A Bit of Background
When I worked at Spanx, part of my job was identifying macro trends in the marketing world. From dissecting the way consumers consume information to the prevalence of certain themes in campaigns like ballet, powerful women, inclusionism (age, race, etc.) and body-positivity, I spent my time flagging and learning about ideas that were picking up steam before they hit mainstream.
Influencer marketing, of course, was one of the themes that I picked up on and remember being aware of as early as 2008/2009. I didn’t call it influencer marketing then because it wasn’t, but I realized bloggers like Jane from Sea of Shoes, Leandra from Man Repeller, Emily from Cupcakes and Cashmere and Chiara from The Blonde Salad were creating mini (that are now mega) empires, ones that would lead to a world of #sponsored posts, which is not a dirty concept per a brilliant Fohr Card campaign de-stigmatizing the phrase.
Starting the Blog
I decided to try my hand at this (8 years late, perhaps) because as a magazine journalism major, storytelling is in my blood. Collaborating with brands to help tell their stories in a more-meaningful-than-traditional-advertising way was and is appealing to me. So, why do I feel like I’m swimming upstream? As I launched my website and began to build my personal brand, I focused on putting out imagery worthy of being picked up by big brands because, if I’m being honest, I’m trying to make this into a profitable business (everyone from WWD to Ad Age covers the business of influencers as a regular beat these days).
I’ve always liked keeping things consistent (before starting the blog I put everything in the Instagram Reyes filter…I’m not an expert image editor so this helped me achieve a pleasing-to-the-eye look on my grid). And, I’ve always known the importance of keeping “the grid” looking on-brand (I’d like to think I was an early adopter here, realizing that Instagram wasn’t always the “media” heavy place it is today). Yet, pretty pictures don’t always tell the full story of the person behind the posts. A lot of the bloggers that just went to the RewardStyle #rsthecon conference are now posting about what’s happening behind the perfect imagery, in their “real lives.” I’ve noticed that two of my other favorite bloggers, Joanna from Cup of Jo and Emily from Cupcakes and Cashmere (as mentioned above) have posted “truths” lately, laying out their real feelings about personal struggles that clearly aren’t making the blog. Arielle of Something Navy often responds directly to comments “haters” leave and tries to rally her followers around an (important) anti-bullying message.
Turns out, it’s hard for people to feel a human connection when the imagery that’s projected is “perfect.” For bloggers that have millions of followers, their brand has evolved over years. The images they used to post, the ones that help them grow their following, were nowhere near as refined as they are today. Inherently, I’m in a pickle. I am trying to build a brand, grow an audience and establish consistency while also remaining approachable (because, newsflash, I am not only imperfect, I am lacking confidence since leaving a job that became my identity). So, how does one balance? How do I balance?
The Person Behind the Pictures
For me, Insta Story and the blog are the ways to connect with Emily the person behind the brand. I am genuinely buying the things I wear and talk about (hopeful that one day the brands I love will love me back). I’ve resolved to start writing more and worrying less about the layouts that I post on the blog. That’s not to say that I’ll post imagery outside the context of my self-imposed brand guardrails, but it means that for now, instead of spending hours learning how to design pretty graphics and stressing over every little thing, I may use text links or rely on help from friends that have a background here. This article has inspired me, but I need prioritize as to not burn out.
Often times, I sit down to work on the blog and get derailed because what I want to post isn’t up to snuff with that of the girls that have been blogging for years (who now are so successful that they have teams…#goals). I have no shortage of ideas, but don’t want to bankrupt my business, so I am looking for Atlanta-based creative collaborators…we can trade time and talents.
I’ve realized that, as I mentioned, a big part of my identity was wrapped up in my career. I feel proud to have worked at Spanx for eight years and I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything, yet I am, truly, feeling a little lost as I navigate this new world, where my performance feels measured by a “follow” or “like” or lack thereof. As luck would have it, I’ve also lost a favorite pair of earrings…those may or may not come back, but I hope that by sharing this, my career-path confidence is back in business.
Do you have advice to share? Feel free to shoot me a note! I’d love to connect.