Irish bloggers reveal why you should be wary of your favourite influencers - and their 'honest' posts
‘If you have time to add a Snapchat filter, you have time to include #ad’
A Snapchat endorsement from Kourtney Kardashian helped boost The Irish Fairy Door's pre Christmas sales - and gave the Dublin company leverage in tackling the US market.
The power of the single post, which reached the reality star's 86 million social media followers, was a small glimpse into the world of 'influencer marketing' that has become a career path and hobby for many.
In Ireland, a number of celebrities prolific with their social media updates across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat regularly partner with companies to promote their products of services.
But a growing number of 'average' social media gurus here who have built a large and attractive following are also targeting their demographic through paid for promotions.
These three Irish women share their own experiences in the community - whether full-time, part-time or undecided - and have a good bit of advice for anyone looking to do the same.
‘The day you think you’re better than your readers is the day you should give up’
Sinead Kavanagh was working as a primary school teacher when she was diagnosed with cancer in 2013. She started her 'The Beautiful Truth' blog 'as a distraction' while she was off work sick - and was nominated for company magazine award later that year for her efforts. She has since recovered from cancer and has gone on to have a baby last year.
"It just took off and now I am supplementary leave and focusing on the blog," she told independent.ie.
"I had been reading blogs for a while and I was a little dubious about the authenticity of the scene. I bought a few products that people that were raving about but they were just white label products with stickers."
The mum-of-one said she wanted to put information out into the sphere that involved "two sides of the story, get that negative side out".
Sinead believes that her style of writing is a little bit different from the regular contributors and it takes a long time for her to write a blog.
"Last year saw my blog fall to the wayside as everyone else was using Snapchat and Instagram while I was using Facebook; my age group would be older than a lot of bloggers – can see that from my analytics alone," she said.
Nonetheless, the busy mum understands the need to keep active with her social media offerings.
"I do use Snapchat but I am quite private; I will tell little bits about myself," she said.
"For the most of my day, from 7am to 7pm, I’m looking after my baby. But I can keep on top of things by updating social with the phone in my hand.
"From 7pm -11pm I’m in my room taking pictures - or going company events."
However, Sinead maintains that a lot of bloggers who think they have influence believe that because they put out so much content all the time.
"But they only influence a certain demographic - and the people that they influence don’t have the money to buy the products the companies want to sell," she said.
Transparency is important to Sinead and she said it can be very hard seeing people who don’t actually blog getting an opportunity.
"In my own way, if I’m sponsoring something I hashtag on every single platform I’m using. It’s hard when you turn down something that it’s not a good match.– and other people use it and don’t use the hashtag," she said.
"People that have been a long time blogging; you can see through them like a window. I think it’s Snapchat that brought in the murky waters; the whole thing is so new."
Sinead has also been working on a side project - a company that holds social media workshops for businesses and bloggers.
"My number one advice is don’t do it for the fame or money, do it as an outlet; so few people actually earn money through blogging.
"The day you think you’re better than your readers is the day you should be should give up".
‘If you have time to add a Snapchat filter, you have time to include #ad’
Laura Young started her blog late 2013 when she was off sick from work at home - the 29-year-old from Carlow, now living in Dublin, started to make YouTube videos out of boredom. Her honest opinions and tips for saving money and getting a bargain have gathered her channel 'LaurasViews' a substantial following.
"I’m not technically a blogger although I post videos fairly regularly and keep my social media accounts updated," she told independent.ie.
"It was never my intention to build a huge following; when I started, I saw the posting as more of a past-time. Many bloggers now start out looking for followers really fast but this isn’t the way to go."
Laura hasn't made the two feet jump into blogging; she has a full-time job that she has no intention of leaving. While she appreciates the life of a blogger can be a very attractive lifestyle at times, "the financial aspect is not very reliable".
"Bloggers can go through many very dry periods and this just isn’t ideal for me," she said.
"This is my hobby and I would be afraid of losing the enjoyment of it if it was a full-time gig. Right now I could take a week off Snapchat and I'll have lots of free time but it won’t really affect my bank balance."
Personality and honesty is what Laura believes her followers tune in for - "honest pieces accompanied by aesthetically pleasing photos".
"I’ve created a niche for myself because I am incredibly honest and straight down the line. I won’t work with some companies if I don’t feel that their product or service is not right for me," she said.
"I did one sponsored video but now, when I do recommend something, I'm afraid that my followers will assume that I am being paid for it."
Laura, like Sinead, believes that lack of transparency in the community is becoming a problem with some bloggers promoting products or services "that I know they’ve been paid for but they don’t explicitly say that".
"I don't think it's because they are new or naïve to the game. If these people are able to put filters on their Snapchat, they can take an extra four seconds for the hashtag," she said.
But for those looking to get into the world of blogging, Laura thinks there's an opportunity there if they "embrace their uniqueness".
"That is the only thing that will get you a following. You should exploit their own quirky little things about yourself, showcase your personality."
But the importance of social media - and staying on top of regular posts - is a time consuming task that Laura believes all new bloggers need to be aware of.
"When I’m doing a video, I’d get up in the morning and jot down a few notes. Then I set up the lights and do my hair and makeup (glam from the waist up!).
"The video itself only takes about 30-40 minutes and it takes two to three hours to edit. But then I’ll upload the video and push it out on my social media; routine is everything with that, to keep your content relevant."
Laura said that there will be "massive changes" to the blogging industry over the next two years.
"Successful bloggers are already creating their own products and makeup lines. There’s so much saturation in the market and the regulations are stricter, which will also have an impact," she said.
"I think companies will have to sit up and take notice of bloggers who have amassed 2,000 and 10,000 followers of good quality and a demographic with the funds to pay for their products."
‘I don’t like the word influencer – don’t get into blogging for the ‘free stuff’’
Sarah Hanrahan set up her own business which involves Wardrobe Detoxes and has her blog 'I Come Undone' has amassed quite a following. Trained as a psychiatric nurse, Sarah first set the blog up while she was travelling around the blog almost four years ago. But it wasn't until she returned to Ireland that she really joined the community online.
"I didn’t know you could monetise a blog at all, was unaware of the community, didn’t realise that there were events," she said.
"When I typed Irish fashion blogger into Google when I decided to really focus on the blog, Igot a rude awakening. I didn’t realise just how many people were doing it."
After a stint working as a detox nurse for the homeless community on shift work, Sarah kept her blog up as it suited her hours. She has since left that role without an intention to take the blog full-time but she has been taking the work on a month-by-month basis since then.
Sarah's focus is on fashion so she takes a considerable amount of photos working on what images will best resonate with her audience. She doesn't feel her power is purely used a marketing tool though.
"I don't like the word influencer," she said. "I personally feel that the word undermines what you do rather than how creative you are. If someone is creative, has a strong following and work with brands, then I can see why brands tap into market."
She, too, has seen a lack of transparency many times; has turned down that work as it doesn't suit her and then seen people take that work up without mentioning about advertising.
"Outside of the hashtags I will mention it on Snapchat that I'm speaking about a certain brand. I've encouraged transparency and honesty and I will continue to encourage this. I've nothing to hide. I'll only work with the companies that suit what I’m about," she said.
Apart from advising new bloggers about the importance of maintaining their social media accounts, Sarah believes the career path is "not particularly taxing".
"It's not hard if you're creative - and you can choose your own hours," she said.
"It's so important not to get into it for the wrong reasons like 'How do I get brands to send me free stuff'.
"You're looking at two years of blogging into an abyss, talking to yourself before anyone will take any notice. So don't get into it for that reason."