Eimear Varian Barry has 69,000 followers on Instagram. She tells Ruth O’Connor how it has proved lucrative.
If anyone can give us an insight into life as an Instagram sensation it’s Cork native Eimear Varian Barry. With over 69,000 followers on the photo-sharing social media platform it’s easy to see why Eimear has garnered the attention of brands such as Next, Gap, Dorothy Perkins, River Island, and Garnier.
While Eimear is possessed of model good looks and great style, as well as a penchant for photography and some pretty mean photo-editing skills, one senses that it is also her charm, good humour, and honesty that make her a firm favourite with her legions of followers.
Go onto her Instagram feed and you’ll see anything, from her little girls Saoirse (three-years-old) and Harper (11 months) to stunning interiors shots, to pictures of her stylishly pounding city streets on location, but the trademark of Eimear’s feed is her frankness, as well as her ability to make even product placements seem natural.
She discusses everything from contraception to stressful woodland walks with babies in tow and back, via taking over the social media accounts of labels such as Julien Macdonald and how she’s gone from starting a blog to combat the challenges of being a new mum living away from home to making a living from sharing her life one stylish photo at a time.
Eimear admits, in characteristic forthright fashion, that at the beginning she wasn’t sure how the whole system of sponsored content worked. One day she got a call from a company wanting to send her a nursing pillow.
“I was like ‘why?’. They want me to put it on my Instagram? Weird! Then I kind of realised companies on Instagram were seeing profiles like mine and wanting to promote their products. This, in the industry, is called gifting. You take a photo in exchange for the product.”
While PR companies have long targeted celebrities, actors, and TV personalities in the hope they’ll be photographed wearing their products, companies are now targeting bloggers and those with strong followings on social media platforms, such as Instagram, and, by aligning themselves carefully with the right brands, it can work out as a symbiotic relationship for both parties.
Companies began asking Eimear for her ‘media kit’ and she began to realise that she could get paid to promote products while maintaining creative control, by styling and photographing the products as she pleased.
She began to align herself with companies whose products she loved and now she has a statement on her account which makes it clear she will not endorse brands nor work with companies she does not feel tie in with her aesthetic nor with the interests of her followers.
“It’s imperative that I am honest with my followers,” says Eimear. “People can smell bullshit a mile off and, if you’re holding a product up to your face in a photo and your long-term followers know for a fact that you’re not actually into it, your follower loyalty is gone,” she says.
Eimear’s ability to earn a living via Instagram took off slowly and she was making small amounts of money here and there. Her first big job came in 2015 for clothing company Gap.
“They gave me a voucher for clothes and asked me to come into the store to style them (I took Saoirse with me that day). After that, I began looking for a photographer to take good-quality photos.”
Any viewer of Eimear’s Instagram feed will know that her pictures are beautiful and that there is a harmony across the feed too in terms of style and tone, from her own photos of her sleeping babies to beautiful shots of her on location.
“I am incredibly picky with the content I put out there,” she says. “I also work closely with photographer Sarah Blake of @thebubblecollective. You have to find a photographer who gets your aesthetic and knows every inch of you.
"These are the foundations of your brand. Sarah has been away a few times and I have really struggled to find a photographer I like as much. Having said that, in this game, it’s very important to have a Plan B.”
For Eimear, being an Instagram sensation isn’t just about posing for a photo and popping it up on the site.
“I wear many different hats in this job: I am an entrepreneur, photographer, model, stylist , editor, my own PR, a presenter, and speaker. Not only do I make money from creating content and styling campaigns for my own Instagram, I get paid to attend events, film events on my Instagram Stories and Snapchat, creatively direct editorial shoots, style lookbooks, speak at social media conferences and attend fashion shows and press trips,” says Eimear.
She does all this while being mum to two young children, a balancing act her followers are only too aware of and are happy to engage with by sharing their own stories or advice.
For Eimear, taking over the social media accounts of big brands is a responsible, yet fun, part of the job. “These brands pay you for an accumulation of different things. They can see from your previous content that you are an inventive person and they can see your experience, your taste, your following, your vision, and photography skills,” she says.
Taking over the social media accounts of designer Julien Macdonald was a thrill.
“They are amazing to work with and I am in my element when I am backstage at London Fashion Week on the other side of the camera, documenting the show and letting people feel the magic I am experiencing. Being able to combine fashion with my love of people is an absolute dream.”
Getting to where she can make a living as an Instagram star has been a massive learning curve.
The 30-year-old worked at Cork’s Red FM as a presenter and producer before heading Stateside to work in various PR and creative director roles; her mother Sarah Varian Barry is a writer and her father Gerry Barry is an artist and art teacher at St Aloysius in Cork, so learning the intricacies of business is something she’s done on the fly.
Recently, Eimear was accepted to join the affiliate programme Reward Style @liketoknow.it which matches bloggers and brands to generate hundreds of millions in sales.
Being a social media sensation means Eimear gets to combine a love of what she does with the ability to spend time with her partner and two young daughters, but networking with big brands and agents will also hopefully lay the foundations for a secure future for her and her children.
“I am very proud of what I do and incredibly happy that I’m able to do what I love for a living, as well as being a mom, but I need to think long-term too.
“This is great for now , but I am always thinking of what I want to do in the future. I get to meet with digital, media and creative agencies every week. It’s my dream job.”
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