At Mustang Week we saw hundreds of cars with Instagram stickers.
If you were lucky enough to attend this year’s Mustang Week in Myrtle Beach you probably noticed a staggering amount of the participants had a similar decal on their ride, a small camera with a user name next to it. While Instagram has been around for a while, this year Instagram users virtually took over the main event with unofficial IG meets popping up everywhere. Ask around and many people will tell you they feel that Instagram is one the best things to happen to the Mustang hobby since the Coyote engine.
In case you have been WAY off the grid and haven’t heard of it, on the surface, Instagram is a picture sharing program. It is very easy to use and allows users to share pictures not only on IG, but also over other forms of social media with one click. You create an account, find users with similar likes, and follow them and hope they follow you back. Once you follow a bunch of Mustang owners your feed will turn into a virtual car show without having to deal with the sunburn, lawn chairs, or fights over plastic trophies. If you want your car to be seen by a lot of people this is one of the best ways to do it.
There are Mustang owners with tens of thousands of followers on IG throwing them thousands of likes on every picture they post. These people become almost famous for their following but is there really a benefit to it? Can popularity on IG lead to other opportunities in the Mustang industry?
There are two distinct groups of people on IG who seem to be trying to use it for a stepping stone to other things. One group is trying to turn large groups of followers into sponsorship for their car, the other are the Instagram models. Let’s start with users looking to get sponsored.
If you work for a Mustang parts or retail business you know what I am talking about. The generic version goes something like this: “I have (insert large number here) of followers and if you give me free parts for my car I will post up and let them all know that your parts are the best.” I have personally had this conversation many times with IG users but I decided to reach out to a couple members of the industry, Steve from UPR Products and Jeremy from Air Lift Performance, to see their thoughts on IG sponsorship. Both had very similar feelings on the subject. Steve said “While I will look up a person on IG that comes to me looking for sponsorship, I will never sponsor someone simply because they have followers.” Jeremy agrees, “If we are interested in sponsoring someone usually we find them before they even ask. Followers are too easy to fake so there is more to it than that. I will go on IG and sort of stalk them to see what kind of person they are and make sure they post quality pictures and don’t kill puppies.”
Cool, professional photos are going to be get you more attention and could increase your chances of a sponsorship more than just some cell-phone quality snaps your buddy took as you rode around the track. But having thousands of IG followers is not all it takes to score sponsors.
While I will look up a person on IG that comes to me looking for sponsorship, I will never sponsor someone simply because they have followers. - Steve Gelles, UPR Products
Both are looking for eye catching photos of the car, and quality of photo matters too. Jeremy also said the subject matter of the picture matters. “I want to see good pictures that really show the car off, but I also need to see comments on what parts are being used. If you have our products but don’t mention them, there is nothing in it for us.”
Steve mentioned one of the easiest ways to not get sponsored. Using competitor’s parts or even worse, advertising with their decals. “If you are trying to attract UPR as a sponsor, don’t send me a photo with another company’s window banner on the car asking us to sponsor it. You will be lucky if I even reply.” Another point Steve made was levels of sponsorship, a company willing to help you out may offer a deal as opposed to free parts. “Too many people contacting me through IG just want parts for free because they have a lot of followers. We offer different levels of support but most times it will not be us handing you free parts because you have followers. Get out there, use our parts, abuse our parts, show us you can use them for what they were designed for and THEN contact me asking for support.”
One major thing they both agreed on was communication. If you are looking to attract a sponsor sending a direct message asking for sponsorship won’t cut it. Professionalism is key, a DM is fine to establish contact but any successfully sponsored Mustang owner knows sending the company a professional proposal is the best way to increase your odds of sponsorship.
Having a mix of photos that are professionally produced, along with the cell-phone shots is a good way to get noticed if you're already a professional model, or are trying to become one and using IG for networking and fan base building.
High quality photos from an established photographer are the ones someone looking to be taken seriously as an upcoming model should be posting. Fun and candid modeling photos are fun, just make sure you include a more professional side to attract a broader audience.-Tyler Page Mims
Now about that second group, the Instagram models. You know some of the ones I am talking about because you follow them and like a lot of their pictures, hell I do too. There are quite a few women on IG that have turned Mustang Modeling into a profession and have been very successful at it, and for every one of them there are 30 more that stand in front of a car and post poor quality potato phone pictures of them trying to become instafamous for their “modeling”.
Real models get paid and there are a lot of them that use Instagram. I decided to reach out to a few models in the Mustang industry with names your probably know, Shelby Wolf and Tyler Paige Mims, to ask them their opinion on IG and if posting pics there can lead to actual modeling work. There is obviously a correlation between getting your car noticed and getting yourself noticed. If you are serious about getting out there, Tyler feels high quality professional photos are a must, not cell phone selfies. “High quality photos from an established photographer are the ones someone looking to be taken seriously as an upcoming model should be posting. Fun and candid modeling photos are fun, just make sure you include a more professional side to attract a broader audience.”
While both ladies see value in posting their photos on IG, they also agree it’s just a small part and not to base all your hopes and dreams on being discovered on there. Shelby says “It’s a great starting point but should you base your automotive modeling career on a social app? No. Take yourself outside the box and go out there and make it happen in real life. Instagram is a big and positive source to get yourself out there, but you should never base your success just on how many followers you have.” Tyler has a similar opinion. “The amount of followers I have on Instagram has brought be quite a few opportunities but is not a major contribution to my career. Networking on social media is an essential aspect, more so than the amount of followers.”
Both girls agree the Mustang community as a whole has been very good to them and they got started by being into cars and getting a few pictures taken. And while Instagram can be a component of your portfolio, and modeling with your car, friend’s car, or whatever can be a lot of fun and get you a lot of likes, to be taken seriously as an automotive model you probably need to look at the bigger picture than the one on your phone.
So while it seems Instagram has value whether you are looking for sponsorship or modeling opportunities, it seems it’s meant to be a part of your portfolio, not the entire thing. What are your opinions on Instagram? Does it help the Mustang hobby as a whole? Have you been successful with sponsorship or modeling opportunities because of it?