With the rise of Instagram, came the rise of social media influencers. Instead of turning to the pages of magazines, the Millenials now look to Instagram to find their inspiration and idols.
The social media influencers are bloggers, brand ambassadors, and models, amongst other things, who have come to fame often without agents, simply from attracting a huge amount of followers. Social media influencers, specifically fashion bloggers, have become the new “It girls” with huge cult followers. They set trends, agendas, and show us often orchestrated snippets of their life within the fashion industry.
Their huge liking and influence among their followers have become of value to fashion houses. Though fashion bloggers are certainly not paid the astonishing sums of $300,000 per post like Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid, fashion bloggers are still remunerated in one form or another.
So you might wonder, how does one become a famous fashion blogger? Well it’s easy actually; accumulate and maintain an immense network of followers and keep them interested. Though it might sound easy in theory, successful fashion bloggers need a sense of humor, a point of view, and to showcase their followers with parts of the fashion world that they do not have access to. Although both popular, Emily Skye and Leandra Medine take their influence in completely different directions – Emily Skye, a gorgeous fitness and swimwear model vs. Leandra Medine of The Man Repeller blog. After establishing a follower base, consistency becomes key. Followers are more likely to become loyal when the blogger uses specific and repetitive hashtags, which will keep their followers glued from week to week.
Instagram has allowed these fashion bloggers are lifestyle influencers to become famous without the help of agencies. It is also the platform where models are being discovered by talent scouts. Brands are keen for exposure and earned media, and so the more followers you have, the more influential you are, the more likely to be picked up by an agency or by a brand to become a brand ambassador. The tagging of brands and being reposted increases influencers’ follower base, with people flocking to these influencers for creative and aspirational content that isn’t labelled as a sales ad.
How is it that these influencers are making money? Influencers are cashing in when they promote brands in their posts. The amount of money one receives per post, depends on the level of value and influence that the blogger has, and how valuable their follower outreach is valuable to the brand. Bigger follower base does not mean bigger money. The key factor that makes an influencer valuable is the level of engagement that they receive from their followers. So for example, some influencers may have 300,000 followers but only 1,500 people engage with their posts. Brands are looking at the follower/engagement ratio, instead of follower count.
Sponsored Instagram posts are often seen as indirect earned media, as the influencers are being paid, whether monetarily or through products and services, but their posts are not perceived as advertisement. Thus, it is crucial for brands to critically select the influencers that are most capable of turning follower engagement into actual sales. The fashion bloggers’ feeds consists of various kinds of images: those that are obvious advertisements, to editorial posts, to completely candid and personal photos. Although some followers claim that bloggers deceive people with the product placement in their images, those are actually the most effective images that a blogger can have. This shows that the influencer has been so carefully selected by the brand that the blogger’s sponsorship of a product makes the product seem as a natural part of the blogger’s day.
What makes a fashion blogger successful is having a sense of authenticity. We go back to re-examine the idea of authenticity in the digital realm and we find that the most successful digital influencers are those that remain authentic, or work very very hard to stage authenticity within their posts. A trend that I have noticed among fashion bloggers is their attempt to seem absolutely normal, to show their followers normal parts of their day, to make themselves relatable to their followers. Eva Chen, fashion chief at Instagram says that “finding the things that are your signature moves sort of speak and posting them in different ways over and over again.”
As there are always two sides to a story, former Instagram model Essena O’Neill “came out” and said that her images did not represent real life and authentic pictures and that her photos were staged. This lead to others following in her footsteps and addressing the authenticity lines within the digital world.
As Instagram celebrities, fashion bloggers and digital influencers are changing the routes to fame, we ask ourselves, do we really hate the staged authenticity or have we become so accustomed to it that it’s almost impossible to click the “unfollow” button? Are fashion bloggers famous or infamous in today’s society?