We all remember the angst-filled LiveJournals of the 2000s, but today blogs are a serious business—literally. Bloggers are powerful influencers, especially since their followers are willing to pay attention to their posts for more than 140 characters. Blogs can influence purchase behavior, help build brand image, and can be even more effective than celebrity spokespeople. Emma Cortes, the well-known fashion blogger of Emma’s Edition, visited AMA to give us some insights about what it was like being both a blogger and an influencer.
Back in her senior year of college, she found blogging was a way to merge her creative passion for fashion with her business acumen and that was her first step on a path to becoming an influencer. She finished her undergrad in business, chose a career as a project manager in aerospace at Boeing, and is currently pursuing a master's degree in digital media.
Life as a Microinfluencer
Not only did Emma wind up being a very successful blogger, but she also became an influencer, or a person who has the power to affect the purchasing decisions of others. They have this influence due to their authority, knowledge, or relationships with an audience, according to Influencer Marketing Hub. Even Emma admits to being influenced by those she considers her own influencers! So why does this matter and why do marketers even care about influencers?
PR firms, ad agencies, and in-house teams all reach out to and work with bloggers.
In 2017, the influencer industry was $2 billion. In 2020, this number is estimated to be between $5-10 billion.
74% of people trust social media networks to help them make purchase decisions.
For 18-24 year olds, TV viewership has dropped by 43% since 2012.
40% of customers use ad blocking technology (especially on mobile devices and laptops).
The landscape of where people are looking and where their attention is at is shifting. Most of us now scroll through Facebook and Instagram almost mindlessly, and whether you notice the actual hashtag, #ad, or not, you’re definitely seeing #ads from influencers. So in Emma’s case, what is it like to be a microinfluencer who can impact the decisions of buyers? A microinfluencer has less than 100K followers, and Emma considers herself a business woman, even though others may consider themselves freelancers. She sees that there are lots of business skills required to become a successful blogger and says that good content creation is based off messages and images that are inspiring, recommending, and engaging.
Why did she wind up going into blogging even though it wasn’t in her original career trajectory? For Emma, blogging is a combination of her business skills and creative passions. She mentions that “the creative part is the easier part when reading a blog post or scrolling on Instagram, but the business part is something that’s not as visible.” When you write emails, negotiate with brands, or even analyze your audience’s needs and understanding those needs, there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes.
When Emma began blogging in 2014, during her senior year in college, she was only blogging once a month, asking her friend to take her blog photos for her. Then, between 2015 and 2016, she began blogging a bit more frequently, either once or twice a month, as she was focused on her career growth. At this point, she curated her Instagram feed more meticulously, making sure it was fashion-focused, allowing her to land a brand ambassadorship with American Eagle Outfitters. Emma’s focus was on growing the blog between the years 2016 and 2017, when she began blogging four to eight times a month! This was the first time she got paid instead of receiving product for promotion by Ralph Lauren. During this period, she also was the only Seattle blogger that went to New York Fashion Week! During the latest stretch of her journey, from 2017-2018, Emma decided to file her blog as a business in the fall. At this point, because she saw her blog as a business, she began to take it even more seriously, officially filing it as a business, pitching to brands, etc.
How to Start a Blog
Going into 2019, these were the tips she shared with us:
1. Develop a clear point of view
When someone goes to your Instagram or your blog page, they shouldn’t be confused. They should know exactly what the purpose to the blog is, and a useful thing to do as a blogger is to start with a mission statement that helps clarify your intentions. Start with a niche and scale from there because you can build a following that is more loyal, engaged, and dedicated. More personal things, such as images of your dog, should stay on your story, instead of your feed.
2. Create great content
To each blogger, what defines “great content” may be different, but to Emma, the quality of both her photos and her writing matters. For her, writing has always been a big passion, with her trying to find a way to write even when she wasn’t blogging. In a way, both your images and what you say in your captions and blog posts go hand-in-hand, and matter in the end. If you don’t have a photographer, find a friend who will take your photos for you, buy a tripod, and make sure you’re taking photos in good lighting. The little things can go a long way, especially when you’re on a budget. However, that shouldn’t compromise your quality.
3. Stop caring about what other people think
This was a hard lesson for Emma to learn. She said that when began blogging, she worried about a few things, including what her friends and family were going to say, what people were going to say about her taking photos in public, and feeling awkward about talking into her Instagram stories. However, she reminded us that in the end, the most important opinion is our own, and that we can’t let the opinions of others dictate what we do and don’t do. If she knew this information earlier, she probably would have started focusing her attention on the blog sooner than she did.
4. Focus on growing a real audience
Instead of trying to become a large influencer overnight, instead focus on growing a real audience that cares and is genuinely engaged. This is important because if your goal is to work with brands, you have to bring a return on investment either by bringing clicks to websites, traffic to the brand’s social media channels, or awareness to new products. None of the prior can be done if you don’t have an engaged following. You don’t need a massive following to be successful—instead, focus on who you want to attract and the consumer that you want for your content. After all, it’s better to have 10,000 engaged followers and 1,000 who all click a link you share than to have 100,000 followers with only 5 clicks.
Emma also offered a Q&A session at the end of the meeting to tackle our most burning questions, from social media to personal branding.
How have algorithm changes with platforms such as Facebook or Instagram impacted you?
“There are always going to be algorithm changes, and it used to be more obvious, but now it’s so ongoing. You can’t let it get to you—even if your photo tanks, it doesn’t mean you stop posting or creating content. That said, that’s why it’s also important to have your own platform, like a site or a blog, so that even if a social media post tanks, you have your own space to share your content.”
What are your goals?
“Sometimes it seems like brands just want sales—in which case, advertising is just better—because influencer marketing is really about awareness and relationship-building. The scope of the project is important because with the big stuff, you want to know a few months in advance to decide how to proceed. However, smaller campaigns like a Bobbi Brown lipstick promotion can be done two weeks in advance. My goals change depending on the scope, such as more or less flexible posting dates, etc.”
When you’re just starting to go, how do you manage taking brand deals so that you can grow while still trying to stay cohesive to your image?
“For me, my personal brand mission statement is very important, and I won’t do anything to compromise that. For example, I don’t promote alcohol.”
How do you grow an Instagram following when there are already so many accounts out there and promoting can get expensive?
“What a lot of people don’t realize is that social media isn’t just about posting the content in terms of a post on your feed. It is also about the interaction with your audience, such as replying to comments or promoting other related accounts (like my girls on Insta) to keep connecting. Sometimes, it can be tricky. For example, my AEO collaboration helped push my follower camp and was reposted 400 at a time, with the reposts and being featured helping a lot.”
If I’m a brand, how do I identify which influencers to reach out to?
“There are services for this, but you can also manually go through hashtags that are related to you. For example, #seattleblogger, etc. is a way for you to find bloggers where you can look at their feed and what they stand for to see if they’re a good fit for you.”
How did you come up with your mission statement and do you ever think about expanding it or writing about things outside of that?
“Now, I feel like I can branch out more because I am more comfortable and I’ve realized that I can talk about makeup from the perspective of a busy woman. Other topics I’ve considered are real exercise or topics my audience cares about, such as how to balance blogging, school, and work. Every year, I check my mission statement and make sure to refine it as I see fit.”
What are some time saving tips you would suggest?
“I personally outsource almost all my photography so I can focus on the writing pieces for my blog. Some girls do it all, with taking their own photos with a tripod, editing, and writing, but that’s just not possible with my schedule. Some bloggers also have virtual assistants or interns! I didn’t even realize it was possible for you to intern for an influencer!”
Would you ever consider becoming a full-time blogger?
“For now, I want to stay with Boeing for at least a few more years, but I feel more confident in my blog now that it’s filed as a business. I would need to think about how to create a more reliable, passive income stream because with brand collaborations, you never know what’s going to come. I think coaching or video would be so fun, but I just haven’t had the time. I graduate this spring though, so we’ll see!”
Thanks so much Emma for all your tips and the insider insight to the world of blogging and influencers! If anyone is interested in a blog post that Emma posted about her visit, please check out her blog, which includes the slides she presented to us that night! Please also check out her amazing Instagram @emmasedition if you haven’t already!