The rise of the influencer has seen huge changes to the PR industry and the ways in which brands promote their products. Where a brand may have once looked to billboards or TV adverts (which are still viable options it must be said), many are now opting for the online equivalent – influencers.
We recently caught up with West twin, personal trainer and fitness and lifestyle influencer Lucy West who, with a combined total of 435k Instagram followers, is perfectly placed to chat all about the industry and what the rise of the influencer means for both brands and PRs…
Tell me a little about being an influencer and how you got started?
I became an influencer quite by accident! My twin sister and I set up a joint Instagram account for fun, documenting our training and healthy lifestyle. Within weeks we had a manager and a sponsorship deal with a major online sports and supplement retailer. I took each day as it came and never put pressure on myself. We wanted to stay true to ourselves, which we always have.
Being an influencer is great, as you get to share what is important to you as well as the fun stuff, including meeting lots of like-minded people; you have a sort of extended family. It’s great to have that level of support. It’s also a responsibility which I take very seriously…it’s important to really think about the messages I am putting across as I am in the public eye.
How would you describe a typical day as an influencer?
There is no typical day as each one varies so much. However, it mainly consists of being out and about, documenting what I am getting up to, sharing my day on my social media stories, creating content to specific requirements for the brands I am working with, photo shoots, training, etc. I like to maintain as much variation as possible to keep my content interesting, but also still reflect my everyday life.
What are the biggest challenges/pet hates in your career?
If you are having a bad day or you’ve had an argument with someone, you have to forget about it and still be active on your social media stories. Just because I may not feel like smiling or talking much, I have a job to do and I still need to do it! I’m happy to reflect my bad days in my posts, but I don’t want to be moaning all the time!
A pet hate is people often assume A LOT about you – this is really frustrating!
If you could pinpoint a highlight in your career what would it be?
A highlight for me was when I was able to leave my full-time job in an office as I had secured a paid monthly contract.
What important factors contributed to your success?
Being true to who I am. I’ve never pretended to be anyone other than myself. It comes across as fake if you do, and I can’t imagine the stress I would have if I was pretending to be someone I’m not. It wouldn’t be manageable or honest.
If you weren’t an influencer, what job would you be doing?
Probably something with people! I love being around real people and making them feel good. And feeling good about myself too – that’s much easier when you surround yourself with like-minded people.
What tips for success would you give to someone wanting to become an influencer?
Know your markets and industry and have a unique selling point. There are so many influencers out there, so you need to stand out. It’s a very ‘public’ position, so you must be sure it is what you want and obviously it doesn’t suit everyone. Try vlogging or writing blogs first, to see if you can handle creating daily content and you’re happy and comfortable in front of a camera before you take the plunge.
With all the changes to social media (e.g. Instagram’s like count) stemming from mental health and trolling concerns, how do you see this affecting the influencer industry?
I think influencers need to become stronger when dealing with trolling and have backing from social media sites. It’s only going to get worse and there needs to be support for those affected and action for those who use social media to be unkind, hurtful or racist.
It’s important that influencers understand that there will always be someone who doesn’t agree with you, and handle this accordingly.
How do you view the relationship between PRs and influencers?
I think it can work for both influencer and PRs if they wish to collaborate and strengthen branding. But again, it must be a natural fit or the brand.
How do you think the industry has adapted to the rise of influencers?
Like many other sectors, you have to move with the trends. Now, it’s all about influencers and social media; this will change again though as the industry has grown considerably. Some of this change will be led by brands themselves and how they chose to market their products.
How do you find the industry works with influencers as opposed to journalists? Do you think the relationships with PRs are built the same?
This is a tricky one… influencers need to be quite selective about which brands/products they work with and promote. I always make sure that I only collaborate with a business or products which I either a) currently use and love or b) am genuinely intrigued to try and can give a legitimate review. It goes back to being authentic. I also have an agent who helps me manage this and advises which brands work for me.
Is there anything you would do differently?
I would have had a more constructed approach from the start and treated my social media platform as a business right from the beginning to ensure better longevity. At the very start it was just for fun and I didn’t put pressure on myself, therefore I didn’t plan for where it could take me career wise. Because of this I’ve probably lost out on opportunities! It’s a business now, so it needs to be well thought out and planned – just like any other job.
To read more in our Faith Meets series, click here.20th January 2020