Editor's Note: This is Part 2 of a three-part series on local online influencers. Watch for Part 3 tomorrow.
Carleigh Bodrug never thought she’d become an Instagram influencer.
The vegan guru and Barrie resident started her own online plant-based meal plan business Plant You back in 2016, and her success has led to a massive social media following.
“Instagram was a perfect choice for a media platform because its photo-sharing capability as well as the potential to reach a mass audience through hashtags and geotagging,” she said.
Bodrug transitioned to a plant-based diet herself in 2016 after her father was diagnosed with colon cancer. Her family started a journey together to see how they could all improve their eating habits to live a healthier, longer life. The Nantyr Shores Secondary School graduate found it difficult to find simplistic vegan recipes online, which sparked the idea for her business model.
“This inspired me to start sharing easy recipes on my blog, plantyou.com, as well as Instagram and Facebook. The images immediately gained traction when I started displaying them in an easy-to-digest infographic format,” she said.
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At the time, Bodrug was working as a communications officer at the Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital Foundation.
In June 2019, she left her job with the foundation to pursue the Plant You brand full time.
“At the time, I had 100,000 followers on Instagram and had leveraged that following to build an online membership subscription business selling weekly easy plant-based meal plans,” she said.
Today, Bodrug boasts about 210,000 followers on Instagram and 60,000 on Facebook, but tries not to get caught up in the numbers.
“Rather than making a living as an Instagram ‘influencer,’ my business is my main form of income. In the past year, I have been able to garner over 1,000 monthly subscribers to my weekly digital recipe plans who subscribe for $7.99 (USD) per month,” she said. “I use Instagram (as well as Facebook, Pinterest and my blog) as tools to help bring on new clients and promote the plant-based recipe plans.”
Bodrug also participates in limited sponsored or paid content on the site.
For an audience of more than 200,000 followers, a sponsored Instagram post could pay an amount less than $1,500 all the way to more than $3,000 depending on what is involved. The price varies, for example, depending on whether the sponsor wants a blog post as well as a photo, or video.
Bodrug says between photography, Adobe Photoshop and caption writing, an Instagram post can take anywhere between one and three hours to craft.
“I also want my audience to trust me and be highly engaged, and I find sponsored content can sometimes erode this connection,” she said. “I do work with a limited number of brands who align with my morals and values entirely. In this case, we are either approached to work with a brand, or my assistant reaches out to them.”
More thought than you might think goes into creating a perfect post as well.
“I always think about how I can take a vegan recipe and display it in its simplest form for anyone to make. This also means that the food photos I take are extremely simplistic with limited styling,” she said.
“Quite honestly, I’ve had the most success with Instagram by taking photos of food in my 150-square- foot kitchen in Barrie. You don’t need picturesque sunsets or cityscapes to be successful on Instagram. It’s all about providing enough value on your page to spark someone to hit the follow button,” said Bodrug.
When looking for photo inspiration around Barrie for her Instagram page, Kelsey Morin has found a few local gems.
“The famous red brick alleyway downtown and the waterfront in Barrie offer great photo opportunities,” she said. “Local coffee shops with funky style like Bohemia, Common Good Café and Homestead can also make it easy to capture a great photo.”
“If you feel like venturing out of Barrie, Collingwood and Blue Mountain have given me inspiration as well,” she added.
When the 30-year-old Barrie resident first started her food-and-fashion-themed Instagram page, she used it primarily to stay connected to friends.
As time went on, she started connecting with various local businesses.
“When I started working with them, my main goal was to promote the local community which I cared so much about. Then I met other local influencers and it was a great way to connect with like-minded people who shared the same passions and interests as I did,” she said.
“Many of my family members have local businesses so supporting the local community hit close to home.”
Morin boasts more than 3,100 followers on the platform, and that number is only growing. She works full time as a retail store manager in the city while doing Instagram work on the side.
She declined to provide compensation details when she works with brands on posts, as she said talks are confidential and details vary between posts too much to be specific.
When crafting a post, Morin starts by considering what type of content aligns with her personal brand.
“Then, I think about what my audience wants to see. This can be different if I'm doing an Instagram post or an Instagram story,” she said. “Your story gives you the opportunity to share an opinion or idea about something and your audience can get to know you in a very real way. With a post, I'm offering a snapshot of my life, interests and passion which can lead to a wider audience which leads to connecting with more people on the Instagram.”
“My lifestyle inspires my Instagram content, this includes my local community, places I've travelled to, food I eat or clothes I wear. I get inspiration from something as simple as going for a walk or flying to another country,” she added.
While Morin said she doesn’t aspire to become a full-time influencer, she does hope to grow organically and says she enjoys the community as a whole.
“The biggest misconception I see about social-media influencers is that we are all shallow and all about the followers. I have met some genuine people who simply enjoy the creative process of creating content and meeting new people,” she said.
Watch for Part 3 tomorrow, where we put the social media focus on locals who have become YouTube sensations.