It’s time for our monthly Influencer Spotlight Interview! In this monthly series, we aim to provide our influencer community with valuable insider information about the industry.
This month, I chatted with my friend Lauren from Lakeshore Lady: a Chicago-based lifestyle, cooking and fitness blog. Lauren and I first connected last year while we were both living in Chicago, and I was instantly impressed by her warm demeanor and “can-do” attitude. She’s landed loads of brand collaborations and recently transitioned to blogging as her full-time gig! I knew her story would provide helpful insight to aspiring influencers, or those looking to grow and evolve. Here’s what she had to say!
WH: Tell me a little about how you started your blog and your initial vision for it?
LN:I started Lake Shore Lady when I moved from New York to a studio on Lake Shore Drive in Lakeview here in Chicago. I was honestly just looking for a creative outlet, so I didn’t have a clear vision for what I wanted it to be. I just knew I wanted to create content about the things I loved… and that’s about it! It took me years of trial and error to really hone in on my vision and goals.
WH: How do you find balance prioritizing and juggling the work to be done for each area of your platform?
LN: This is really hard for me, especially because social media has such instant (and public!) gratification. However, I always try to remind myself that the website comes first. Increasing traffic there is my #1 priority. Instagram comes second, Pinterest after that, and Facebook last. If I think about it in that tiered way, it helps me stay productive and avoid overwhelm.
WH: What has been the biggest shift in the influencer landscape you’ve seen during your career, and how have you adapted?
LN: INSTAGRAM! It was brand new when I first started Lake Shore Lady, and wasn’t even remotely a reason why I wanted to become a blogger. Now people ONLY have Instagram accounts and that’s it. It’s wild! It’s really cool that people are creating communities on the platform, and it’s a great way to reach people – I just worry about putting too many eggs in that basket because we don’t own our accounts and the platform is always changing.
WH: What advice would you have for influencers who are just getting started in this very saturated market? How do you stand out among the other?
LN: This is going to sound so cliche, but it’s true: BE AUTHENTIC. People can see through you if you’re acting fake, posting about things you don’t actually love, or simply going what everyone else is doing because you think that’s a roadmap to success. What works for someone else might not work for you – this industry was built on people making their own rules. I also think it’s important to learn as much as you can. Don’t settle for simply posting a pretty picture of yourself on Instagram once a day. Set up a website. Learn SEO. Take a photography course. Research the best hashtags. Meet other bloggers in your city. Get all of the images from your site onto Pinterest. There is ALWAYS something to learn.
WH: You recently made your blog your full-time gig. Congrats! Tell us a little bit about that transition.
LN: Thanks! I took a while to go full time because I really wanted to feel confident in my decision. I had lived the “struggling artist” life in New York after college and I wasn’t interested in returning to that. I also had built a following that trusted me and I didn’t want to ever feel like I needed to take collaborations or push products that I didn’t believe in just to pay my bills. So, once I put a bunch of money in savings and my blogging income surpassed the income I was making at my marketing job, I knew it was time.
WH: Tell us about how collaborations have played a role in your business. And any favorites you’ve participated in to date?
LN: I know collaborations/sponsored posts can get a bad rep sometimes, but they are my biggest source of income – and honestly, I really love this part of my job! I love the creative challenge of coming up with content that helps the brand’s marketing goals AND is helpful and fun for my readers, especially when it’s for a company I love. That’s such a win win to me! Some brands I’ve loved working with are Barilla and Eataly (I’m Italian so these are RIGHT up my alley), Weber Grills, and Crate & Barrel.
WH: What advice would you offer to an influencer who is looking to land more successful brand collaborations?
LN: Focus on your engagement more than your follower counts. It’s very hard to grow on Instagram right now, so try not to stress out that you only have 11,000 followers vs. someone else who has 70,000. Instead, focus on creating content that is really engaging for the followers you already have. Brands LOVE it if you have high engagement, and sometimes that outweighs a bigger following.
And because I always say this, work on your website too! When a brand pays for an Instagram, it tends to have a shelf life. Whereas if they pay for a blog post, it will get the initial views from your followers AND it has SEO potential to live on for years to come. There’s a lot of value in that!
WH: What are some of the the most important qualities you think are required to be successful in the influencer space?
LN: I wish I knew all of the keys to success in this space! For me, it’s all about being authentic, consistent, and always thinking about how to provide value to your audience.
WH: Any predictions about where influencer marketing is headed?
LN: I’m convinced that Instagram won’t be the #1 platform for much longer… but who knows for sure?!
WH: Any other wisdom you’ve gained that you want to share?
I think it’s important to remember your “why”. It can be really overwhelming sharing so much of your life with strangers, so it’s helpful to reconnect with why you’re doing it. This also helps avoid the comparison game, you’ll stay more confident even when negative comments come your way, and it will help you stay inspired!