Whether we realize it or not, influencers are shaping our understanding of the world around us. They teach us new recipes, show us new looks and introduce us to new places.
In Colorado, there are some influencers who are shattering stereotypes and changing the game of influence.
"When I first got to Colorado and heard about hiking, I really didn't know anything about it, and I just went out, because I wanted to try something new... and eventually I noticed that there weren't too many people that looked like me out there," recalls Nelson Holland, a Colorado transport from New York and outdoors influencer. "When I started hearing from people that they needed representation, they needed to know, they had no idea, and I found out that I could be the source for that, I mean, I just felt like I had to."
Nelson HollandKATI WEIS, CBS
He added, "somebody's got to let these people know that the outdoors is for everyone, and it can completely change your whole perspective on life."
Holland's handle on TikTok and Instagram says it all: @fatblackandgettinit. He says his TikTok videos about hiking in Colorado's beautiful Rocky Mountains first took off about a year and a half ago and suddenly he went from driving food deliveries to a full-time career on social media.
"I guess North Face was the first brand to kind of reach out to me, saying they wanted to work with me, and yeah, that kind of opened the doors for other companies to see me," Holland recalled. "I had the opportunity to work with Merril, and Colorado Tourism, and UCHealth last year, it was just an amazing year. Blessed."
He says influencing wasn't even something he ever imagined doing.
"I'm one of those early 90s babies that didn't completely transition into social media," Holland said. "I had no idea what an influencer was. I never saw myself as a leader or anything like that. So yeah, I never expected anything like this. I'm kind of an introvert, so really, I get starstruck by myself a lot."
Katrina Nichole Tijerina, who moved to Colorado Springs from Ohio in 2019, also never imagined social media influencing in her future.
She used to work in higher education, and what was once a hobby for her on social media catapulted her into a full-time career as an influencer after someone else in the industry noticed her work online and gave her advice to move forward in a big way.
"I started this whole entire career because someone DMed me on Instagram and told me, 'hey, I like your content, I'm looking for a plus size person to add to my content that I'm creating, would you be interested?'" Tijerina recalled. "So, I was not doing this as a career, wasn't something that I was intentionally going after, at the time. In April of 2019, I met with her, and she kind of took me under her wing, and taught me everything, introduced me to people in the industry, and then we started sailing from there."
She says what keeps her motivated are the comments and messages complimenting her work she gets from people around the world.
"What keeps me going is the contacts that I get from people who are just like, 'thank you so much for that, I've never seen someone like you talk so openly or be so confident in themselves,' and I really, really just feel so privileged and honored to be able to be a voice for people who don't necessarily feel like they are represented in the media," Tijerina said.
She added, "I think so many women and men oftentimes say, 'I'm going to wait until I'm a certain size, or I'm going to wait till I look X, Y, or Z until I'm going to fully live my life,' and we're not promised tomorrow. So, I just highly encourage you to start living your life for yourself and just start doing it now."
Tijerina hopes her work can continue to inspire others for years to come.
Katrina Nichole TijerinaTHE KATRINA NICHOLE
"I think just as in education, representation, and diversity matters, the same is true in content creation, in the fashion industry, in the creator and influencer space as well," Tijerina said. "I think it's so important to see someone that looks like you in the media, and represents who you are, who you aspire to be in your life. So, for me, I think it's so empowering that I'm inspiring women of all ages, of all backgrounds, of all different races, to just live their life most authentically to who they are."
Now, Tijerina has her own company called "The Katrina Nichole," complete with deals and discounts on athletic gear and fashion and beauty advice.
"I would say that a lot of people think that being a social media influencer means that you're just taking one quick picture of yourself, and that's it, all you have to do is post a picture and you're done, and truly, that's not accurate. You are a full business owner. You have to file taxes for people that work for you. You have to negotiate deals and work with a legal team, and there's so much that goes into creating that one post that you might see," Tijerina said. "It can be really, really taxing... but I would not change it for the whole world. I absolutely love what I do."
Marketing experts say mid-tier and micro-influencers, like Tijerina and Holland, are the most sought-after right now by major companies for advertising.
"Trust is really what it's all about," said Maia Brusseau, an account director with Left Hand, a media advertising agency. "The main reason that brands will want to work with influencers is because of the trust that influencers can bring to their brands, they have this following that they've built through native content, organic content, and then that gives them that sort of right to offer up something that they're getting paid to do."
Brusseau says 60% of people decide what to buy based on recommendations from influencers.
"The influencers that I grew up with were mostly celebrities," Brusseau said. "Today, it's really amazing to see that there are influencers of all different walks of life."
Maia Brusseau, Left Hand Agency
She says of Instagram's two billion users, 30 million of them are influencers, and the global influencing industry has an estimated value of about $15 billion.
Brusseau says marketing campaigns have an average engagement rate of 6.7%, compared to 1.5% for traditional forms of digital marketing and influencer marketing has an average return on investment of $5.20 for every $1 spent.
"If you ask children today what they want to be when they grow up, one of the top answers is that they want to be a social media influencer, because that's who they see, there's children that are influencers even online right now," Brusseau said.
She says influencers tend to make about $100 per 10,000 followers for each ad post they create for a company. She says they also make money through affiliate links with companies, so when people buy something through their link, the influencer earns a percentage of the commission.
"I think it's really great that we are able to see and hear from more people through these influencers," Brusseau said. "It's really cool to see just how many different people are out there and having the opportunity."
So, how do you break through as an influencer on social media? Tijerina and Holland offer their advice:
"I would say whatever it is that you choose to share on social media, make sure that it's something that you actually care about, because the more you're passionate about something, the more that someone can see that this is something that you really believe in, the more successful that you're going to be, because it's going to be easier for you to want to talk about it and want to share that component of your life," Tijerina said. "So, whether it's cooking, or your life with your dog, or fashion, it can be anything, but find that thing that you're passionate about and share it with the world."
"You got to put in the time, it definitely takes longer than people make it look," Holland said. "You have to be consistent. Make sure you don't burn out, and go for it. So many people want to do it, but they take forever to get out there and post, and they're second guessing themselves. You just got to get out there and do it."
When asked what a day in life is like, Holland said, "there's always nature involved, lately I've been trying to start my day with a sunrise, whether I hike or just go watch it from a spot. I'll go back home, go through these social media comments and the emails and the messages."
He added, "I'm tired of being on my phone, so it's about time to get outside. If it's a little too cold, maybe I'll just hit the gym, but... at least once a week I'll go find someplace new to go check out. It's pretty much random, except for the fact that nature is going to be involved in some way every day."
Holland says for him, putting in the time has been worth every minute.
"Means the world to me," Holland said. "The outdoors is for everyone, and nature is everywhere."
By Katie Weis First published on February 5, 2023 / 9:04 PM