Social media influencers are becoming big business, even here in Minnesota. One Twin Cities blogger parlayed her success into a lucrative partnership with Target. Another quit her corporate job to focus on cultivating her Instagram feed and blog, which has led to paid sponsorships with cult fashion brands.

In the digital age, online users increasingly take style cues from their favorite YouTubers, bloggers and Instagrammers. These rising social media stars create viral lifestyle content at a low cost, sometimes employing little more than their iPhones. But they reach thousands all the same. Minnesota’s most powerful style Instagrammer boasts upward of 270,000 followers.

At the same time, brand marketers find it increasingly difficult to cut through the noise of online advertising and pop-up ad blockers. Social media stars have a habit of spotlighting and recommending favorite fashion designers and lipstick brands. Why not pay them to endorse a certain product? Or make an appearance at a promotional event?

Minneapolis-based Caryn Model & Talent Management saw an opportunity in the rising demand for stylish local Instagrammers. The company recently launched a social influencer division designed to connect digital lifestyle stars with advertisers and other brand marketers.

Katie Dosen, who spearheaded the agency’s new division, noticed a hole in the Twin Cities market after visiting Los Angeles and New York City. “They have modeling agencies representing social media talent,” she observed.

It caused her to reflect upon the role of Instagram in her own life. “The people I follow really do influence my style — where I’m going to eat breakfast, what hotel I’m staying at. In Minneapolis, they’re almost like local celebrities.”

While Caryn’s initial roster includes nine of the Twin Cities’ most followed (and stylish) social media personalities, Minnesota is home to a surprising number of popular Instagrammers.

Meet five of the coolest, most powerful style influencers on the local Instagram scene:

Kate Arends

Website: witanddelight.com

Instagram handle: @witanddelight_

Number of followers: 276,000.

Arends proves how lucrative lifestyle blogging can be. She was working as a graphic designer in 2008 when she launched her blog, Wit & Delight, to explore the ways style fit into her life. She since has expanded the brand to include a creative studio offering branding, art direction, communications strategy and graphic design services. In 2014, she partnered with Target on a line of home goods inspired by artisan food and craft beer under the Wit & Delight label. A second collection — a line of stylish iPhone cases — debuted in 2016.

Arends’ site has evolved over time to cover everything from DIY renovations to her experiences as a new mother. It features sponsored content from major brands including Gap, Hewlett-Packard and Starbucks.

Madelynn Furlong

Instagram handle: @wideeyedlegless

Number of followers: 124,000.

Furlong has made blogging and Instagram a full-fledged career. She launched her blog, Wide Eyed Legless, in 2010. She has since done everything from working with brands on sponsored posts to providing creative direction on larger campaigns. Furlong has gained a following thanks in large part to her minimalist photography and art direction as well as her distinctive personal style, which she describes as “1960s French film meets the Rolling Stones.”

Last summer, she left her position as an art director for Target, where she headed up the brand’s @targetstyle Instagram account, for full-time freelancing as a blogger and creative director.

Paul Buttenhoff

Instagram handle: @bothrops1

Number of followers: 53,700.

Like many social media influencers, Buttenhoff started his Instagram account on a whim. He just wanted to share photos of his shoes and boots with friends. But when he switched his profile from private to public, it started gaining traction.

A biology professor at St. Catherine University by day and a yoga teacher on the side, Buttenhoff considers his Instagram account more of an artistic outlet than a start-up business. His feed is full of well-crafted men’s footwear — “I have a boot problem,” he admitted — and classic American menswear with an academic bent. He also posts occasional food and travel shots. “It’s basically what I do during the course of the day,” he said. “I try not to take myself too seriously.”

Riché Effinger

Website: thericheproject.com

Instagram handle: @thericheproject

Number of followers: 14,700.

Effinger’s Instagram feed features rich imagery documenting his enthusiasm for motorcycles and cars, men’s fashion and current events, all beautifully photographed in and around Minneapolis. “It’s about more than just fashion,” he said. “My personal style is an evolution of self-discovery.” His feed also incorporates thoughtful quotes from books he’s reading and a subtly socially conscious perspective.

By day, the outspoken, self-described nonconformist is a freelance photographer and creative director for the Moto Collective, a motorcycle shop and creative space in northeast Minneapolis.

Evelyn Irvin

Website: fashionistaover40.com

Instagram handle: @fashionistaover40

Number of followers: 5,114.

Irvin’s husband noticed all the compliments she got when they were out together. So he suggested she start a blog to share style tips with other women her age.

It’s been three years since Irvin founded Fashionista over 40, a project designed to show women how to look stylish while dressing for their age and body type. There’s no need to be boring, in Irvin’s view. She favors bold spectacles, edgy footwear, statement-making outerwear and distressed denim. Or as she puts it: “I’m game for anything I can incorporate into my style as long as I keep it chic, sophisticated and age-appropriate.”

 

Jahna Peloquin is style editor of Minnesota Monthly and a freelance writer and stylist in the Twin Cities.