ORLANDO, Fla. – In the age of social media, it seems like sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between a regular post and an ad.
Whenever you're on Instagram, you may see a friend or celebrity raving about some new product that you can get a 20 percent discount on if you use their code.
It makes you wonder, what made them get into that product in the first place? Or what made them rely so heavily on social media to advertise their brand?
We took some of those questions to a local social media influencer. First though, what does it take to be one?
Experts say an influencer is someone who gets people to buy or support a brand because they promoted it on social media.
Brogan Morris is a local influencer who works at several gyms across Central Florida and has her own online training business on the side. She says she makes most of her money on social media.
"I've seen what Instagram can do for others and knew it would be a good opportunity to grow my brand. It's something that's free and easy to use. Most of my target audience is on it, making it that much easier to reach them," Morris said.
She says she's even tried buying ads on Instagram, but found it wasn't as effective as the actual connection she has with her followers. In order to promote her business, Morris says she works with several people and uses different tools.
Her account is filled with professional photos taken by a friend who does it for free to get exposure for his film company. She also has a high quality camera on her phone. Another friend takes videos for her while she's working out.
Dr. Andrew Selepak works in the communications department at the University of Florida and specializes in social media. He says the reason why influencers post certain types of pictures is so they're consistent with their brand.
"If a fitness influencer’s Instagram account is only filled with professional photos of them working out, at the gym, or promoting fitness equipment and apparel, and they add a picture of them on vacation or of their pet, it is inconsistent with the brand. A brand is a mental expectation, and when people have an expectation of who and what you are, you want to make sure that brand is consistent," Selepak said.
Another part of being an influencer is promoting a product. Morris says some brands reach out to her and she's also reached out to other companies. Some businesses pay her to promote and require her to have a certain amount of posts per day, while other companies give her products for free.
"It depends on the size of the company. It also depends on your following. I've had companies reach out to me and ask me to be an 'ambassador,' which never means free things. It usually means 20 percent off," said Morris.
She says those companies only add sponsored athletes with more than 10,000 followers.
"It is more authentic form of advertising because we believe and trust in the influencer and therefore trust in the brands they support," Selepak said.
Some may wonder just how financially stable is it to be an influencer. Obviously, it's not a traditional job, but Selepak says we no longer live in a world where people always stick with the same job for 25 years.
"We all change jobs, careers, where we live, and what we do. Being an influencer is not a permanent position, and can’t be. Technology will change, tastes will change and our interests will change. But it doesn’t mean you can’t do it for a time, make a difference in the lives of others by connecting them with quality brand, and making a few dollars on the side."
As for Morris, she seems to agree with Selepak. She's not sure where social media will take her, but in the future, she still sees herself working to change lives and educating others on a healthy lifestyle.