Historically, the term “influencer” can be traced back to the early 20th century. The term referred to personas that were used to sell products and services (Santa Claus, anyone?) Nowadays, the term “influencer” has evolved to allude to individuals who develop a distinct niche on social media and, in turn, have the power to influence purchasing decisions.
While laypeople often view influencers as these glamourous gods and goddesses with a seemingly perfect life, I frequently find myself wondering: what does it take to become a social media influencer, and what are the downsides to this lucrative position in the virtual sphere?
To gain a clearer understanding of social media influencers, I decided to go straight to the source. Therefore, I sought influencer Annalies van Overbeek to discuss what it means to be an influencer nowadays. Here is what she had to say.
Janelle: First off, can you introduce yourself to our readers?
A: My name is Annelies van Overbeek, and I’m a 21-year old art student currently based in Antwerp. In 2016, I gained popularity on Instagram by recreating the looks of Old Hollywood icons, though I was predominantly known for my resemblance to Audrey Hepburn.
Janelle: How would you define the term ‘influencer’?
A: I think everyone’s idea of what an influencer is will differ slightly, though I would personally define an influencer as a social media personality that people look up to for inspiration and entertainment.
Janelle: Can you take us back to the moment when you realised that social media was having a real-life impact on your public status and profile?
A: As my popularity on Instagram grew and eventually reached its peak, I wasn’t really meeting new people, so I never had an issue with people just knowing me as ‘the girl with a lot of Instagram followers’.
That changed when I switched schools and realised that I suddenly started feeling self-conscious when exchanging Instagram profiles, because there would always be an explosion of questions about how and why I had such a large following.
I barely consider myself a proper influencer, to begin with, but I started wondering if people wanted to hang out with me, because they liked me, or just because I had social media fame and thought they could profit off of it. Another thing is getting recognised in public. It has only happened to me a couple of times, but I don’t think I could ever get used to it.
Janelle: What are some of the struggles that you face as an influencer?
A: The biggest struggle that comes to mind instantly is that of the Instagram algorithm. Basically what it comes down to for me is that I can’t predict whether or not my followers are going to see my posts in their feed, simply because the algorithm will decide for them whether or not they’re going to show up.
There used to be little tricks one could use, like posting at a specific time, but at this point, it’s completely unpredictable. However, I have coincidentally found that for some reason, when I mention anything to do with Timothée Chalamet in the caption of a post, more people will end up seeing it. Odd, but true!
Janelle: Let’s talk about mental health. How has your mental well-being been affected because of ‘fame’?
A: I wouldn’t say that my mental health has directly been affected by ‘fame’, but as I previously mentioned, I used to put out a lot of content themed around Audrey Hepburn and vintage style.
Then after a while, I realised I wasn’t doing it because I wanted to, but because that’s what my audience wanted to see from me. After all, Audrey was the thing that had brought me that ‘fame’.
However, as I was getting older and developing myself as an artist, I realised that I did not want to just be known for looking like someone else. I wanted to be me….especially because I was constantly comparing myself to Audrey Hepburn and finding fault in everything about me that wasn’t like her.
Unfortunately, many of my followers did not understand my reasoning as to why I changed my style and demanded I ‘bring Audrey back’.
This was painful because in my eyes I was doing something for myself, something to make me feel better in my own skin, yet in return I was made to feel like becoming the best version of myself was worse than being an imitation of someone who already exists.
Thankfully, the audience I’m left with now appreciates me for me, and that’s a very fulfilling feeling.
Janelle: We all know that ‘likes’ do not automatically generate any revenue. What are some creative ways of actually making money off Instagram?
A: In all honesty, I have always been terrible at making money by doing paid promotions etc. You know, the way influencers usually do it. Not that I was really in it for the money. I really enjoy social media as a creative outlet and platform to share my art.
However, at one point, I did set up an Etsy Shop, which I advertised on my page, and it ended up doing so well. I had to close it down, simply because it became too much work for just one person. So I would say, if you’re itching with creative ideas and think there’s a market for your art, sell it!
Janelle: What advise would you give to all those who look up to social media influencers?
A: If you catch yourself feeling bad because your life doesn’t appear as glamorous or interesting, chances are your favourite influencer feels the exact same way about someone else they follow. I know I have! Almost everything you see on social media is painstakingly altered and perfected to please an audience and not fitting into that mould doesn’t make you less interesting.