Jan 30th, 2016, 04:34 PM

Social Media Does Not a Supermodel Make

By Mark Miller
Esmeralda Seay Reynolds (Next Models) in Dolce and Gabbana Fall/Winter 2015 ad campaign
Social media is playing an increasingly important role in agencies' decisions to sign new talent.

Back in the nineties when "the Supers” reigned the runway, Linda Evangelista said of herself and her model peers: “We don’t wake up for less than $10,000 a day.” Twenty years later and the standard still holds, as fashion’s newest generation of models has found a way to capitalize on popularity and appeal to brands and audiences alike-for quite a price. Millennials like Lucky Blue Smith, Cara Delevingne and Gigi Hadid have amassed such enormous social media followings that going rates for a single Instagram post could run a client upwards of six figures.

Recently I sat down with Next Models agents Tammy Francis and Idalia Salsamendi to discuss the role of social media in the modeling industry, where it is becoming more common for clients to look into a model's online presence as a first step. A typical request nowadays could be for models to have 100,000 or more followers, so-called "Instafame," as a prerequisite. 

“Clients often track the gain in followers and sales of the endorsed product," Salsamendi said. "When models enter this agreement, they are informed how gains will be monitored.” Indeed, when asked about her relationship with social media professionally, Victoria's Secret angel Candice Swanepoel admitted that "It's part of my Victoria's Secret contract to Instagram or Tweet certain things."

“Most contracts want to use social media as an advertising channel,” said Jennifer Powell, a booker at Next Models Los Angeles, in an interview with CR Fashion Book Digital. The follower count metric allows marketers to quantify and potentially predict how well their efforts might fare, or at least assure them that a post will be seen by real Instagram users, rather than fake traffic schemes. 

Yet, “By no means does  [the premium on fame] rule out the opportunity of a model with lesser followers to land a high-level booking," Francis said, because "Instagram fame can only go so far.” One of the most important considerations bookers face in signing a model is whether she'll have lasting power in an industry that fetishizes fresh faces. Career longevity, Francis pointed out, “depends on a whole host of other factors.”

While Next Models may have discovered Utah teen Lucky Blue Smith by chance, it is not rare for other agencies to take a leap of faith in embracing unknown talents. IMG Models, a world-wide agency known for representing fashion icons like Lauren Hutton, Milla Jovovich, and Miranda Kerr, has deployed Instagram as a digital scouting platform. In December 2014 IMG created its own hashtag of #WLYG (We Love Your Genes) and invited anyone interested in pursuing a modeling career to upload shots. Since its launch the hashtag has been used over 400,000 times, so far yielding contracts with 55 models from 16 countries.

Today, a model's success in the business has a lot to do with her media-savvy assets: she's a business woman and her own publicist. Despite the promises of social media in both discovering new models and collaborating with brands, at the end of the day, Instagram does not a supermodel make.