The price of a pretty face

JORDI WOOD

There’s a good living in good looks, or is there? Gold Coast’s Insta-famous discuss the reality of investing in social media and what they earn from online fame.

From fitness to modelling to travel — young, beautiful Instagram influencers are dominating social media platforms. Their glamorous lifestyles and expensive holidays portray Instagram modelling as a lucrative business, but is that the case?

More than 500 million people use Instagram each day, making it one of the most popular and fastest growing platforms on the net, according to a 2018 Omni Core study.

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It presents as a commercial opportunity for certain individuals, predominantly female, who utilise their looks, talent or lifestyle to attract followers and gain likes.

Gold Coast natives Jessica Green, Brooke Chamberlain and Sakara Bell say Instagram can unlock an enviable lifestyle, not always delivered in cash.

Jessica has posted to @jessicagreen for more than five years, her modelling photos and coffee shop snaps gradually gaining attention. When businesses began offering free products, she started viewing the platform as a commercial opportunity.

In the beginning I just had it just for friends, but slowly my following grew and it’s only really been in the past few years that it went into the two hundred thousand (followers) upward,” she said.

Jessica employed a manager and turned Instagram into a business, allowing her to earn a living off sponsored photographs in-between sporadic modelling and acting jobs.

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Jessica Green Photo: @jessicagreen

She says one of the greatest perks is the opportunity to travel the world while others help foot the bill.

“Last year me and my friend Brooke were flown to Thailand and spent an amazing week staying in six star resorts, getting pampered and spoilt with meals and massages…all for free!” Jessica said.

But Jessica’s travelling companion, Brooke Chamberlin, warns this wasn’t the experience of most, and described the effort and time needed to build an Insta- brand is similar to a conventional business.

For the past five years Brooke has worked hard to gain almost 500,000 followers to her two instagram accounts. On her fitness and lifestyle profile @brookechamberlain_ she shares casual photos of her travels, workouts and everyday life, whereas @interiorselfie is strictly architecture and interior design.

Brooke has developed content on both profiles she believes reflects what her followers want to see, scheduling to share a photograph every two days.

The strategy has paid off; Brooke has travelled the world thanks to her social media status, supported by free accommodation and paid promotional posts to her Instagram pages, known as Influencer Marketing.               

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Brooke Chamberlain Photo: Brooke Chamberlain  

This describes an individual with a large social media following being given financial or product incentives to promote a specific product.

This strategy is expected to grow in 2018. According a study conducted by Linqua Marketing, 92% of businesses utilising influencer marketing found the strategy effective, with 39% increasing their budgets this year.

Brooke says her popularity on Instagram and the endorsements she receives has helped her earn a living and promote herself as a personal trainer and actress.

“Being consistent has been key, and making sure I have good quality posts that are in line with my branding,” she said.

“Money is great when you can earn it from anywhere in the world, and free stuff is always fun, but it’s only worth it if you really want the product.”

Despite the perks, Brooke warns that life as an influencer is hardly a breeze. Many trips aren’t paid for, requiring a significant investment of time and money to support her lifestyle and promote her brand.

Griffith University student Sakara Bell sees the platform as a way of bolstering her budding journalism career — her following has swelled to more than 50 thousand people.

The part-time bikini model has used her account @sakarabell since 2015, embracing her influencer status in the past two years. She says her popularity come from being real and sharing everyday life: coffee with friends, workouts and the occasional modelling job.

Sakara admits she is “addicted” to the attention she gets from her photos, and frequently considers getting off the platform.

“The amount of times I have said I want to delete my Instagram because I have gone through hard times with it and think it is stupid, but it really does benefit my future career,” she said.

Sakara says her Instagram fame has helped land interviews with sports stars and television presenters, as her following  gives her a public profile and a level of legitimacy.

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Sakara Bell Photo: @sakarabell

Positive feedback from her followers is also a driving force.

“I get lot of messages from people saying my positivity and self-love message has helped and inspired them — even from guys!” she said.

Despite Sakara’s experience, recent studies have suggested social media platforms are playing a major role in perpetuating mental health issues among youth. Instagram is highlighted as having the most negative impact by The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH).

“Social media has been described as more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol, and is now so entrenched in the lives of young people that it is no longer possible to ignore it when talking about young people’s mental health issues,” said Shirley Cramer, Chief Executive of RSPH.

Shelly Reed, Gold Coast psychologist for the therapy program Mirror Mirror, described the impact image-driven social media has on some patients.  

“It’s hard for young girls nowadays to understand the impact posting a provocative photo, because it has been normalised on platforms like Instagram and the people they look up to,” she said.

Shelly says it is difficult to find a balance between encouraging young teenagers to express body positivity, and protecting them from over-sexualising themselves.

She explains how many girls are not considering the unwanted attention and possible repercussions of posting provocative photos as it has become so common and “it seems to be what gets the likes.”

Despite this, Instagram influencers like Jessica, Brooke and Sakara plan to continue growing their Instagram following.

 

 

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