Jess Benjamin chats to influencer marketing strategist, Colleen Bulfin, about her online beginnings, top podcast picks and the importance of switching off.
Influencer marketing has grown in power over the last decade, and Colleen Bulfin has built a career out of it. As a freelance influencer marketing strategist who cut her teeth at the likes of RewardStyle and ASOS, Colleen is the vital link between digital marketing and influencers. We chat to Colleen about how she came to where she is today, the importance of a curated Instagram feed and the good old days of Bebo.
JB: Brief career history: how did you come to be doing what you do now?
CB: I studied Marketing and PR at Uni, then went on to do a fashion design course, so I'm really happy I've been able to merge the two in my career. After returning from traveling for a year, I moved to London and began working in an affiliate network which was really my first introduction to the digital world.
While there, a position came up internally to manage their fashion publishers and I went for the role and got it. Around that time the blogging space was growing, which was when I was introduced to rewardStyle, who were just in their infancy at that point. I was their first UK employee and managed a vast portfolio of style publishers. I had such an amazing time traveling the world with them and watched the company grow rapidly.
After that I moved to ASOS looking after brand partnerships for the Fashion Finder part of the site. I loved the fast pace of such a large company and learned a lot from the different people I worked with.
After a couple years working in a startup and a year off for maternity leave, I've finally taken the step to go freelance with a focus on partner and influencer marketing strategies.
JB: Did you always know you would work in digital?
CB: Honestly, no. I'd always imagined myself working in the design and production part of the industry, but digital has been a really exciting space to work, particularly in the fashion sector which continues to develop and innovate.
JB: What is your earliest social media memory?
CB: t has to be Bebo - cringe! I don't think I was cool enough for mySpace and Bebo was huge in Ireland while I was at uni.
JB: What was your first email address?
CB: I've always had my name as my email address, nabbed it first! No embarrassing aliases to reveal here.
JB: What is your favourite social media platform?
CB: Hands down it has to be Instagram - a beautifully curated feed sets my heart aflutter! I've discovered some amazing brands, found places to visit and read inspirational stories all within those squares - it's an amazing discovery tool.
JB: And least favourite?
CB: Maybe Snapchat, but I still dip and out of it!
JB: Are there any podcasts that you’re loving right now?
CB: I love Adam Buxton's podcast - he always has interesting people on and I'm a big fan of his non-judgmental interview style. Garance Dore's Pardon my French is another favourite. Along with The Guilty Feminist, Desert Island Discs and The HighLow for catching up on recent news and book/TV show recommendations.
JB: Which apps are on the first page of your phone?
CB: The usual social media apps, ASOS (do I have a problem?!) and CityMapper.
JB: Have you discovered any brands via social media? If so, which?
CB: Oh so many on Instagram, I think I fall in love with a new brand I find on IG daily. I think it's crucial for the success of any business these days. My sister started a brand last year (@fionabulfintextiles) and she gets lots of orders through IG.
Some recent discoveries are @moseyhome (an interiors shop with amazing midcentury pieces), @cabbages_and_roses (dreamy dresses and dungarees) and @betonstudios (most adorable moccasins for babies and adults.)
JB: How do you make time for being offline?
CB: Having a little human to look after I'm quite conscious of being on my phone these days, so I've recently started to turn my phone on airplane mode for a while each day. I also do yoga and pilates a few times a week which really helps me switch off and calm the mind.
Follow Colleen on Instagram here.
Words: Jess Benjamin