Date Posted: Tuesday 9th May 2017
DIARY directory recently caught up with luxury fashion influencer Andrea Cheong. The London-based former Time Out journalist and now social media coordinator started The Haute Heel in 2011 as a portfolio while at university, for her work as a writer, photographer and illustrator and was recently included in the London Evening Standard's Top 25 London Lifestyle Influencers. Her blog features social media and blogging tips, combined with interviews with other influencers alongside luxury fashion and beauty posts, with brands like Farfetch, while looking at the industry in an analytical way.
|Date of birth:||04/02/1992 - age 25|
|County & country of residence:||London, UK|
|3 main areas of focus:||Fashion, Travel, Beauty|
|5 specific areas of interest:||Fashion, Travel, Photography, Food, Beauty|
|Dress size:||UK 6/XS|
|Shoe size:||34/ UK 1|
Listed in DIARY directory in the digital influencers subsection, along with 1000+ categorised influencers for PRs to work with, Andrea discusses the Instagram spambot furore, tells us why she is different from other luxury style bloggers and how she cultivates her Instagram feed.
Your background is in journalism - what made you decide to start your own blog?
I started my blog when I was at UCL and as I was studying art history, I realy wanted to work at fashion publications and knew I needed a portfolio for applications. It was also an outlet for me and a platform for my creativity, or I literally would have sleepless nights.
Who are your core readers?
Most of my readers are UK and interestingly USA based, women aged 18-25. For Instagram it's UK, USA and Singapore. Those that respond to my posts, I find that they're knowledgeable about trends and are in a similar industry.
How do you differentiate yourself from other luxury style bloggers?
I think luxury is supposed to be effortless, an item doesn't look expensive if it stands out from an outfit too much. It has to be seamless with your style, so I tend to stay away from conspicuous logos, no matter how much they're on trend. A lot of luxury bloggers make it very obvious and that's their niche and it works for them. For me, 'luxury' is aspirational but it shouldn't be performative.
What does the future hold for blogging?
I think the main thing is that brands will be more clued up to ROI when it comes to social media marketing. I hope that some will stop viewing us ALL as sales promoters, it's very clear who is willing to be a 'brand ambassador' and who isn't. Being a saturated market could be a good thing, strong content and real dedication to creating editorial worthy images will stand out and less emphasis will be placed on numbers. I was on a panel that discussed how brands will use UGC in their 'traditional' marketing and I really like that they'd respect our content enough to remunerate us for it and use it as they would like an on brand campaign.
Which social media platforms do you find to be the most effective for building relationships with your readers? Do you have a social media strategy?
Instagram is essential for brand building, even as a blogger. Good images and captivating captions generate genuine, quick responses. My strategy is always to stay relevant and add value to my audience. What do they want to know and how can I show or tell them in a way that hasn't been done before? There's no such thing as a truly original topic so why would you bother reiterating what 100 other girls have said.
What tools do you use to develop your Instagram? How much time do you spend on taking images for the platform?
I shoot twice a week while working full time with a select few photographers. I edit all my own images, no matter how great or talented the photographer - even though one of them (Hong Kong photographer Irwin Chan - @irwinsychan) got reposted by Instagram and several have been 'suggested users' . The shoots and post processing takes around six hours a week. Then I use the app UNUM, which allows you to plan and preview your feed. I spend an unhealthy amount of time on that. Commenting back and answering emails probably adds up to an hour a day. Each blog post takes around two hours to research, write and edit.
Who are you inspired by blogging-wise?
The answer has changed so much since I started in 2011. Back then I used to say Olivia Palermo and Peony Lim for their style. Now that I'm 'an adult' I really do feel that I have a good grasp on my identity - as a person and as a blogger. Stories and emotions inspire my images, not anyone in particular.
What’s your opinion on big bloggers using spam bots, what does this mean for an up-and-coming blogger like yourself?
I know a lot of micro-influencers such as myself are bothered by this but personally, I don't think I should be. Everyone's end goal for being popular on social media is different. I'm doing this for meaningful partnerships with great brands and to fulfil that gap from not working at a magazine anymore! People who get really worked up about this kind of thing are only focusing on competition but I remind myself of why I started. It wasn't about who I was neck and neck with but where I could go.
Your recent blog series “pay to play” discusses the changes Instagram has implemented since August, could you sumarise this for our readers?
The three-part series was written as a narrative for other Instagrammers, brands and individuals to understand the commercialisation of Instagram from the perspective of a blogger and how it's impacted our perceived 'worth'. Since the algorithm was rolled out, the rise of 'comment pods' and tactics like loop giveaways have prevailed in an effort to recover drop in engagement and a slow-down of follower growth. As Instagram is monetising its product (we are the product because the app is free to use), I believe that at least for a period of time, they were favouring certain geo-locations because of the advertising value - it's no news that Asia is incredibly m-commerce friendly, which is favourable for Instagram who is testing out shoppable images. The idea that Instagram is encouraging us to pay-to-play really segregates businesses from casual users. Bloggers and influencers fall between these two categories, so we will have to carve our own way in this continuously changing landscape. We see how larger accounts are facing slashed engagement (mine used to be 8-10% of my following even at 10k, which is very high for the UK) but now we can't rely on the conventional metrics, we must look to other ways to prove our authority, which brings me back to how quality, consistent content should be equal to statistics. It will be even more interesting to see how brands adapt to this.
You work as a social media coordinator too, how do you balance this with blogging? What’s your motivation?
I got the social media assistant job as a result of my blog and Instagram! I was working as a trend analyst, which is surprisingly like journalism except B2B rather than B2C. The role came up and I thought it would be an interesting pivot. However, my job mainly entails content creation and editing the company's blog, so I think my day job and my website feed into each other a lot in terms of practical skills.
How has your job benefited your blog? What lessons have you learnt?
Such a good question! I wrote a post on how working as an editorial assistant at Time Out taught me to run my blog more efficiently and professionally. Now working in trend spotting and consumer analytics, I have an insight into what the largest brands and conglomerates are interested in. I also understand the psychology of why consumers like, share and purchase. I can't ever see myself doing blogging full time because with my current career path, I feel like I can provide my audience insights into topics that very few people are willing to share knowledge about.
What are your current favourite brands?
I love Australian brands, they have such a strong visual identity. Also, if I could wear only For Love And Lemons, I wouldn't say no - unless it's in the UK because it's too cold for that right now!!
Do you have help with your blog?
My blog is a collaborative effort, the 'art direction' and articles are all mine but without the photos, it wouldn't come alive. I have a very curated selection of photographers in different cities (London, Hong Kong and Singapore). I wouldn't have grown on Instagram without them reposting me either.
Do you have a rate card?
No because it depends on the brand and what they're asking for. However, I don't do blog posts upon request for free - I'm a writer by trade and I am also aware of how valuable backlinks are!
Who would be your dream collaboration?
I've recently worked with Farfetch, which I didn't think was a possibility as I realise I have a comparatively small following to what's out there. Realistically, in the next year, I'd say Revolve. I really appreciate their emphasis on strong imagery and a few of my friends have worked with them with only good feedback. Aside from fashion, I know that a lot of bloggers say they'd like more travel partnerships but I feel I could definitely give back because I used to do the Things To Do and Hot Tables for Time Out, and that's very similar to travel writing!
As a micro-blogger, how do you build your relationships with PRs?
I am so blessed that they've approached me and I get along with some of the girls so well that I don't feel uncomfortable attending events alone. However, not all PR's want a relationship outside of the odd event or campaign, which is a shame! The key is that I treat those relationships professionally. I always follow the guidelines my editors set - I show up on time to events dressed appropriately, I don't bring a hoard of friends and I always deliver high quality content for their brands.
Do you see yourself branching into other areas, eg. YouTube?
I am trying to embrace the direction Instagram is going in with its Stories and 1-min videos. YT adverts are being condensed into even shorter videos, so if that's the direction that information and content is going in, why not just stick to 60 seconds on a platform where I already have a loyal audience?
Which influencers do you follow and why?
I don't follow too many huge influencers however, I love Sonya Esman, Margaret Zhang and Kristina Bazan because of their commitment to their individual, strong and consistent aesthetic. It's important to me that the women I follow aren't just about beauty but that they're multi-talented and they exhibit their potential at every opportunity!
Andrea Cheong in 'digital influencers'