Making Instagram A Full-Time Career; An Interview with Polish-Born, NYC-Based Fashion and Beauty Influencer, Jessica Markowski

03/09/2017 01:35 am ET

Instagram alone has reached 600 million monthly active users (as of December 2016,) up 100 million from June of the same year. Over 400 million of those, use Instagram every day. That means a lot of earned media value for brands and a hell of a lot of opportunity for bloggers, fashionistas, creatives, and influencers to make this platform into a money-making business.

You know these accounts instantly; splashing across your Instagram feed sporting the latest gear, traveling the world, and generally looking fabulous at all times. It’s like scrolling through a fashion magazine with real-world models, everyday people, that have product that you want. They are indirectly, and overtly driving you to purchase. According to WGSN, “2017 is the year Instagram's potential as a shoppable channel will become clear.” The social platform began trialling its shoppable tags with 20 US retailers in November 2016,” including Glossier, Kate Spade, Warby Parker, and Levi’s. But influencers are the ones monetizing from Instagram.

@jessicamarkowski

The content generated by influencers is much more real than traditional paid advertising, and it's not because it’s free. Many influencers are getting paid a lot of money to post about product.

One can argue that the content may not be genuine. But we can’t deny that one of the many reasons that influencers are exploding and so effective at driving product sales is because they are real, down to earth, aspirational, inspirational, relevant, and most of all, relatable.

While our parents may have been surprised that “Social Media Manager” is actually a real job, and one can even go to college to study its art, “Influencer Marketing” is now a thriving business opportunity also. And it’s because of these influencer accounts on Instagram and other social channels who are driving an entirely new form of advertising, the ever so successful, advanced word of mouth.

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Managing the influencer has become the modern day PR. Influencer agencies; those that represent bloggers and oversee their relationships with brands have gone a step further than that though, becoming the contemporary model agency, casting agency, and digital analytics service all in one. They search for influencers out in the social space, based on their following and their demographic, they pitch these influencers to brands and vice versa, and survey the effectiveness of those relationships.

Tribe Dynamics

Success is measured through Earned Media Value or EMV, the dollar amount assigned to media coverage through social endorsements and relationships, and can be calculated via social engagement. Obtaining this however, can cost a brand big bucks to see a return on investment, though it seems in their best interest to do so. Analytics companies like Tribe Dynamics discover that the growth of EMV and Revenue for brands are quite directly related, i.e. the more money a company puts into influencer marketing, the higher the revenue.

According to SocialPR Chat, influencer marketing campaigns are an extremely cost effective way for brands to increase awareness, overall sentiment, build relationships with customers, and sell product. Marketers who implemented these “earned an average of $6.85 in media value for every $1 they spent on paid media,” and the ROI is high; “81% of marketers say that this is effective.” Becoming a part of an agency that connects the people to the campaigns though requires social worth.

Social Bluebook

But how do you know how much you’re “worth”? Especially if you’re just starting out. There is a company called Social Bluebook that allows you to find out. Founder and CEO Chadwick Sahley says “all of our prices are based on real-world deals.” The website eliminates the need to negotiate blindly and “helps facilitate getting the creator what they deserve.”

@jessicamarkowski

I chat to Jessica Markowski, 24-year-old Polish model, actress, and influencer living in New York City - whose profile I came across during New York Fashion Week as we both tagged ourselves at the same building - thanks to the wonders social media. Markowski tells me she used Social Bluebook when her Instagram page blew up posting behind-the-scenes shots of her modeling and acting gigs. She has 176k followers to date - which isn’t deemed that many in this social space now - however, the followers that she does have are so highly engaged, that she’s managed to turn her Instagram account into a full time career.

Markowski makes a business from working with brands that include: Dior, Verizon, Viktor & Rolf, St. Tropez, H&M, and most recently a tech company called “Craze” which shows a 360 view image of a product before buying. She’s the face and ambassador, speaking on behalf of influencers that monetize from the tool by uploading videos of their outfits and receiving commission every time a purchase is made. According to Markowski, “Kim Kardashian is already set to be in the mix and will be launching it to her audience in a few months.”

Did you sit down one day and say, "Oh, I want to blog and post fashion," or is it more of an extension of your modeling?

At first, when I had Instagram, I only treated it as a diary of mine. I only promoted if I booked a commercial, if I booked a film, if I booked some print job, whatever have you. I only used it as an account for me to promote what I was doing to my friends. It organically started to grow slowly. That's when I started partnering with friends and promoting a lot of designers, a lot of beauty products. By 20,000 followers I was promoting product and getting free product. At first, I thought it was a cool thing for companies to give me free stuff and I just posted about it, but I never really thought to monetize off of it. At 20,000, you can only ask for so much. Then when I started to reach 40,000, 50,000 is when I asked for a little bit more. After that I just made it a business and my full-time job, aside from acting and modeling, too.
@jessicamarkowski

Are you a part of an agency, or do you reach out to brands directly?

I have a few agencies. I don't have a permanent one agency that I work with, so it's a lot of different influencer agencies that have brands asking for different samples. Vayner Media, for example, were looking for somebody who has decent-looking teeth, who's willing to promote a retainer. They reached out to me and put me in touch with them, so I didn’t have to do the negotiating. The agencies I love most are Famebit and Vayner Media. Sometimes people {brands} direct message me, that they want to work with me and I have to trust my gut and know what I want to work for and how much time of a commitment it’s going to have me work on. Luckily there are analytics tools that allow us influencers to see what we should be asking.

How strict are the guidelines when working with brands in regards to the content - how much creative freedom do you have?

It all depends on the client. Sometimes they can be very strict other times they give me the freedom and flexibility to be as creative as I can be. I love working with both types. Sometimes I like the structure of knowing what exactly it is that they like and I also love being free as I am a creative and know what my audience loves the most from me

How do you feel about in-genuine content being posted on social media, as so many people are being paid to promote?

When it comes to my brand on Instagram, I like to promote things that I do genuinely think does work or is comfortable, whatever it could be. At the end of the day, I don't like to lie to my audience who is watching me and who's following me because for me it's important to be as authentic as you can. You have to be that message to them that it's something to believe in. I know not everybody does this. I have friends who are like, "Oh my god, I hate this product. I don't know how to promote it, it's just so ugly," but they still do it. In my situation, if I get a piece that I'm getting paid for that I don't like because the quality is bad, I'm going to have to apologize and say I could return it.

Do you have social media friends?

I do have a lot of social media friends. There's certain companies, influencer agencies, that organize influencer events, so you're able to not only promote the events and the product I've featured there or sponsored there, you get to meet with these people and talk to them and meet them and be friends with them. Usually the company that does most of that is called Obviously Social. Recently I went to a Twitter party, too, and we were promoting Twitter.

You recently attended Fashion Tech Forum with Diane von Furstenberg...

It was, in a nutshell for people who are in the fashion, digital, or startup business. Diane von Furstenberg was there. She talked about how important it is for everybody to go digital and how she's taking advantage of it. She's personally not doing it because she's a little bit older, but she hired somebody take charge.
@jessicamarkowski

How has the social space changed your career?

Even now, I know that my industry is changing so much because every single modeling agency that I met with, they wanted to know my Instagram handle and what my social media activity is, whereas before nobody ever asked about any of that, they just asked for your measurements, they asked for your reel, they asked for your IMDB, that was it. I had a callback for a commercial and it was only me and two other girls for one commercial. I Googled them just to be prepared for my competitors. I had the best social media presence, and I am the one who got the job.

Do you see this being a stable career or something that you’ll continue to do for a long time?

I actually do! Of course, you have your ups and downs. One month you can make a certain number whereas the next it could be only half. But I always keep record of hitting my minimum for the month.

Any negativity occurred from working as an influencer?

My worst social media experience, was somebody threatening to get their money back through PayPal because I didn't post back-to-back photos of them, but that was never under contract.

How does it feel to be influential to other people?

I am blessed to have this position and this title, that people look up to me and people ask for me for advice or whatever have you. I try to stand out by simply knowing what I can offer that can hopefully be of value and point of differentiation to the potential client. I am an actor, so people know I can be in film, commercial, video. I am a model, so I can create aesthetically pleasing images. I am a creator, so I can talk to my fans, followers and friends through social media and be of influence. So that is how I try and stand out from the crowd. Just be as authentic and you as you can, because nobody's better than yourself, you know?

Three reasons why an influencer is the hottest career?

You're helping others, you have a say, you build connections with people you probably never thought you'd have the ability to.

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