Sara Donaldson’s charmed life is well documented on her Instagram feed – photos of her posing in beautiful locations with luxury goods, expensive clothes, sports cars and jets.
The 25-year-old is not a rock star or a famous actress, she is the new breed of advertiser.
Carving out a niche in the online world with her blog Harper and Harley, the Brisbane marketing graduate with an interest in fashion has caught the eye of big brands.
The blog has 70,000 monthly readers and her Instagram and Facebook accounts have over 700,000 followers between them.
She started the blog seven years ago as an outlet for her interest in fashion with no idea it could become a business.
But blogging and social media marketing are not only now a business, they are a big and rapidly growing sector.
Influencers making up to $500,000 a year
Sara has become what is now known as an “influencer”, and she is acutely aware of her influence over her readers.
“They read my blog, they follow my Instagram and they actually buy what I tell them that is trending, so I know that my audience, when I put something up, they actually do convert into sales,” she told The Business.
Her site allows people not only to drool over her beautifully styled, but low budget, shoots, but to also click and buy her outfit.
Global beauty brand Estee Lauder likes Sara’s aesthetic so much they got in touch and now have her on the books, creating content to be fed out on her multiple social media channels.
Other make-up brands, such as Loreal and Charlotte Tilbury, have also worked with Sara, as well as fashion brand Country Road and Qantas.
Mercedes loved her look so much it provided her with a car to take on a road trip and post photos of her and the car.
“It was really great because I got to travel in a Mercedes Benz and show my followers that not only is this the top that’s trending at the moment but this is the car that goes with it as well!”
Thousands of people upload pics and tips on Instagram, blogs, Facebook, Youtube and Pinterest but only a few are as successful as Sara.
Success can be extremely lucrative, according to talent manager Lorraine Murphy from the Remarkables Group.
“You can have an influencer who is making $40,000 a year from a channel, you can have someone who is making $500,000 a year from their channel,” she said.
$122 billion in social and digital advertising by 2019
Qantas head of marketing Stephanie Tully is redirecting marketing spend into the new medium and away from traditional advertising.
“I just don’t think that marketing teams can afford to use just traditional ad channels anymore,” she argued.
More than 50 per cent of the airlines media budget will go on digital and social this year, and that is expected to grow.
“Her audiences tend to not be the traditional Qantas audience, so enabling her to engage with her audience about Qantas is great for our brand,” she explained.
The airline also likes the accountability of the content that is created.
“We get very live, very accurate results around who you’re reaching, how long they’re reading the content [and] if they’re clicking on your content, so often that can translate to conversion and revenue numbers, which is not always available through the traditional channels.”
Everyone wants in on the new wave of advertising.
Advertising guru Todd Sampson recently bought into Vamp, a company that teams big brands with social media “influencers”.
Lorraine Murphy’s Remarkables Group has been in the space for several years, managing relationships between bloggers and brands such as Woolworths, Commonwealth Bank, Bonds, Qantas and Priceline, and taking a clip on the way through.
Media player: “Space” to play, “M” to mute, “left” and “right” to seek.
Global consulting firm McKinsey estimates digital and social advertising accounted for 17 per cent of all advertising spending in 2009 and expects that to double by 2019 – which would mean $122 billion dollars up for grabs for people with a smart phone and a creative streak.
Figures like that have this journalist contemplating an Instagram account and quitting her 9-5.