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Are we being influenced by the influencers? A look at the g…

Are we being influenced by the influencers? A look at the g…


Influencer, content creator, social media star, blogger, vlogger. No matter what you call them, there is no doubt these people are influencing the world around us by the content they share on social media platforms.

Social media influencers are big business, and not just for themselves. They are helping brands and companies big and small show off their products, locations and amenities to people worldwide.

According to the website Business Insider and working with Mediakix data, by 2022, estimates are that brands will be spending up to $15 billion on influencer marketing.

So, just how is a place like Aspen, which already has national name recognition, using these influencers to further its brand and reach new audiences, and how does the Aspen influencer differ from the national trend of influencers?

What’s an influencer?

To understand why influencers are such a talked about, written about and followed topic, you first have to know what one is.

A social media influencer is someone who creates content on platforms to share with a large audience of their loyal followers.

The content they share can encourage followers to, for example, buy products, try a new restaurant, visit a place or experience a new workout.

“Social influencers to us are individuals or brands that can share their perspective on The Nell with their audience and, in turn, their audience learns more about us,” said May Selby, director of public relations and social media at The Little Nell.

While the power to impact people in this way used to be strictly relegated to celebrities, these days, where social media is king and most are glued to their phones, when it comes to influencing products purchased and behavior many are turning to influencers who, in theory, are ordinary people.

These regular people achieve Instagram fame by establishing a level of trust with their followers while also curating a feed of inspiring pictures and videos, making their audience covet what they have and therefore willing to listen to and follow their endorsements of products.

“You want to be as genuine as you can and you want to also be aspirational and create content people relate to,” said Selby, who also writes a weekly social scene column for this publication.

National influencers vs. local influencers

When scrolling through the infinite pages of Instagram, it seems that the majority of influencers fall under the categories of lifestyle, beauty/fashion and wellness.

However, if you target Aspen as a specific location, people who would be considered influencers locally tend to fall outside these categories and are more action sports, travel/adventure and photography-based influencers.

“I do feel like there is a couple things with the local influencers,” said Tiffany Cook, senior content marketing manager with Aspen Skiing Co. “They’re definitely valuable from the athlete, the outdoors, the photographer standpoint.”

Arielle Shipe, an Aspen local and Instagram influencer with 115K followers, didn’t set out to be a professional content creator when she started posting her adventures rock climbing, camping and spending time in nature, but her Instagram page, which she said “reflected to the world my goal to find as much joy in life as possible,” rapidly attracted a loyal following.

“I moved back home to Aspen after six years away (school, travel, etc). I had roughly 600 followers on Instagram of mostly friends and family,” Shipe said about her journey to becoming a full-time influencer.

“Around that time, I purchase a GoPro and started bringing it out on adventures with me. Within a year I had grown to about 1,200 followers simply by posting photos regularly, then, seemingly out of nowhere, my page started to grow faster until it reached the size that it is today.

“I’m not sure I will ever truly know that spark that started the whole chain of events, but I am so grateful for the journey and all the things I’ve learned along the way.”

Roaring Fork Valley influencers, like Shipe, often share their favorite lines in the backcountry, a climb on Independence Pass, the scene of the stars lighting up the sky over their tent on a camping trip or a snapshot from a recent adventure outside the valley with their audience.

“I think a lot of photographers are influencers though, because you love their work and you’re like, ‘Wow, this is cool,’ and then you start following them and see what they do,” Selby said.

Take Pete McBride. He lives in Basalt and falls into the category of photographer influencer (he also works with National Geographic), so his feed is filled with insanely beautiful photography from locations local and far-flung.

He has 778,000 followers, but isn’t selling them anything. He is telling his story in his authentic way, which is through photographs.

“I have worked as a photographer and filmmaker for over 20 years, so I have a lot of unique content which I started sharing on social media, mostly instagram, early,” McBride said. “As a result, I have built a following over time by consistently sharing my work and focusing on stories, not just pretty pictures.”

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