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From social media into an international celebrity

Nowadays anyone can become globally famous through social media. How can you brand yourself in social media and what are the future techniques and channels? 

After Sara Maria Forsberg from Jakobstad posted a video mimicking various languages, it only took a few days for her to become known all over the world. She now lives in Los Angeles, works as a presenter and is recording her first album. Last summer, Forsberg, 20, signed a multi-record contract with Capitol Records, the biggest record label in the world, and got a role in Renny Harlin's film Skiptrace.

Benjamin Peltonen, 18, became famous thanks to his Instagram images in 2012. The boy from Kaarina has 226,000 Instagram followers and a record deal with Warner Music Finland.

“Anybody can become a celeb in social media – overnight,” says Samuli Pehkonen, who blogs about social media.

The internet and social media have always been part of Pehkonen's life. The 22-year old has followed the developments in social media since the start of Habbo Hotel and IRC-Galleria in the early 2000's until today.

“My interest in social media stems from my own experiences but I became more deeply involved when I was studying economics,” Pehkonen explains.

Patient work

In social media, a person's visibility is measured by their number of followers. It is possible to increase this number by patient and determined effort, which often entails creating a brand and producing regular content for social media.

“Interaction is also very important.  You have to deal with followers' comments and engage in debate with other users.  Liking your followers' posts and commenting on them are easy ways to give something back to the community.”

Selling yourself or your company in social media requires financial investments as well. 

“Updates on Facebook now only reach a small number of the users who liked the page. To be present in social media, a company needs to invest not only in human resources but also in paid ads. Content must be published regularly and it has to be interesting,” says Pehkonen.

Good content in the right channel

What, then, is interesting content in social media? 

“Good content is useful, fun or informative.  You must also be genuine and willing to give it all.  For example, the most popular bloggers are those who describe the details of their personal lives to their readers. Internet celebrities are recognised in the street just as well as so-called traditional celebrities.”

You should choose your social media channel to match your objectives.

“Specialists who want to create a brand for themselves should focus on Twitter, LinkedIn and blogging, while those who want to be known among young people should use Instagram and Snapchat.”

In Finland, Snapchat is still mainly used by younger people. You can send images and videos through the service, and these are only visible to recipients for a certain amount of time before being destroyed from the phone's memory. Pehkonen would like to see Finnish companies and bloggers using Snapchat in their marketing efforts.

“Snapchat allows companies to send special offers, coupons or image and video greetings to their customers, and vloggers can send videos to their followers."

Pehkonen believes that videos will become even more popular as a means of marketing and branding among companies and private people.

“Vlogging became more widespread after YouTube was launched, and there are a good few vlogs with more than 100,000 followers in Finland. It would be interesting to see a Finnish specialist move from blogging to vlogging.”

Make the most of it

Social media celebrities are now also covered in the traditional media. Pehkonen thinks that the best feature of social media is the fact that anyone can use it to make themselves heard.

 “It can be frightening to jump from social media visibility to being recognised by the mass media; it often means losing your privacy, but thankfully many of the young social media celebs seem to be courageous enough to grasp the opportunities offered to them.”

There are numerous examples of social media celebrities who have managed to make millions by being popular online. One example is the man with the username 'realgrumpycat', who has published images of his cat and is said to have earned almost 100 million dollars in two years from collaboration offers from various companies.

“Businesses follow social media trends closely. By collaborating with bloggers and other internet celebrities their messages are more credible, since the messages don't come directly from them but from real people.”

An impressive Instagram account or sharp Tweets can lead to a dream job.

“For example, Finnish photographers who have become famous through Instagram, such as Konsta Punkka and Jussi Ulkuniemi, have now worked overseas as well.”

The TOP 10 of the Finns with the most Instagram followers

1. Sara Fabel, 448,000 followers

  • A Finnish tattoo artist, model and now also an actress, lives in California
  • Better known abroad than in Finland 
  • Launched her Instagram account to showcase the tattoos she had created

2. Isac Elliot, 261,000 followers

  • 13-year-old singer with fans around the world
  • Publishes images and videos of his private life and gigs, backstage and travels
  • He has followers as far as in the US

3. Konsta Punkka, 256,000 followers

  • The 'squirrel whisperer' from Helsinki photographs Finnish wild animals such as squirrels, mice, owls and foxes.
  • Jennifer Lopez, among others, has posted Punkka's images on her Instagram account without his permission
  • Has received job offers from overseas

4. Benjamin Peltonen, 227,000 followers

  • The angel-faced boy from Kaarina posted his first selfie in 2012
  • Has signed a record deal with Warner Music Finland 
  • Posts images of himself and his new lifestyle

5. Jukka Hildén, 202,000 followers

  • Jukka Hildén of the Dudesons fame publishes photos of his fast life
  • In addition to Hildén himself, his photos feature celebs from Finland and abroad

6. Jussi Ulkuniemi, 198,000 followers

  • The photographer from Oulu publishes amazing images of nature, people and places he visits
  • Has made it to the list of suggested users on Instagram
  • The international magazine Photography Monthly has featured Ulkuniemi's photos

7. Marianna Mäkelä, 195,000 followers

  • Mäkelä is the most followed Instagram fashion blogger in Finland
  • Her blog, Mariannan, is the 21st most read blog in Finland, and most of her followers are located overseas

8. Robin, 185,000 followers

  • 16-year-old singer and the youngest Finnish artist ever to sell more than 100,000 records
  • Posts selfies and images from gigs, his everyday life and achievements

9. Cheek, 175,000 followers

  • Cheek lets his fans have a peek into his private life
  • He's taking a break from touring and is publishing fewer images than before his huge gigs in Helsinki
  • His latest image is from his holiday and corrects the news about his returning to the stage published by some gossip magazines

10. Teppo Tirkkonen, 156,000 followers

  • Another photographer from Oulu
  • Photographs subjects such as Finnish nature and vintage cars with his phone camera and edits them with the VSCO Cam app.
  • His number of followers rocketed after an American photographer liked his work


Source: samulipehkonen.com (The number of followers has been updated 8 April 2015.)