Shantell Robertson always had influence.
She went from being a police officer to working in the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office—she had the uniform and the badge. However, she decided to trade that in and try a different type of influence, one that required a lot more skirts.
Before heading to her full-time job at the Pennsylvania Automotive Association in Harrisburg, Robertson gets up at 6 a.m. to work on her blog, “Get Your CHIC On,” over a cup of coffee. She may be writing a blog post or uploading photos to her Instagram account. Later, during her lunch break, she might continue editing her post. And once Robertson leaves the office, she heads home to make calls with local businesses or drives to a photo shoot for a product she’s endorsing.
“It’s like another full-time job,” she said. “It’s more than a hobby. It’s a side hustle.”
Blogging took off in the early 2000s and has continued to evolve. Now, according to marketing site Izea, about half of people online read blogs. However, as trends shifted and audience preferences changed, many bloggers have turned to social media as their primary communication tool.
Influencer marketing in the United States can be traced back to the 1920s with Coco Channel’s influence on fashion and in the ‘80s with Michael Jordan’s endorsement of Nike, reports Social Media Today.
In 2010, bloggers and influencers got a new platform with the launch of Instagram. With celebrities like Kim Kardashian spearheading the trend on this platform, using social media to build or represent a brand became the norm.
Now, with many people checking their social media multiple times a day, bloggers like Robertson have a way to reach a consistent audience locally.
“Get Your CHIC On” is a lifestyle and fashion blog that Robertson describes as “feminine chic, yet classic and sophisticated.” She posts content for more than 13,000 followers almost every day, whether it’s on her blog or on Instagram as a story or static post.
Robertson’s content features fashion from local and national brands, as well as health and beauty products. While the photos may look effortless to some, she admitted that, for each picture posted, anywhere from 50 to 100 pictures didn’t make the cut.
Robertson explained that the income from her blog and Instagram posts is small, but she does occasionally make money from sponsored posts for companies such as Nordstrom, Athleta or Rent the Runway. For smaller local businesses, Robertson will participate in partnerships where she may receive a free meal or a discount code for her followers in exchange for posting a picture of their product.
Contrary to many influencers, for Robertson, money is not the driving factor behind what she does.
“I love the creative process of it,” she said. “I love the relationship-building, and I love helping other women.”
On the Grind
Mom blogger and Harrisburg resident Jehava Brown has been writing about parenting, faith, travel and style on her blog Onlygirl4boyz for three years. After reading blogs that inspired her, she wanted to provide encouragement to others. But that wasn’t her only goal. From the beginning, she knew she wanted to make her blog a business.
Within six months, Brown was making an income through business deals with brands to advertise their products. She worked her way up and now works with brands like Gatorade, Soma, Walmart and Amazon. Brown’s blog has become a full-time job that earns her an equivalent income, she said. Not only is she making money, but, through a partnership with Disney, Brown, her husband and their three boys have gone on cruises free of cost.
Along with the advertisements and sponsored posts, Brown posts content about motherhood, travel and her faith, filling a gap she sees in the blogging world.
“There’s a disparity of minorities in this market,” she said. “There’s not a lot of minority mom bloggers. That’s why I’m unique.”
She also realized that, for many of her white blogger friends, their audience is primarily white, and, with her black blogger friends, theirs is black.
“My audience is 50/50, which I think is really cool,” Brown said. “People are saying, ‘I relate to you,’ no matter what race they are.”
Blogging isn’t all business.
Harrisburg food blogger Corinne Foster—known on Instagram as Foster the Foodie—just wants to help people eat good food on the cheap. A recent college graduate and new to the area, she hoped to find the best places to eat in the city, within a lower budget.
She began by creating an extensive Excel spreadsheet listing local restaurants, bars and bakeries to keep track of her new favorite Harrisburg spots. As the file grew, it quickly evolved into something she knew she needed to share with others. Here, her social media account was born.
“I want to help people find things that aren’t Google-able,” she said. “It’s cool that people are taking my advice.”
The Foster the Foodie audience is in the 20s to 30s age range, a group similar to herself—young people looking for a good meal that’s also a good deal. In addition to Harrisburg eateries, Foster has shared with her followers her favorites from Lancaster, York and Lititz.
Foster has promoted local restaurants like Iron Hill Brewery, Ann’s Cupcakery, Café 1500 and a slew of stands within the Broad Street Market. She also has partnered with businesses, like Sweet 717 in the market, to do product giveaways, which provide the vendors and herself more publicity, while giving back to her audience. Often, she receives compensated meals, but pointed out that she never promotes restaurants she wouldn’t eat at herself.
“I wouldn’t want this to be a business,” she said.
Working with local businesses is the foundation of Bree Whitelock’s blog Cherishburg—a guide to all things Harrisburg.
But as invested as she is in the city now, that wasn’t always the plan.
“I didn’t intend to end up in Harrisburg,” she said.
But, after graduating from Messiah College and landing a job at WebFX, a tech and marketing firm on Front Street, Whitelock gained an appreciation for the city she now called her home. A self-declared optimist, she saw all that local business in the city had to offer and wanted others to, as well.
“If I’m going to be working and living here, I don’t want these places to close,” Whitelock said.
In 2017, she piloted her blog, Cherishburg, to promote local business, but also to use as a creative outlet for herself. She wrote about local restaurants, places to volunteer and other quirks Harrisburg has to offer.
It wasn’t until this year that Cherishburg really took off. Whitelock’s Instagram page for her blog gained a large following that is interactive and responsive to her daily musings about the city they also call home.
“The best thing is the connections with other people or other businesses that I would have never met before,” she said.
For most of her content, Whitelock doesn’t receive payment, other than a compensated meal or experience, but that doesn’t matter to her. Fostering positivity within the city is her top priority.
“It was never about me to begin with,” she said. “It’s about the city, and it always will be.”
Under the Influence
Get your thumbs ready to follow and like the local influencers mentioned in this story:
- Get Your CHIC on: @shantellrobertson, getyourchicon.com
- onlygirl4boyz: @onlygirl4boyz, onlygirl4boyz.com
- Foster the Foodie: @fosterthefoodie
- Cherishburg: @cherishburg, cherishburg.com