Michigan State University graduate pursues career as social media influencer

Karen Drew takes you inside the world of an Instagram model

Have you ever seen someone on social media with 100,000 followers and wondered how they got so popular?

People with that many followers are often referred to as social media influencers. You're not the only one to notice. Businesses notice them as well.

That recognition can mean major money and a new career for some.

Emily Tanner, 23, is a social media influencer and a Michigan State University graduate with a degree in public health. But right now, she's pursuing a completely different career.

"So what does your mom and dad think? They send you to college to get a degree and now you are an Instagram model," Karen Drew asked.

"My mom eats it up," Tanner said. "My dad, he is old-school."

Tanner is an Instagram model with over 300,000 followers. She explained how she got started.

"I was in college. It was my sophomore year. A photographer reached out to me and was, like, 'Hey, you have a good look. Let's just try shooting,'" she said. "So, I actually just did a couple-hour shoot and I loved the photos."

She started sharing the pictures on Instagram and her number of followers started growing.

"I feel like every time you hit a mark. Like, a big mark. Like, 100,000 or 50,000, 150,000, 200,000, but then, you look at other people's too. And you're like, 'Wow they have a million, how do I get to that point?'"

Companies started noticing her following growing.

"I would get messages from brands and they would send me things like, 'Hey we love your look. Can we send you products?" she said.

So now a day at work for Tanner might involve a photo shoot on a neighborhood street with her dog. Other days, it's a shoot at the pool, showing off swimwear she gets paid to model. But it involves more than just posting a photo.

"Once my manager gets a company or brand, they will send me the product. Then, I will have a list of maybe three posts for the month," she said. "So I have to get those photos and I have a due date."

The photo has to be approved, and the companies tell her what to write.

"Gosh, there is a watch company where I had to take them, like, probably two separate days," she said. "I loved the pictures. We took them in Laguna Beach, like, by the cliffs and everything. And they were too far and they wanted more focus on the watch than the scenery."

Tanner and other social media influencers get all expenses-paid vacations to show off products and post on social media.

She recently took a such a trip to the Virgin Islands.

"We are working with eight brands so, through that week, we will take photos or videos or whatever the brands want," she said.

Different Instagram models get different rates for their posts and the rates can be anywhere from $500 to thousands of dollars per post. Tanner is doing well financially. Modeling is her full-time profession.

"When you are an actual influencer, you have to keep up with your likes and all that. And it gets exhausting. So even if I post a picture that I really, really like, if other people don't like it, I will have to take it down," Tanner said.

Tanner hopes that the future will bring more opportunities.

"I hope I can use this platform to just kinda, like, maybe, start my own charity or just do something like that 'cause I always want to help in the community and do something good. Hopefully, something good comes from it," she said.

She said one of the most important keys to amassing a following is providing a steady stream of content, updating regularly and making sure that content is high-quality and is as new and original as possible.



About the Authors:

Karen Drew is the anchor of Local 4 News First at 4, weekdays at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. She is also an award-winning investigative reporter and part of the Local 4 Defenders team.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.