Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Role of Influencers in Irish Media

The digital world surrounds our generation. From social media platforms to search engines, online shopping and everything in between – and it’s not slowing down anytime soon. How can we trust these sources? Who can we listen to? Who can we learn from? This is where the role of an influencer comes in.

I’m going to delve into my past life as an influencer, in the days before the current bubble of online fame. I want to reveal what the real story is behind the 'original influencer' and what really happened. I’m also going to give advice to Irish brands and the media - which influencers should they avoid and what gems are they missing out on?

Life as an Influencer on YouTube – My Experience

I would like to think I have a range of knowledge within the world of YouTube. I was an 'original influencer', and I’d like to give an insight into my personal take on the role - a side of which the Irish media has never reported on.

From starting my own channel in 2006, at the age of 16, I’ve seen this platform grow and witnessed the amazing transformation that has taken place over the years. Never did we, the original influencers, know that YouTube could end up being a full time job for many of us. As for the Irish media, they had no clue. Some might argue that they still don’t fully understand the world of influencers. They only exploit a certain tier - a tier which isn’t the most attractive to the public.

Back then, Irish marketing agencies did not realise the power that online personalities had. They were oblivious to the worldwide followings that could be exploited by brands. This new avenue would cost a fraction of the price compared to more tradition marketing means. It took a long time for the agencies to catch on to the worth of these YouTubers and especially their channels, which were built upon trust and relatability. This was all due to a lack of understanding, unwillingness to try new things and a general backwards way of thinking. Irish media was closer to catching on to this trend, but didn’t know who or what to talk about. As few brands were taking chances on this new way of marketing, there wasn’t a lot of brand alignment with influencers to report on.

To be honest, the YouTubers themselves were clueless of their channels' worth. I think the main difference with influencers nowadays is that they want to make money and exploit their audience. We didn't even know we were influencers, and money was never our motivation.

YouTube, currently the biggest video viewing platform in the world, was purely a playground to showcase any talent or information that you had to share. There really was no money in it. There was no fame expected. YouTube was purely a community in which you may get some helpful feedback on your video. A small hub of nerdy creatives - it definitely wasn’t cool or fashionable.

My first video was a cover of a song from the movie “Garden State”. Uploaded on a whim, to date it has 25k views. This started my musical journey on YouTube and created my passion for online media.

After a few years of not-so-consistent uploading, my highest viewed video to date is a cover of Beyonce’s “Sweet Dreams” from 2009, with nearly half a million views. For two years I was the most subscribed channel in Ireland. However, in the Irish media, I was completely unknown.

The opportunities I was being offered at this time were substantial. As a person who uploaded a video in 2006 to get some feedback on my singing, this was not something that I knew how to deal with. None of us had agents nor were we trained to deal with the masses of comments and opportunities that were constantly put before us. Not one of my opportunities during this time came from within Ireland.

For many of the original influencers it became overwhelming and we took breaks. In around 2011, myself and a lot of other well-known YouTubers from that era stopped posting. The role of an influencer became too much to handle, and was a responsibility none of us were prepared for, with many of us never returning to the YouTube sphere.

This is when YouTube changed. Many of the original influencers, who were there to produce content for fun, turned into content providers who wanted to cash in on as many branding opportunities as they could. This was a huge change within the YouTube world, which I personally have never seen documented online. Another factor within this YouTube change, was the YouTubers themselves creating gangs to cross promote each other’s channels, to get more access to sponsorship deals and branded content. This is another reason for a mass of YouTubers leaving the platform.

It was all based around money making and we, myself included, had an issue with the platform changing from honest and true to fake and ingenuine. As an influencer back then, I talked about my frustration with the platform on my blog, as this was my only outlet for voicing what the Irish media should have been reporting on at the time. Even more so now.
At this time, the cracks were showing between YouTubers, and many left, including myself. Very few declared the reasons why many of us left our community. This is a whole side of influencers that the Irish media has never delved into, a missed opportunity of sorts - the evolution of one generation of YouTubers into what we now see YouTubers as.

YouTubers nowadays are clean cut, well-edited and have a team of professionals telling them what to do, what to say and more importantly what to sell. The Irish media has not exploited the stories of those internet sensations who dropped out due to pressure, lack of professional support and lack of value. The history of the original influencers has yet to be reported on. This is a story that is completely untouched. It may change the views many people have of these online social constructs.

Personally, I feel that the Irish media still haven't caught up with the realisation that online influencers have real power - with many influencers moving abroad to hone in on their skills and worth.

Irish Influencers Abroad – Who to Work With?

One example of successful Irish influencers abroad would be the SacconeJolys, originally "Le Floof TV", which was created in 2009. Nobody knew that this Cork-based family would end up being one of the most successful daily vloggers on YouTube.

The Irish media and community did not exploit their talent, hence why they left to move to the suburbs of London a few years ago. They joined one of the biggest agencies for YouTubers, Gleam Futures, which hosts big names such as Zoella, Alfie Deyes, Tanya Burr, Niomi Smart and many more. In an interview with Brendan O'Connor, Jonathan Joly of the SacconeJolys talks about this (starting at 13:44).

Irish media never took this family seriously, and included them as part of an oversharing community, due to certain videos. An example of this would be when the SacconeJolys posted a birthing video of their daughter Emilia back in 2012, now nearing 5 million views.

This is when the Irish media took a particular interest in them, and now due to their fame abroad, all recent articles are nothing short of positive for these previously “oversharing” YouTubers. Now their branding deals are so expensive, Irish media and brands have missed the ball with them and can’t afford to work with them anymore. So who’s next?

Sticking with the Cork theme, a newer Irish Corkonian talent, now living abroad, can be found under the alias of Tar Mar. I started watching Tara’s videos in 2014, when she could have been deemed a typical fashion/beauty vlogger. However, lately she is creating artsy, well-produced vlogging content and also dealing with the struggles of living in New York. Like the SacconeJolys, she did not get the attention she deserved when she lived in Ireland. Surprisingly, the one Irish brand that spotted her was Kildare Village. She still has a working relationship with them to this day.

I feel that she has untapped potential for Irish brands, as she has worked on campaigns with Burberry in London and Primark in America. If I was looking for my next brand influencer, Tara Marzuki would be a great choice. Don’t miss out on her before she gets too expensive - like the previously mentioned SacconeJolys.

Most Irish media does not pick up on local talent until they have been successful abroad. I think this is wrong. We need to cultivate our home-grown content producers before we can no longer afford to work with them. Let’s grab them before they emigrate. Let's avoid working with the over-saturated likes of James Kavanagh and, dare I even mention, Roz Purcell. They are genuinely damaging Irish brands and a radical change is needed as soon as possible.

Overall, I feel passionate about the evolving story of online influencers, Irish brands and the media. There are so many fresh influencers out there that need to be talked about and a huge hidden world of YouTube that needs to be known. Be one of the first to show you know.

As for the journalist looking for an untapped topic, consider the story of original influencers 5 to 10 years ago. There’s an untold history here waiting to be uncovered, and I’m just one of hundreds who would be willing to talk about what really happened.

To the agencies - the next time you’re choosing an influencer to work with your brand, please think outside the box. We are all ready for some fresh new faces, who can offer actual creativity to brands, not just the same recycled advocates for Fulfil, Ballygowan and now Cheerios. Take a chance on an influencer, be different, stand out. I promise you won’t regret it.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Little Silk Shirt

(blazer : boyfriends (similar here), top : Zara (similar here), jeans : ASOS, bag : Kurt Geiger, boots : Zara (similar here))

Ever have those days where you're stuck in a rut with your clothes? Recently I've felt as though I keep re-wearing the same 3 tops again and again, paired with my favourite pair of black skinny jeans. We've all been here right? So I decided to look through my wardrobe (AKA my lovely Kallax from IKEA) and picked out things I've hardly ever worn. I was over the moon with what I found.

I came across this beautiful striped shirt from Zara at the bottom of one of my boxes, it's ridiculously soft and silky - making it flow rather effortlessly when you wear it. I just folded up the sleeves for more of a casual look and instantly fell in love with it.

I had recently been on a weekend getaway to Waterford and visited a great vintage store while I was there, called The Vintage Factory (read more about my lil adventure here!). This got me feeling all the vintage vibes, so I decided to pair the shirt with some high waisted blue denims. It just had to be my Farleigh jeans from Asos. Note : these jeans are the perfect blue colour, they're comfortable, easy to wear, and go with just about everything!  A must have in every wardrobe.

I paired the outfit with my go to boots from Zara, and yes, they were €19.99... I'll never get over this! They're easily my favourite black boots, with the perfect heel height you can walk for hours and still feel chic. Bag wise - I went for my Kurt Geiger Micro Dee bag, I'm all about small crossbody bags and this has to be one of the best. It's super vintage looking - so I paired it with a silk scarf I bought from Topshop last year. I always do this with bags lately, just to make them that bit more unique. If you've any bags laying around that need a spruce up - just tie a scarf to it and violá, say hello to your new favourite bag.

Just as I was about to leave my apartment I had to grab a coat, as we all know how unpredictable Irish weather can be! Of course, I couldn't find anything of mine that went with the outfit. I knew I wanted something oversized and black, where as everything I owned was too long or too short.
Then my boyfriend offered me his black bomber from Zara, I wasn't sure at first, but when I put it on I knew it was perfect for this look. It was ideal to enhance the casual, chic vibe for the overall outfit. (So, thanks Joe for letting me borrow it.)

Overall, I was so happy with this look. It really got me to appreciate what I have in my wardrobe (I just need to trawl through my boxes a bit more!). This was the perfect outfit for a casual day in the city whilst still looking effortlessly put together.

Just to note - I discovered my new favourite hot chocolate spot on Dawson Street. The guy making my hot chocolate was the nicest - he spent forever creating this beautiful Puffin art on the top of my hot chocolate. A must if you're in Dublin, go check out The Beanhive (Clo recommended!).

- clo x


What To Do In : Waterford

Planning a weekend away soon but don't know where to go? That's exactly what I was thinking whilst planning a getaway for the May bank holiday. I knew I wanted to go on a city break but it had to be somewhere that was fresh and new to me - Waterford popped to mind.

I remember going here as a child, but now in my mid twenties, I wouldn't know where to go or what to do - so it was a great chance to discover the city. Here's a breakdown of what I got up to whilst I was there, hopefully it can act as a rough guide for your next trip to Waterford.

Where I Stayed :

I was trawling through all the booking.com's and the like to find a great deal for the May bank holiday weekend, keep in mind I only booked this the week before!
I stumbled across Treacys Hotel located on Merchants Quay. I knew I wanted a hotel that was within walking distance to the main streets, affordable and had a leisure centre. Treacys Hotel ticked all of the boxes.

Upon arrival, I couldn't find any hotel parking. I had to park temporarily in the loading bay, so during check in, I asked the lovely staff where I could park. They gave me a print out of the location of the underground parking, it could be found about 3 streets away in a Lidl carpark nearby. It wasn't ideal when it was raining, but it did the job.

The hotel itself was nice, the rooms were very simple and had everything you would need (hairdryer, Barry's tea and so on). The leisure centre was great, there were only about 6 other people there when I went - meaning you could enjoy the pool and the jacuzzi without stepping on peoples toes (literally!).

For a budget hotel, I'd definitely recommend it. It's cheap, cheerful and only a stones throw away from the buzz of the city. For an average price of €75 per night per room, it's well worth a look.

In The City :

Something I hadn't known before visiting Waterford was the amazing street art and graffiti dotted around the city. After doing some research I found out that it's all part of Waterford Walls, 2017 will mark its third year running.
This is an annual festival to help reinvigorate the walls of the city from the help of 50 street artists. You can watch the art being created live between the 17th - 20th August, I'm definitely going to head back to see this in action.

As my friends all know, I'm slightly in love with vintage shopping. There's something about trawling through rails of second hand clothes and stumbling across a gem. Thankfully Waterford did not let me down on this front - I discovered The Vintage Factory located on Georges Street. After spotting a beautiful polka dot pussybow blouse in the window, I had to pop in.
The store was everything I'd hoped for - quirky, affordable, and the staff were lovely. Everything was laid out beautifully in the shop, which made things so easy to find. (And yes, I bought the polka dot blouse. For only €12.)

Waterford is known to be steeped in culture, specifically Vikings. As you walk around the city, you can see how proud the city is of its Viking history. I thought it'd be nice (my Dad recommended) to check out the Medieval Museum priced at only €7 per adult.
I have to point out the building itself, it's stunning. Not only is it massive, but it has a curved facade with "Medieval Museum" engraved into the buttery coloured stone.
Once inside, every turn you take is another Instagram shot. I opted for the guided tour from the headset with accompanied tablet, but I could have waited for a tour from one of the museums guides (a real person) if that's what you'd prefer.
I learned so much about Waterford and it's history, and wow, is there history. From the fashion, to the life of the people, to the religions, and so much more. It had it all.

On the walk into the city centre from the hotel that morning, I was already planning where to have dinner. I passed by many beautiful restaurants on my way into the city centre, but one stood out - Peppers Indian Restaurant. If there is one place you should eat at in Waterford, it's here. I'm going to put it out there - this was the best Indian food I've ever had. Yes, ever.
Myself and my boyfriend got a whole booth to ourselves. The atmosphere was great and lively, but without being crowded or noisy. The food, from start to finish, I couldn't fault and the staff were excellent. I really couldn't recommend this place enough, I'm sure my family and friends know off by heart what I had to eat at this stage, that's how much I go on about it. A definite 5 stars from me.

Outside The City :

When venturing outside Waterford city itself, I really stumbled across some gems. I decided to venture around The Copper Coast, in particular Annestown Beach. The drive there was beautiful, even though my sat nav did get slightly confused as to where we were going!
As I was driving around The Copper Coast, I pulled into the carpark of the first beach I came across, which happened to be Annestown Beach. This beach is exactly what I think of as a true Irish beach. Featuring stunning cliff walks and a beautiful sandy stretch of beach, what more could you ask for on a sunny day in Ireland. There were even stone steps that a few people were perched on, as they just looked at the stunning waves crash onto the sand.
The beach had about 20-25 people on it in total, which made it all that bit more special. I walked up the cliff walk located on the right hand side of the beach, and the views from there were even more spectacular. I can't wait to go back.

As I was driving to our next location, I spotted this amazing gnome shrine. Now, I love gnomes, so this was a real treat. I pulled over, and walked down the hill to take a picture of it. When I arrived, I spotted this lovely old lady who I honestly had the nicest chat with. She was gardening within this amazing blue and white wood carved boat, featuring the brightest flowers I had ever seen. She told me how she loves keeping busy and has been doing the gardening for the past 50 plus years, keep in mind she had just turned 83. We talked about Waterford, the difference of living in the city to the countryside and everything in between, it was just lovely. Then, she offered me to stay for tea if I was around that evening but unfortunately I had to drive back to Dublin.
It just really touched my heart, things like that aren't offered within my generation anymore. I feel like we're scared, the media tells us strangers are dangerous. However, she brought the Irish culture back in true form, or in other words, by being lovely. Anyways, overall, this was the highlight of my trip. Just the pure openness and sweetness of this lady opened my eyes up to being friendly and how much of a difference it makes. So, thanks lady!

I then headed on to Tramore. If you're after a seaside amusement park, this is the place to go.
As soon as I got there I spotted a cafe selling churros, Pipers Cafe. Now. Churros are the most amazing spanish snack ever. If you haven't had them before, go get them right this moment. Plus, the churros at Pipers Cafe were stunning (and I'd like to think i'm quite the churros connoisseur) - they came with a sprinkling of icing sugar (it's ruined by caster sugar) and a healthy dash of Belgian milk chocolate. I was in heaven.
From there, I took a walk around all of the amusements, from the beach to the arcades. It was fun.
For food, I went to The Victoria House. Upon arrival it seems like a very quaint pub, but if you go upstairs to the restaurant you are greeted with spectacular views of the bay. I was lucky enough to be seated in the perfect spot at the window. I'm still thinking about the view to date.

Would I Go Back :

All in all, Waterford was great. The city itself has lots to offer and as soon as you venture outside of the city bounds, the choices are limitless. Would I go back? Yes.

Hopefully you'll find a few things that sparked your fancy from my "What To Do In : Waterford". Until next time!

- clo x

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