We Ask An Influencer How Instagram Became Her Job

Santoshi Shetty spills the secrets of owning the gram!

Revati Nargund

Santoshi Shetty’s IG grid is a smorgasbord of the 25-year-old lissom blogger basking under the Italian sun, strolling down Spanish streets, digging into Parisian crepes or posing onboard a cruise to Ibiza—all in her sartorial best. And when not jet-setting across the world attending world class events, she’s busy curating content to take care of her gram’s daily feed. With meticulously conceptualised pictures, Shetty, with 633K followers on Instagram and founder of The Styledge, a fashion and luxury blog, is one of the upcoming bloggers racing to the top of the blogger-influencer game in the Indian blogosphere. While the term “influencer” and “influencing” has come under the scanner of late with critics questioning brands and how humongous budgets are being dedicated for influencer marketing campaigns; the influencer market industry is touted to grow to $10 billion by 2020, say reports. With the tribe growing, we speak to Shetty to understand the method behind the madness of running the ‘influencer’ business.

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A career born out of sheer hobby, Shetty transformed from the girl-next-door into an Instagram blogger, who owns her space as a fashion influencer on social media. Starting her journey with YouTube by launching own channel, she eventually started with her blog www.thestyledge.com and finally shifted her focus to Instagram to promote her blog further. Ask her how real the feed is, how much do editing apps contribute, and how much of her personality is even out there? “Of course, it’s me”, she exclaims. It started with me experimenting with new trends from my street shopping binges when I was in college and posting them on my personal blog and Instagram. But eventually, I started to build the personality of my feed too!” There’s a lot that’s goes on behind-the-scenes—from picking up new trends from the runway to the best styles and angles that work for me. While the gram doesn’t reflect me and my moods on a daily basis, I have always extensively spoken about my emotions and insecurities, my journey from being an architecture student and the effort and planning that goes into blogging full time. There is also a large section of the society that will disregard your effort and try to put you down, trolls, negative comments and the noise around can get deafening. Dealing with all the negative criticism can be tough and while I have my own ways to cope, I have also written about these feelings largely on my blog. It wasn’t really a career option when I started off, but I guess things change. As a blogger, I feel the feed can be structured and made to fit what you wish, but the person behind it is as real as it gets, at least in my case.”


Taking on Trolls

If you think being a social media influencer is all about likes and freebies, think again. Do you forgive and forget faster with people commenting, critiquing and being scrutinised for everything you put out there on social media? “Being in the public eye, you can get affected if a particular comment is too harsh or demeaning, but then at the end of the day, people have opinions and they are entitled to say what they wish. What is in my control is to decide how much it affects me and how I can handle it. I take criticism positively and try to build on whatever I have; a better way to live is to be honest”, she says.

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Curating Content for the Gram

While most of us have faced the conundrum of going after that perfectly shot restaurant or surreal food platter only to be disillusioned by how it looks in reality, the debate over Instagram filters and effects is a real one lurking behind every picture. Browsing through perfectly photoshopped and edited pictures that reflect Shetty’s hugely popular travel, beauty and fashion stories in and outside India, we ask her if she is mindful of using excessively filtered images that work against reality. “Yes, of course, I try to keep it as simple and basic. There isn’t excessive filtering in terms of colours, however, the pictures are all colour corrected in terms of the lighting used, but that goes without saying. If you do put up an image without a filter, it is explicitly spelled out as #nofilter which is quickly becoming the trend of the season. I am particularly done with the filtering and I find it better these days to keep images as authentic as possible. More natural and colourful. It might be a phase and it could all go away very quickly but as a social media influencer, trends keep changing, and one just needs to adapt and stay relevant.” Ask Shetty about her winning formula to forge brand associations as an influencer—from Vero Moda, Only and H&M, beauty?—and she says, “The number game is on because there is so much happening on Instagram constantly! And even though brands definitely target numbers, they have become much more aware about what and who they want. They are very selective and clear in their strategies and the brands that I have collaborated with are ones that appreciate my work and find me to be a good fit. More than numbers you need to focus on quality content and what you need to put out there. And if you look deeper, it's not at all numbers, it all comes down to how qualitative your content is, if you stick to your aesthetic, the right brand will approach you. There is no straight formula in blogging.” Is ‘not smiling for the camera’ one of her tricks and she laughs, “Haha! I am always smiling from within.”

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All Fashion and No Food?

One thing that brings a smile to her face, even on a hump day, is a plateful of eggs and avo. Even her bio reads, ‘always looking forward to trends, eggs & vacay and her posts reveal her cheat days and secret brunches in equal measure. Her guilty indulgence, “Sweets. I have a major sweet tooth. I can control and regulate my diet, but with sweets there is just no healthy boundary. I might just binge on Nutella or kinder joy or even kaju katli or mysore pak, it’s irresistible. I am not really big on burgers, but when I am travelling, I make sure I binge on greasy, cheese hamburgers and fries—they are quite different from what we get here in India. Although unhealthy, I believe that when you are travelling, you need to experience the local culture, art, food and people; simply everything that has to do with that place. And food is a big part of exploring any destination, so indulging in local cuisine and street food is a must for me.” I have recently developed an intense love for cooking. My go-to indulgence is a simple Avo Toast. It is a simple breakfast recipe to whip up—start with a sourdough bread, slather on a basil-pesto dressing, drizzle a bit of olive oil, top it off with sundried tomatoes and sliced avocado. You can add poached eggs or sunny side up fried eggs to ensure your protein intake is taken care of. You could also use peanut butter on a sourdough or multigrain toast, but make sure you toast the bread a bit for some added crispiness.

Also Read: 10 Simple Ways to Join the Cult of Avocado 

So, what are her thoughts on Instagramming food before eating to a point that it becomes cold. “People Instagram everything these days! For me, I used to post a lot of aesthetically pleasing food pictures, but now the intention is to post recommendations of a restaurant or food because I know there are many followers who might visit after a post. I follow many food bloggers. Especially when you are travelling it works better to get recommendations, you understand how the food looks like, the location is visible and all that just makes it easier,” she signs off.

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