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Here's Why Our Top Local Bloggers Would Rather Not Be Called Influencers

Tricia, Camille, Laureen, and David—they’ve become one-name style celebrities—talk about five lessons they’ve learned on the job.

by Owen Maddela | Aug 17, 2018

In contrast to the destination-heavy, OOTD-packed, and merch-laden stories they tell online, these bloggers show how their meteoric rise is grounded on values such as discipline, perseverance, and humility.

It was only six short years ago when Preview Magazine decided to change the covergirl dynamic for its September issue. In lieu of the usual suspects (ingenue, mythic actress, fashion model, global Pinay or it girl), the brand recognized the blogger trifecta of Tricia Gosingtian, Camille Co, and Laureen Uy for challenging fashion publishing’s status quo and proving that chronicling style pursuits in cyberspace is an actual profession. It was an aggressive editorial decision in 2012 but also a prophecy that would find fulfillment shortly thereafter.

Together with men’s lifestyle blogger David Guison, their body of work has become a template for subsequent bloggers and their ever-increasing fan base to follow. Laureen’s crossover to primetime television and knack for vlogging, Tricia’s consistent East Asian aesthetic, Camille’s idyllic imagery, and David’s signature pretty boy poses are all content cash cows—and for their contemporaries and fashion fans, a fount of inspiration.

It is quite rare to assemble the four of them these days what with their crazy work schedules and travels around the globe. But the perfect opportunity came when we invited them for a roundtable Facebook Live session to discuss the changes in the blogosphere. We also conducted a temp check on what they feel about being labeled an "influencer"—it’s a tricky term, as they would later elaborate—in this day and age.

The hour-long session, available on demand on our Facebook page, is packed with anecdotes, life lessons, and work advice. Here, our best picks from those sixty minutes.

THE DIGITAL LIFE IS DARWINIAN AND DISRUPTIVE

Welcome to 2018: the year when print has considerably downsized, audiences have shifted their attention almost fully to digital, and readers preferred to consume content via bite-sized, real-time updates on their mobile phones more than ever.

Welcome, too, to an era of content democracy. Where content creation is no longer confined to traditional media or its digital offshoots, content dissemination is no longer necessarily dependent on agencies and other manner of middlemen and anyone from a multimillion brand to a moderately-followed Instagrammer can create and disseminate their own content.

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It is quite ironic then to hear that our four featured bloggers, all at the forefront of this new media landscape, wax nostalgic about the blogging scene earlier this decade, the tighter community it fostered, and the comfort zone it was. They all seem to agree however that their respective blogs now seem like stepping stones in light of the personal brands that the aforementioned changes in the media helped shape.

All four of them find the term influencer awkward and not something they would describe themselves.

To date, they have evolved their blogs into what can be best described as mini-empires: a range of widely-followed digital platforms, brand campaigns and endorsement deals across a variety of industries, and perks formerly reserved only for artistas and magazine editors. It is also safe to say that they are through with running rat races: They work smarter now and enjoy a considerable chunk of advertisers’ and PR agencies’ social media budgets.

Looking back, posting an OOTD was more a hobby brought about by wanting to belong to a community of like-minded individuals. “When we started, all we wanted to do was something we were passionate about,” confirms Camille who started Camille Tries to Blog in 2011 as a tool to market designs for her brand Coexist. She describes those times as “very informal, very mom and pop, [with] no structure yet.”


Laureen confirms, “When I started, I did not think I will [cater to] a bigger audience. [Back then, it was about] daily blogging and sharing of my life. Eventually, I moved to real time.” The almost daily posts on her blog Break My Style became less frequent in favor of the quick thrill of stories, videos, and photos on Instagram.

“What I post on IG has a wider reach than 10 blog posts combined,” shares David whose destination photos—sponsored or not—easily fetch five-digit likes and encourage interaction from fans and fellow bloggers alike. He furthers, “When I started [the blog DG Manila], I had the spending power of a student but that increased as I grew older. Our readers, our audience [also] grew with us. They have jobs now and they would share [life updates] with us.”

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Camille opines that these changes are all part of their need to adapt and steer their brands to where the audience is—and that change is good. “[The audience has] a shorter attention span and will choose a platform that it is more convenient for them. Content [from blogs] was more routine but now, we are more free, confident, and open with what we post. It’s less formulaic, more distinct.”

INFLUENCER IS MORE A MARKETING TERM THAN A JOB TITLE

Tricia, Camille, Laureen, and David are often collectively referred to by the public as influencers—an ambiguous catch-all term for individuals whose vast online real estate empower them to persuade a larger consciousness to embrace an ideology or make a purchase. As with role models and thought leaders, brands want to work with them and some individuals actually aspire to be them.

All four of them find the term awkward and not something they would describe themselves.

Pioneer blogger Tricia whom the others in the roundtable lovingly refer to as the “Mother of all Dragons” (she started blogging on Livejournal in 2003, almost a decade before Tricia Will Go Places) explains, “It’s more of a marketing term; something brands or advertisers would use to call those they work with but never something we’d call ourselves.” She feels that not a lot of people understand the proper context with which the word should be used. “Parang na-re-reduce ka to someone who is a megaphone for promotions as compared to a creator of content.”


David would rather they be simply called content creators. “Influencer is just too big a word. It takes the credit away from my audience,” he claims, stating that the blogger-reader relationship is a win-win situation. “It’s not just me influencing them; I learn from them, too.”

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“Everytime I post something, I would think, ‘Would they appreciate this? Will they actually like it? Is it worth sharing?’ It’s not just sharing for the sake of sharing or promoting for the sake of promoting,” Laureen states. She goes on to reiterate that there are limitations in what they share online. “People usually think we share everything with them but I feel like kailangan pa rin ng privacy.”

Speaking of privacy, Camille reminds that what people see on social media are all curated photos, that it does not to their entire lives. “These are just photos we want to post for you because we want [to create] a happy place. But at the end of the day, we have problems as well. Life is not all perfect.”

“Everytime I post something, I would think, ‘Would they appreciate this? Will they actually like it? Is it worth sharing?’ It’s not just sharing for the sake of sharing or promoting for the sake of promoting.”

Furthermore, she spoke about the perils of social media envy—what happens “when the audience feels something else instead of inspired” when seeing someone else’s posts about nice things, travels, and experiences on their feed. “You should tap Unfollow when a person makes you feel bad about your own life and has a negative effect on you. You can take control of your life.”

Tricia reiterates that people should take time to reevaluate their role models. She posits that a person’s role models reflects back on the individual and have a positive and negative effect. “If you do look up to this person but that person’s lifestyle is the opposite of yours or is not achievable but you try so hard to achieve that or does not come naturally, that could be detrimental to your mental health.”

IT’S NOT A 9-TO-5 BUT IT’S AS LEGIT

“There are a lot of people who want to be bloggers and content creators but they lose their drive along the way,” David observes. Burnout is real, he says, and something he’s already experienced multiple times. But he always looks back at life right after receiving his Multimedia Arts diploma in 2009. “My mom wanted me to become a graphic designer but everybody was already doing that. I told her, ‘I will prove to you that I can earn from blogging.’ And so I got myself a manager and an accountant and tried to earn.”

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Laureen agrees that blogging can be a full-time job and a source of income but not before you put in the hard work first. “It’s really about dedication, passion, and love [for the craft] and not just a desire to earn,” she adds. She remembers part-time at an online advertising agency while she was just starting Break My Style and deciding on becoming a full-time blogger by the time she was earning “a little bit” and started getting invited to trips. “If one day you wake up and say you want to quit your job to go blogging, you have to consider a lot of factors. You have to think of a lot of things.”


“You have to look at it as a career even if it is not a 9 to 5 job,” says Camille who’s had her fill of “you’re just a blogger” comments in the past. She asserts that blogging has its own set of challenges—you hold your own time and you are always on. “When we are out traveling, it’s still [an opportunity for] content creation. Hassle kami sa mga kasama namin because [everything is] content. You don’t have an off switch—that’s one of the hardest parts if you have a job like this.”

She continues, “One of the things you have to remember is you’re kind of a brand. When brands come to you and ask you to talk about a product, you don’t just get the product, take a photo, and follow whatever they tell you to do. You have to do it in your voice, with what will resonate with your audience, what will engage your community.”

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“You need to have a specific voice and be a trustworthy person that people can look up to,” says Tricia, acknowledging that young digital audiences are impressionable and constantly looking for someone they could emulate. “Something that sets bloggers and content creators apart is not being afraid to talk about issues and not just be an online billboard. If you are being true to yourself without hurting anyone, inspiration follows.”

“My mom wanted me to become a graphic designer but everybody was already doing that. I told her, ‘I will prove to you that I can earn from blogging.’ And so I got myself a manager and an accountant and tried to earn.”

Also a skilled photographer, Tricia maximizes her skill set by shooting her images and editing them, doing graphic design, and coding for her blog. For the other aspects of her brand, she hires a legal and accounting professional who helps her with contracts and other paperwork. She wishes she knew more about management and accounting from as early as high school and monetized her work earlier on.

Laureen adds, “What people don’t see is the hard work we put in” to which David quips, “It requires a lot of discipline. And how much you’ll earn depends on you. You can decide to just watch Netflix all day.”

EVERYONE IS CONNECTED

The one-man teams that they are, the four of them are aware that they are a part of bigger ecosystem that connects them with brands, agencies, other branches of media, and their multitude of fans and followers. They are also aware that this ecosystem is founded on relationships—where each one is invested in each other some form or fashion, in ways that can be tracked, documented, and analyzed.

Camille is always concerned about keeping in line with her personal brand but at the same time making sure that her clients are happy. “Everytime I participate in a campaign or promotion, I want it to be as effective as possible. I always put my foot down; You know how some brands are always ‘product, product, product'?” With platforms like Instagram equipped with an insights function, she is able to tell what things work and what things do not perform well. “I always fight for my voice and say what works for me.”

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“If there are 10 bloggers who get invited to an event, most of them will document what happened. If you want to go the extra mile, you will think of an angle [and tell the story your own way,]” David suggests. “The community is saturated, there a lot of bloggers using the same content and photos, and you need to set yourself apart.”

He goes on to say that the drop in blog readership made him decide to focus on Instagram more and take care of his community better. “Whereas the number of followers was so important before, what matters now is quality engagement. A small community that is niche who speaks to you, that’s more important now for brands.”

“Everybody just starts hating on you and it becomes personal, some people do not know how it can have a huge effect. I highly encourage everyone to be mindful of what you post online. Nakakataranta siya.”

Tricia recognizes the ability of her online platform to cultivate personal interactions in her community. “It is hard to measure but I get a lot of direct messages from my followers. There are people I talk to about the latest things they bought, the latest anime they saw. It’s like a secret community!” She tries her best to reply to each one, engage with them with more than emojis, try to remember everyone’s names, and organize meet-ups.

This same ecosystem where she is thriving now is the same one where she redeemed her 22-year-old self after getting under fire for her views on Philippine fashion at a New York Fashion Week blogger function in 2011. Tricia got bashed online and received feedback and unsolicited advice from actual Pinoy industry players for saying that “in the Philippines, it’s not that fashion-forward.” She’s apologized seven years ago and is still apologetic to this day.


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“Looking back, I am annoyed at myself but what people didn’t know was that I was experiencing a 42-degree fever at that time and was randomly saying things,” Tricia reveals for the first time. She had to see a doctor and was on antibiotics throughout Fashion Week and was pretty much out of it during her stint in New York. She’s kept that bottle of antibiotics as a reminder of the things she should not be saying. “We are in a very privileged position but at the same time, not all privileges are something to be proud of,” Tricia reflects. “As a person, you should also put an effort on knowing social issues and the effects of the words you put out”

Laureen joined in, sharing her biggest social media attack. “Since my sister is more famous than me, she already told me that if I get a bigger following, I should be prepared to have more haters. And true enough, out of all your followers, there’s always that number of [haters].”

"Every time I would swipe to refresh, its just a whole new page of people hating on me,” Laureen recalls.

During the height of Pokemon Go, Laureen made the innocent mistake of identifying the Bulbasaur as a water type instead of a grass type Pokemon on Jessica Soho’s Sunday evening show—and Pokemon fans weren’t about to let it pass. “That happened on a Sunday and as I was checking my phone, I found it weird na incredibly long ang tweets sa akin ng tao. Every time I would swipe to refresh, its just a whole new page of people hating on me,” she recalls.

While Laureen owned up to her mistake and tried making light of the situation, the bashing did not stop for at least another week. “Everybody just starts hating on you and it becomes personal,” she says of that 2016 booboo. “Some people do not know how it can have a huge effect. I highly encourage everyone to be mindful of what you post online. Nakakataranta siya.”

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FIND YOUR TRIBE AND LOVE THEM HARD

Belonging to the same age range and working in the same industry, the four bloggers are usually asked if they are indeed friends or if there is actual competition among them.

Laureen gets asked about this a lot and she is the first to dispel rumors of competition. “My close friends are bloggers,” she says. “It’s fun to be with them. It inspires me. I learn new tricks [from them]. People usually think there’s a hidden competition among us but really there’s none.”

Iba-iba rin the type of content we put out,” Tricia adds. “You can’t really compare, even if it’s the same product or the same client, sobrang iba."

David thinks it’s a Filipino thing, something he’s observed on trips abroad. “The Filipino bloggers are usually the first ones who make friends with everyone else.”

Camille chimes in, “I meet bloggers from abroad and they go, ‘You know what, in my country bloggers are not friends, everyone competes with everyone.’ But here, we are all friends, we pitch and recommend each other to brands, and take each other’s photos.”

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