At nearly 70,000 followers on Instagram, Catherine Marie Alfin, known better as @CatherineMarie, has built a loyal audience strictly from being herself.
Alfin, 32, is not an actress, model, singer or reality star — but she’s authentic. She works for the state of Connecticut and like most people, created an Instagram and just started posting. “I think that’s what people relate to most. I’m not famous. I organically built this audience on my own,” she said. “I realized I wanted to find my niche and it all started by posting an outfit and someone asking where it was from. I integrated tagging and that’s really how it all began.”
In the past two years her followers have grown exponentially.
Her sense of style, way of life and personality is creating enough of an influence for fashion brands to take notice. And while she’s not Kim Kardashian with 114 Million followers, this might be a good thing.
As the influencer marketing landscape continues to change, brands are zeroing in on microinfluencers: a person with a smaller following but heavy engagement with his or her niche audience. Because consumers aren’t always swayed by star power these days.
“I’m always engaging with my followers,” Alfin said. “I never leave them hanging. If they ask me a question, whether it’s in a direct message or a comment on a post, I answer it and I answer it fast to show that I’m here. If you don’t engage then you have nothing.”
Companies Alfin has worked with so far include many millennial-facing online retailers such as Ego Shoes, Lola Shoetique and Meshki.
What connects most to her audience, who are primarily U.S. women from the ages 18-24, is the fact that she’s relatable. On her Instagram account, you can find Alfin on her Stories going out with friends, singing in her car and dancing. And through her posts, fashion is at the forefront, but she mixes high and low designers and brands, which is key.
She explained, “People want affordable but expensive looking product. Like clear shoes, for example, it’s a fad and a trend right now. The average girl can’t afford to buy the Yeezys. So what I do like about these brands, is that they offer those on-trend styles without that price tag.”
“We can buy so many different products but it’s about putting the look together,” she added. “I feel like it’s important to show that you don’t have to buy designer brands to put a bomb outfit together. You can take basics and pair it with an expensive pair of shoes or a belt. Not everyone wants to buy a $2,000 bag and I understand that.”
One way Alfin engages with her followers is through polls. For instance, she asked her followers what type of ensembles they like most: casual or glam. For her, her most glamorous and on-trend outfits get the most likes and engagement.
She also says the key to building loyalty and growth on the social media platform is to keep it real. She doesn’t just put on an outfit and take pictures to edit and post. She is actually going out and living her life.
“If I’m enjoying a moment, I never feel obligated to post,” she said. “And with the companies I collaborate with, I’m honest with them. If a product doesn’t flow with the day or the week or the outfit, I won’t post it.”
Alfin is continuing to build her career as an influencer organically. So far, she hasn’t reached out to any companies herself and you won’t catch her promoting Fit Tea detoxes anytime soon.
When it comes to compensation, Alfin says her partnerships vary between paid posts and free product for mentions and posting discount codes.
She said, “I don’t promote anyone just because they reached out. I’ve declined money. If I’m going to promote it I believe in it.”
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