A MUM-OF-TWO says her Instagram influencer children have been sent £25,000 in freebies since setting up their social media account.
Here, Aleksandra Hoyles, 32, reveals how Liam, 10, and Lily, 4, grew their online following.
Placing a straw hat on my daughter Lily as she played in the garden, I took a quick snap on my phone. The photo was perfect, but it wasn’t just one for the family album – I couldn’t wait to upload it to Instagram, where I knew my 150,000 followers were going to love it.
Before having Lily and her elder brother Liam, I worked in B&Q and I’d never really been into social media. I had a Facebook account for keeping in touch with friends back home in Poland, but I didn’t use it much.
Then in September 2013, a friend who liked following mummy bloggers suggested that I set up an Instagram account and post a photo of Liam. He was four at the time and I loved dressing him in cool clothes. It seemed like a bit of fun, so I created a profile – @olkafiolka – and posted a picture of him wearing jeans and sunglasses.
I didn’t know how to use hashtags or tag people, but I enjoyed taking the photos and Liam liked posing for them.
At first I wasn’t very active, only posting every few weeks. Soon I learned about hashtags and started using ones like #fashionkid, #ukinfluencer and #followme, which helped my following to grow. Then in summer 2014 the kids’ fashion page @fashionkids shared a photo of Liam and things really took off. Within a year, I’d gone from a few friends to 10,000 followers.
Piya and I couldn’t believe it. Thankfully the majority of our followers were really supportive. I got one comment saying that I was silly to dress Liam up so nicely because his clothes would get ruined, but I brushed it off.
When I had Lily in October 2015, I suffered from anxiety after the birth due to labour complications and Instagram was a welcome distraction.
By then I’d amassed 30,000 Instagram followers and some of Liam’s photos were getting over 1,000 likes. Brands started approaching me online and sending packages of free clothes in the post, asking me to post a photo of Liam and tag the company.
My friends and family loved the Instagram page, so they were really supportive when I started posting occasional baby photos of Lily, too. I was always careful to protect our privacy, so I didn’t tag precise locations.
Then in September 2016 I shared a photo of Lily sitting in our garden next to a handbag wearing a gorgeous pink pompom hat and pink trainers. It received 2,040 likes – the most I had ever had.
Suddenly more and more fashion pages began sharing photos of Lily and tagging her, and within a few days my followers shot up from 50,000 to 60,000. The kids weren’t really aware of what it meant, but they loved being in front of the camera.
Soon dozens of brands were messaging me wanting to collaborate, and more and more packages of clothes arrived, including items from top brands like Monnalisa and designer ranges from Melijoe and Nickis. We were sent accessories, shoes, bags, bedroom furniture, toys, a doll’s house and even a TV!
To begin with, I didn’t charge for posts. But at the end of 2018 when I hit 100,000 followers, I decided to start asking for £50-£100 per post – but only when it was a big fashion brand, not a small clothes company.
We currently have over 150,000 followers, and over the years the value of freebies we’ve been sent is close to £25,000. We put any money we make into a savings account for the children’s future. We’re so grateful for every opportunity that’s come our way.
No one has ever accused us of exploiting the kids. I never put either of them under any pressure and I only ever take their photo if they’re happy for me to do so.
The kids are so relaxed and often I’ll snap Lily while she’s playing with her dolls, or dressing up and doing her play make-up.
We also have days when we don’t take photos and instead go out playing in the mud. We have a good balance and if Lily or Liam aren’t enjoying having their photo taken, then we stop.
Though it feels a long time away, if Liam and Lily wanted to be full-time influencers when they’re older, I’d support them. But their education is still the priority.
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If they didn’t want to be on Instagram any more, I’d delete any photos they didn’t want on the page. Sometimes, I have to pinch myself about what has happened.
We’re just a typical family who love a laugh and taking photos.
It definitely wasn’t part of the plan for my children to become influencers, but as long as the kids are enjoying it, we’ll keep doing it.
One in five 11-16 year olds now wants to be a social media influencer.*
Three-year-old twins, Taytum and Oakley Fisher, are two of the most popular kids on Instagram with 3.1 million followers.