360i & WOMMA recently hosted a #WineWednesday panel called “Influencers as Storytellers: The Rise of the Digital Celebrity.” Panelists included photographer and award-winning Vine creator Meagan Cignoli, fashion illustrator Katie Rodgers of Paper Fashion and illustrator and style expert Dallas Shaw. 360i’s own SVP of Influencer Marketing, Rebecca McCuiston, served as moderator as panelists discussed how they achieved their “digital celebrity” status and what it’s like working with brands from Chanel and DKNY, to Lowe’s and HBO.
Key takeaways from the panel include:
- Hobbies can turn into careers thanks to social media. The panelists’ passions for art and photography first started as hobbies. “Art was taught to be a hobby, so it was,” said Rodgers of Paper Fashion, “but then social media changed everything.” Many of the influencers launched their social presence by posting creative work to Facebook and Twitter. From there, brands started noticing and reaching out for collaborations and partnerships. “I would post a photo shoot to Facebook and get more work the next week,” noted Cignoli, who now focuses on six-second Vines and stop-motion animation.
These days, the three women are using social media to connect with followers and brands; working to strike a balance between what they’re comfortable sharing, what their followers want to see and the goals that partnering brands want to achieve.
- When it comes to brand partnerships, authenticity is key. Some of the panelists admitted to turning down work with their dream companies because the specific projects just didn’t feel like perfect fits. Overall, it’s important for the influencers to work with brands that speak the same language they speak. As Shaw put it, “you have to know your brand and know when to say no.” However, the panelists agreed that they’re happy to work with unexpected brands that may not seem like a great fit on the surface, if they’re given more creative freedom and able to bring something new to the table. Working with diverse brands also provides a fresh outlook and inspires future projects.
- As the social landscape evolves, brands and influencers must evolve with it. There’s always another big social network or another dynamic app around the corner, and it’s important for brands and influencers alike to stay ahead of the curve. Influencers must decide if these new platforms make sense for them and the ultimate story they’re trying to tell. Two of our panelists, Shaw and Rodgers, noted that they’re looking to go beyond their 2-D illustrations and venture into video. For Shaw, it’s more about showing her personality and daily activities, which is what her followers are asking for, while Rodgers wants to use video to help her continue telling stories through watercolors. As for Cignoli, she’s always looking to think outside of social media, with sights set on television and using technology like GoPro.
While Shaw noted that “no one sets out to become a social media celeb,” it’s clear that our group of panelists and others in the social space will continue making names for themselves for years to come. From the front row at fashion shows, to placements in traditional advertising, social media is redefining what it means to be a celebrity in the digital age.