What do you want to be when you grow up?
Perhaps that question wasn’t crafted for unorthodox careers, but instead for traditional answers like, firefighter, teacher, or even astronaut.
No one ever said, "I want to become an Instagram influencer" -- until now.
The rise of social media has opened doors of opportunity for users to connect, share, and create content. While some users may use Instagram to share photos with their friends and family, others have transformed their accounts into profitable business models for primary or secondary incomes.
An Instagram influencer could be considered the modern day equivalent to a celebrity endorsement; just like Jennifer Aniston promotes Aveeno products, a girl you may have recognized from highschool promotes a local pizza place or shares an opinion on new beauty products with hashtag #ad or hashtag #sponsored.
While Instagram influencers tend to dominate markets in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, Winnipeggers are transitioning their Instagram to connect with businesses and interact with their followers on a monetary level.
Shayna Wiwierski, 31, began blogging in 2011 at a time when having a blog carried its own amount of significance. Now, Wiwierski says blogs have become secondary to Instagram accounts which offer a space for companies to promote their products through localized platforms.
Wiwierski graduated from creative communications at Red River College in 2010 and she says her formal writing background helps her create content for the posts she uploads every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Shayna Wiwierski (@shayna_apopofcolour), 31-years-old, 20,800 Instagram followers
Shayna Wiwierski (@shayna_apopofcolour), 31-years-old, 20,800 Instagram followers
Nicole Zajac (@nicolezaajac), 21-years-old, 11,500 Instagram followers
Cassidy Coutts (@brainsandbronzed), 23-years-old, 7,768 Instagram followers
Johanna Adriaansen (@johhhanna), 24-years-old, 7,125 Instagram followers
"This is what I was trained in, so for me, I can whip a post up in like, half an hour or less depending on what it is," she said about her content that focuses on beauty, lifestyle, fashion and travel.
Despite her following of 20,800, Wiwierski still has a full time job as a magazine editor.
"Thankfully I have my full time job and that’s really like, how I get by would be my full time income and then anything else I make is kind of just like a rainy day fund," Wiwierski said.
Although her following has grown significantly, Wiwierski said it is the unpredictable nature of influencing that can make it less reliable as a career.
"You may get a campaign for $700 today, but then like, you’ll invoice for it and then you have to wait to get paid maybe two, three months down the line."
But 21-year-old Nicole Zajac has decided to dedicate herself to Instagramming as a full time career.
"I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life or as a career and so I kind of just made this, like, my full time job," said Zajac, who left her job at a car dealership in March to commit herself to improving her platform.
Zajac says her 11,500 followers frequently engage in her posts in the form of likes, comments, direct messages, and swipe up links to products all translating to page traffic and of course, partnerships with brands.
At the time of the interview, Zajac said she charges companies up to $200 for one post but for less established brands, she only charges $100, making her brand profitable but affordable for companies.
Aside from her frequent Instagram posts with captions promoting self love and body positivity, Zajac has gained notoriety for her "rants" discussing topics about her experience getting lip injections, break ups, and toxic relationships over Instagram stories.
The unedited, unfiltered content makes her appear more authentic to her followers which she says has contributed to her success.
"I think if you’re trying to be someone you’re not online, it shows. So posting what you’re actually true to yourself about, or making sure that you stand behind what you’re saying and what your platform should be, that’s pretty much where your success will come from," said Zajac.
In 2017, 23-year-old Cassidy Coutts found herself needing a creative outlet for her photography and passion for fashion. As a recent graduate from the Asper School of Business, Coutts focused in marketing and even landed herself a job with a local fashion company.
Now, Coutts is both an influencer through her blog and works with influencers through her full time job.
"To this day (blogging) is still a side hobby, or a side hustle as a lot of people I think would refer to it nowadays. Over time, gradually, I started earning money off of it. I like to refer to it as maybe a supplemental income… but at this point it isn’t something that I would ever consider pursuing full time," Coutts said.
Here are Johanna Adriaansen’s top five steps for success:
Be clear on your offer: whether it’s for educating, creating, or inspiring, figure out what your personal brand gives to an audience
Be consistent: from the framing of your photos to the frequency of your posts, establish your presence
Be authentic: Talk to your camera on Instagram Stories or IGTV
Be organic in advertising: start posting about brands you love organically without sponsorship
Be #Sponsored: reach out to local brands first
For Coutts, she says creating content for her near 7,800 followers never feels like work.
"I spend quite a few hours a week, I would say, on my blog depending on my time… but blogging has become a habit of mine and it’s something that I enjoy doing," said Coutts who spends anywhere from four to 12 hours a week creating content.
Coutts says many young people are looking to social media as a source of income outside of influencing.
"I know there’s a lot of people in Winnipeg now who are starting these very small companies where they are offering their social media expertise to small brands or even larger brands who need someone specialized in that area," Coutts said.
Three years ago, Johanna Adriaansen began her career as a social media account manager for a local juice and smoothie bar. Now the 24-year-old Instagram branding specialist says she currently works with bloggers in different capacities: as a photographer, ghost writer, and manager while accompanying clients on paid work trips.
Currently, Adriannsen says she has 10 contracts with bloggers based both in the United States and Canada. In October 2018 she turned her branding platform into her full time job and has noted along the way the success influencers can have if their accounts are managed effeciently.
Nick Pileggi (@phillyfoliage), plant influencer, 37,000 Instagram followers
Oneika Raymond (@oneikatraveller), travel influencer, 81,200 Instagram followers
Rachel Brathen (@yoga_girl), yoga influencer, 2,100,000 Instagram followers
Charles Less (@chasoldboy), food influencer, 46,100 Instagram followers
"If (influencers) have over 100,000 followers they are making anywhere between US$1,000 to US$2,500 for one post, usually, like, one Instagram post that will always have #ad or #sponsored. If they have a blog as well it’s probably the same amount even though blogs are a lot more work, a lot more copywriting and a lot more photos, they are usually about the same rate because the Instagram photos are usually getting more exposure than the blog actually is," explained Adriaansen.
As for the diversity of the industry, Adriaansen says it is slowly evolving in Canada.
"I think when people do imagine an influencer they definitely unfortunately imagine like, a thin, pretty blonde girl that’s like travelling all over the world or something, which is not ideal. I think it’s just a stereotype however, in the United States I think there is a really big community in both of those-- influencers of colour and in the LGBTQ community," Adriaansen said.
Recent updates on Instagam have made the platform more saturated, but Adriaansen says there is room for anyone to contribute even if they feel they may be too late to pursue influencing.
"Everything here is brand new even if it’s been moving so quickly, I don’t think people should be discouraged that they can’t do it...so as much as it seems saturated, it’s still brand new, so there’s still definitely space for everyone especially in our city and in Canada too."
From beauty, lifestyle, and travel influencers, to mom, plant, and animal influencers, there appears to be room to upload, share, and discover a career path off the beaten path and onto the scrolling screen.
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