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Stephanie Smith poses for a fashionable post on Instagram. Instagram image www.socialselect.net

Stephanie Smith poses for a fashionable post on Instagram. Photo: Instagram

Stephanie Smith has thousands of followers on Instagram, and it is starting to affect her work.

Steph in a bikini, Steph in her gym gear, Steph at work, Steph driving a $75,000 Range Rover, Steph eating delicious food in a cafe, and Steph just generally living a life of travel, leisure and beauty.

Stephanie Smith has a huge following on Instagram image www.socialselect.net

Brooke Hogan also spends a lot of time on Instagram.

Major brand Adidas features in a Brooke Hogan Instagram photo.Brooke Hogan, Instagram image www.socialselect.net

Like Smith, Hogan crafts every shot and thinks very carefully about what she includes in each photo: her exercise clothes, the food she eats, her outfit on a big night out, and lots of photos of her at work.

This attention to detail is paying off. The careers of both models are thriving, thanks to the popular photo-sharing app.

Let’s rewind briefly to the old days (about two years ago): an advertiser looking for a model rings up an agency and says, “Oh hi, we need a blonde girl who looks good in a green coat”, or something similar, and the agency sends them a bunch of blonde girls to choose from.

Stephanie Smith posts a photo with Tiger Mist co-founder Alana Pallister on Instagram. Instagram image www.socialselect.net

A photo from Sahara Ray’s Instagram account with Tiger Mist co-founder Alana Pallister. Photo: Sahara Ray, Instagram

However, as we all know, everything is changing.

And the people running Australia’s big modelling agencies say that today the phone call from advertisers is likely to sound more like this: “Oh hi, who has the most followers on Instagram? OK, we want them.”

Instagram was born in 2010, the brainchild of computer programmers Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger as a photo-sharing website and smartphone app.

In early 2012, Facebook purchased Instagram for about $US1 ($1.27 billion) billion.

It claims to have 300 million active users today, predominantly young urban women under 35 years.

It is now worth about $US35 billion, says Citigroup, because of how much revenue could be earned if it started advertising to all those users.

However, the fact that it is still free for everyone to post and share the snappy little square images makes it a highly effective way to sell products.

Advertisers can reach millions of people for a few hundred or few thousand dollars to post. And unlike radio, television or print, there are no annoying regulations.

Radio broadcaster Alan Jones might have to declare his sponsored messages, Instagrammers don’t.

Stephanie Smith posts a photo of herself at a photo shoot for Exs and Ohs lingerie
Stephanie Smith posts a photo of herself at a photo shoot for Exs and Ohs lingerie Photo: Instagram

Matthew Anderson, manager and director of Chadwick Models, says his firm started paying attention to Instagram about two years ago.

He finds himself inundated with requests for models not simply on the basis of their height or their hair colour, or even their previous work, but according to their popularity on Instagram.

Take 21-year-old Steph Smith, known as @stephclairesmith to her 622,000 followers.

“I get probably up to 15 requests a day exclusively because of her Instagram profile,” Mr Anderson says. “The impact on the requests for her has been substantial. We didn’t take her on because of that. Two to three years ago, Instagram was new. We didn’t know about it.

“More people see her posts than read the Herald Sun and Daily Telegraph combined.”

Well, not quite. The latest circulation figures show about 2.4 million people read those papers every weekday. However, a lot of them aren’t young and female. Finding a model with 622,000 ready-made devotees amplifies the advertising dollars.

Smith maintains there is no magic formula to attracting followers.

She posted pictures, they were reposted by “fitness inspiration-type pages” and her fan base grew.

“I was lucky enough to have great regular clients before Instagram, but it’s definitely helped with getting my name out there internationally,” she says.

She is careful to only endorse products she actually likes and warns other models to be selective or risk cheapening their reputation. She posts one or two pictures daily and garners about 15,000 likes for each photo.

One of her commercial deals includes a free car on loan from a dealership in Doncaster. In exchange, she posts pictures of herself in front of the white Range Rover Evoque.

The marketing manager at Lance Dixon, Danielle Doupe, says a lot of women between the ages of 16 and 35 follow Smith and her posts influence their choices.

When one of Smith’s car photos got 19,000 likes, the dealership picked up 80 new followers.

It is a similar story at other agencies.

The Melbourne manager at Vivien’s Model Management, Sarah Bisogni​, reveals that social media numbers are creeping into selection criteria.

“It’s essentially a numbers game; the more followers they have, the more followers they reach, which is incredibly enticing for clients and can be just as lucrative for the model,” Ms Bisogni says.

And advertisers like it when models post pictures of the fashion shoot, often requesting it as part of the contract.

Vivien’s model Brooke Hogan, 23, says her 283,000 followers come from shots reposted by fitness and fashion accounts.

She was also a contestant on Australia’s Next Top Model.

Instagram didn’t exist when she started modelling and she had no idea it was increasing her value until she started getting work inquiries through it.

“I like to update my followers on a daily basis on what I am doing, who I am shooting for etc, so when I am at a job I am always taking pictures to upload ‘selfies’ or asking someone on the team to take a photo of me or with me.”

Consider for a moment that Myer’s Instagram account has 112,000 followers and David Jones’ account has 133,000. And that superstar model Megan Gale has 242,000 followers and Jessica Hart 198,000.  It shows how powerful these younger women can be.

The founder and director of online clothing retailer Tiger Mist, Stevie Pallister, books models based on followers and the aesthetics of their Instagram account.

This is what attracted the retailer to US-based model Sahara Ray, who has significantly increased Tiger Mist sales to the US over the past three years through regular posts to her 693,000 followers.

“We liked her because we had seen her on Instagram. She just had something a little big different about her photos [and] original content. Lots of girls comment about her outfits,” Ms Pallister says.

Tiger Mist primarily uses three models, including Smith, who collectively have nearly 2 million followers. It sees an instant boost in sales whenever one of these women posts pictures of its clothes, or is photographed on Tiger Mist’s own page.

Ms Pallister says the retailer has stopped using Facebook for online advertising because it has less impact and costs too much.

Chadwick Models keeps an updated list of of the number of followers for each models.

Yes, looks still matter, but a strong following can increase the workload of an “average” looking girl, Mr Anderson says.

Models with more than 100,000 followers can get about $1500 for a single post featuring an advertiser’s product.

“I would be reluctant to sign anybody based purely on their social media following. Because I think it is only a matter of time before that bubble bursts,” he says.

This is the first story by Lucy Battersby as our Trending reporter, a new round covering trends in society and technology for The Age. Lucy will be assisted by Alana Schetzer.

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Henry Sapiecha

russian social site image www.socialselect.net

Russia’s leading social network VK has beaten the country’s biggest television channel in the battle for viewers’ attention, data from media research firm TNS Russia showed.

VK, previously known as VKontakte, had 13.2 million daily users in March this year, while state-owned giant Channel One had an audience of only 10.9 million, according to TNS Russia.

Their weekly audiences were roughly on par, with VK leading by about 10,000 weekly users.

VK remains by far the most popular social network in Russia, with more than eight times the daily users of leading international social network Facebook, the data showed.

The comparison between television channels and social networks is approximate, as statistics for the two platforms cannot be calculated in the same way, a TNS Russia spokeswoman told The Moscow Times. The daily audience of social networks was estimated according to the number of people who viewed any part of the website at least once a day. The daily reach of television channels, on the other hand, is the number of people who watched at least 1 minute of a channel’s broadcasts daily.

Internet companies have gained quickly on traditional media in Russia in recent years, receiving an extra boost from an acceleration in advertising revenues that has continued this year despite the economic crisis.

The only segment of the advertising market that grew in the first quarter of this year was contextual advertising, or targeted online ads, which grew 16 percent to a total of about 15 billion rubles ($300 million), according to the Association of Communication Agencies of Russia (AKAR).

This growth indicates that companies are reorienting toward the Internet as advertising budgets shrink. Television advertising fell 22 percent to about 30 billion rubles ($600 million) in the same period, while the market as a whole shrank 17 percent to about 64 billion rubles ($1.3 billion), AKAR found.

TNS Russia’s Web Index and TV Index were calculated in March this year based on viewers between the ages of 12 and 44 living in cities of 100,000 or more residents.

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Henry Sapiecha

black diamonds on white line

Rebecca Ann Sedwick was harrassed by two girls, ages 12 and 14, who have been charged with felony aggravated stalking. Sedwick later killed herself image www.socialselect.net

Rebecca Ann Sedwick … Florida has a bullying law, but it leaves punishment to schools, not police.

Rebecca Ann Sedwick was harrassed by two girls, ages 12 and 14, who have been charged with felony aggravated stalking. Sedwick later killed herself. Photo: Supplied

After 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick killed herself last month, one of her tormenters continued to make comments about her online, even bragging about the bullying, a sheriff said on Tuesday.

The especially callous remark hastened the arrest of a 14-year-old girl and a 12-year-old girl who were primarily responsible for bullying Rebecca, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said. They were charged with stalking and released to their parents.

“‘Yes, I bullied Rebecca and she killed herself but I don’t give a …’ and you can add the last word yourself,” the sheriff said, quoting a Facebook post the older girl made on Saturday.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd talks about the events leading up to the arrest over the weekend of two girls in the Sedwick Florida bullying case image www.socialselect.net

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd talks about the events leading up to the arrest over the weekend of two girls in the Sedwick Florida bullying case.

Police in central Florida said Rebecca was tormented online and at school by as many as 15 girls before she took her own life on September 9. A dozen or so suicides in the past three years that have been attributed at least in part to cyberbullying.

The sheriff said they were still investigating the girls and trying to decide whether the parents should be charged.

“I’m aggravated that the parents aren’t doing what parents should do,” the sheriff said. “Responsible parents take disciplinary action.”

About a year ago, the older girl threatened to fight Rebecca while they were sixth-graders at Crystal Lake Middle School and told her “to drink bleach and die”, the sheriff said. She also convinced the younger arrested girl to bully Rebecca, even though they had been best friends.

The girls repeatedly intimidated Rebecca and called her names, the sheriff said, and at one point, the younger girl beat up Rebecca at school.

Both girls were charged as juveniles with third-degree felony aggravated stalking. If convicted, it’s not clear how much time, if any at all, the girls would spend in juvenile detention because they did not have any previous criminal history, the sheriff said.

The bullying began after the 14-year-old girl started dating a boy Rebecca had been seeing, the sheriff said.

A man who answered the phone at the 14-year-old’s Lakeland home said he was her father and told The Associated Press “none of it’s true”.

“My daughter’s a good girl and I’m 100 per cent sure that whatever they’re saying about my daughter is not true,” he said.

At their mobile home, a barking pit bull stood guard and no one came outside despite shouts from reporters for an interview.

Neighbour George Colom said he had never interacted with the girl but noticed her playing roughly with other children on the street.

“Kids getting beat up, kids crying,” Mr Colom said. “The kids hang loose unsupervised all the time.”

A telephone message left at the 12-year-old girl’s home was not immediately returned and no one answered the door.

Orlando lawyer David Hill said detectives may be able to pursue contributing to the delinquency of a minor charge for the parents, if they knew their daughters were bullying Rebecca yet did nothing about it.

But it “will be easy to defend since the parents are going to say, ‘We didn’t know anything about it,'” said Hill, who is not involved in the case.

Perry Aftab, a New Jersey lawyer, told AP last month that it was difficult to bring charges against someone accused of driving a person to suicide, in part because of free-speech laws. “We’ve had so many suicides that are related to digital harassment. But we also have free-speech laws in this country,” Ms Aftab said.

In a review of news articles, The Associated Press found about a dozen suicides in the United States since October 2010 that have been attributed at least in part to cyberbullying. Ms Aftab said she believed the real number was at least twice that.

In 2006, 13-year-old Megan Meier killed herself in Missouri after she was dumped online by a fictitious teenage boy created in part by an adult neighbour, Lori Drew, authorities said. A jury found Ms Drew guilty of three federal misdemeanours but a judge threw out the verdicts and acquitted her.

Florida’s law, the Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act, was named after a teenager who killed himself after being harassed by classmates. The law was amended on July 1 to cover cyberbullying.

David Tirella, a Florida lawyer who lobbied for the law and has handled dozens of cyberbullying cases, said law enforcement could also seek more traditional charges.

“The truth is, even without these school bullying laws, there’s battery, there’s stalking,” he said.

AP

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Henry Sapiecha

black diamonds on white line