Influencer. Many people have heard the term but few truly understand what it means or that it is, in fact, a business. In today’s Canadian Showcase, we’re meeting Christin Bryant, the fashionably fabulous Influencer and owner of @cbstyled on Instagram.
Before we jump into our Q&A with Christin, let’s learn a bit about the industry she’s a valuable part of.
What is an “Influencer”
An Influencer is an individual who uses Social Media to educate and affect an individual’s buying decisions. Often, they do so by reviewing products or services they enjoy and share their experience with their audience. In order to be an Influencer, a person needs to build trust with their followers and encourage them to make purchases based on their recommendations.
What’s important to understand here is that Influencers have built their Social Media properties. They have a following that is attractive to brands. According to a 2021 Shopify survey, 68% of consumers trust Influencer recommendations while only 38% trust content from the brand itself. Using Influencer Marketing to reach consumers is a no brainer in an industry expected to be worth $13.8 Billion in 2021. It’s only fair that Influencers who are using their clout to promote brands get paid for their efforts.
How is being an Influencer a business?
Typically, Influencers will receive a small commission based on the products/services people make as a direct result from their pitch. There are a number of ways this can be done:
- Affiliate Marketing: A commission is earned each time a purchase is made using a specific link or discount code provided by the Influencer. For example, LIKEtoKNOW.it allows Influencers to highlight specific brands and, when a consumer uses the Influencer’s link to make that purchase, the Influencer receives a portion of the sale.
- Direct Payment: A brand pays an Influencer for the content they create. This content is shared on the Influencer’s owned properties.
- Product: An Influencer receives the product for free in exchange for creating content and sharing that through their Social Media properties.
When do I know an Influencer is “selling”?
Most legitimate Influencers will disclose that the post is an ad. This is not just a nice-to-do, it’s the law. Under FTC guidelines in the US and Canadian Competition Bureau in Canada, it must be immediately obvious to the consumer that what they are seeing is an advertisement.
This can be done a number of ways. The most common is that an Influencer will include the hashtag #ad or #sponsored in their post. Other times you might see a derivative of that like #gifted or #partnership. This disclosure is also necessary in stories. As with any advertisement, a consumer must be diligent and aware. If in doubt, ask!
Let’s Meet @CBstyled!
Having worked within the Influencer space for close to two decades (yes, I’m that old!), I’ve seen a lot of changes in the industry and I’ve seen a lot of questionable content. I wanted you to meet Christin today because I truly respect her work ethic and transparency. Her hard work is evident in everything she does.
Christin is a marketer and she runs a very well established and trusted brand based on years of hard work and listening to her followers. She sources products and services that she tests out and recommends – or sometimes doesn’t recommend – on her social properties. The legwork is done for you and the reviews are intended to provide you with valuable information to help you make an informed choice.
Here’s what Christin has to say….
Q&A with @CBstyled
Our readers are always interested in the origin story 😊 Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a wife and mom to two teenage boys and two labs. We live in Edmonton, AB but lived in Toronto for many years in my 20s and 30s. Before that I went to high school and university in London ON and I grew up in Oslo, Norway!
Tell us a bit about your path to influencing. Did you set out to make this a career or did you come by it organically?
I definitely didn’t set out to be one. When I first started on Instagram, it wasn’t even a thing! We had just moved to Edmonton (in 2013) and I had started making jewelry (learned from YouTube videos). I opened an Etsy shop and figured I would use Instagram to market my Etsy shop and started posting pictures (of my bracelets and necklaces etc.) first on their own and then styled with outfits. People often asked where a certain top or pair of shoes were from.
I also discovered “style challenges” where a blogger would put out a calendar of prompts (for example Monday: wear blue, Tuesday: something plaid etc.) and there was a certain hashtag to use. At the end of the month you could sometimes win a prize. I loved searching the hashtags and seeing other people’s take on the prompts. I even won a $100 J. Crew gift card!
Prompted by those style challenges I started posting my outfits almost daily and came to enjoy the community around it and the interactions with others who were doing the same. I also realized that it would be easier for my followers if I could link to the exact item I was wearing instead of just tagging my Etsy shop. For example, let’s say my Gap jeans since they then had to figure out exactly which style of jeans I was wearing.
I applied to Like to Know It (LTK) and was accepted in July 2018. My account name then was @cbdesignsshop and as I started to post more full outfits and not just jewelry I realized it would be confusing for new followers or brands that might want to work with me so I changed the name to @cbstyled and opened a new Instagram page for my jewelry biz. Sure enough I started to get a few local brands that wanted to send me items to wear and post about. This was back in the day of only picture feed posts, no stories, no reels, no video, no carousel posts!
Eventually my style account grew and I stopped making jewelry. I just wasn’t as interested in that business anymore and I was making way more through affiliate links. I’ve always been interested in style, fashion and having the right outfit for any occasion so sharing those things on social media feels natural to me.
What do you look for in the brands you promote?
It has to be either a brand I’m familiar with or one that I think my followers could benefit from. If it’s one that I’m not familiar with previously I make sure to set up a timeline so I have enough time to use the product to become reasonably familiar with it in order to review it and I always make sure there is an “out” clause in case I don’t like it. Thankfully that hasn’t happened. If it’s a brand I’m not already familiar with I do lots of research.
Compared to other Influencers I don’t do very many sponsored deals. I make 80% of my income via affiliate deals (where I get a percentage of sales). I find that works best for how I like to share with my audience. The biggest one is LTK and Amazon but I also have affiliate partnerships set up with smaller boutiques, skin care brands, lashes and more.
When you do sponsored posts and stories, there are restrictions on what you can and can’t say. The brand often has particular requirements for the picture and the message they want to get across, which is reasonable because it’s basically an ad for their products. I prefer to organically share things I love on my own timeline but sponsored content pays better.
When you come across a product or service you don’t like, how do you handle that?
If it’s an item I purchased myself and had hoped to wear and share in order to earn affiliate income I probably just won’t show it unless there is something specifically wrong or I want to warn others about (like if it looks very different than the pic online). But if it’s for a sponsored post I won’t share it. As mentioned above I always make sure there is no obligation for me to post.
Many Influencers are either Canadian or American but you’ve seemed to successfully manage both sides. How challenging is this for you on a global platform?
It’s a bit of a challenge because various brand websites do things so differently and things aren’t universally available depending on where you live. Sometimes I have to provide two links, one US and one Canadian. Other times I have to explain that it’s something only for US or only Canada. And I usually don’t mention pricing, if I do I always show both US and Canadian currency.
For example, Amazon is set up so that I can have both a US and a Canadian Amazon storefront (with affiliate links) but if I want to link through LTK to create a post with several items I can only link from Amazon.com not .ca. Old Navy has two separate websites with different availability levels so I have to create one link from the US website and one for the Canadian one. Abercrombie is the best because I just link to one item and when a follower uses that link they select which country they are in.
For places that don’t ship here like Target and Walmart, which are very popular with my US audience, I use third party shipping providers to get the items here, which is costly.
What are your favourite types of content and why?
I love sharing my finds via try-on sessions on stories. That’s where I try on an item of clothing (or shoes or accessories) and show it in the mirror while I talk about the fit, sizing, how the material feels, how I might style it etc. Basically, anything I can think of that someone would need to know in order to make a purchase decision. Essentially, I’m trying on the items so they don’t have to.
I am also really liking reels lately. They let me be creative and it’s so fun when a vision finally comes to fruition. But they can also be very time-consuming and frustrating! I love to style one item many ways and post slides of three or four outfits side by side. The casualness of stories, it’s so organic and off the cuff. I feel that is where my followers really see my personality!
What has been your proudest moment to date?
I can’t really think of one specific moment! But I’m proud of the fact that I’ve been able to turn this into a job, that I was able to pivot in my career and make something out of sharing on social media. Before we moved to Edmonton I worked in banking!
What’s next for your brand? We’d love to hear about your vision for the future!
Great question! I’m not great at planning, I usually just wing it. I’m hoping to continue to grow and keep sharing outfits and sales and fun finds with my followers.
I have to ask! How did you come up with your Instagram name?
It’s not very exciting! My Etsy shop was “CB Designs” just based on my initials. When I branched out and made the style account separate from my jewelry account I wanted to keep it somewhat similar so that people would know it was me.
We all know that social media isn’t always a bed of roses! Some comments can be quite mean or inappropriate. How do you handle that?
I’ve been very lucky and only had a few instances of this that I usually just ignore. I tell myself it’s a minuscule percentage and most people don’t feel that way. I have seen some fellow Influencers who will post the nasty DM to stories and then defend themselves. It feels unnecessary and just gives more power to the haters.
Any advice to share for those who want to enter the Influencing space?
Go for it! it’s much harder to grow now than when I started but definitely doable, you just have to find “your people”. There is a niche for everything, you just have to put yourself out there. Once you find your voice and reason for being on social media, you’ll find likeminded people and they’ll find you. The most effective ways to grow on Instagram these days is through reels and having other similar accounts share you.
While LTK and Amazon require lots of followers to approve their affiliates, lots of smaller boutiques and other small businesses have affiliate programs. If someone is interested in being an Influencer they should check with the small businesses they already shop at to see if they have an affiliate program they can join. That’s a great place to start!
I’d like to thank Christin for her time and sharing her deep knowledge on this topic!
In case you missed it, I interviewed Kind Laundry Founder Angie Tran and learned more about sustainable laundry solutions. You can also find the whole Canadian Showcase series here. Know someone you’d like to see featured? Leave me a comment below 🙂
Until next time, shop happy 😉