Tyla-Lauren Gilmore’s Instagram, @tylauren , currently stands at 119K followers strong, yet she started the account with a handful of posts about embracing natural hair and no particular desire to gain a following. In the last year, however, Ty has flourished on the platform, transitioning to other content arenas by honing in on her personal brand and embracing authenticity above all else. Here’s how Ty’s Insta-philosophy keeps her grounded in the veiled world of microinfluencers.
What’s your best advice on growing a following and how did you grow yours?
I never actually got into Instagram with the idea of becoming an influencer. I started with my natural hair journey, learning as I was sharing everything that was happening to me. If I used a conditioner and it didn’t work, I’d be honest about it. That’s how it started, but when I realized this was a job, that’s when I realized I needed to be super consistent and put out quality content that I love. To grow my following, the consistency, quality and content of my posts were crucial. The influencer world is so over-saturated; You have to make sure that your content reflects you, that you’re being true to yourself.
At what point did you realize that this could be “a thing” for you?
Probably when I got my first gig for like 50 bucks, when I had around 40,000 followers. I would meet other bloggers and influencers at events, and they would ask me if I was charging for posts, and I’d say, “No, I’ve got my 9-to-5.” I was grateful for the free products I got to test, and I didn’t really think to charge brands for posting about them. As my account grew, a lot of people started featuring me on natural hair pages or asked me to do hairstyle tutorials, so it was always about sharing things that I loved, and showing people how I used them.
What advice do you have for somebody that’s coming into the game right now, who has a following and is getting campaigns?
Organization is the key to everything. You have to know what your goal is and where you want to go, or have an idea of where this [campaign] is going to lead. For me, it’s getting my emails down, pitching myself, organizing my campaigns and making sure I’m trying out the products as extensively as I can. I never make deals with skincare brands straight off the bat. I ask for some time to truly test out their products before partnering with them, and I think my audience can detect the authenticity in my reviews. Being very precise about what you want and being true to who you are will help you get to your goal.
What do you feel is the biggest struggle that you’re facing at this point?
Just balancing it all is the biggest challenge. I’m doing this full-time, it’s my livelihood, so there’s no security. I could go a full month without getting a job, which is why I’m pitching right now to all of the brands that I’ve ever wanted to try, all the hotels that I would love to work with, all the PR companies that I’ve seen other bloggers work with where I love their content and clients. So, really trying to make sure that I’m set for at least the next three months. I’m also looking into management companies and agencies. It can be really tough, being independent and doing this by yourself, when it comes to contracts and staying creatively motivated. I think having a manager or an agent would help ease the load, and help me find the brands that I can really connect with.
What qualities are most important to you in looking for a potential agency?
I just really want someone who’d approach brands from a relationship perspective, rather than a monetary point of view. Of course I want to make money, but I also want the agent to have my best interests, and not chase deals because of a large paycheck. I’ve never been money-driven. Money is great, but I really love to connect with people. I really want to build more relationships and meet more people.
How do you describe your job, as an influencer, to someone who isn’t familiar with it?
When I explain it to people I say I work with beauty, lifestyle and fashion brands, that I help promote the products they’re coming out with and that I connect them with the demographic they’re looking to reach. I tell them my job is to give my honest opinion while reviewing products, and influencing my audience into learning about new things. That’s when a brand wants to work with you, when you have a genuine connection with your followers. I really believe in educating people about this field. I also want to get into consulting, I want to speak on panels… I love stuff like that, because I feel like people have no idea what we do. Not a clue.
Q: There’s a lot of secrecy in this industry as well. Can you speak to that?
A: Yeah, it’s ridiculous. It literally makes me sick because I’m like, there’s no encyclopedia for influencers. It’s not like you’re going and reading what’s right and what’s wrong. Everything is changing on a regular basis, and people are so picky when it comes to money and rates and your connections and even invites. I’m like, honestly, it’s not that… Of course it’s serious, but at the same time it’s like when you collaborate and when you share more, you get further as a whole. So yes, I would probably say there needs to be more education around influencer marketing, and probably just explaining to people what we really do. Like a day in the life of an influencer.
I love when my brands reach out, or when small magazines online are like, “Can you take over our Instagram story and show us your day and what you do?” And of course I say I’d love to, but then I think about it and it’s like, “Oh my God, I have to plan this day out perfectly,” ’cause I never really know whats gonna happen, you know? At the end of the day, it’s not all about free products, it’s not about lavish luxury vacations, it’s not all about working with these brands that pay us “millions of dollars.” Granted, when you get huge and you’re a humongous like YouTuber, their lives are pretty lavish, but I consider myself a microinfluencer, and I feel like people really don’t understand what we do on a regular basis. I start my week on Sunday, and I plan out everything to a ‘t.’ I also live on Staten Island, so it’s a little bit tougher for me. So definitely, something important to me right now is educating people on what we actually do and what’s just a myth.