Local Instagram Influencers: @Kerriaxelrod
November 9, 2017
“Social media is a reflection of my life because I am, in some ways, my brand.”
We’re all well-aware of the social media influencers: a group growing every day, filled with green-juice gurus, hardcore fitness enthusiasts, fashionistas, travel icons, and then, simply some super-talented photographers. Instagram has launched an era of ‘micro-celebrities,’ and these people have very real fans. Sometimes, my friends will be scrolling through their news feeds and they’ll show me a picture and then say, “Wait, how have you not heard of her?” in the same tone they’d use if I’d said, “Who is Taylor Swift?”
But what interests me more than Instagram influencers as a whole, is our own local group of influencers–who are the Boston locals with avid followings? So I did some research, and in much the same vein as our ‘Best Apps,’ series, I’ll be posting about a few different Instagram influencers over the next few weeks.
Week One: Kerri Axelrod @kerriaxelrod
Kerri does it all: On Instagram, she’s listed as a Holistic Health Coach, Recipe Developer, and Food Stylist, but she’s also co-founder of The Wellness Collective, encouraging people in the Boston area to come together in person to discuss health and wellness initiatives; her website explains that she’s studied with top doctors, nutritionists, and researchers to become a Certified Health Coach; she’s also studied the ancient healing practices Ayurveda and Qigong, and is a certified yoga instructor–believe it or not, that’s just a brief synopsis.
She has grown her following on Instagram to 19,900, which is what initially excited me about interviewing her–I mean, she’s a little bit famous (and a LOT more famous than I’ll ever be).
From her bio, you’d probably think she planned on creating her brand with the hopes of becoming an Instagram influencer all along; but Kerri told me, “I was running a lot [a few years ago] and getting really inspired by nature and where I was running at different times of the year… snow-covered trails, or gorgeous summer runs… and I was training for half-marathons, so I started my Instagram as a way to document them. At the same time, I had my holistic health coaching practice and I was seeing clients and my clients were always asking me for quick and easy recipe ideas. So I was posting what I was eating… and it all grew from there.”
When I asked Kerri if she’d gotten all her certificates and training before Instagram or after, she said she got some of them before her Instagram account, but added, “I’m taking courses, continuing to learn and grow as a human being, so it’s growing simultaneously. Social media is a reflection of my life because I am, in some ways, my brand. So it’s only natural for my social media to evolve as I evolve.”
If you check out her Instagram holistically (ha), you’ll see that there are certainly some strong vibes: bright, often-white backgrounds; colorful food; simple images. I asked Kerri if there was a specific moment when she solidified how her brand was going to look, but she insisted it happened more naturally than that: “It happened organically based on what I was naturally attracted to, visually, in my life. There is a strong theme but I didn’t force that in any way. I sort of naturally love light and bright colors and that is present throughout my life, in my apartment, and in the vibrant colorful foods I use in the recipes that I create.”
She went on to tell me that she never wants to be in a place where there is something she wants to promote, but feels she can’t because it doesn’t fit into a ‘theme’: “I 100% believe in being authentic, and if there’s something you want to share with your audience and something you think your audience can connect with, then that’s more important than sticking to a theme.”
Her target audience is women–partially her clientele, but partially just any woman. “I want to inspire people to change their lives. I want to inspire people to take care of themselves, and I want to inspire people to eat healthy, and listen to their bodies. Every time I’m posting something, I ask myself, ‘what value is this adding?’”
When I mentioned how frustrating it can be to scroll through my News Feed and see sponsored ad after sponsored ad, she laughed. “You know, it’s a really delicate balance between working with a brand in a sponsored way and still being authentic with your audience, and I think we’re all trying to figure that out as we go. But I personally won’t work with a brand that doesn’t align with the values that I promote.”
She found it easy to list the advantages of social media, mentioning the positive power of being able to curate who you follow in ways that uplift us and make us feel good, based off the messages people are promoting. At the same time, she admitted it’s often easy to fall into a ‘comparison trap,’ where you compare your real life to someone else’s edited one.
As a solution, she says she tries to be open and honest about her own life, in the hopes that this gives others ‘permission’ to do the same.
So what are her thoughts about growing a health and wellness brand in Boston? She seemed optimistic about Boston’s future as a health and fitness hub: “The online community is often a reflection of the offline community, and vice versa… the in-person health, wellness, and fitness scene is continuing to grow and blossom in Boston; and Boston is such a smart and educated community, so I think naturally as a reflection of that you’ll continue to see an increasing online presence in the health, wellness, and fitness scene… Those two worlds definitely mirror each other.”
She added that there are many bloggers and fitness instructors and health coaches who she admires right here in Boston.
She told me that the biggest challenge today with Instagram is how the space feels crowded, and how much easier it was a few years ago to grow a brand on Instagram, especially as platform changes have resulted in it being harder to see organic content.
“But at the same time, I always want my social media to be a reflection of my larger business and not necessarily be the sole part of my business; it’s important when changes on social media happen, to understand and keep that broader perspective in mind… Instagram is a great way to amplify my message, but it’s not the only way in which I am getting my message out there.”
For any of you out there aspiring to be an Instagram influencer in your own right, Kerri has some advice for you: “Be in love with what you’re promoting. Have what you’re promoting be an extension of the things in your life that you absolutely love. Because it takes work, it takes commitment, and if it’s not [something] that you love, you’re going to burn out quickly… even when it is an extension of what you love, there’s still that possibility for burn-out.”
Kerri added that it’s important for her to connect in-person with her followers, as well, which is why she started The Wellness Collective with her friend and another Instagram influencer/blogger, Ana Alarcón: open to anyone and everyone, their goal is to create a bigger in-person wellness and health community in Boston. The next event is December 3–hurry if you want to purchase a ticket because they sell out fast! (You can sign up for the event here.)
“For me, it’s not always about how can I use this platform to amplify my business… There’s so much more of a human outlook to it, and that’s at the end of the day what inspires me and keeps me going: the people who reach out to me, the people that I can help work through an issue with, the people who I can inspire, and the people who inspire me–that’s the greatest gift I’ve received from having an online presence.”