How Instagram Influencers Become Businesses and What Happens Next


The moment Amber Fillerup Clark landed a major profile in Atlantic by 2017, the blogger and Instagrammer had already spent seven years at the top of her game. Clark launched his blog, since renamed but at the time called Barefoot Blonde— in 2010, and quickly rose to the top of the mom blogging ecosystem.

Now, more than a decade later, Clark has amassed 1.3 million Instagram followers, oversees nearly a dozen full-time employees, and Dae Hair, the beauty brand she launched. in 2020, is the best-selling clean hair care line at Sephora.

But as Clark, and a whole generation of first-wave Instagram influencers, evolved their businesses from image-makers to brand-makers, the social media landscape has also continued to change — and these days, she feels pressure to turn.

“It’s a shift right now, actually, and I spend most of my time on TikTok,” Clark said. fast company on a Zoom call from his home in Arizona. “Everyone is moving away from Instagram. I feel like if they don’t seriously change their algorithms back to what they were, Instagram is going to become obsolete, like Facebook.”

Not that Clark is more dependent on social media for his income. In 2016, she transformed her love of hairdressing by developing a hair extension company, BFB Hair, and Dae Hair has been very popular since its debut two years ago. Some of the most requested products in the 14 SKU lineup, such as Vegan Detangler and Giant Shampoos and Conditioners, have sold out multiple times since hitting store shelves.

“I spend most of my time on my businesses, not on social media,” Clark says. “The time I spend on social media is not necessarily to make money. It’s so important to the brand awareness and community interaction I’ve built over the past decade.

Back in the nascent days of Instagram, which launched in 2010, hardly anyone could have predicted the platform’s future impact on the then fledgling creator economy, which has since grown to an estimated 104 billions by 2022. Without the pressure of brand deals or monetization, early adopters were free to post candidly — and Clark credits much of his success to consistently posting authentic content about his passions and interests.

“I think it comes from a very authentic place,” she says. “Those are really my real hobbies and I share them with you. I think when someone actually shares what they’re passionate about and you can actually feel their passion, it’s contagious. I feel like ‘have always done what I love.

Nowadays, a whole new generation of creators (the term influencers slowly going out of fashion) embark on their careers fully aware of its lucrative potential. Since 2019, surveys have shown that “YouTuber” is the career of choice for most kids and teens – and with the pressure to rack up subscribers and win sponsorships with “brand-safe” content, for many years filtered and selected characters became the default social media. Until TikTok happens.

Short-form videos deployed through TikTok’s algorithm, which prioritizes content over creators, have catalyzed a new, more authentic era in the influencer economy. A lower barrier to entry also means more people are in the game – and data-driven engagement metrics show audiences and consumers prefer real and gritty over slick and pristine.

“There are so many people [on social media] now it’s so saturated,” Clark says. But the content is also grabbing public attention — and advertisers, including Clark’s companies, have flocked to new platforms to scout for new talent.

“You don’t have to be that big to make money,” she says. “It’s a lot easier now to get paid to do this.”

And as the first wave of OG influencers transition into business and become business owners, they’re turning around and pouring marketing dollars into a new generation of social media content creators, because they know, firsthand , how authentic engagement can convert consumers.

“At Dae, we invest in a lot of micro-influencers and UGC content from people who may not have a lot of followers. We really like their perspectives,” Clark says. “I like this evolution of social media – how relaxed it is now and how nothing is off limits. I think brands are so creative now. Their customers are at their fingertips, which creates many possibilities. It’s definitely more fun, that’s for sure.


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