got her career start as one of the early superstar influencers, working with her sister on the blog Club Fashionista. “Only a handful of influencers know how to grow social media organically, without paying ad campaigns, and we are one of those few,” she told me during our interview. The difference between the brand they built and the inauthentic accounts I mentioned is that the Beganovich sisters were always very open about what they were going through, and they were building a community they really cared about. It wasn’t just about sharing, it was about caring about their community: liking other people’s posts, really paying attention to those fans who had been around forever and were their biggest supporters.

      The idea for Amra and Elma came out of necessity. Elma told me, “We outgrew a lot of brands we worked with. Brands are getting savvy in terms of how they are spending their budget. They are more budget conscious, and micro-influencers make sense for them. Our clients understand that we know the industry, we have that network, we are well connected within the influencer community. The value we bring is that we understand the other side.”

      Here we are again: influencers, and how the landscape is changing. Superstar influencers are getting so out of touch with their crazy lifestyles that people just aren’t truly engaged with them anymore. The truth is, if there isn’t an honest and loveable personal brand behind their feed, it simply isn’t sustainable. If it’s always about me, me, me, people will unfollow.

      You can easily see the power of Elma and her sister’s accounts, accounts that they built up themselves with care, love, and hard work. They took the time to analyze their followers and they did the work. That’s why they’re still growing, even if their focus is now primarily on building their agency. When I ask Elma about her current focus, she says, “What makes me excited is this change in the conversation that brands are able to have with consumers. They are able to get feedback from so many different venues, while years ago it was really closed-off. Now you can go on Amazon and read these reviews, or Instagram. Basically all barriers are knocked down.”

      Inside The Independents' Digital Strategies

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      Following the recent SIHH event and in the lead-up to the colossal Baselworld 2016 next month, Luxury Society spoke to independent watchmakers about the trials and challenges of their digital evolution.

      Late last year, Luxury Society published a piece panning 2016 luxury predictions from experts, to gain insight into the future for different facets of the luxury sector.

      Yet, amongst the various generational, behavioural and market forces that were highlighted as trends to watch, the consensus was unanimous that it is digital which will be at the heart of the luxury decision making process for brands in 2016.

       

      “ It’s estimated that 75% of luxury purchases are influenced by at least one digital touchpoint ”

       

      As Neil Cunningham, Managing Director of boutique media agency Cream UK explained: “Luxury businesses need to fully embrace digital because their consumers already have. Globally, 95% of luxury buyers are digitally connected and it’s estimated that 75% of luxury purchases are influenced by at least one digital touchpoint.”

      However, examining more closely how the different sectors of luxury have each adjusted to the digital revolution, it’s clear that luxury fashion, beauty and jewellery brands have, for the most part, been the ‘early adopters’ of digital, with the watchmaking industry one of the slowest to embrace the new era and all that comes with it.

      Daniel Saynt, CEO & Chief Creative Officer at Socialyte – The Influencer Casting Agency, says this is something he can attest to.

       

      “ Much of the industry is set in their way as to how to approach watch marketing ”

       

      As head of the world’s largest influencer casting agency providing curated talents and qualified stats for over 10,000 creators, his firm works with media partners such as Vogue, Vanity Fair, Nylon, Glamour, Allure, and Refinery29, amongst others, to cast and create influencer campaigns for various luxury brands across the globe.

      Yet, he admits he has noted the cautious attitude of watch brands towards digital channels and, particularly, incorporating influencers into their marketing.

      “Much of the industry is set in their way as to how to approach watch marketing focusing on celebrity endorsements, events and print. With that mentality comes a bit of fear when it comes to working with influencers, as well as a lack of innovation when it comes to social campaigns. The audience luxury watch brands are trying to reach is relatively small and in speaking with decision makers many feel that digital stars aren’t reaching the customers they want to reach,” he says.

      However, the market is changing and demand is evident for watch brands to be digitally adept – so, as Luxury Society discovered at SIHH this year – the watchmaking industry is at a tipping point, and poised to actively make its mark on digital in 2016.

      It is against this backdrop, and in the lead-up to the colossal Baselworld event for the watchmaking and jewellery industry next month, that Luxury Society investigated the digital aspirations of independent watchmakers in particular, who attended the SIHH event in 2016 for the first time as part of a new section, dubbed ‘Carre des Horlogeres’.

      In the midst of SIHH, which had traditionally been dominated by subsidiaries of the luxury conglomerate Richemont, this year marked a change in the air when, for its 26th edition, the event inaugural welcomed nine independent watchmaking firms into the fold.

       

      “ There is a growing difference between what people call the luxury megabrands, and smaller players ”

       

      However, as the proverbial Davids in a sea of Goliaths – not only at SIHH – but also in the vast digital landscape, independent watchmakers are – once again faced with the age-old challenge of how to stand out and do things differently – as they always have.

      For their part, MB&F – the legendary rebels who draw their strength from off-beat creations and collaborations orchestrated by founder Max Busser – don’t seem concerned about carving their niche – on the contrary, the brand’s Head of Communication Charris Yadigaroglou says the changing definition of luxury on its own is organically providing independents like his brand, with a unique digital voice which rings out above the rest.

      “To set the scene, my little theory is that the definition of luxury is changing in a sense. I feel there is a growing difference between what people call the luxury megabrands, which are certainly a form of luxury, and smaller players.

      “On one hand, those megabrands will be even more and more powerful, and because they’re marketing with more and more sophisticated and powerful machines, I think there will definitely be a need, with at least certain types of customers, for those crazy alternative, off-beat brands – because they’ll want a break from that sort of standard megabrand thing every so often.

      “So as an independent brand, you’ve got to go all the way now, because you have to be super authentic, and exclusive, but you also have to provide access. To strike this balance – we do all of our social media ourselves, in-house.”

      Explaining why their digital initiatives are managed internally as opposed to handing it all over to an agency, Yadigaroglou adds that because MB&F is an independent house, their target markets are niche and, increasingly, more specific than bigger brands – so a mass-market approach, on any level, is something they tend steer away from.

      “We know with the customers who come to us, that MB&F is exactly what they’re looking for. So, if we were to serve them the same megabrand treatment, they’re not getting that alternative vibe.

      Digital is just an addition to the mix though, and although it’s prevalence is increasing, Yadigaroglou says it’s not the ‘be all and end all’ for MB&F.

      “In addition to digital, we are also out there and on the road, meeting people – because we want to maintain that hands-on, personalised contact with our consumers.“If we don’t spend time on the road, and Max (Busser) himself doesn’t spend time on the road to meet people, and they just get to meet the same old brand reps they’ll get from the megabrand, and that means we are not doing our job well.”

      By comparison, URWERK – the award-winning watch brand based in Geneva, Switzerland, known for its avant-garde designs and helmed by Felix Baumgartner and Martin Frei – has taken a different approach to date, mainly relying on its trusted retailers across its key markets to spread the word via digital channels.

      “They know more about their individual markets and they can offer a local approach, and we have great relationships with them, they know our product – so we trust them to do that [digital],” he says.

      Yet, Frei attests to the fact that digital is becoming an ever-increasing consideration for the brand – particularly in markets such as China, where social media platforms are poles apart from Western mediums, and often, a maze in themselves.

      “Of course, social media channels particularly and digital is extremely important to us. I don’t think that we would exist with our approach, without the internet, but it also has negative effects next to the positive effects,” he says.

      “China, for example – they have different tools there, and we don’t use them, so it’s something we have to look at going forward and invest in more.”

      Crossing over to De Bethune – a brand renowned for its creativity and boldness in locating and utilising the rarest materials to push the limits and its limited production – one can clearly see the brand’s ethos proudly displayed on its official Instagram page which states that it’s about: “Not doing more, but instead,doing better”.

      Yet, De Bethune Executive Director Estelle Tonelli, for her part, agrees with Frei that more can be done on the digital side of its business, they can “do better”. In short, she is refreshingly transparent as she admits that to date, De Bethune hasn’t been as active in its digital push as is required to best connect with new markets and attract attention from the ‘next generation’ of luxury consumers.

      “As far as digital is concerned, we are slow adopters. So, unfortunately, we are indeed an example of the slow adoption of watch brands towards digital. Our website is not even responsive designed – and it’s a shame – although work is in progress for a new one with improved design and content. For the time being, our digital strategy for social networks [FB, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram] is also managed in-house,” she reveals.
       
      “I personally think that watchmaking industry is a slow adopter of digital and social media because of the nature of its products. We are always concerned by the content of our messages and want to secure a deep understanding of our ‘know-how’. Also, communication is like distribution: very traditional and conservative. And many people still, wrongly, think that digital is not adapted for luxury products.”

      In summation, she adds candidly, De Bethune has “not invested much in communication”, due to a limited budget – which was traditionally spent primarily on print media and events – but this is something that she is looking to tackle head-on in the year ahead.

      “One has to live in this world and, therefore, consider customers’ changing habits and the daily adoption of digital networks and platforms, particularly taking into account the younger generations.

      “So, we are considering more effectively developing our presence and actions on the digital scene. I would even say that this will be a key priority in 2016,” she says.

      For Finnish watchmaker Kari Voutilainen, changes in terms of his disposition to digital are also on the horizon.

      “I don’t do any market research on this, per se, but I have noticed, of course, that after an event when people come and take pictures and post – interest in the product grows, so I am being pro-active with that and it is a consideration in my business plan, more than before.”

      But he adds that as an independent – and a watchmaker first and foremost – his focus will always remain on the intricate creation of the product, rather than the promotion and marketing of it – and that’s what he says is his strength, and that of the other independents in his league.

      “It’s a very niche market and very specific. So, for me, customers are family. We talk to each other. They might purchase the watch, and then the next year, they come back, then again the year after, so I start to really get to know them,” he recalls.

      “In the end, for me, it is obviously a case of two very different strategies. You have the independents who are more about authenticity, they are more authentic. We really take care of the craft and the art in making a watch, and we’re also very focused on a very niche customer base. Whereas, obviously, with the bigger brands, it’s broader. It’s much, much broader.

      “They have a bigger production volume, so they do big advertising, spend big on marketing … Everything is big. But for us, everything is smaller, but more detailed. I feel like that to me is the difference between us, in almost every aspect.”

      Confessions of an Instagram Influencer

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      I’ve always been well-liked. At least, I think that’s the case. I have friends, a spouse, a job, a college degree. I exercise. I get haircuts regularly.

      And yet lately I’ve felt unrealized—incomplete, almost. Everywhere I look on social media, I’m surrounded by extremely attractive, superbly groomed men and women who eat meals that are not only healthy but impeccably plated. My clothes seem tired, wrinkled, bereft of accessories. And my vacation photos—Christ, my vacation photos.

      I should mention I’ve been spending a lot of time on Instagram, the app for sharing photos that is also, according to sociologists and my own experience, a perfectly designed self-esteem subversion service. Whereas Snapchat encourages users to create rainbow-vomit selfies that disappear after 24 hours, Instagram’s sleek design and flattering filters encourage its more than 500 million users to sexify their landscapes and soften their harshest features. It helps them turn snapshots into something out of the glossy pages of a lifestyle magazine.

      Because of this—and because advertising budgets will inevitably flow to any medium where large numbers of people are spending large amounts of time—Instagram has attracted a sort of professional class. These “influencers,” as they’re known, are media properties unto themselves, turning good looks and taste into an income stream: Brands pay them to feature their wares. Look a little more closely at your Instagram feed, and you’ll probably notice that attached to the post of the gleaming hotel lobby, the strappy heels, the exquisitely berried breakfast is a sea of hashtags—among them, #ad or #sp, which discreetly disclose that these are in fact sponsored posts.

      There are thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of influencers making a living this way. Some make a lot more than a living. The most successful demand $10,000 and up for a single Instagram shot. Long-term endorsement deals with well-known Instagrammers, such as Kristina Bazan, who signed with L’Oréal last year, can be worth $1 million or more. Big retailers use influencers, as do fashion brands, food and beverage companies, and media conglomerates. Condé Nast, publisher of the New Yorker and Vogue, recently announced that it would ask IBM’s artificial intelligence service, Watson, to take a break from finding cancer treatments to identify potential influencers.

      “Constantly,” Floruss said, when I asked him how often he takes pictures of himself

      Earlier this year, on the marketing website Digiday, an anonymous social media executive ranted that marketers were essentially throwing money away on influencers, whom the ranter characterized as talentless. That made me curious, and I started asking around to understand just how hard this job really is. Some swore the work is difficult. “If it was so easy to be an influencer, then every single person on earth would do it,” said Gary Vaynerchuk, who parlayed a YouTube channel into an ad agency, VaynerMedia, that specializes in social media marketing and now employs about 750 people. But another influencer guru, Daniel Saynt of the agency Socialyte, disputed that. With the right guidance, he said, almost anyone could Instagram professionally. To prove it, he made me an offer: He’d help me become an influencer myself.

      The plan, which I worked out with my editor and a slightly confused Bloomberg Businessweek lawyer, was this: With Saynt’s company advising me, I would go undercover for a month, attempting to turn my profile into that of a full-fledged influencer. I would do everything possible within legal bounds to amass as many followers as I could. My niche would be men’s fashion, a fast-growing category in which I clearly had no experience. The ultimate goal: to persuade someone, somewhere, to pay me cash money for my influence.

      In late September, two weeks before the experiment was slated to begin, I reported to Socialyte’s headquarters in New York’s SoHo neighborhood. The agency manages 100 or so Instagram personalities, taking 30 percent of their bookings in exchange for setting them up with gigs. Many of these clients have millions of followers, and Saynt won’t talk to you unless you have about 100,000, but he agreed to make an exception for me and my 212. Saynt, a big man with a soft voice who wears an expression of perpetual amusement, greeted me with a hug and apologized for being a little lethargic. “I’m on a detox,” he said, adding that the previous week—Fashion Week in New York—he’d been on a seven-drink, pack-a-day bender. He mostly stayed quiet as Beca Alexander, his ex-wife and Socialyte’s president, and Misty Gant, the vice president for talent, peppered me with advice.

      I needed a haircut, for sure, and would have to keep my fingernails clean. Socialyte would suggest a photographer for me to hire, and I was told to bring 20 or so mix-and-match outfits to a shoot, to generate a huge volume of “looks” to post each day.

      “So,” Gant asked me, “what brands do you wear?”

      After an awkward exchange during which I half-muttered the words “J” and “Crew,” it was decided that I couldn’t be trusted to dress myself. Saynt and his team would find brands willing to lend me clothes and would enlist a couple of influencers to help me put ensembles together. I would bring essentially nothing to the table. “You don’t have a cute dog, do you?” Alexander asked.

      A week later, after a haircut the price and duration of which I refuse to share, I met Marcel Floruss and Nathan McCallum, two of Socialyte’s professional clients, at Lord & Taylor to borrow some outfits. The two men are opposites in almost every way. McCallum is compact and favors ripped jeans and piercings, and Floruss is lanky and clean-cut. Both are cartoonishly handsome, and both (I noticed this later when I checked out their Instagram work) have amazing abdominal muscles. “Constantly,” Floruss said, when I asked him how often he takes pictures of himself. “You sell part of your soul. Because no matter what beautiful moment you enjoy in your life, you’re going to want to take a photo and share it. Distinguishing between when is it my life and when am I creating content is a really big burden.”

      I’d assumed two things about the beautiful people of Instagram. First, I figured they used the service the way Instagram suggests—that is, snapping pics and immediately sharing them with friends. Second, I assumed they took the photos themselves. Neither was true, as I learned when, on an unseasonably warm morning in early October, I brought 18 outfits to the Socialyte office. I met James Creel, my photographer for the day, as well as McCallum, who’d agreed to offer me styling tips, and his own regular photographer, Walt Loveridge, who’d joined in case McCallum felt inspired to do some modeling himself. The plan, as we trooped out the door into SoHo, was to shoot all the looks in a single day. “Let’s go find some walls,” Creel said.

      The basic formula for most influencer portraits involves standing in front of a textured backdrop—usually a wall that’s brick or painted in some stylish way—and looking off, unsmiling, into the middle distance. Creel, who works as a personal trainer when he’s not shooting Instagram models, asked me to step out from doorways, so he could capture me paparazzi-style. He constantly asked me to run my fingers through my hair, and I was forced, for several hours I think, to rock onto and off of curbs, as if I were charismatically jaywalking. We ended up needing a second day. At one point during our 12 or so hours together, after I’d successfully walked in between taxis (primo color pop) and pursed my lips, Creel lowered his camera and offered a sincere compliment: “That was a great moment.”

      I posted my first picture around noon on a Sunday morning—a relatively conservative three-quarter-length shot, in which I perform a sultry lean against a chain-link fence in a plaid Perry Ellis bomber jacket. Appearing incongruously atop my previous photos—the utterly ordinary postings of a new dad—it didn’t get a digital “like” for 15 minutes. That pace didn’t bode well. Moderately successful influencers might get 100 likes or more in that period, and as I tried to focus on supervising my year-old daughter’s play date, I was getting worried.

      I probably should have anticipated this. Part of what makes Instagram valuable to advertisers is that there aren’t many shortcuts to accruing an audience. Unlike Twitter, for instance, where a clever quip can be quickly retweeted, bringing a deluge of followers, Instagram is relatively resistant to viral growth. Pretty much the only way you can add to your flock is if someone happens on your profile, likes what he sees, and decides to follow you.

      How do you get people to discover you? Your best hope is to use hashtags—that is, sticking a pound sign in front of a keyword to make it easier for users searching for a specific type of photo to find you. There’s something tacky about using #liveauthentic, which has been deployed more than 14 million times, to get strangers to look at pictures that essentially amount to advertisements, but every influencer I spoke with assured me that hashtags worked, so hashtags it would be. Saynt recommended that I include at least 20 with every post.

      To avoid looking totally desperate, I hid my hashtags below a series of line breaks. To avoid any unnecessary creativity, I used an app, Focalmark, which allowed me to input a couple of variables about each shot—for instance that it was a portrait, containing menswear, in New York City—and would then spit out a list of hashtags. They were so embarrassing that I tried not to read them before sticking them in my Instagram feed. But here are a few that I used regularly: #menwithclass, #mensfashion, #agameofportraits, #hypebeast, #featuredpalette, #makeportraits, #humaneffect, #themanity, and, of course, #liveauthentic.

      By dinnertime, I’d posted a second picture and had acquired a few dozen likes and roughly three followers. That’s actually not bad for somebody with an almost nonexistent presence on Instagram, but it was discouraging to me, because I would need at least 5,000 followers to have any hope of making money. That night, I signed up for a service recommended to me by Socialyte called Instagress. It’s one of several bots that, for a fee, will take the hard work out of attracting followers on Instagram. For $10 every 30 days, Instagress would zip around the service on my behalf, liking and commenting on any post that contained hashtags I specified. (I also provided the bot a list of hashtags to avoid, to minimize the chances I would like pornography or spam.) I also wrote several dozen canned comments—including “Wow!” “Pretty awesome,” “This is everything,” and, naturally, “[Clapping Hands emoji]”—which the bot deployed more or less at random. In a typical day, I (or “I”) would leave 900 likes and 240 comments. By the end of the month, I liked 28,503 posts and commented 7,171 times.

      Most committed influencers, including Socialyte’s clients, use bots in one way or another, but it should be said that this is an ethical gray area. Instagram doesn’t explicitly ban bots, but its terms of service do prohibit sending spam, which, when viewed in a certain light, is exactly what I was doing. On the other hand, except for a single user who somehow had me pegged and accused me of being a bot, nobody with whom I interacted seemed to mind the extra likes or comments. In fact, most of them would respond immediately with comments of their own. “Thanks dude!” they’d say. Or they’d simply give me a “[Praying Hands emoji].” I got hundreds of comments like this.

      By the time I fell asleep that first night, I was getting a steady stream of likes and adding a new follower every couple of hours. By morning my post had more likes than anything I’d ever put on Instagram, including a shot in which I was holding my newborn daughter. In the picture, which my wife snapped from the end of the hospital bed, I’m lying back with my eyes closed, blissed-out and exhausted. It’s the best, most honest picture anyone has ever taken of me, and it has half as many likes as that shot of me in the bomber jacket on the chain-link fence.

      Socialyte had suggested I create three posts a day, which sounds easy since I already had most of the pictures I would need. It was not easy—and I spent much of the next month in a state of constant dread, mostly because I hadn’t told my friends or family members about my Instagram experiment. After my mom gently inquired about, as she put it, “your male modeling career,” and I told her I was working on a story, she let out a sigh. “Oh,” she said. “I was worried there was some massive insecurity going on.” My baffled friends also had questions. “First, you look boss. Congrats,” my friend Dave wrote in a comment. “Second, what is going on?”

      Another difficulty was that I’d been told to post at least one piece of “lifestyle content”—that is, a picture of something other than myself—every day. In general, pictures of people get more likes than anything else, but the idea was to create a sense of variety and to avoid boring my new audience. Alexander suggested sunsets, cityscapes, and food. “You don’t have to eat it,” she offered. “Just make it pretty.”

      I did my best, ordering fancy cocktails I wouldn’t normally drink and trying to eat items, like avocado toast, I’d seen on Instagram. It was not enough. A week into our experiment, Alexander and Saynt informed me, in the gentlest manner possible, that my lifestyle content was terrible.

      The natural solution was professional help. Alexander introduced me to Alisha Siegel, a wedding photographer by trade who also sells stock images to influencers. Siegel could offer me as many perfectly framed lattes, hipster hotel lobbies, and urban sunsets as I wanted. I bought 20 for $400, which brought my total tab for photography services to $2,000. I asked her about credit—should I note in my feed that she was the photographer? Siegel suggested that I might shout her out once or twice, but crediting her would break the illusion. As she pointed out, “You’re the one who is supposed to be experiencing these things.”

      Armed with my lifestyle content, I felt a surge of confidence. I was adding 20 to 30 followers most days, up from 10 a day in the first week. When one of my friends asked me about a breakfast shot—specifically, what the hell was that yellow blob on top of my granola?—I evaded and moved on. (Citrus curd.) It no longer seemed weird that all day and all night my virtual double was doling out likes and saying things like “High five for that!” about pictures I had not seen and would never see.

      By the end of Week Two, I’d reached 600 followers, or a threefold increase. Saynt told me he thought that if I kept it up, I could be at 10,000 by the end of the year, which would be enough to command maybe $100 per sponsored post. That was encouraging. But to keep up the pace, I’d have to spend $2,000 a month on photography services and also find a way to keep a steady stream of new outfits coming. There was no way I would ever break even on this; I clearly didn’t have the talent.

      On the other hand, I was already verging into “micro-influencer” territory, a hot new field within influencer marketing where, rather than hiring one or two big-time influencers, an ad agency will simply give out free merchandise to 50 small-timers. Micro-influencers are “a core piece of our strategy,” according to Dontae Mears, a marketing manager at VaynerMedia. “You find the engagement is stronger. The trust is better. And you don’t necessarily have to pay them.”

      The breakthrough came as my follower count pushed above 800. I got a message from Andrew Hurvitz, a photographer in Los Angeles and the founder of Marco Bedford, a clothing line. “You want to collaborate?” he wrote. I was ecstatic.

      A few days later, one of his T-shirts was sitting in my mailbox. I pleaded with my wife—who had come to despise my transformation—to follow me outside on a Sunday evening with our digital camera. I wore my coolest jacket. I looked, wistfully, to my left. I ran my fingers through my influencer haircut. The picture did pretty well, earning 156 likes and, according to Instagram, reaching 468 people. As an official spokesman for Marco Bedford (#ad #sp #liveauthentic), I feel compelled to say that I stand by my characterization that Hurvitz’s shirt, which retails for $59, is “beautiful.”

      My experiment was winding down, but I’d begun to wonder whether there might be an easier way to do all this. The internet is full of services that purport to deliver followers by the thousands. Buying followers—or buying likes and comments, which are also for sale online—won’t trick sophisticated advertisers, because Instagram reports actual impressions and audience size. But the tactic can help make your profile look a little more impressive. There was a chance that a fake boost could turn into genuine momentum. And so, with a week or so left until my deadline, I logged on to a site called Social Media Combo, which promises “high quality followers.” Packages range from $15 for 500 to $160 for 5,000. Not wanting to gild the lily—and slightly concerned about corporate AmEx card ramifications—I went for the base package.

      For two days, nothing happened. Then, without warning, I jumped from 885 followers to about 1,400 in a matter of hours. By the time I posted my final influencer photo—a lifestyle shot of a flower shop that Siegel had sold me—on Nov. 11, Instagram had removed a bunch of my new fake admirers, but I was adding enough followers to mostly offset the drop-off. As I write this, I’m back up to almost 1,400. According to FollowerCheck, an app that purports to analyze an Instagram account for authentic engagement, 1,168 of my followers are real. I’m afraid to look to see how many of my actual friends have unfollowed me.

      I quit posting the following day, a Saturday, and didn’t put anything on Instagram for a full week. There were moments when that made me anxious—I still have a killer shot of myself in a camel-hair coat that’s perfect for #autumn—and I started asking my fellow influencers what they thought I should do with my newfound fame. “I wouldn’t throw it away,” offered Yena Kim, the creator of the Instagram account Menswear Dog, which has 288,000 followers. “You should turn it into this dapper writer guy.”

      Kim, a former designer for Ralph Lauren, told me she started her account as a sort of joke, too, posting photos of her shiba inu in men’s sweaters and sport coats in the style of other popular fashion influencers. Now her dog, Bodhi, is a business and is represented by a special influencer pet agency, Wag Society. (The company is owned, improbably, by the New York Times Co. and boasts 150 clients, including hedgehogs, cats, and a potbellied pig named Esther.) “Whatever you do in life, it helps to have a following,” Kim said. “It’s going to help you professionally.”

      I am not and never will be Dapper Writer Guy. But I think she’s probably right. I should keep going. As I wrote that last paragraph and prepared to mail Hurvitz his shirt back, I took another picture, an authentic one. It showed a desk—a horrible, embarrassing mess of a desk, with a paper plate and empty disposable cups and stacks of old magazines.

      But as I went to post it, I hesitated, and had a thought: Wouldn’t this look a little better with a filter?

      A Day in the Life of the World’s Preeminent Toddler Style Blogger

      That's where Socialyte, a talent management group for bloggers that creative director Daniel Saynt calls "an influencer casting agency," comes in. The group—now under the same umbrella as Nylon—connects rising bloggers with brands and advises said influencers on their own brand-building.

      While elite children’s agency Generation Model Management represents London’s print, runway, and commercial work, Socialyte handles her social media presence. Saynt says his team—who "literally just scan Instagram all day to try and identify fresh and new talent"—courted London hard: "We have a lot of influencers who have kids, and we end up doing campaigns where it’s the influencers and their kids, but we've never had someone who’s a cute Instagram kid star. We saw her, and we were just like, ‘This girl is amazing. We have to do something with her.’"

      Chief among the services Socialyte provides London are fielding, negotiating, and pursuing deals with brands and designers, including "working with a kids' toy line that’s with Mattel that’s a very known toy, a world-famous toy, to launch a new series of toys." (Try to crack that probably hot pink, plastic nut.)

      Meet YesJulz, Snapchat Royalty

      It was just after 2 a.m. when Julieanna Goddard, 26, went crowd-surfing at Kinfolk 94, a nightclub in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

      The room was thick with marijuana smoke, and the 20-something crowd, clad in Supreme, Nike and Yeezy Boosts, went wild as Ms. Goddard floated overhead, like a rubber duck bobbing in a bathtub.

      “This is for all my ladies who care about checks, not texts,” said Ms. Goddard, who giggled self-consciously at her ad-libbed catchphrase. She wore a black-and-white knit bodysuit, her bleached hair in braided pigtails. “Yeah, I’m corny,” she said. “So what?”

      As the crowd cheered, Ms. Goddard raised her iPhone and filmed them, her hand making wobbly figure-8s over their heads, before she turned the lens onto herself, twisting her face into a silly grimace. Before the moment passed, she posted the video to Snapchat. Revelers in the crowd, in turn, filmed her filming them, and posted their videos to Snapchat, too.

      For Ms. Goddard, known to her social media followers as YesJulz, it was just another day at the office.

      While few in their 30s and older may know of Ms. Goddard, her digital-native followers are enthralled by her jet-setting party lifestyle, which often places her alongside celebrities at events like the N.B.A. All-Star Game and the Grammys.

      In doing so, she has accrued a social media fan base including more than 365,000 followers on Instagram, 111,000 on Twitter and 8,800 on Facebook. But it is her Snapchat figure that has set her apart as the latest iteration of the social media star. Unlike the other three platforms, Snapchat does not post the number of followers on a user’s page. According to her publicist, she has 300,000 viewers (a figure that Snapchat would neither confirm nor deny).

      The Huffington Post has called her “the Queen of Snapchat,” while the online lifestyle magazine Highsnobiety credits her with “changing the way brands use Snapchat.” Elite Daily, which bills itself as the voice of Generation Y, calls her a “Snapchat ‘It’ girl” who is “living the Millennial dream.”

      She even gets name-checked in rap songs, including Lil Uzi Vert’s 2015 song “Wit My Crew x 1987” (“Thick white girl right on my side, she kinda look like, um, YesJulz”).

      Which is fine, but what, exactly, does she do?

      This is what you see if you follow YesJulz on Snapchat: Ms. Goddard in Paris in June, celebrating the 34th birthday of her friend Ronnie Fieg, the sneaker impresario, who was starting a collaboration between his brand, Kith, and Colette. After checking in to a luxe hotel (“Keeping it swaggy,” she wrote) and attending a moodily lit dinner with Chris Stamp, of the streetwear label Stampd, and Joe La Puma, of Complex, she hosted a party at the nightclub Le Baron. “Wow look at this,” read a caption, posted over a shaky shot of a gyrating crowd bathed in purple light.

      The next morning, Ms. Goddard addressed the camera directly from her hotel bed, bleary-eyed and wearing a sleeping mask on her forehead. “I’m on a journey of self-awareness,” she said, while receiving a chakra cleansing of crystal therapy. “If I want to win more, I have to take care of myself.”

      There are lots of shots from inside airplanes and Uber taxis. This is where she tends to talk directly to the camera (“This has been one of the best days ever”) in a husky tone and with her makeup smudged.

      If Instagram popularized the static selfie, Ms. Goddard uses Snapchat to bring it to life, giving us a snippet-by-snippet account of the daily chaos that surrounds her. If her life looks like a never-ending party, it’s difficult to tell if Ms. Goddard follows the party or if the party follows her.

      In person, Ms. Goddard is pretty and warm, a street-slang-slinging chatterbox with Disney princess eyes. There’s something cartoonish about her energy that’s sensual and comical in equal parts, like an entrepreneurial Jessica Rabbit.

      “What am I?” Ms. Goddard said over coffee at La Colombe in TriBeCa on a cold Tuesday earlier this year, clad in a gray mock turtleneck sweater, hip-hugging black pants and a downy fur coat. “Well, I’m an influencer for brands. I’m an events producer. I’m an A&R. I’m a publicist. I’m a billion things in one. I’m a host. I’m talent myself.”

      “We are literally living in a time when you can say you’re something on the Internet and become that thing,” she said.

      That “thing,” it turns out, is a user of Snapchat to promote herself and her clientele, which currently includes the rapper 070 Shake, Muzik headphones and the instant-messaging app Viber. “What I’m really good at,” she said, “is, if you have a TV show or movie or song or anything you’re trying to promote, I have a great way of making a couple hundred thousand people want to know about it.”

      Talent agencies have taken notice. Daniel Saynt, a founder of Socialyte, an agency that specializes in influencer casting, said, “I’d be surprised if she isn’t already talking to people about a reality show because of how well her content would fit with MTV or E! Entertainment.”

      But she already is the star of her own reality show, one that she extemporaneously films, directs and produces. And her teenage and 20-something fans are of a generation that prefers social media celebrities over traditional ones.

      “Reality TV became so fake that people wanted real reality,” Ms. Goddard said, trying to explain her appeal. “Not from someone who’s a multimillionaire, from somebody they feel they can almost touch.”

      Snapchat’s raw, charmingly lo-fi style means that it still seems undiscovered by prying grown-ups, despite its raising $1.8 billion recently and surpassing Twitter in the number of active users. And while global brands have already colonized Facebook and Instagram, Snapchat still seems on the fringe.

      “On Instagram, you can be fake,” Ms. Goddard said. “You take a picture, filter it, Photoshop it, put it up and let people think that’s your life. Snapchat is the complete opposite.”

      Raised in Tampa, Fla., Ms. Goddard made her mark in Miami by promoting parties at the South Beach clubs Liv and Story, where she would chaperone celebrities like Dwyane Wade and David Beckham.

      Her energetic personality often made her the life of the party, so she started the YesJulz Agency in 2014 to capitalize on the nebulous intersection of night life, social media and marketing.

      Though she was active on Instagram and Twitter, her game-changing moment came when Snapchat introduced the story feature in 2013, allowing users to string together short video clips to create a narrative. It seemed tailor-made for her staccato, celebrity-filled life.

      She trained the camera on herself and tapped “record.” An early boost came when Ryan Seacrest named her one of the best Snapchat users to follow in 2014. Brands started calling.

      “Working with someone like Julz, it gives us insight into how to stay relevant,” said Adam Petrick, the global director of marketing at Puma, which hired Ms. Goddard this year as its brand ambassador. “She’s very multifaceted and outgoing in her interests. She perfectly represents our consumer.”

      In addition to wearing Puma products on Snapchat, Ms. Goddard recently shared a 40 percent discount code with her followers, and often tags posts of herself in athleisure outfits with the hashtag #PumaGal.

      While Mr. Petrick declined to get into specifics of the deal, industry insiders like Mr. Saynt from Socialyte estimate that Ms. Goddard can earn anywhere from $25,000 to $1 million for a campaign. He said that his company recently booked two influencer campaigns for $200,000 each.

      If the party never ends, neither does the work. Rather than complain, Ms Goddard has turned the always-on mentality into a brand-able moment, with the hashtag #NeverNotWorking.

      Her work ethos was on display during New York Fashion Week in February, when she was in the city to introduce her client, 070 Shake, to record-label executives at RCA and to fellow hip-hop artists.

      Ms. Goddard slid into a booth at the Midtown Italian restaurant Serafina on a cold Wednesday. She ordered a salad and tempted fate by pairing it with a glass of red wine, despite wearing a white Stella McCartney blazer. While talking, she was lit from below as she toggled between her two phones, both of which were constantly lighting up with Snapchat alerts, and one of which was getting juice from an external battery pack.

      Dinner, like everything else in Ms. Goddard’s life, was quick. She had another dinner scheduled that night, along with a concert at Webster Hall, and a party after that. After settling the tab, she scrolled through her phones, scanning for anything important. Then she put it away and sighed. She had places to be.

      “Things are moving so fast,” she said. “It’s hard for people not of this world to keep up. The people in the industry who were here before us didn’t grow up with a phone in their hands. They didn’t even grow up in the MySpace era. They were already famous.”

      Vine’s Top Stars are Fleeing, Despite the App’s Best Attempts to Keep Them

      Andrew Bachelor is the single most popular human on Vine, the Twitter-owned, short-form video network that was once described as the future of popular culture. Under the handle @KingBach, Bachelor has developed his own genre of slapstick, seconds-long sketch comedy and amassed a following of 16 million.

      When Bachelor finished his last video clip, though, he did not post it to the app that made him a star. Instead, he put “Pervert Life” on his popular, verified Facebook page; it landed on Vine a full two days later.

      Three-and-a-half years after Vine launched, and three years after Vine launched him, Bachelor has become one of a growing number of former Vine stars who no longer sees the platform as crucial.

      “Vine never really was dependable,” said John Shahidi, chief executive of San Francisco-based Shots Studios, which has helped Bachelor and a number of other top Vine creators diversify their output to other platforms. “I wouldn’t put our brain energy or focus into making anything exclusively for Vine anymore.”

      These are dark days for Vine, previously one of Twitter’s more successful experiments. Launched as a community for users to share short, six-second lifecasts, Vine quickly found a different purpose: an incubator of Internet meme-makers and comedians. Vine brought you “on fleek,”Damn Daniel“what are thoooooose?!” and “why the f— you lyin.” It amassed millions of zeitgeisty, younger-than-34 fans: At one point, 1 in 4 American teenagers said they had the app.

      But a recent report by Markerly, a firm that tracks online influencers, found that 5,000 of Vine’s top 9,725 accounts — including media outlets, professional athletes, brands and celebrities — have stopped posting to the platform. Those who do, like Bachelor and his Shots colleagues Rudy Mancuso and Lele Pons — who have 36 million followers, between the three of them — frequently post their material first to Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram. New user growth is stagnant, search interest is way down, and almost all of Vine’s product and business executives have fled in the past four months.

      “The allure of it has dropped off completely,” said Daniel Saynt, co-founder of the casting agency Socialyte, which tracks and manages social media stars on behalf of major brands. “Once Instagram introduced video, it was over for Vine.”

      Vine’s problem, as Saynt sees it, isn’t so much with Vine itself — it’s that, in the two years since the app’s heyday, other platforms have copied and improved on its concept. Instagram introduced 15-second videos in June 2013, more than doubling the video length and adding editing tools not available through Vine. When Snapchat rolled out Stories four months later, they came complete with stickers, text overlays and illustrations, plus the experimental, disappearing format that had earned private snaps so much hype.

      Meanwhile, YouTube began courting top creators with promises of special perks, such as continuing education and professional studio space. Facebook invited social stars to use Mentions, its specialized app for public figures, and provided tools to help them reach more people and moderate the resulting communities. For creators such as Brittany Furlan — Vine’s fifth most-followed star, with almost 10 million subscribers — that safer and more controlled environment seemed far more conducive to their work long-term.

      “A lot of people chose to leave Vine, including myself, because for me personally, it just turned into a very negative space,” Furlan said by email. “When I first started most of the comments were supportive, then as I gained followers things just got uglier and uglier and it didn’t seem like Vine was interested in doing anything about it. I was getting told to ‘kill myself’ on pretty much a daily basis, and already being someone who struggles with anxiety/depression, it just wasn’t a healthy environment for me anymore. … For some reason, the comments on Instagram and Facebook seem to be more positive.”

      More recently, Facebook has begun offering social stars lucrative contracts to produce live videos. Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Bachelor, Logan Paul (No. 8 on Vine), Brent Rivera (No. 12) and Jon Paul Piques (No. 42) were among the first batch to ink $119,000 to $213,000 contracts with Facebook. Paul’s Facebook profile is particularly striking, given that the 21-year-old started out filming subway splits and banana peel falls for Vine. Now each of his videos, some with 4 million or 5 million Facebook views, are captioned with an entreaty to like his page and check out his Instagram profile.

      Desertions like that have further damaged Vine’s cultural cachet, already a fragile and fleeting thing among the Internet set. These days, when brands such as Audi and Moet come to Saynt looking for buzz, they’re only looking at Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and Facebook — in that order, he said. And when Shahidi coaches his stable of Vine stars on their next moves, the strategy typically straddles YouTube and Instagram.

      In a written statement, Twitter voiced optimism for the future of Vine, even calling creators one of the company’s five current “product priorities.” In June, the app debuted 140-second videos, which exceeds the length limit on Instagram. They’ve also begun hyping “monetization opportunities for creators” — which sites like YouTube and Facebook already have.

      “Vine is an important part of our strategy, particularly given its vibrant community of creators,” a Twitter spokesman said, “and we’re excited about what the future holds with new leadership.”

      The real question is whether, by the time that future comes, any Viners will be around to see it.

       

      How Instagram Micro-Influencers Are Changing Your Mind One Sponsored Post at a Time

      If you have yet to hear the term ‘micro-influencer,’ then you’re probably steering clear of the digital world. For industry insiders, micro-influencers are everywhere. Simply put, a micro-influencer is someone who has between 10,000 to 150,000 followers on Instagram, whereas a mid to top-tier influencer has over 150,000. Although a user’s amount of followers varies for each account, we are beginning to realize that this particular group of individuals has the ability to change the way brands work with influencers forever.

      What it all comes down to is the audience. An A-List celebrity might have a large following, but it is important to consider why that audience visited the page in the first place. “Often times followers are only paying attention to the bigger picture, and not the product being advertised,” says Mark Lynn, co-founder and co-CEO of DSTLD. “You follow mostly because everyone you know also follows, not necessarily because you’re interested in his or her content.” Although there will always be a market for celebrity endorsements, brands have caught onto the fact that an influencer’s number of followers isn’t as important as we once thought.

      According to Daniel Saynt, co-founder and CEO of Socialyte, “you’re going to see an increase in spend on the talents who drive results, not just the girls who are famous on Instagram.” Digital partnerships between brands and influencers have grown in popularity over the past few years, which has resulted in an inflated market where most companies can’t afford to pay a top influencer to promote their product. If a brand does manage to pull enough funds, the likelihood of keeping a longstanding relationship with the influencer is low solely because the ongoing price tag would be too much to handle. Therefore, these sponsored collaborations are more frequently being offered to micro-influencers as we shift our focus from fame and followers to engagement and audience.

      Surprisingly, a micro-influencer with 50K followers can achieve higher engagement than that of an influencer with 1 million+ followers. “The high engagement and low costs for these campaigns help brands sell out of products and gain hundreds of new followers for a single activation,” says Daniel. Micro-influencers are in the unique position to work with brands, maintain scalable relationships with those brands, and produce better results than an influencer with twice the following can.

      Not only do reoccurring activations appear more authentic, but they also create a sense of credibility for the influencer who continues to post about a particular brand, even if the content is obviously sponsored. “It’s much more effective to be a recognized, reoccurring brand featured on an influencer’s social channel. It demonstrates he or she really loves the product and isn’t just doing it for a paycheck,” Mark added. “The public is savvy. They know when a partnership isn’t organic, and that hurts both the brand’s and the talent’s credibility.” Not only are brands able to hire multiple micro-influencers for the price of one top-tier influencer, but the audience is more likely to believe a micro-influencer’s opinion because the partnership is organic.

      Although the micro-influencer trend has taken over the digital industry as of recently, we need to remember that their future is still unclear. After all, the appeal of micro-influencers is that they have low social followings. But, what happens when they surpass the 150k mark? “At some point,” Mark added. “Micro-influencers will graduate to the next stage and make way for a new tier of micro-influencers. And at some point, the market will also say ‘enough.’” Until then, influencers will continue to diversify their brands by creating clothing lines, collaborating with brands, and increasing their social media presence, which ultimately opens the door for social media users to establish themselves as micro-influencers.

      Why Snapchat's Influencer Economy Runs on Hot Tubs, Selfies, and Whey Protein

       

      On a Wednesday morning in April, Caitlin O’Connor, a 26-year-old actress, drove herself to a mansion in the Coldwater Canyon neighborhood of Los Angeles and took off most of her clothes. She spent the next few hours wearing a black bikini and sitting in a hot tub, speaking into a cell phone camera to an audience of several hundred thousand followers, mostly young men and teen boys. A viewer asked if she only dated guys with money. “I love girls who make their own money and don’t rely on men,” she replied. The shoot was for Woman Crush Wednesday, part of the regular programming on ArsenicTV, an underground broadcaster that’s the Next Big Thing in media.

      You probably haven’t heard of Arsenic, which airs only on the Snapchat app. Other programming includes the Q&A 5 Snap Facts and Arsenic Flex, a workout segment. And even if you have, you may want to keep it to yourself. The content isn’t pornographic by Supreme Court standards, but as the name implies, Arsenic’s videos can feel a bit dangerous: Think of an American Apparel ad with many, many more thong shots filmed from what would be hard to call a respectful distance. Despite Arsenic having no special placement on Snapchat—it’s merely an account, not one of the channels managed by Vice Media, National Geographic, or People, for instance—its videos attract more than half a million views each in a 24-hour period. In March, Arsenic rebuffed a buyout offer from Playboy Enterprises. “We really like what they’re doing,” says Playboy Chief Executive Officer Scott Flanders. Instead of cashing out, Arsenic has raised money from tech investors. “Snapchat is the future of TV,” says Paige Craig, managing partner of Arena Ventures, who’s also backed Lyft. “And Arsenic is the company that is most adept at using it.”

      Calling Arsenic a company is a bit generous. Although Craig was impressed by Arsenic’s audience numbers and message of empowerment—a woman, Amanda Micallef, co-founded the company; models produce their own shoots; and there’s more body-type diversity than you’d find in a lad mag—he says, “It was the longest due diligence process I’ve ever done.” Which makes sense: Arsenic is run out of the kitchen of CEO Billy Hawkins, 41, a Harvard Law School graduate and former Creative Artists Agency agent who previously represented Spike Lee. Micallef, 39, a former movie producer, casts each shoot, and five interns help with the cell phone camerawork. (Models control Arsenic’s Snapchat account during their shoots, editing and posting photos. “It’s driven by the model’s vision,” Micallef says. “They’re the boss of who they are and how they look.”) The only full-time employee manages the flow of portfolios that models submit—about 1,000 a day—for consideration. Given the enthusiasm, you’d expect Arsenic to pay big bucks. But O’Connor doesn’t make a cent in that hot tub: She appears once a week in exchange for the right to embed her social media handles on the videos she records. “Girls want to do Arsenic because they’re getting followers,” she says. “That’s the equity. In the long run, it means dollars.”

      This math is becoming more and more commonplace in a media industry in the throes of disruption. O’Connor, who makes money hawking products on Instagram, represents a new kind of celebrity—and Arsenic a new kind of celebrity vehicle—and they’re working together to attract the young audiences conventional media doesn’t. The shifting appetites of a group that advertisers widely regard as the most valuable—young people have a lifetime of consumption ahead of them but haven’t always formed strong opinions about brands—have created an opening for “influencers.” They’re a curious group of former child stars (e.g., Hilary Duff), lesser Kardashians, and obscure up-and-comers like O’Connor who carve out careers as social media salespeople. If you’ve ever wondered why Instagram and Twitter feeds are full of attractive people talking about detox teas, diet shakes, and new apps, it’s because they’re paid to. They’re part of an advertising ecosystem that’s revolutionizing marketing, however confusing its dynamics seem to older generations accustomed to famous spokespeople on TV, usually not in a hot tub.

      The Caitlin O’Connors of the internet are a vital part of this economy. Even though she’s a professional actor with a Screen Actors Guild card and has an IMDb page full of credits, O’Connor’s breakout role is as an online marketer. “Social media has 100 percent made my career,” says O’Connor, who moved to Los Angeles from Uniontown, Pa., 10 years ago. She has almost 300,000 Instagram followers, up from about 100,000 when she first appeared on Arsenic’s Snapchat. Because of that following, small brands pay her $300 per post to promote their wares. Recently, she’s talked up EMediaStar, an app developer; FlockU, a college-focused media company; and Recor, a nutrition supplement. (This typical post has received 5,812 likes and counting: “Follow @recornation … They have the best whey protein and pre workouts I’ve tried!!”) In a normal month, O’Connor grosses $6,000 to $10,000. “If you don’t see a line in my post that says, ‘Nobody paid me for this,’ then I’ve probably been paid for it.”

      She maintains accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat, but she makes most of her money on Instagram. Instagram is big with brands because it’s popular, with more than 400 million monthly users, and not especially keen on privacy. The app provides an application program interface that allows O’Connor’s sponsors to see how many followers she has, how many likes each post receives, and what people say about them. She also talks up sponsors on Snapchat, but for now, the social network’s structure—messages disappear after 24 hours, and there’s no way for a brand to verify how popular influencers are—prevents it from being a major source of income for her. Sponsorships for top players are common on video game platform Twitch and on Musical.ly, a make-your-own music video app, where the top user, a 15-year-old who goes by Baby Ariel, has 9 million followers and has created ads for Nordstrom and 21st Century Fox.

      There are maybe 100,000 people like O’Connor, says Daniel Saynt, CEO of Socialyte, an agency specializing in casting influencers for ad campaigns. Rates vary widely: Someone with 100,000 followers might get $100 per post, while an internet-famous celebrity such as comedian Josh Ostrovsky, aka the Fat Jew, can easily pull in more than $5,000. Saynt, a former fashion blogger who later became chief marketing officer for Rebecca Minkoff, recently negotiated what he terms “six-figure” ad campaigns for Adam Gallagher, a men’s fashion stylist and model, and Marianna Hewitt, a beauty guru. Because campaigns that feature mega-influencers such as Kylie Jenner can reach into the millions, many talent agencies, including United Talent Agency and One Management, now have influencer divisions.

      Representation agreements, however, are the exception in this world. O’Connor has a manager, but she makes most deals herself, contacting brands directly or going through apps such as Popular Pays or BrandSnob, online marketplaces where advertisers post gigs. “What Airbnb did for hospitality, we’re trying to do for advertising,” says Popular Pays founder Corbett Drummey. Recently, Popular Pays listed sponsorship opportunities for Macy’s and Core Organic, a low-cal soft drink whose name seems workshopped for millennials.

      For now, many brands are sitting on the sidelines, wary that these professional influencers aren’t all that influential. “Unilever, Procter—they’re not there yet. That’s going to take two or three years,” says Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia, a new-media marketing agency that counts PepsiCo and Anheuser-Busch InBev as clients. “Right now, you’ve got entrepreneurial people reaching out to these individuals on Instagram and paying through PayPal. It’s rugged.” Or brands are wary about fraud, which is rampant. Instagram followers can be purchased from dozens of shady services that, for about $50, will populate your feed with bots, doling out fake likes and generic comments (“Beautiful!!!”).

      Saynt, of Socialyte, says he vets prospective spokespeople before hiring them. “If somebody has 100,000 followers but they’re only getting 1,000 likes per post, we assume 50 percent of their audience is inauthentic,” he says. Advertisers also struggle to walk the line between marketing and manipulation.

      Some influencers label sponsored content with “#sponsored” or “#ad,” but those hashtags are often buried at the end of a post, and many people don’t bother marking sponsored posts at all. O’Connor doesn’t, she says—followers understand that most of her posts are paid.

      Arsenic, for its part, has yet to make deals with marketers. It’s “pre-revenue,” CEO Hawkins says, using a tech catchphrase that essentially means, We’re figuring it out. Eventually, the plan is to work with advertisers and share proceeds with models. But Arsenic’s ambitions go beyond babes in bikinis: In April it launched ArsenicAudio, a music-focused Snapchat account featuring interviews with DJs that attract more than 50,000 daily viewers. “We want to be MTV in its glory days,” Hawkins says.

      O’Connor says she hopes to use her status to follow the path of other social media stars such as Andrew Bachelor, known on the video-sharing app Vine as the comedian King Bach, and Colleen Evans, of YouTube’s Miranda Sings, who used their perches to win bigger roles on TV. “My goal is the mainstream,” O’Connor says. “I’d love to have a network comedy. I don’t feel like I’ve made it.” Some digital marketers argue that she’s got it backward. “The real celebrities are [the influencers],” Vaynerchuk says. “I’d much rather have a hit show on Snapchat than on NBC or ABC.”

      Influencers Are Your Most Powerful Brand Advocates

      Influencer marketing allows brands to connect with digital audiences in unprecedented ways. Consumers have developed deep connections with the bloggers and social media personalities they follow, and when marketers partner with these influencers, people see the brand through the eyes of someone they trust. Daniel Saynt, CEO and chief creative officer at influencer casting agency Socialyte, spoke with eMarketer’s Tricia Carr about the qualities of a successful influencer campaign and the big impact of Snapchat.

      eMarketer: Why has influencer marketing become so popular?

      Daniel Saynt: The main reason it has taken off is the authenticity that influencers offer. The female community especially, and even the male community, look for people that they can believe in, look more like them and define their skin tone, height and size. They look at influencers as real people who they can connect to.

      eMarketer: What makes a blogger or social media user an influencer?

      Saynt: We don’t start to work with an influencer unless they have 50,000 combined followers across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. We don’t work with influencers unless the aesthetic of their content is appealing. We look at people who are the face of their brand, talk to their audience on a regular basis and have that direct connection with their audience vs. traditional, journalistic-style blogs.

      eMarketer: What do brands look for in an influencer?

      Saynt: Brands have very specific requests—comedic Viners, YouTube celebrities between the ages of 13 and 18 or someone with a surf lifestyle. We get requests for influencers that we never expected, especially within the fashion set. We get requests for popular dance troupes, singers and musicians on YouTube and young Hollywood stars with a substantial social media following on their own digital properties.

      “We don’t start to work with an influencer unless they have 50,000 combined followers across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.”

      eMarketer: Overall, which platform is the most influential?

      Saynt: Snapchat will become the dominant platform within the next two years. The amount of video views is growing rapidly. It’s on the path to beat Facebook in terms of video views and closing in on YouTube’s numbers.

      More brands are asking for Snapchat strategies and figuring out ways to be relevant there. It’s difficult for brands to create content there, so they work with influencers to feature products. If the content is not within the stream, it doesn’t have the same impact.

      eMarketer: How do influencers maintain their authenticity while they work with brands?

      Saynt: The top influencers are the ones who find it easiest to maintain authenticity. Once they get to a certain level, they get so many brand requests that they can pick and choose projects that make the most sense for them.

      Smaller influencers might be trying to make a living or get as much out of the opportunities as possible early on. They tend to do a lot more projects with brands that they might not be passionate about. Their approach usually is, ‘I can make this work,’ and they figure out a smart way to style, display and photograph the product and editorialize it.

      For the most part, influencers shouldn’t do projects that they don’t love. If it affects their audience and they get negative feedback, it’s not good for anyone in the long run.

      eMarketer: What happens when consumers respond negatively to an influencer campaign?

      Saynt: We worked closely with Abercrombie & Fitch through their continuous evolution. Early on, a lot of influencers didn’t want to work with the brand, and we understood the reasons why—there was a lot of controversy at the time. But we found influencers who remember loving the brand when they were younger and wanted an opportunity to rediscover it.

      “More brands are asking for Snapchat strategies and figuring out ways to be relevant there. It’s difficult for brands to create content there, so they work with influencers to feature products.”

      One influencer, a plus-size blogger, posted that she shopped there, and a lot of people attacked her for it [in the comments]. Everyone said, ‘How can you support a brand that doesn’t support plus-size?’ There was a lot of negativity, but the influencer talked back to her fans and said, ‘Look, I am plus-size, but I still found things there, and I love what I found.’ She defended the brand because she believed in the story she wrote.

      When we ran secondary campaigns, we noticed that there were fewer negative comments, more “likes” and shares and more comments about discovery of the brand. People said, ‘I haven’t been to an Abercrombie in years—I would love to go check it out,’ or ‘I remember when I was younger I always loved them.’ There was a change in attitude over time as we worked with influencers and let them be the voice of the brand.

       

      What the Internet Loses When Vine Shuts Down?

       

      Among the internet phenomena Vine gave us: "on fleek," "Damn Daniel," "what are thoooose?!", "why the f -- you lyin" and duck army. (To say nothing of Cameron Dallas, Andrew Bachelor, Zach King, Lele Pons and a bevy of other Vine-born personalities.)

      But Vine has been struggling for a while now, as we reported way back in July: Most of its top stars have actually abandoned the app within the past year, lured by larger audiences, and better monetization options, on platforms such as Facebook and YouTube. The app has lost its social cachet among teenagers, who aren't joining up at the rates they were before. And many of Vine's top executives departed, en masse, at the beginning of the summer.

      "The allure of it has dropped off completely," one industry expert, Daniel Saynt, told The Washington Post at the time.

      Read the Full Story

      Is Ivanka Still an Influencer?

      “Ivanka has long been followed for her style and she connects well to her fanbase, more so than the future First Lady,” says Daniel Saynt, cofounder and CEO of Socialyte, an influencer marketing agency. “I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s the face the fashion industry praises as the initial shock of a Trump presidency subsides, skipping over the robotic and seemingly stoic Melania for covers.”

      Read the full story here. 

      On Entering The China Market, The Future Of Retail And The Growing Importance of Bloggers

      chinesefashion2012.jpg

      The second day of talks at the Asia Fashion Summit in Singapore touched on several important topics, from the best social networking tools to doing business in China, from how Asians perceived luxury to where retail is headed.

      According to Daniel Saynt, founder of Socialyte, an agency that connect bloggers to brands, the most effective social networking tools brands should concentrate on are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube, mainly because they have the bulk of the consumers. But in using these tools, he emphasized that you should not use them to market your brand. Instead, you should tell the story of your brand including who you are, what your journey has been like, where you’re heading, and what inspires you. Bloggers are great at story telling, of finding interesting angles that influence how people shop. Hence, there have been several brands, which have employed bloggers to develop their story online. The reason why bloggers have become so influential says Saynt is that they are the “reality stars of fashion,” consumers feel connected to them and to their worlds.

      Daniel Castle of Iconix Brand Group, one of the largest apparel licensing companies in the world, told the crowd that companies, especially fashion labels, should approach the China market with caution. “The best advice for entering the China market is don’t enter unless you have a brand that has a strong history and global sales and wanted by the consumers. The Chinese consumers are not interested in taking a brand that’s not known. Partner with somebody who knows it. China has a million red tapes, rules and regulations. They can make it difficult for you to enter their market. Even if you are a Chinese owner you can have trouble launching a brand.”

      As for future retail trends, the “go big or go home” mentality will no longer apply. According to Mercedes Gonzales of the Global Purchasing Group, “Small is the new big.” By this she meant that big box stores have become more of an inconvenience—time and space-wise—to busy consumers. What retailers need to address is how to create personalized service and products. To adapt a grass roots mentality. She also said that the senior citizen market should not be neglected because they have disposable income that they are spending on themselves. And to be truly successful, a retailer should look at selling its wares on more than one platform or channel. A combination of physical and e-commerce stores, which Gonzales referred to as “brick and click”, is the way of the future. This is important especially for those who only have online presence.

      Ravi Thakran, of LVMH South East Asia and West Asia, the final speaker of the day reminded the mostly Asian group that luxury is not something new to Asia. That if you look at history, the very best silks and porcelain came from China. “Asia was the nerve center of luxury,” he said. While there is yet to be an Asian fashion brand that is of the Louis Vuitton and Hermes caliber, he emphasized that when it comes to luxury in the hospitality and airline industries, the brand names Banyan Tree, Aman, and Singapore Airlines are world leaders. What Asians need to do now is to readjust their concept luxury. “Being modern does not mean being western. Beautiful does not mean white,” he said referring to the Asia’s obsession with the west.

      Fashion Brands Incorporate Bloggers in Outreach Design

      As fashion bloggers gain more prominence among consumers, they are becoming an integral element of communications and marketing strategy for retail brands.

      In addition to consistent out-reach to bloggers to secure influential product placements, brands are increasingly giving bloggers larger roles in their communications campaigns, from the creation of co-branded lines to ad spots to design input.

      For example, designer Rebecca Minkoff incorporates bloggers into most aspects of marketing and social media engagement.

      Blogger Leandra Medine of The Man Repeller has walked the Rebecca Minkoff runway. Jenni Radosevich of ISpy DIY has collaborated on in-store campaigns. Megs Mahoney Dusil from PurseBlog.com has participated in design collaborations, while others have contributed content on Minkette.com, the interactive hub of Rebecca Minkoff.

      "Outreach to bloggers has helped us tap into the new influencer," says Daniel Saynt, marketing director at Rebecca Minkoff. "We see publishers that provide shoppers a vote of confidence in our brand and a trusted voice as having a huge effect on how we're perceived in our market."

      Bloggers are often a go-to fashion source for girls looking for realistic style, Saynt explains. As opposed to rail-thin models, they often embrace imperfections, which can increase their appeal among consumers.

      "Bloggers make fashion feel attainable," he says.

      Extended outreach
      Benefits aside, the company faces some challenges, such as finding bloggers with an authentic voice and determining which bloggers are a good fit for the brand.

      "To combat that, we stretch our outreach to influencers on networks such as Polyvore, Instagram, and Lookbook.nu, choosing to go beyond the blog and looking at the ways these publishers influence our Minkettes," Saynt says.

      Interacting with bloggers is a great way for communications professionals to establish reach for their clients, explains Katherine Barna, communications head at Tumblr.

      "If you're doing marketing for a fashion brand, there's already a really engaged and interested community in that space," she says. "Why not be a part of it, interacting with the people who already care about the things you are trying to talk about?"

      Tumblr is a highly visual platform with established communities across a number of verticals, so bloggers are often drawn to utilize the site to share content, thoughts, and ideas.

      "It can drive buzz and attention from people who maybe weren't super aware of who you were," Barna says. "To interact directly with these tastemakers and influencers in the community is an amazing thing."

      Bloggers not only represent consumers who are shopping in stores, but also have audiences that aspire to mimic their style, explains Karen Robinovitz, co-founder and chief creative officer at social media agency Digital Brand Architects.

      "Most important is finding the right blogger with the right audience who can actually convert for you," she says. "It's really imperative to understand not just who the blogger is, but also who is reading the blog."

      Stars of the show

      TJ Maxx
      Lindsey Calla of style blog Saucy Glossie was featured in a TV ad where she gave budget shopping tips.

      Schick
      Kelly Framel of The Glamourai style blog helped design a razor.

      H&M
      Swedish fashion blogger Elin Kling launched a co-branded fashion line.

      Urban Outfitters
      Jane Aldridge of the Sea of Shoes blog collaborated on a footwear line

      Closer relationships
      Consumers who frequent the blogosphere will often purchase products they see on blogs, so it can be a powerful place to gain product recognition. Similar to traditional media relations, it's important to keep relationships personal and tailored to each individual.

      "You really have to understand the detailed nuanced approach to who they are and then figure out how to work with them," Robinovitz says.

      She adds that the relationship between a brand and retailer should always have an organic feel, from both the outreach side and the content perspective.

      "The truer everybody stays to who they are and the more open minded and creative they are able to be, the better it is," advises Robinovitz.

      Doug Zarkin, VP of marketing for apparel firm Kellwood Co., says bloggers are a vital part of a core marketing strategy.

      "Bloggers have evolved from a nice-to-have to a need-to-have," he suggests.

      Zarkin's company takes a proactive approach to communications, which often includes providing bloggers with early, frequent, or exclusive access to products.

      "It's not a one-size-fits-all," he says. "We're very strategic in how and who we approach."

      How to Make Your Fortune Writing About Stuff You Love

       

      Kat Williams sits at home in her pyjamas with her pink hair and tattoos and writes about stuff she likes.

      What she mainly likes are weddings.

      This earns her, at the age of 30, between £100,000 and £200,000 a year.

      And despite having written about weddings for the past seven years she still does not get bored looking at veils and rings and cake decorations.

      "I get excited about weddings. I see a couple in love and they're doing something creative and inspiring," she says.

      "I was just obsessed with weddings. And into over-sharing on the internet."

      RockNRoll Bride was one of the first blogs in the UK to focus on the lucrative topic of marriage.

      Since then it has drawn in thousands of visitors who want something other than the cookie-cutter weddings in the glossy magazines.

      Kat publishes pictures of real weddings that she thinks show originality.

      For example, the bride who told guests they were invited to a birthday party, but then halfway through the evening changed into a wedding dress and got married.

      Then there was the bride who was wheeled to her wedding (at a cemetery) in a coffin, which Kat says was "some kind of symbolism involving rebirth".

      The blog gets about 600,000 views per month.

      For potential advertisers, that's a marriage made in heaven - 600,000 pairs of eyes that are immediately contemplating spending a lot of money on a very precise range of products: a dress, a ring, flowers, a holiday, stationery, hairstyling, make up, suits and shoes.

      Mummy bloggers

      But it is not just high visitor numbers that are attracting companies to work with bloggers.

      It's not about being interesting. It's the mundane [things] people want to read about

      Susanna Scott, Blogger and co-founder of Britmums

      Advertisers have identified a big advantage in spreading their message via the friend-next-door, coffee-morning culture of the blogosphere.

      Known sometimes dismissively as mummy bloggers, there is a growing army of women documenting the humdrum of their everyday lives, attracting readers desperate to know they're not the only ones tackling teething, toddler tantrums or troublesome teens.

      And they are writing with humour and personality - siren calls to the marketing men.

      "Brands of course are dying to get their hands on these women because it's all about authentic voices, native content, storytelling," says Susanna Scott, a blogger herself and co-founder of Britmums, an annual conference for parent bloggers.

      And the stories don't have to be about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. How to cook fish fingers does just as well, she says.

      "It's not about being interesting. It's the mundane [things] people want to read about. It's the 'Aha!' moment when you read and think, 'It's not just me!'"

      How to write a blockbuster blog

      • Write about something you love
      • Find your own individual voice
      • Tell a story
      • Post every day if possible
      • Don't just blog: use other social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube

      Daniel Saynt, chief executive of Socialyte

      Adventure

      Mummy bloggers are cottoning on to the growing opportunities afforded by the marketing men - test-drive a new car for a few weeks, tickets to music festivals, meals out, free clothes, cosmetics, toys and travel - simply in exchange for writing a positive review.

      Kirstie Pelling, her husband and three children have just been to Dubai and are about to set off for the Philippines and Japan.

      The couple make a full-time living writing about their adventures on the road, in their blog, The Family Adventure Project.

      You are going into a world where you are a public figure, where people are going to have negative comments

      Daniel Saynt, Chief executive, Socialyte

      "We make money through sponsored posts and advertising. We also work with brands, delivering material for their website or their campaigns," says Kirstie.

      The Pellings have been to more than 25 countries paid for by Kirstie's blogging.

      But it's not just writing. These days a successful blogger must post on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook as well as maintaining their original blog site. Where possible they should also be shooting video and maintaining a Youtube channel.

      "You have to be across absolutely everything," says Kirstie Pelling. "We have to work quite hard."

      Best-placed

      Women bloggers like Kat and Kirstie are only likely to increase their money-making muscle, if the US experience is anything to go by.

      There, the most influential bloggers have become celebrities in their own right, earning $1m (£585,000) a year or more.

      Even lower profile writers can earn several thousand dollars for a single brand collaboration, according to Daniel Saynt, chief executive of Socialyte, a casting agency for bloggers, based in New York, and specialising in the fashion industry.

      Thanks to social media, he says, marketers suddenly have many more channels to fill and not enough content.

      And women bloggers are often best-placed to supply it. Women tend to control the household budget, choose the family car and the annual holiday, so female readers are the target audience, says Mr Saynt. And women have a higher engagement around social media.

      In the US, Calvin Klein is currently experiencing a "viral moment", says Mr Saynt after asking bloggers (both male and female) to submit pictures of themselves in their underwear with the hashtag #mycalvins.

      And last year, after Abercrombie and Fitch was accused online of ignoring larger customers, Socialyte helped them counter the negative talk by hiring dozens of ordinary bloggers, including plus-size women, to write about the brand.

      'Reality TV star' bloggers

      But while demand for bloggers is growing, it doesn't mean anyone can do it.

      It still helps to be young, attractive and wealthy and have a lifestyle that others aspire to. And you have to be prepared to sacrifice your privacy, says Mr Saynt.

      "You are going into a world where you are a public figure, where people are going to have negative comments.

      "In a lot of ways [bloggers] have become the reality TV stars of fashion and beauty because they're sharing a very intimate portrait into who they are."

      And if you want to make the big time, you have to take it seriously.

      "You have to run it as a business, 100%, not as a hobby," he says.

      "If you approach it as a hobby and think you are going to get somewhere, that's just not the case."