The influencer space is one filled with twists and turns of confusion and changes. As brands switch their advertising budgets over to being predominantly influencer-based and children tell their teachers they want to be an “Instagram influencer” when they grow up – it’s clear we are dealing with a digital phenomenon that is in it for the long haul.
But if the words “algorithm”, “VSCO” and “pods” have you slightly mystified or you’re sitting on a high follower count that’s just not translating into dollars – there’s one company launching today that is set to be an industry game-changer. The Influencer. The brainchild of entrepreneurs Kate Toholka and Monika Berry – The Influencer is an online training program designed to teach aspiring influencers how to build a personal brand and business.
Covering the full spectrum of establishing oneself as a brand and being positioned as an influencer to help build a career – The Influencer is what the influencer industry has been crying out for to ensure positive outcomes for all those working in the space (or wishing to work in it).
Below, we chat to Kate and Monika to find out why The Influencer is the essential program for those wishing to take their influence to the next level…
Congratulations on The Influencer! Why did you decide to launch it?
We’ve been working with influencers (both established and aspiring) for a while now – working on their branding and regularly photographing them. Our clients were constantly asking us for more advice around growing their status online – from how to take the perfect photo to how to set up an email list to how to grow an engaged following on Instagram. It was starting to make sense to simply put everything we know into an easily accessible format.
On the flip side, we work with many lifestyle brands who are wanting to use influencers for their campaigns but find it increasingly difficult to navigate the influencer market and/or have reported negative outcomes from working with influencers. So our aim was two-fold: help the influencers to establish themselves with a strong personal brand, and improve outcomes for brands using influencer marketing.
Do you think being an “influencer” is a viable career option?
In short, no. The whole first module of the course covers this exact notion: becoming an influencer should elevate your chosen career without actually being the career itself. Think about it: all models these days are expected to grow a significant social media following in order to further or fast track their careers. A stylist with a significant, loyal following has a stronger chance of getting the job she wants over someone without any social presence. A fashion designer will be able to sell more clothes if they position themselves as a thought leader on social. Being an influencer opens many doors and really should be the tool people use to fast track their career.
What is some of the money top social media content creators can make just from being an influencer?
Besides the celebrities, the top earners can earn up to $17,000+ a post. The average for those who have 250k-800k is approximately $800 a post. The TRIBE App reports their highest earner at $120k a year. That said, sponsored posts will become less frequent as influencers will look to ‘partner’ with brands over a series of content and form longer-lasting relationships. This also doesn’t consider the other income streams influencers can have. If you look at the current top earners, say Elle Ferguson, you’ll find they offer a myriad of services and/or products. If you do it right, you can earn a significant amount through all your income streams.
What is your background? What makes you experts in this space?
Mon: I started my career in real estate and then managing the office for a Managing Director of a large corporation, in these roles I always found myself working on better stock photography for office projects or improving the intranet for better communication and connecting staff – this is where my passion was. 7 years ago I launched my own graphic design and photography business which has flourished and in recent years combined powers with Kate Toholka in our business, House of Sage.
Kate: I come from a very unconventional background. I used to work in the mental health industry and have always loved psychology. I started blogging 7 years ago and have spent the last 7 years navigating social media and online business firsthand. I’ve mentored many women in developing their online presence through business development and social strategy. My love of psychology translates beautifully to marketing and social media – it really is about understanding how we all behave and interact with each other. It wasn’t until 3 years ago that Mon and I sat down and realised that we were better working together than apart. We bundled our talents into House of Sage and we now work exclusively with lifestyle brands and influencers to develop their marketing, brand and content.
What have been some of the biggest brands and influencers you’ve worked with?
The biggest (and by far the most successful Influencer we’ve come across) would be Sophie Cachia, previously known as ‘The Young Mummy’. Her ability to sell-out brands is incredible – she’s a real understated pioneer in the influencer world. We also work regularly with Renee Enright – we have worked with her on sass&bide campaigns, Asilio The Label and many others. We’ve also worked with the likes of Emma Hawkins, Kirsten Clemens, and emerging influencers Ruby and Lucy Brownless and Anneliese Wilson.
What types of influencers is The Influencer appropriate for?
Our branding says it’s for fashion and style influencers, but really, anyone in the lifestyle industry will benefit from the program. Parenting, foodies, fitness, travel, crafts… to name a few. The grunt work is all the same: build your brand and business from the ground up, hone your content creation skills, and be genuinely social.
How can doing a program help someone become a top influencer?
If you want to be the top in anything – influencer, stylist, designer etc – then education is paramount. It takes a lot of skill to develop incredible content. Plus there are so many myths and horrible tactics out there (honestly, how many more comments saying ‘Like!’can we endure?) that need to be avoided. Creating powerful content is more than a few selfies and commenting on other photos. By going through the course, you will gain clarity on the strategic marketing side of your platform, how to create engaging content and engage within your community effectively. Even for larger brands that are experiencing good growth and entering the market of paying influencers, we assist with systems and planning tools to help strategically plan your content creations / photoshoots to maximise your valuable time.
How does The Influencer differ from other programs currently on offer?
We actually set out to find an Influencer training program for our current influencers but there was nothing like it on the market. We found lots of flatlay and styling programs, blogging programs, and programs all about building your Instagram following – but nothing that covers the full spectrum of establishing yourself as a brand and positioning yourself as an influencer to build your career. So since we couldn’t find one, we thought we’d make it instead.
I can understand how a program is a must for anyone starting out – but why would you recommend established influencers sign up?
Because it pains us to say, but many established influencers are not translating their influence into sales. I remember vividly speaking to a woman with 90k following her account, yet struggled to convert that into sales of her bikinis. Another woman who had over 100k following on her health-focused account was struggling to make ends meet because she offered only one income stream and hadn’t done the right business work behind the scenes. Then there was one woman with less than 10k followers who released an e-course and earned $250k from that one launch. It’s a common myth that a huge following automatically translates to an incredible income.
You say that networks “can make or break your career”. Can you explain this?
It’s cliche but it’s true. Influencer marketing is all about community – and the community you create offline is just as important. As we said earlier, it’s a career booster and like anyone wanting to further their career, they need to network and socialise with others in their field. You can see this play out online with established influencers all the time – the ‘girl gangs’ as you call them. It’s such an important step to growing your community and positioning yourself as a leader in your industry.
How can you help influencers break into new networks?
On one side, we work with influencers. On the other side, we also work regularly with lifestyle and fashion brands of all sizes. We are regularly shooting campaigns with brands who are always looking for influencers to be involved. We’d love to connect our students with these brands. We also have a strong relationship with TRIBE App, we’re regularly shooting for Westfield, and we’ve got plans to head to the US for campaign shoots – our network is constantly expanding and we’ll be inviting our influencers to tap into ours.
The influencer scene is getting more and more saturated. What’s your number one tip for someone wanting to break through the market?
Avoid the old smarmy tactics of getting followers (i.e. buying likes/followers, joining Instagram pods, link parties, follow/unfollow etc) and focus on being genuinely social. Have real conversations and share real things about you. And most of all, be patient and consistent.
Where do you see the influencer market heading?
We suspect it’s going to change significantly in the next 12 months. The focus has slowly shifted from following size to engagement levels and brands are much more attuned to influencer marketing these days. Micro-influencers have proven to be more effective for brands, so this is a huge opportunity for the everyday woman to establish themselves in this space and further their career as they build a genuine following. We also predict that the partnership between brands and influencers will slowly change to be less spontaneous and more partnership-based, i.e. more ambassadorship-like roles will be developed.
How will The Influencer help influencers navigate the future of the industry?
We’re constantly attuned to what’s happening in the industry – our work relies on being at the forefront of it. We’ll be keeping our influencers constantly updated with trends and predictions of not only the influencer industry, but content and social marketing trends… Will video still be the hottest content format in a few years’ time? Will Facebook Pages die out? We’ll know because we’ll be constantly watching!
Click here to find out more information about The Influencer program. The program costs $400+GST or a 2 month payment plan option of 2 x $250+GST. For a limited time, they’re offering 45% off the course – use the code EARLYBIRD before Feb 15th.
Article created in partnership with The Influencer. All images created by the team behind The Influencer – House of Sage Agency featuring Renee Enright for sass&bide.