#NoFilter
How an alumna and a student made it big on Instagram

Sometimes, when Luanna Perez-Garreaud walks down the street, she realizes she’s been recognized by one of her Instagram followers. “The other day, someone stopped me and said, ‘Are you …’ that’s it! Just ‘Are you,’” the 25-year-old laughs. “I just said, ‘I am,’ and she was so excited.”

Being stopped on the street is still something of a shock to Perez-Garreaud, a Fashion Business Management major at FIT who sees herself as just someone who enjoys posting photos that catalog her life. “I’m an addict; I post like five photos a day,” says the flame-haired student, whose singular style fuses ’90s grunge with New Wave goth and ’50s pinup girl. But she has become an accidental entrepreneur, collaborating with brands like Topshop and Zara to create T-shirts with her likeness, and maintaining her own personal-style site, Le Happy, which generates income through sponsorships from products she loves. The way she’s able to attract these deals, and the way she’s become a New York street-style star, is through her Instagram account, @luanna90.

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Luanna Perez-Garreaud, Fashion Business Management ‘16 (@Luanna90), has 1.9 million Instagram followers.
Here are some of her most successful posts.

Instagram—which lets both individuals and organizations share their smartphone pics with the world—has grown from social app to bona fide business tool in just five years, with more than 300 million users uploading, consuming, and sharing 70 million photos a day. And while Instagram has just one-fifth as many users as Facebook (at 1.5 billion), its users are more engaged. According to Forrester Research, they’re 58 times more likely than Facebookers to like, comment, or share a brand’s post. (They’re more likely buy a product they saw on their Instagram feed, too.)

“Instagram changed the game in many industries, especially branding and advertising,”  says Ariele Elia, Fashion and Textile Studies: History, Theory, Museum Practice ’11, assistant curator of costume and textiles at The Museum at FIT (@museumatfit). Elia hosted Instagram and Fashion, a Fashion Culture event about the app’s growing influence on the industry, on October 6. “It’s a great marketing tool, because it connects the globe. A young designer from Brazil, like Patricia Bonaldi (@patriciabonaldi), can now reach one million international customers.”

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blue-arrowSEVEN TIPS FOR KILLING IT ON INSTAGRAM,

FROM PEREZ-GARREAUD AND BERSTEIN

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1. Develop a distinct style—don’t use a different filter every time you post.
2. Show a variety of images. If la mode is your métier, don’t just post photos of your outfits, but of the fabrics, colors, artworks, and vintage photographs that inspire your style.

3. Use popular hashtags specific to your photo, such as #selfie, #tbt (throwback Thursday), and #photooftheday.
4. Tag posts. If you’re taking a selfie, tag the brand that made your outfit or your lipstick. If you’re documenting your artfully crafted latte, shout out the coffee shop where you got it. And if you’re snapping a photo of the paperback you’re particularly enjoying, tag the author.
5. Reach out to the community. Follow other users and comment on their photos, and they’ll do the same for you.
6. Be consistent. Don’t post one photo and then forget about Instagram for weeks.
7. Plan out your snaps. Bernstein creates an editorial calendar that ensures variety in the images she posts.

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FINDING SPONSORSHIPS

“When I came to New York and started meeting bloggers here, I realized they were using Instagram a lot,” says Perez-Garreaud, who joined Instagram in 2012, two years after launching Le Happy in her hometown of Lima, Peru. “I saw it as another cool platform to share my blog posts and other content I create.”

Now she has an impressive 1.9 million followers on the app, and brands, including Coach, Kate Spade, and Honest Tea, often partner with her on projects that they dream up together. “The collaborations just happened; one day a brand reached out and wanted to work together, and they paid me. That’s how I realized, ‘Oh, people pay for that.’”

For some bloggers, they can pay a lot. Harper’s Bazaar reported that Danielle Bernstein, Advertising and Marketing Communications ’14, could fetch up to $15,000 per post on her Instagram account @weworewhat—though, as she explained to Hue, her rate for sponsored posts vary from project to project.

Still, Bernstein is making a successful career out of her personal style blog and Instagram account. “Surpassing 500,000 followers was when I realized this is a legitimate business,” she says. The Instagram celebrity, with 1.3 million followers, earns income through sponsored content, advertising, and other collaborations.

Yet Bernstein acknowledges that corporate sponsors, if not chosen carefully, can damage an Instagrammer’s reputation. For one, the Federal Trade Commission has rules about disclosing what items a blogger receives for free, or is paid to promote, and these rules can be murky and difficult to parse. Also, having too many ’grams tagged #ad or #sponsored might cause fans to question the authenticity of the posts.

“My followers can trust whatever I promote,” Bernstein says, “which has been extremely important.”

Danielle Bernstein, Advertising and Marketing Communications ‘14 (@weworewhat), has 1.3 million followers on Instagram. Check out these standouts from her feed.

Danielle Bernstein, Advertising and Marketing Communications ‘14 (@weworewhat),
has 1.3 million followers on Instagram. Check out these standouts from her feed.

A WAY TO STAND OUT

Whether you want to use Instagram to sell your wares, raise awareness of your brand, drive traffic to your website, draw attention to your research, or simply make money, one thing is key: a distinctive, strong aesthetic point of view.

“It has to be personal,” Perez-Garreaud says. “You have to be unique in a way. You have to be yourself.”

“A good Instagram account piques someone’s curiosity,” MFIT’s Elia says. “The Instagrammer is advertising who they are—maybe not in terms of selfies, but the food they’ve eaten, the places they’ve been, the art they’ve seen.” And that goes for businesses, brands, and magazines, too. “People love seeing behind the scenes—they want to be let into their world.”