Katie Scollan from Chigwell, was 12 years old, when she discovered the joys of makeup. Now, just four years later cosmetics firms shower her with freebies and vie for her attention.
Why are they so keen on Scollan? Simple. Her Instagram site @simplyyykatie, boasts 341,000 followers, keen to see pictures of her trying out new products.
In the high speed, lucrative world of social media, Instagram is the hotspot for brands to market their products. So called ‘micro’ influencers, with fewer than 10,000 followers, can charge companies around £150-180 per image, whereas ‘macro’ influencers, like Katie and celebrities with 250,000 plus followers can demand a lot more. Big hitters such as Kim Kardashian reportedly charge £200,00 for a post.
“Social media is all about peer to peer recommendations,” explains Karen Ackerman a digital media consultant who trains people how to use social media. “People listen to their friends and will buy something or use a service because a friend recommends it. Influencers are just an extension of that, young people who are looked up to and regarded as ‘friends’ by millions of young followers.
“If a brand is trying to connect to a young audience they need other young people to recommend, and talk about their brand. If they can find young influencers whom other young people listen to with a large following that’s gold dust to them.”
Scollan, is now one of those influencers. It started out small. Arriving home from school each afternoon, she would head up to her bedroom and lay out her lipsticks, eye liners and shadows and post her images on Instagram. “At that time Instagram wasn’t so big, I just wanted to share my opinion,” recalls Scollan. “I was having fun with the photography and styling. Then I started making videos and tutorials using the products. These were shared on Facebook and one of them got 13 million views.”
Brands took notice quickly. One evening Scollan posted a video using Superdrug products, she woke up to find herself on the homepage of the company’s website. Parcels started arriving every day. “Companies reach out to influencers to pass their message,” explains Scollan. “There’s no obligation to post, but if I’m willing to post their product they will pay me. I wasn’t expecting this attention from cosmetic companies.”
Scollan admits that her fast growing fame can be overwhelming at times. It is widely acknowledged that Instagram, and social media, may be contributing to the increase in teenage mental health issues, with its glossy, filtered images and snapshots of seemingly perfect lives. But for her, the positives outweigh the negatives.
“I like to inspire people,” she says. “I use unusual make up techniques that people notice. I interact with my followers, to show my appreciation.”
You don’t need to have hundreds of thousands of followers to count as an influencers. In fact sometimes companies prefer ‘niche’ accounts, judging that they will be seen as more authentic by consumers. That may be why Sammi Manoff, 17, is approached by restaurants which have spotted her Instagram account @sweetcravings_x.
Manoff loves food, “Everything I do is about food. I enjoy cooking and I help my mum with Friday night dinner. But mainly I like desserts. My favourite is a classic chocolate cake. But I would rather eat than cook.” Her recent post from a Tel Aviv ice cream parlour resulted in an invitation from a similar establishment in London to sample and post their desserts.
She believes Instagram works for young people used to having everything “now”, it provides an immediate, visual high . And also, she says her generation are essentially nosy. “Young people love to glimpse what others are doing in their lives. I post images of my home-made desserts, delicacies from The Ivy, or from my holidays. I have some regular followers who comment on every post, saying, ‘keep up the great feed’.”
Exposing your life on Instagram may seem daunting to some but Manoff feels it adds a new dimension to her life and is a way to express herself. “I can be myself on my site and do what I enjoy. Whatever goes on in my life, there will be someone who can relate to it. It feels good to impact people’s lives like this.”
She plans to study marketing at university, “Lately I have been visiting different universities. I speak to lecturers about @sweetcravings_x and most of them find it really cool. One was already a follower! It gave me a real boost.”
Horus is full of drive and ambition. “I really don’t have enough time in the day to do everything!” he exclaims. “My dad brought me up to love sport- tennis, golf, surfing. He instilled a certain discipline in me. I have competed in the tennis three times at the Maccabiah Games and in New York last year I won a silver medal.
“I used to get up half an hour early and cycle to school with my dad. Everything we did was practical. We would put up a plank of mdf and play table tennis and I would practice, practice, practice. On an aeroplane we would spend hours fiddling with plastic plates from the meal making things. This is how I got into hobbies; first yoyo, then origami and juggling and now magic which I take very seriously.”
Horus films Facebook videos of his magic tricks on the streets of London. “Whenever I go out and film, it’s like oxygen for me. It feels amazing. I have discovered a new side to myself and gained confidence.”
Initially viewings on Facebook were modest and then one received eight million viewings in two days as it had been shared by a celebrity. Now they regularly get more than 40,000 views.
His dream is to be a professional magician. “I really want to make something out of this. My parents know I put 100% into everything and they are behind me on this.”