Nearly every single day for the past four years, Kennedy Haffner has shared a piece of her life on Instagram. What originated as a fun daily habit for a college student has now become a main source of income.
The content Haffner posts focuses primarily on what she’s eating that day, which includes anything from a tall stack of pancakes to a frothy matcha latte. One thing these posts are sure to have in common: a brand deal. More commonly known as “The Healthy Haff” on Instagram with over 70,000 followers, Haffner has managed to gain the title of “influencer” and make a living through social media.
What exactly is an Instagram influencer?
Well, an influencer is technically any person or thing that influences another. However, when it comes to social media, it isn’t so straightforward.
Influencers consist of individuals who have put time and effort into creating their own personal brand through the original content they post and who garner a loyal audience in the process. Influencers act as thought leaders in a variety of markets and realms, including but not limited to fitness, fashion and lifestyle.
“I used to be a ‘this is what I’m eating’ kind of food blogger,” Haffner said. “And now I’ve embodied [my content] into different spots of my life. Like, ‘This is how I take care of myself’… for both me personally and my community. This is how I go about finding health in different ways whether that be mental, physical, emotional, spiritual… any of that kind of health thing. I think that I’ve fully embodied more of the self-care, mental health and wellness side versus the food health that I used to be.”
The audience of an influencer doesn’t necessarily need to be very large. There are nano-influencers who have less than 1,000 followers and micro-influencers who have anywhere from 1,000 to 100,000 followers, according to a Forbes article.
Influencer marketing is a marketing strategy where companies pay influencers to create and post original, promotional content for their brand. Companies are then able to tap into an influencer’s trusting follower base and reach markets they wouldn’t have otherwise. A study by Statista stated that over $8 billion were spent on influencer marketing in 2020 alone.
Haffner said she makes most of her money through brand deals and partnerships, but other streams of income include content creation for companies, Amazon affiliate links and Tik Tok creator revenue.
“I posted a video of a projector this year on TikTok, and it went crazy and sold a ton of projectors. And I didn’t know that was a thing,” Haffner said. “I accidentally made a bunch of money through an Amazon affiliate. Then there are discount codes that actually give you kickback commission. But that’s so minuscule. Then with TikTok, it makes you, what, five cents per 1,000 views?”
However, Haffner said she doesn’t accept every single brand deal or contract that is offered to her. In order to maintain her personal brand, Haffner is more picky when it comes to the businesses she partners with.
“When you love everything, you don’t love anything,” Haffner said in regard to the types of brand deals she accepts. “I’m very cognizant about my brand deals. Like, I do not take on more than X amount just because I don’t want to be a huge walking billboard for 12 different things.”
Haffner said the biggest drive behind her work as an influencer is the connections she makes through social media. Between “truly feeling like you’re never alone in anything” to having friends all over the world, Haffner describes how fun it is “to open up [her] life to other people and watch as they open up theirs to you.”
However, there are also challenges to being an influencer. Haffner explained that although she makes connections and friendships with supporters, there are still people who don’t know her and will take things out of context.
“It has been such a challenge for me to open up my life and realize that not everybody will think the same way that I do. And that’s okay,” Haffner said. “But you know, opening yourself up and sharing your opinions and your thoughts on things also leaves you quite vulnerable to people. Knowing that as much as these people know me through the internet, they don’t know a lot of different parts of me in my heart.”
At the end of the day, Haffner said she simply loves what she does.
“I love the fact that I get to do this, and that’s wild,” she said.
Haffner offered advice for anyone looking into the career path of becoming an influencer.
“It’s okay to embrace different spots of your life…” Haffner said. “It’s okay to change and okay to change your mind. It’s okay to let things evolve with you. But also it’s okay to not know what you’re doing and keep doing it.”