Influencer Marketing: the business behind the Instagram with Amanda Withee

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The term "celebrity" is diversifying in 2017.Where 20 years ago, only movie stars, singers or high-level fashion models who were represented by powerful agencies would be considered celebrities.Now, social media influencers are working their way to the forefront, and in some cases, passing the stars of yesterday.Today’s generation is much more likely to find their favorite actors, singers or models on Instagram, Facebook or YouTube.

These celebrities, known by today’s standards as "influencers" are models, bloggers, trainers and actors have become recognized by names, partly because of the huge following they have attracted.These days, influencers are becoming the celebrities of this generation and agencies are starting to take notice.The best part? These influencers can bypass the agency route if they so choose because they can showcase their talent directly to consumers via social networks.

1. What makes an influencer an influencer?

To keep it simple, anyone that can amass and maintain or grow a dedicated following of people that consume and then take action based on the message! That is the important part, because quantity is far more important than quality.In today’s market, there are many follow bots that can help someone grow a "large following" but if none of those followers are consuming the content, that large following means very little in terms of influence and value.This is important to consider because getting a following seems like a simple practice, yet getting a valuable quality following is so much more important in terms of brand value.Social media is providing independent models with a platform to attract the attention of brands, influencer agencies and talent scouts directly through features like the Instagram "discover" page.

2. So how does one become an influencer?

We had a chance to ask Amanda Withee, who has taken her account from a personal account strictly for friends and family, to a marketing empire of over 208,000 followers on Instagram alone."I started my Instagram about 3 years ago and just had my friends and family on it and posted mostly pictures with friends and the basic Starbucks coffee posts you see everywhere.One day I decided to set my Instagram to public and that's when I started to notice that I was gaining more followers.As I started to post better quality pictures, I noticed bigger pages were posting my pictures on theirs and that was making my page grow.I eventually set my page to a business profile instead of personal which allows me to see all my insights within my profile and added my email for business."

For those that are questioning whether or not Instagram is a real business, consider that in your local television market, the 6 o clock news may only do a fraction of the viewership compared to Amanda's audience.That’s what influencer marketing is all about... consumer attention.Withee has certainly built a lot of attention over the past few years, but she still believes that people underestimate what goes into growing and maintaining that level of influence.

"A lot of people think Instagram models are only popular on Instagram and it's not a real job or career.It has opened up a lot of opportunities for me.My life has changed drastically because of Instagram.I've been able to collaborate with many different companies while also making money off my Instagram.I have also been able to connect with many people, go on incredible trips, and receive free products.It's a great way to market yourself whether you're a company, model, or artist.

" Brands keen for the exposure of Amanda’s following now contact her often asking if they can send products and get her opinion, clearly hoping for an insight into her audience. For that reason alone, influencers like Withee should feel confident that this industry trend isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.’

Like many other influencers, Withee understands the importance of developing a unique personal brand.When we asked her about the importance of being very picky when it comes to the brands she works with, she said “As I grow my account I do start thinking about brands and business.I have no interest in creating my own brand but I would consider partnering up with a company.As your account grows a lot of companies reach out to you and I feel like it's important to choose wisely and try to still keep your page focused on yourself and not about the brand.”

The balance of brand posts and non-promoted posts is something that many influencers have to juggle on a day to day basis.On one hand, the luxuries of working with many brands can be alluring.However, if an influencers audience begins to only recognize posts as ads, the message can get diluted and devalue your brand.

There is uncertainty in the industry of the exact value of influencer marketing, partly because many sales come down the road as a result of branding. However, one thing is certain, it’s become the newest marketing billion-dollar diver so something must be working.One thing is for certain, Amanda doesn’t entertain any of the noise from people with negative opinions. “I don't acknowledge any rude comments/ messages or take them personally. I think it's better to not engage at all and avoid drama, said Withee.”

We think that’s a pretty good approach, and can’t wait to see what’s next with this growing trend.