My Thoughts on the Fashion Influencer Community

I strive to make Cort in Session an upbeat, positive space, but lately I’ve felt like the influencer community is in a bit of a funk and I’m compelled to do a brain dump here to get these thoughts off my chest. It goes without saying that these are my own personal opinions. Everyone runs their business differently and this post isn’t meant to admonish anyone. I guess I’m just writing this to pull the curtain back on the industry and continue a conversation on how to improve it.

I’m also writing this as a lengthy answer to the girls who reach out to me for advice on starting and growing a blog. Many people assume that success in this field can be achieved quickly because that’s what they see splashed across their feeds. The truth is that I started this blog over five years ago, in September 2013, completely unaware that there was money to be made. I had a passion for graphic design, fashion, and photography and saw an opportunity to share those passions with like-minded individuals. I poured my heart and soul into this space for years before making a cent and I’m still learning and growing on a daily basis. There’s no guide book, y’all!

Unfortunately, though, I feel like many bloggers have it all backwards lately. Instead of investing in their photography or spending time creating unique content, their time and money is going to giveaways, comment bots, and engagement pods. Don’t get me wrong, time invested into search engine optimization and growing your email list is time well spent. But page views and genuine readership are much different and are vitally more valuable than your Instagram follower count. Remember – the only thing you have real control over is your website. Social media sites can change or even become obsolete.

I’m certainly not perfect… not even close! I have a LONG way to go in educating myself about my DSLR, photo editing software like Lightroom and Photoshop, photo composition and more. I I have also been guilty myself of neglecting this space in favor of focusing on my Instagram account. Those are the visible numbers and anyone at any place in their blogging journey can get hyper-focused and hung up on these stats.

Honestly, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to gauge whose following has been manipulated. And I wouldn’t take issue with bloggers padding their followings if it didn’t negatively affect those of us who don’t. I haven’t whined about Instagram’s algorithm in the past and I’m not about to start today; that won’t get us anywhere. But because of the algorithm, these accounts are rewarded with higher visibility and discoverability.

What sparked me to finally press publish on this post were a few things I’ve noticed over the last few months. Just the other day, I saw a blogger say on her stories that “giveaways are a way for us to give back to our followers”. I honestly laughed out loud. If you were wanting to give back to your followers, you wouldn’t require them to follow 50 accounts for a 1 in 10,000 shot to win a Starbucks gift card or a Neverfull. While I have never nor will ever participate in a loop or combined giveaway, I’m fully aware that they work. Bloggers can pay on average $30 and pick up about 1,000-5,000 followers. Though it’s a smidge annoying when my whole feed is the same photo posted by 30 influencers, I understand that the majority of the community uses them as a tool and I’m okay with that… as long as readers understand the motive.

Another thing that blew my mind was when I tabbed over to the feed on Instagram that shares the activity of those you follow. I was just casually scrolling through when I noticed a trend – many of the influencers I follow were almost exclusively liking posts from spam accounts. Now whether it was actually them doing the liking or they paid a bot to like these photos for them, the purpose is the same – getting those random accounts to like and follow them back.

I get it – it works. Your follower count grows, as does your engagement. But are these accounts converting? Are they purchasing the products you share and are they visiting your blog? Or are you just selling these inflated numbers to brands as “influence”? Influence and follower count are often vastly different. That’s where the rub is for me.

There are also the more traditional methods of manipulating your follower count like follow/unfollowing and purchasing followers/engagement. But luckily, there are now websites that track and plot these gains and losses on a chart to make any shadiness crystal clear. As for the other methods, there are a few emerging programs for gaining a better idea of someone’s legitimacy.

A great resource is Similar Web. This site allows you to compare your website’s traffic to other influencers. Simply type a blog into the search bar at the top of the page to see where it ranks globally, nationally, and within its niche. Then click “compare” and you can add another blog to see how your traffic measures up. This is an easy way for brands to gauge which bloggers will get more eyes on their product!

Secondly, and this applies specifically to fashion bloggers, you can now see how many followers a blogger has in the LikeToKnow.it app. Because it is impossible to alter this number, you can get a pretty good indication of how well their followers are converting to buyers. I hold out hope that this list of resources continues to grow so that brands can work more confidently with influencers and allocate their marketing budget wisely.

Phew! If you’ve made it this far – thanks for bearing with me as I share my feelings 🙂 The purpose of this post wasn’t to whine, complain, or stir the pot. I guess I’m just hoping that we can collectively steer the industry back to the content that built it. And to those of you who are kind enough to reach out for advice, the short answer is if you build it, they will come. Please, please, please don’t get caught up in the comparison game… especially when you have no way of knowing who is playing fair. If you have a passion for what you’re sharing, create quality content consistently, and remain unique and authentic, you should have no problem building a community.

When I started this blog five years ago, I wanted a little corner of the web to share my thoughts, my love of fashion and beauty, and travel diaries. So while I come to y’all with my highest highs, I also want to be able to share my lows as well. I sincerely appreciate you sticking with me for all these years and allowing me this creative platform to discuss my life and passions.

Airstream Glamping in Southern Shirt

SHOP THE POST:


OUTFIT 1 DETAILS:

Gray Pullover: Southern Shirt c/o | Puffer Vest: J.Crew Factory | Denim: Free People | Boots: Hunter | Bandana: Urban Outfitters


OUTFIT 2 DETAILS:

Lavender Pullover: Southern Shirt c/o | Beanie: Aerie | Denim: Free People | Boots: Hunter (Color Pink Sand)


Hello, November! We’ve been patiently waiting for the leaves to change here in the Carolinas and thanks to a balmy Fall, we had to wait a little longer than usual. But like blooms in the Spring, it happened all at once and the colors this year are stunning. To enjoy some time outside, Jeremy and I took a trip to Bryson City, North Carolina recently. Bryson City is known for the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, but what I love about it is how central it is to a ton of mountain towns I love visiting like Cherokee, Waynesville, and Sylva. Plus, I found the most adorable vintage airstream so we could partake in a little glamping.

When packing for the trip, I knew I needed comfortable and casual layers since we’d be spending a lot of time around the campfire, so naturally I reached for my Southern Shirt pullovers. While they have a ton of new arrivals, I tend to gravitate towards their classics like the Loop Knit Terry Pullover and the Boyfriend Sweatshirt. They come in a ton of color options and I am wearing a size small in both. Southern Shirt was nice enough to extend a discount code to all of y’all! Use code INF-CORTNEY15 for 15% off of your order.

Thank you to Southern Shirt for sponsoring this post. All thoughts & opinions are my own.

Spooky Podcasts, Shows, & Movies Streaming Now

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OUTFIT DETAILS:

Sweater: Aerie (Runs large, wearing a size XS) | Denim: TopShop | Boots: Goodnight Macaroon c/o | Beanie: Aerie | Earrings: Forever 21


Happy Halloween, y’all!

My favorite holiday has come so quickly and I’ll be sad to see it go. This month was packed with some of my favorite things: haunted houses, escape rooms, bonfires, football, dressing up (check out my costume HERE) and pumpkin carving. But one of my best parts about October are the scary movies and TV shows that are released. As a horror junkie, I’m always binging the latest and greatest the genre has to offer.

Suffice it to say that I’m not a romantic comedy kind of girl.

As such, I wanted to recommend my favorite free or streaming podcasts, TV shows, and movies so y’all can join me in getting your scare on today. All of the podcasts are free downloads and the shows/movies are all currently on Netflix. I’ve rounded up a little something for everyone so I have to include that if Hocus Pocus is more your speed, Freeform is broadcasting it all day today! But if you are looking for something a little spookier, read on for my picks.

TV SHOWS

THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE: Netflix did it, y’all. They created one of the first genuinely scary TV shows, second only to the ensuing program on this list. The Haunting of Hill House features a great cast, especially when it comes to the children (you’ll recognize them from a ton of recent hit movies). It flashes between past and present as you learn about what happened to the Crain family growing up in the Hill House and what drove them from it. When they are reunited by tragedy as adults, they all must face how this house has affected them.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY: If you are in the market for a series to binge, then American Horror Story at eight seasons and counting, is the show I would recommend. AHS has something for everyone: ghosts, the criminally insane, witches, circus freaks, mass murderers, cults, and of course, Jessica Lange. Each season up until the current are all unique stand-alone stories, but regardless I would begin at the beginning with Murder House. It centers around the Harmon family, who have unknowingly moved into a house in which countless deaths have taken place, all while trying to repair their family after Dr. Ben Harmon (Dylan McDermot) has cheated on his wife (Connie Britton) with one of his students. The Harmon family encounter a series of unwelcome guests who aren’t quite what they seem and their lives get even darker than they could have imagined. Just to pre-warn you – AHS really pushes the boundaries to put it lightly. There is nudity, language, gore, and more so keep in mind that this series is definitely risque.

THE STAIRCASE: Now for a couple of true crime documentaries beginning with The Staircase, which is as captivating as it is frustrating. In December of 2011, author Michael Peterson called the police reporting that his wife had fallen down the staircase. The investigators had a different idea about what happened, though, concluding that he must have bludgeoned her to death. He was charged with murder and this documentary follows the trial from Peterson and his lawyer David Rudolf’s perspectives. As Peterson’s secret life becomes public, you’ll go back and forth on your opinion of his guilt or innocence. Once you near the end, be sure to Google the Owl Theory as well!

EVIL GENIUS: This four-part miniseries comes in hot. I’m not squeamish, but even I had to change it over to Animal Planet before I went to sleep to give the first episode out of my mind. Evil Genius is the true story of America’s most diabolical bank heist. In August 2013, the police were called to a bank robbery underway in Erie, Pennsylvania. Pizza delivery man, Brian Wells, was captured leaving the scene with a bomb strapped round his neck. He’d been following a complex scavenger hunt, searching for a specific set of keys to unlock the collar bomb. But does he have enough time to complete the tasks and save his life? And who was responsible for this? You’ll learn all the crazy details surrounding the case and how everyone is surprisingly connected.

PODCASTS

SWORD & SCALE: I’ve mentioned this podcast time and time again because after listening to all things true crime, I keep coming back to this one. Sword & Scale covers a new crime every episode or two and goes into the twisty details that would never make the news – we’re talking interviews with the murderers, NSFW content, descriptive details of the crimes, etc. So let this be a warning, this podcast is not for the faint of heart. Many episodes are rough. But host Mike Boudet is such an amazing storyteller that it is tough not to get hooked.

DR. DEATH: This is the newest true crime podcast I’ve listened to and after binging it in a day or two, I am terrified to ever have surgery. This podcast follows how the medical system failed innocent patients and let a corrupt and inept doctor continue to practice. After visiting Dr. Duntsch for neurosurgery, multiple patients were left with nerve damage, paralysis, and even death. Was this physician intentionally harming people? And how did Dr. Duntsch continue to have A+ reviews online? Find out in this six-part series.

UP & VANISHED: Documentary filmmaker Payne Lindsey got far more than he bargained for when he decided to tackle one of Georgia’s coldest cases, the disappearance of teacher and pageant queen, Tara Grinstead. He reexamines the largest case file in the history of the state of Georgia and actually inserts himself into the narrative, interviewing all of those closest to Tara and re-sparking interest in this cold case. What’s most fascinating about this story, other than how it unravels, is learning about who people really are when they think no one is watching. Lindsay wrapped up Season 1 in stunning fashion and has already begun Season 2 investigating the disappearance of Colorado mother Kristal Reisinger.

MOVIES

THE CONJURING: While the latest installment of The Conjuring franchise, The Nun, was a poorly executed flop, the original is a must-watch. This gem is finally streaming on Netflix and is honestly one of the scarier movies for me as of late. Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren try to help a family that is being potentially haunted in their new home in Rhode Island. Every night, unexplained events happen around the farmhouse and the clock always stops at 3:07am. The Warrens find out that a series of murders and suicides have taken place in the home and determine it needs an exorcism. But it’s not going to be that easy…

TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE BEGINNING: There’s some of us that like ghost stories, some that like jump scares, and then there are those of us who like gore. In the world of scary movies, they call this genre horror porn and the likes of Wolf Creek and Hostel come to mind. This prequel to the classic remake follows a group of friends who leave on a road trip as one last hoorah before one is deployed to Vietnam. Along the way, they encounter corrupt law enforcement who take them to the home of a young Leatherface as he is just learning his way around a chainsaw. Spoiler alert… it doesn’t end well for them.

INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE: Quite possibly one of my favorite movies of all time, Interview With The Vampire is two hours of Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise… in their prime… as vampires. Need I say more? This novel-turned-movie is an American gothic horror film, so it’s less gore and jumps and more overall creepiness. Lestat (Cruise) turns Louis (Pitt) into a vampire in 1791 and the film follows Pitt’s account of their life together, the turning of a 10-year-old girl (Kirsten Dunst), and how vampires have lived among humans throughout time. It’s as re-watchable as they come.

CABIN FEVER: Nothing makes me feel older than when they remake a movie from my childhood, but I was excited to see that it was one of my favorites. Hello, Rider Strong! But only 14 years later, they did it. This movie slathers on the camp, which I’m not gonna lie, I like every so often! A group of good-looking friends travels to a cabin in the woods, sans internet or phone service, for a weekend of partying. What could go wrong? At a rest stop, the local rednecks warn them that there has been reports of campers getting sick in the area. Turns out, something has happened to the local water supply.

CHERNOBYL DIARIES: I may be partial, because truth be told I’m a huge fan of Jesse McCartney and Jonathan Sadowski, but I really enjoyed this movie! The story follows a group of friends traveling to Europe. Instead of visiting Moscow as planned, Sadowski’s character convinces the group to go on a less-than-professional tour of Chernobyl’s neighboring city Pripyat which has stood abandoned in the 25 years since the nuclear meltdown. What starts as fun, albeit extreme tourism, quickly turns dangerous when the group returns to their vehicle to find the wires cut and no way out. Is Pripyat really as abandoned as it seems?

Netflix also released their own scary movie, Open House, which I thought looked promising when I saw that it stars Clay from 13 Reasons Why. Unfortunately, this movie doesn’t really go anywhere and the jump scares fall flat. I would skip over this one and opt for another on this list. Now, I need your suggestions! Is there anything I missed? Let me know your favorite scary movies, shows, and podcasts in the comments below!