By Je’Don Holloway Talley
For the Birmingham Times
They are known to impart knowledge, views, and perspective over carefully cultivated niches within their respective realms of industry. Known as social media influencers, these individuals leverage creative content for paying contracts with businesses big and small that want to gain access to their audiences and curated platforms. Their organic reach and authenticity can garner interest and paid sponsorships, ambassadorships, and income for high-profile content creators. These social media mavens understand the game: algorithms, reach, consistency, quality, and, most importantly, how to grab your attention and keep it.
The Magic City is home to several social media influencers, and the Birmingham Times recently sat with a few.
For Randall Porter, becoming an influencer was a happenstance of living his everyday life, having a genuine love and connection to Birmingham, and wanting to promote the city.
For him, influencership naturally morphed into an identity his followers would look to for fashion guidance, “blunt realness,” and happenings in and around the Magic City. When it comes to fashion, restaurants, bars, lounges, and events, therandallporter.com is a unique blog space that gives his tribe what they’re looking for.
“I’ve always been doing this; this is my real life. … Being out there, being an influencer, doing what an influencer does, that’s just natural for me,” Porter said. “I like the city, going out, and being involved. … When new things come up and pop up, I like to be in the mix and experience it.”
Porter, 30, got his start in fashion editorial in 2013, working as a fashion editor and events manager with Good Grit magazine.
Currently, he works for Aviate Brand in Birmingham as a director of brand communications; he also freelances for several different brands, including SOCA clothing, Paperdoll Bar, Kale Me Crazy, Asthetik, and Birmingham magazine. He got his start blogging with the launch of his first website, threadreporter.com.
Some of Porter’s most notable brand ambassadorships and partnerships: Express clothing; Billy Reid, a clothing store based out of Florence, Ala., that now has a worldwide clientele and store in Birmingham; Basic Shop, a women’s clothing store on Morris Avenue downtown that carries unisex pieces; Botanica Skin; Arcadia Salon; and MVMT, a men’s and women’s jewelry and accessory company.
In 2014, Porter and two associates built the Thread Reporter blog: “We got a little attention off that. It was a play on my name, and [the content consisted] of looks that I picked.”
One of his partners did photos and edited the pieces, and one did website and photos.
“Fashion was just something I’ve always done,” Porter said. “I worked for Dillard’s [department store], and I hosted and produced fashion shows in college at [The University of] Montevallo,” where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mass communications and communications studies with a minor in public relations.
Brand Strategist/Style Writer
The Oxford, Ala., native is skilled at building an experience, whether for readers who gravitate toward a certain publication or people who love to attend artsy events.
“I’d like to say that I’m a brand strategist and style writer because I work with different brands and bring in the types of influencer crowds they want for their products,” Porter said. “My influence came from being in the community, being involved in different organizations, and having a love for fashion. I think that was different and unique for Birmingham. It came from wanting to promote the city because as the city grows, I wanted to be a part of it. I’m always out. I’m always at events.”
What sets Porter apart is his “realness” with sharing the ins and outs of his day.
“It started out with me doing me and showing my everyday life. That’s what I take pride in on Instagram,” he said. “The things I offer on my platforms are not fake, not forced; they’re all things I actually do every day—things I wear, things I actually like. I’ve been gifted a lot of things, and if I don’t like [something], I tell [the giver] they can have it back. … If I don’t like a product, I’m not going to lie to you, post fake pictures, and do fake endorsements. It’s just not what I’m about.”
In 2019, the Homewood resident changed his website and Instagram handle to his first and last name to match his identity and share his fashion sense.
“I like to showcase things that are obtainable for people to view and people to wear. I’ve always had the desire to help people, and luckily social media has given me a way to do it,” Porter said.
“[When] I wake up in the morning and … get dressed, my attitude changes because clothes give you power. I like to educate people on that. Most people take fashion as though it is something that is silly, but it actually has a lot more power than you think because that’s the first thing people see when they look at you every day.”
On Facebook, Instagram and Twitter combined, @therandallporter has a following of more than 10,000 people. Asked if he considers himself a social media maven, Porter said, “Maybe”—it depends on how you look at it.
“When I think of maven, I think of someone who’s knowledgeable in [a particular] area. … I am very knowledgeable on social media, but I think I’m more knowledgeable in the things that I talk about on social media,” he said. “I think I am a social media maven when it comes to Instagram and my website. … I know what gets someone’s attention. My whole life, that’s something I’ve never shied away from. I think I know what grabs people’s attention, and I think that’s why I am really good at it.”
Using Your Voice
Maven status is not all about the numbers, Porter said.
“It’s definitely not because of the following when it comes to numbers, although others may disagree. It’s about having a platform where you are using your voice for something, whether it be politics, sports, or style. Using your voice for something is what makes a good social media maven.”
Asked if it was difficult to build his following, Porter said it takes community, creating the right content, and keeping people following, but added, “I’ve been fortunate to [grow] in spurts. It’ll all of a sudden jump up, which is great.”
“It takes work and dedication because it’s [the influencer’s] job to make things look easy and effortless,” he added. “[We] take hundreds of pictures a day and edit them a certain way. We have a certain look we’re trying to get to make sure it fits the brand. … With Instagram always changing the algorithms, yes, it’s hard to grow your following.
“We have a good network of influencers around town, so we’ll all get together to help each other build our brands and share what we all do differently because that’s what it’s all about. I think there’s room at the table for everyone.”
Porter said, “I’m trying to get beyond where I’m at right now because when you get past a certain number on Instagram, you get more financial opportunities.”
When learning to build a following, there’s a rule of threes to follow, Porter said, explaining that for him it’s fashion and style; events; and restaurants and places to go.
“Just own [your niche] and be consistent with that,” he said.
Instagram: @randallporter, Twitter: @randallporter, Facebook: Randall Porter, Website: therandallporter.com.
Updated on 1/9/2020 at 6:36 p.m. to correct information about the Billy Reid’s store in Birmingham. It is not the flagship store.
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