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She has an MBA and works as a chief marketing officer for a company, but online Evelyn Torres is known as the Brickellista. She’s the face behind the popular blog she started when she first moved to Miami years ago.
“For me, it was a really great way to just kind of dip my toes in Miami,” she said.
Today, the Brickellista has more than 34,000 followers on Instagram, where she posts about wellness and all things Miami and sometimes gets paid to promote big brands. She says the money can be good, but the self-described introvert adds you shouldn’t do it for that.
“Don’t do it for the money,” she said. “Don’t do it for wanting to get Instagram famous or anything like that.”
Like Torres, Dianna Hughes started her journey years ago with a blog.
“I started off with adventures in her stilettos because I’m super short and I’m always wearing heels because I try to be like this tall woman,” she said.
Hughes started by posting about what she was wearing.
“It was really just a fun thing to do,” she said. “I started off slow and I did marketing and PR.”
Four years ago, she was able to quit everything else and just focus on her work online. Both women are part of the billion-dollar industry of social media influencers.
“A lot of them have a main hustle and then they have their side hustle,” said Professor Lin Humphrey, a marketing professor at Florida International University.
He says influencers are on high demand, with advertisers looking for relatable people to promote their products.
“Research shows we trust strangers and people we deem to be like us more than we trust brands,” Humphrey said.
But building enough of an influence online to make money isn’t easy.
“It’s cultivating good content,” Humphrey said. “It’s getting authentic followers.”
And that happens by posting consistently about a topic you’re passionate about, engaging with your followers regularly and using hashtags, which is one way to get a company’s attention and start building a relationship.
“I feel like my biggest thing when you come to my page is it’s bright, it’s happy and I just want to make people smile,” Hughes said.
Dianna is known as “Dee” to her more than 100,000 followers on Instagram.
“Essentially that number is almost like a dollar sign,” she said.
The 30-year-old says one of the perks of being an influencer is that she can’t remember the last time she went shopping for clothes for herself, even though she has a closet full of clothes and shoes.
“And stuff that I constantly give away and stuff that I have no more hangers to put up anymore,” she said.
Hughes posts several times a week.
“My days really consist of shooting, editing,” she said.
Her advice to anyone thinking of joining the influencer world is simple.
“Be consistent, be raw, be open,” she said.
Authenticity might just be what helps you break through.
“It’s not easy and it’s getting harder and harder,” Torres said. “You have to find your niche and really stick to it and really provide value to others because once you have a platform, it’s no longer about you, it’s about creating that impact.”
One thing you definitely don’t want to do: Don’t buy followers. Brands are always looking for people who have real followers who are engaging with their posts.
And keep in mind there are rules you have to follow when promoting a brand. The Federal Trade Commission recently released guidelines for influencers. You can read more about that here.