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Why a model’s social media chops may matter more than her walk

fashion

Model behaviour

As social media's influence on fashion continues to grow, Caitlin Agnew learns why models need to be liked to get hired

Last November, model Kendall Jenner made headlines when she deleted her Instagram account, explaining on The Ellen DeGeneres Show that she wanted a "detox." While her digital abstinence lasted only one week, the stunt was a surprising move for the 21-year-old, whose Instagram follower base of 82.6 million had helped her land top billing contracts with the likes of cosmetics brand Estée Lauder.

It's no coincidence that the biggest names in modelling today are also some the most followed women online. Checking up on a model's social media following has become an integral part of the casting process, as brands look to piggyback on the existing connections models have with potential shoppers, like the fans Jenner found while appearing in her family's reality television show Keeping Up With the Kardashians.

Following the model of Instagram-famous fashion stars, such as Kendall Jenner, modelling agencies are encouraging their talent to develop a strong social media presence.

While supermodels of the past were notoriously unapproachable, social media, which offers a seemingly intimate peek into a model's private life, has become a natural extension of a portfolio, says Vida Raj, head of scouting and development at Elite Model Management's Toronto office. "It's the first place people will look to gain insight into them and is their chance to show a little of their true nature and hobbies," she adds. Raj advises her roster of fresh faces to treat their social media accounts as a visual resume.

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Where models were once scouted on the street or, in the case of Jessica Stam, at a Tim Hortons in Barrie, Ont., today Instagram is the go-to avenue to find new talent, offering instant access to a global user base of roughly 700 million people. "It's been a very useful tool for exploring someone's potential to be a model. We can see what they are about and gain insight into their nature," Raj says. "If a model's social media personality and presence aligns with the brand's vision, it can be a very successful pairing."

For its fall campaign, shoe brand Aldo used Instagram to cast the faces in its ads, including both models and influencers.

One brand exploring this style of marketing partnership is Aldo. For its latest fall campaign, the Montreal-based footwear company hired two agencies to cast the #AldoCrew, a group of models and social media influencers who will expand Aldo's messaging on their personal social channels and in their own distinct voice. It's an evolution from the brand's traditional advertising strategy, like the 2010 campaign featuring the aforementioned Stam against a white backdrop. "We knew using a diverse group of social influencers rather than a traditional model would resonate better," says Catherine Sabourin, Aldo's global director of content development. "It's taking a genuine and relatable approach." With retail facing a rocky future, turning likes into dollars may very well be the best sales model.

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