Chicago Instagrammers Who Rock as Brand Ambassadors and How To Become One

You know those people who promote Hello Fresh? Yeah, those (especially from The Bachelor franchise) are brand ambassadors.

You can read tips on how to create good content to be a brand ambassador from a Chicago Instagrammer, who just worked with Edelman and Kellogg’s here. 

Brand ambassadors provide positive feedback and promotional videos, photos, Instagram posts or blog posts about a certain brand to their audience. So, naturally to become brand ambassadors you need a) an audience. Just so you know, you don’t need 1 million followers to be an Instagram brand ambassador, you can have as little as 100.

And b) influence (preferably, measurable and identifiable) like 20-30 somethings who live in LA and go to a happy hour 2-3 times per week. That audience is marketable. And guess what? Some will measure your influence by assigning you an affiliate link code so they can see how many people you bring to their site.

Once you have an audience (see your page views and visits, your social media following), and you have influence (see your Instagram stories views, your comment section, your reposts on Twitter), you can start to find out who to partner with as a brand ambassador.

To become a brand ambassador, you first want to target certain brands that fit with your own brand and image. For instance, a vegan yogi wouldn’t partner with Keifer yogurt. However, that yogi might partner with Freshii, or a Chicago yogi would partner with The Hancock for the 360 Sky Series, which includes weekly Saturday – Thursday programming such as yoga, art in the sky, CAF tours, craft beer specials, a DJ as well as magicians and storytelling for the little ones.

Brand ambassadors can get paid per post, or they are compensated for travel or products. The goal, of course, is so that the brand can attract new clients. So, you don’t have to have the exact following as the brand that you’re endorsing, but something similar. For instance, Kylie Jenner is a brand ambassador for Puma. But, she doesn’t have the same audience as Puma.

You probably see people promoting things all the time – that doesn’t mean they are a brand ambassador. Some people may just like Mac lipstick – they weren’t paid by Mac, and they weren’t given any free products. You may notice an official brand partnership like Khloe Kardashian as the brand ambassador for Protein World, but you can also be a brand ambassador for one Instagram post or one blog post.

So, who in Chicago is doing this well? Let’s take a look.

Chicago Brand Ambassadors You Should Know:

There are so many brand ambassadors in Chicago. And, I kind of love them. Remember, not every post you see is a brand endorsement – and even though someone is recommending something to you on social media, doesn’t mean they were incentivized to do so. Also, just because someone is given free products, doesn’t mean they will promote them. They might not like them – I learned this from the Chicago food blogger from the Instagram account 312food, who is very authentic with the content she posts. But also remember, creating content takes a lot of time, and creating good content takes longer and more promotional skills. So, I invite you to learn from some of my favorite Chicago brand ambassadors.

Once Upon a Dollhouse: (@OnceUponaDollhouse)

Instagram Followers: 7,005

Have you ever not seen the dolls look fashionable from head to toe? The dolls are one of the premiere Chicago bloggers known for their work-ethic, their yogi zen, and their beauty tips. They are usually perfectly styled from a shop in Wicker Park called Fabrik, which really does have trendy and fresh looks.

They have had partnerships with multiple brands including this Thanksgiving dinner, and yoga apparel brands to most recently, wine trips in California.

Get to know the dollhouse – it’s a pretty place to be.

Adam Soko: (@adamsoko)

Instagram Followers: 34.7K

Adam Soko is the Chicago Food Dude. He has eaten his way into our Instagram pages and SnapChats. Whenever I went to a Chicago Food Blog event, someone would be looking at his SnapChat. I was lucky to meet him at a few Chicago blogger events, like this one at Violet Hour, but he always chooses his events wisely. Soko has traveled everywhere from Dubai to your Chicago neighborhood, and he always produces beautiful food photography with a little bit of humor (see below).

Windy City Cosmo: (@windycitycosmo)

Instagram Followers: 1.2K

Yes, I’m adding myself. Deal. Windy City Cosmo invites you to explore Chicago in a chic, business-savvy, and sometimes flirty way. I’ve been invited to the runways of Paris Fashion Week, to that charming authentic Italian restaurant in Lincoln Park and tried make-up from a celebrity fashion line (and you should, too).

Below, I took a photo of a torta at Big Star in Wicker Park. I wasn’t paid to eat there. I just was excited to check out this Chicago neighborhood taco restaurant.

Side Note: Sp

Before starting out as a brand ambassador, it’s important to read the FTC guide. The FTC wants to make sure that there is truth in advertising, so when someone is swayed to say something is great, is it really that great?

Think about when you view a celebrity endorsing a product. Do you think Jennifer Aniston likes Smart Water? Do you think that Kylie Jenner was given Khloe’s Good American jeans for free (well, we know that’s true because she showed that on her SnapChat)?

So, when you do get things for free, brand ambassadors usually put “#sp” on their posts. A lot of people don’t, and the FTC even says it’s “generally not” monitoring bloggers. But, if you’re making a business plan from affiliate links and brand endorsements, it’s important to understand the law.

It Should Feel Good Being a Brand Ambassador:

Power is influence and knowledge is power. If you’re going to spend so much time on social media, it doesn’t hurt to create content that will help brands and will help your audience at the same time. For instance, I know my readers are usually active on social media, and they like to go to events – mostly cultural, career-focused events where they can enjoy a good cocktail. So, of course, I would like to work with brands to help them and my audience. It should feel like a good thing to be a brand ambassador. You put a lot of time into your Instagram feed – why not get the most out of the experience?






How To Get Paid to Instagram: The Secrets Behind Brand Ambassadors 

In the Aon Tower in Chicago, a woman turns to me and says that Tony the Tiger is inside, don’t be scared.

I walk into a room full of energy, and it’s just five adults on a Friday afternoon. With a smile and a handshake to match the warmth of her yellow shirt, I meet the Instagrammer, Elise Swopes.

Swopes is glowing. She just reached 275,000 Instagram followers. Tony the Tiger kicked off his road trip in New York City and stopped in Chicago where he teamed up with photographer Swopes to snap photos in iconic locations around the city.

Kellogg’s put a lot of strategy into announcing it’s cinnamon flavor, with a year’s worth of research and over 100 different variations including vanilla and caramelized sugar.  To launch the product, they just needed the right way to introduce it, and they chose Tony the Tiger and the Chicago Instagrammer, Elise Swopes.

“I love Chicago because I live here,”  Swopes said, “Me and Tony had breakfast together. I took Tony around Chicago, and we had a videographer film us at the top of the Hancock Observatory. Tony did the Tilt yesterday.”

Her video has already received over 7k views on Instagram. 

Working with global brands like Kellogg’s isn’t new to the Adobe Influencer Certified artist and Instagrammer. Swopes uses her iPhone to take most of her photos, which she edits. She started on her own over four years ago and then used an agency called Mobile Media Lab. Today, she works with her own manager to garner new business opportunities.

I sat down with Swopes to talk about her strategy, her background as an artist, and the importance of being part of an Instagram community to grow a social media following.

Windy City Cosmo: Wait, you just use Instagram? Like, no Twitter or Snapchat? 

Swopes: Yes.

Windy City Cosmo: What do you do as a brand ambassador? 

Swopes: I shoot and edit with my iPhone. I sometimes shoot with a camera and then transfer it to my iPhone.

Windy City Cosmo: Where do you have your Instagram photo shoots in Chicago?

Swopes: If it’s a gloomy day you will catch me in the Willis Tower or The Hancock.

Side note: Check out the 15 best places to shoot as a Chicago blogger here.

Windy City Cosmo: How do you edit Instagram photos? 

Swopes: This is an app called Art Studio. I’ve been using that for five years. I’m an Adobe Influencer as well. I do live demonstrations.

Windy City Cosmo: Do you have any tips for taking good shots?

Swopes: No one use the Instagram filters (she laughs) – they’re horrible. I haven’t used an Instagram filter since 2012.

Windy City Cosmo: How do your fans react when you post sponsored content? 

Swopes: About four years ago,  I got push back. But now people look to me for advice.You see my work for free, and I’m inspiring people. I need money to keep me alive so you can keep my art alive.

I think they’re also excited for me because my fans see that I show myself and am real and vulnerable. You have to be friends with your fans.

Windy City Cosmo: What makes a brand ambassador partnership authentic to your brand?

Swopes: I’m a yes woman. I like to figure out how I can work with a brand. They know how my work looks. Last year I shot some stuff at the Chicago Auto Show. I never shoot cars. And it went really well.

Windy City Cosmo: How do you monitor your Instagram followers?

Swopes: By being involved in a community with Instagram. Instagram has little lines that you can connect with Facebook – and it’s called Instagram insights. See here (she points to her iPhone) that I have a top following in Bangkok and Chicago.

Windy City Cosmo: How do you grow your brand on Instagram? 

Swopes:  I have a hashtag strategy and a community strategy. I follow a lot of Instagram accounts that are featured accounts. I tagged a lot of featured accounts in photos to get discovered.

Also, I got a viral image over the past couple of days.

To keep up with my network, I also get notifications from people I follow.

Windy City Cosmo: How do you keep a similar feel throughout your Instagram page, yet sill work with so many brands? 

Swopes: For me, I like to switch it up a lot.  I keep it simple and clean. The first picture on my Instagram was in 2010. I was going to South by Southwest at the time. My first photo is a screen shot of my driving directions through Google Maps to Austin, Texas. It was a month or so later that I started creating art. I used Snapseed when it was independently owned.

Windy City Cosmo: How do you get followers? 

Swopes: I woke up one morning and got thousands of followers. I was on the suggested user list. I think I made 100,000 followers from that list. I made 175,000 from traveling.

You can follow Elise Swopes on Instagram (@swopes). You can also follow Windy City Cosmo on Instagram (@windycitycosmo) and use the hashtag #windycitycosmo.

Now that you know some tactics to develop quality Instagram posts and work with brands, learn what you need to become a brand ambassador and meet more Chicago Instagrammers here.