When Erica Davies posts a picture of a rug or a lamp on Instagram, she starts a stampede of buyers
After Erica Davies, 40, had her second child, her career as a fashion editor lost its appeal. “It was such a big part of who I was,” she recalls. “Then suddenly you have these children and you don’t know where you belong.”
Five years ago she decided to start a blog (the-edited.com) and an Instagram feed (@erica_davies), mixing her love of leopard-print skirts with school-run candour. (“Mummy?” “Yes, Lila?” “You’re not very tall… you’re basically a real-life garden gnome.”) Then, as the family traded London for Essex, Davies posted on transforming their new-build “magnolia box” into an inky-hued home, punctuated with pom-poms and splashes of lime. Her blog and Instagram feed took off.
Davies’s home in Manningtree, Essex
A 20 industrial lamp from Aldi sold out after she pictured it at the top of their stairs. The same thing happened with an inexpensive La Redoute rug: it became so popular that it got its own Instagram account.
Commercial deals followed. She hosted (and posted) parties for Monsoon and Royal Doulton, and was retained by M&S. “People love a bit of interiors porn,” she says, “and that, combined with my style, has engaged a group of like-minded people. In the three years I have done this full-time, my salary has gone up by a third each year.”
Rebecca Sterling has created ‘a career that I never expected’
With 55,800 followers, Davies is one of Britain’s new interiors “micro-influencers”, shaping the way we live from the comfort of their own living rooms. “The landscape has changed so much,” she says. “I’ve got friends who don’t buy weekly magazines – they follow six or seven tastemakers on Instagram, whose lifestyle they buy into.”
And it’s not just Davies who’s cashing in on the influencer boom. Student influencer marketing has taken off with video sharing platforms such as TikTok, where thousands of students show off everything from their new clothes and makeup to their new smart light bulb and gym bag, all whilst being paid by a sponsor who sent them the products in the first place. It’s a lucrative business, where visual platforms such as Instagram allow “people to follow people rather than subscribing to a publication”, says Anna Hart, founder of One Roof Social, an agency that matches brand campaigns to digital influencers. That “relatability” creates trust, making sales more likely – 40% of people say they’ve bought an item online after seeing it used by an influencer on Instagram, Twitter or YouTube, according to Hart.
The generation of consumers who were first to follow – and become – digital influencers has grown up, she adds. “Five years ago they were fixated on getting a designer bag; now they’re homeowners and would rather find out where to get the Tom Dixon lookalike lamp for 20.”
Davies’s styles have won her a number of commercial deals
The most successful influencers don’t just post about interiors, but curate an entire lifestyle, says Katharine Richardson, creative solutions director at WaR, an influencer marketing agency. “As they open up their lives more – showing images of their homes, not just their handbags – the interest of the audience grows.”
Over the past five years, Rebecca Sterling, 25, has built up almost 60,000 Instagram followers as @rvk_loves, with a pick’n’mix of home upcycling, country gardening and Mediterranean sojourns with her #instahusband, Ben, 34 (www.rosesandrolltops.co.uk). At first, Instagram “was a way to put frames around my photos”, the law graduate recalls. “Now it has created a career that I never expected. People see that we’ve renovated, but that they won’t have to spend a lot of money.”
Dee Campling with her son, Theo, at her home in Cheltenham
Ben, a property developer, built the summerhouse in their peony-laden garden, used scaffolding boards to make their dining table and turned a vintage chest of drawers into a basin unit. Their previous home featured in Ideal Home magazine, and Sterling has since partnered with brands including Cox & Cox, Laura Ashley and Topps Tiles.
One sponsored Instagram post, marked #spon or #ad, can earn 200 per 10,000 followers who are relevant to the brand; a blog post would fetch at least 500. Tempting, isn’t it? One way to gain Instagram popularity and therefore possibly a career out of posting, is to buy automatic Instagram likes monthly to up your ‘like’ game. More likes leads to a bigger following which could then lead to a possible career move. Bloggers can also earn 5%-15% of purchases made via affiliate links, either through company programmes such as eBay’s or networks such as Rakuten LinkShare, Awin and – by invitation for those with large followings – rewardStyle.
Campling has attracted nearly 60,000 followers in two years
“A micro-influencer will be making between 500 and 5,000 a month through a combination of affiliate marketing and sponsored content,” Hart says. “About 20% of that is likely to come from interiors.”
Authenticity is key. Richardson advises finding your own voice to stand out in the sea of content, “so you begin to build a following, then you can perhaps start to look at being paid”. Davies combines images in bold colours with self-mocking captions to reflect “a life that’s easy to achieve”. Next to the lime-green Roger Oates runner on what followers have called her “stairwell of dreams”, she posts: “Any tips for getting bright orange Play-Doh out of stair carpet?”
Longer captions that are “just being real” foster engagement, says Amanda Start, 48, whose @onlinestylist Instagram account is a study in minimalist calm, attracting partnerships with the White Company and Amara Living. “When I grow up, I want to live in a pristine monochrome house with a glossy back door,” she tells her 20,000 followers in between snaps of her New Forest home office, with its #elevatetheeveryday print and Kinfolk magazines.
Lightbulb moments: Campling is a fan of moving items around – ‘we call it #faffing’
Start, the mother of Holly, 12, was made redundant from her finance job 10 years ago and set up her blog, theonlinestylist.co.uk, “to keep my brain alive. I only found my passion late in life. I’m like a kid, I can’t wait to get to my desk in the morning.”
Yet it’s hard work. “We get a lot of people asking, ‘I’ve been doing this for two years, why isn’t my blog as big as X’s?'” Hart says. “Most successful interiors influencers either held jobs that meant their networks were strong, got in early or are in a position to devote a huge amount of time to getting their ‘brand’ in front of the people they want to work with.” They post two or three images a day on Instagram, with more detail on at least one of these in an Instagram Story that disappears after 24 hours, and blog up to three times a week. After each post, they take time to answer questions.
When it comes to shooting images, use a good camera in natural daylight, Sterling says. “Check all the details in a room and take a few test shots – mess really stands out.” Choose a filter you like and stick to it, so your style is consistent. She brightens her shots and applies a “gingham” filter. And think about the order in which images will appear on your feed, Davies adds. “I don’t want three in a row of me in an outfit.”
To build a following, tag every photo with all the brands in it. Include up to 30 popular hashtags that act as an index to help people find that topic, such as #styleitdark, #slowliving, #instahome and #houserenovating. Follow other accounts, “like” their content and leave meaningful comments: “not just emojis or ‘great post'”, Start says. People will then often comment back.
Splashes of lime punctuate the inky-hued home
Dee Campling, 49, has ratcheted up 59,000 followers in less than two years by inviting Instagrammers to share their interiors in a themed weekly competition under #myhomevibe. The former project manager from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, realised American hashtags dominated interiors on Instagram, so created her own with a friend and asked homeware start-ups to offer prizes. “We stumbled across a niche that hadn’t been created yet,” she says.
Posts on her four-bedroom Victorian semi, with its bohemian edge, also took off (@deecampling). “I like to move things around – we call it #faffing. On Instagram, everyone is so nice. I’ve never had a negative comment.”
Amanda Start, who has 20,000 followers, says long captions foster engagement
Though Campling had découpaged a bedroom wall aged 12, her creativity fell by the wayside after having Anna, 15, Imogen, 13, and Theo, 10. As her children entered their teens, she rediscovered her passion after turning a vintage caravan into a glamping shop called Huddle, which has now – thanks to her Instagram success – morphed into an interiors styling and workshop business (dee-campling.com).
Whereas interior design had been seen as something more exclusive, Campling says Instagram has made it “something for everyone”.