It’s time for another Interview With an Influencer. We love getting insights from many of the influencers we work with by asking them the questions brands want to know. And also asking them what they want to know most about brands. Our jobs at Mattr are to be that liaison between the influencers and the brands and that doesn’t just mean during the campaigns. We also want to be able to go to our clients and to our influencer community and help them better connect with one another for successful campaigns.

This month we were able to chat with one of our favorite foodie influencers who we’ve been lucky enough to work with in the past. Philly-based, Sarah Schutz runs the very popular TheCuttingVeg, and has a huge growing audience of nearly 140k followers. We wanted insight from her on growing into a bigger influencer and how she is dealing with all of the recent Instagram changes.

Mattr: Do you find it easier to get sponsorships as a larger influencer? Or easier when you had a smaller, more mid-level audience (since so many brands are moving towards micro)?

Sarah: I have a mixed answer on this. On the one hand, micro influencers are definitely making a name for themselves in the social media spaces. When I just started out in 2016, there was no concept of influencer marketing for smaller accounts. I personally did not have partnerships with brands until I reached 35,000 followers. I do see the value in having micro-influencers as part of a marketing strategy and feel the effects of more brands moving this way. However, I also find brands appreciate influencers like myself who have existed in the space for a long time. Many of my followers have been with me since the beginning and, as a result, know me and trust my opinions about certain brands. This is especially true because I entered and grew on IG before the advent of influencer marketing. I would promote products on my site not because a brand was paying for me, but because I was genuinely excited about the product. Especially for micro-influencers, there are different expectations of compensation now versus in 2016. Therefore, I find brands appreciate the levels of trust larger influencers have built with their audiences over the years.

Mattr: Have you noticed any positive or negative changes since Instagram has rolled out testing the hiding of likes?

Sarah: Personally, I think hiding likes is a great step forward for society at large as well as content creators. While my likes have not gone away personally, I find myself less anxious about producing content that will get likes versus producing content that is true to my brand. My followers are a lot happier as well, as I am not focusing on creating content for an algorithm. However, it can be frustrating to see likes decrease sometimes, especially if a brand is hyper focused on post statistics. However, a lot of those quantifying measures can and are bought by fellow influencers. Therefore, I hope hiding likes forces brands to focus on how engaged an influencers’ audience is versus how many likes a post receives.

Mattr: Have you seen a change in your engagement with new algorithm changes on Instagram?

Sarah: I have seen both a decrease in likes as well as an increase in comments and story views. I think what is most important for brands is not just focusing on likes per post when determining if an influencer is a good fit. People want to see a genuine person behind the lens and, thus, will develop stronger ties with a person and, thus, their recommendations for products. I think the algorithm change forces influencers to show off their unique personalities versus just posting pretty photos. I think this will be beneficial in the long run for brands, creators, and their followers.

Mattr: What platform, besides Instagram, do you think will be big in influencer marketing for 2020?

Sarah: Youtube and Pinterest are 100% the best places besides Instagram for content creation and influencer marketing. Both platforms are internet based and not primarily through an app. This makes their staying power much more certain than other platforms. I have also explored Tik Tok as a potential. However, since most of Tik Tok’s users are 18-24 and from China, it is uncertain how advertising on Tik Tok might be beneficial to brands.

Mattr: Do you have any big goals as an influencer for the 2020 year?

Sarah: Like every year, I want to connect with my followers more in person. I have a couple of brand sponsored meetups planned in 2020 but want to do more throughout the year. Honestly, the best part of being someone on social media is having the opportunity to connect with my followers outside of the apps. 

I also would love to do more travel-focused collaborations this year. My followers love when I take them along to different places that I travel to, along with when I share guides about what I am doing and, more specifically, where I am eating. Travel is actually where I get most of my food inspiration from! One of my goats is to navigate that space and figure out how to pitch brands from that community.

Mattr: How could brands or agencies make your work easier?

Sarah: Brands could make my work easier and my content better suited for them by being incredibly upfront about all expectations. Too often, brands will realize mid campaign that the content I created for them based on the creative is not exactly what they wanted. As a result, we run into time delays and I am requested to reshoot content. This creates unnecessary stress for both influencers and agencies that could be better addressed by clear, solidified expectations about campaigns.

Also, if a brand wants a photo to have a certain “look” please allow the influencer to do the editing themselves with your requests. Sometimes, a brand will edit a photo or place a filter on it so it will not fit in well to the person’s feed. As a result, it does not look natural to the influencer’s followers. Giving the person behind the camera a bit more agency over their content for a brand collaboration will probably mean better engagement and return for brands in the long run. Remember, a blogger will probably know how to best tailor the content to fit in with their feed and, therefore, win the trust of their followers.

Mattr: Finally, what is something you want to know from brands? Any burning questions that you have for brands and agencies getting into influencer marketing?

Sarah: Something I want to know is the thought process brands go through to choose influencers to promote products. I know not all influencers are good fits for certain campaigns vs others. However, I am sometimes confused about how a brand settled on particular content creators whose personality and mission do not align. Do brands look at an influencer’s stories or comments to see the connections they make? Do they see how they are engaged on other platforms? Deciding on a particular content creator, in my opinion, is more than counting statistics.