In our long-running series, "How I'm Making It," we talk to people making a living in the fashion industry about how they broke in and found success.
Influencers sell. Brands know this. And plenty of people would like to call themselves influencers, but when we live in a world in which Kim Kardashian rakes in a reported $700K for a single appearance, it takes a lot more than just a couple thousand Instagram followers to make a career out of it. It's not just about social media. Fine, it's sort of about social media, but it's also about building a well-rounded personal brand that fans can both relate and aspire to. That's exactly what Marianna Hewitt, a blogger, YouTuber — and yes, influencer — who has been gradually cornering the beauty and lifestyle area, has managed to do, in a relatively short period of time. Since starting her blog, Life With Me, just a few years ago, she's racked up over 600k Instagram followers and been tapped by major brands like Colgate, Estée Lauder and American Express for partnerships. Fashionista asked her to divulge some of her secrets to #influencer #success.
How did you get your start? I'm guessing you didn't know you wanted to be an "influencer" from childhood.
I started off as a TV host, I went to school for broadcast journalism. And I wanted to be on TV because I always had a passion for sharing things, whether it was my favorite beauty product or where I was traveling. So when I went to school, being a TV host was the only way that I knew that I could share things with a mass audience. I didn't know blogging and YouTubing could be a career. Once those platforms started becoming popular, I saw that digital influencers were becoming more common, and I was like, this is my dream job; this is what I've always wanted to do. I was working as a TV host and I started my blog on the side in 2014. Within a few months, it picked up traffic and I started doing more on social media, and then I got management.
How did you start working with brands?
I'd reached out to my management before, when I was working as a TV host, because we saw in the space we were working in that people wanted to watch videos of digital influencers and YouTubers. I think more so than with celebrities, everyone wants to see [influencers], because you can really connect with people. My agency saw the potential in my site and myself before I had been around for very long, and they signed on and just helped to really advise me and just kind of align me with the right brands that made sense for me.
What has the reaction to you becoming more involved with brands been like from your fans been like?
I've been with [Colgate Optic White] for a year and have a national commercial on TV right now, and in Australia and New Zealand. It was really fun, I filmed it with another YouTuber in Miami, and people really love seeing the commercial. I get tweets almost every day from fans who have seen it. It's really cool because I think it's showing audiences that aren't necessarily into YouTubers or bloggers that we're really strong voices in marketing.
When I meet fans, they hug me and talk to me as if I've known them forever. So when they see an influencer they recognize in a commercial, they're excited. Every time I do a sponsored post, my fans are like okay, Marianna consistently uses these products, it's not random.
There's so much out there in the beauty space and lifestyle space right now. How can influencers set themselves apart?
I know it sounds so cheesy, but being yourself is the best thing to do. Some people think, I love this person, so I'm going to try to make my videos like theirs. Well, there's already somebody doing that. So if you're just yourself and you create content that you like, people will be attracted to that. I think trying to copy another person's formula isn't going to work. Try to create your own style of pictures or your own style of editing; just do something different to make yourself stand out.
You're super active on so many different platforms. Do you see any one of those as your main focus, and which one stands out when you think about the future?
I try to do it all, because I think that every platform is for different followers. On YouTube, people want to see tutorials and makeup videos; on Snapchat, they want to see more of my real life and what I'm doing when I'm not overly edited. On Instagram, they want to see really, really pretty pictures. Everything is so different, and I have to really tailor the content differently for each platform. But as far as the future of everything, I don't think Instagram is going anywhere. People love to sit around and scroll. People love Snapchat. Every event I go to has a Snapchat filter. I might not want to post something on Instagram and I might not want to film a full YouTube video, so it's nice to have a place to share something that's quick and easy that I don't have to think about as much. And then I think YouTube is growing more than ever. Celebrities are starting YouTube channels now. Outlets I work with are really focusing on video content. I think Youtube, Snapchat and Instagram are all my main focuses, and I don't really see any of them going anywhere.
What mistakes do you see people making on social media that they should avoid?
On Instagram, you don't have to post everything. Try to be really selective about what you post. And then for Snapchat: no drunk snaps. If you've had a few glasses of wine, just avoid Snapchatting.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.