By Faith Lee |

After reading a multitude of fashion blogs throughout middle school, I began a fashion, faith and lifestyle blog the summer before my freshman year of high school. The blog combined my passion for writing with my faith and love for fashion. In the years since its creation, the website has served as a creative outlet where I can share things I love and lessons I’m learning with people around the world.

When this blog started, I began receiving “collaboration” offers from small jewelry and clothing businesses on Instagram. In the world of blogger-business interactions, a collaboration is when a company sends free or discounted products, often accompanied by a discount code the blogger can offer to their followers, in exchange for posts on the blog and/or social media platforms.

Early on, I had the opportunity to collaborate with an apparel brand called Jadelynn Brooke that sells clothing, home décor, cute school supplies and more. Jadelynn Brooke started an ambassador program at the beginning of my sophomore year of high school, and I was very excited to be accepted as one of the company’s first high school ambassadors.

The ambassador title as it pertains to social media was new at the time; not only to me, but also to the world. Naturally, I didn’t know what to expect, but when I received my first box of free products from Jadelynn Brooke, I was thrilled. T-shirts, sweatshirts, leggings, athletic shorts, dresses, water bottles, planners, candles and stickers are just some of the items I’ve received from the company — free of charge — in exchange for Instagram posts. Some of my favorite items to receive from Jadelynn Brooke are their leggings and athletic shorts because I almost always wear comfortable clothes to class and they come in fun colors you don’t often see. 

Also included in each package is a professional yet friendly letter from the owners of Jadelynn Brooke explaining the package’s contents as well as the expectations for posting. I am typically asked to post a photo featuring a sponsored item around once a week.

Curating Instagram posts for Jadelynn Brooke calls for photoshoots with their products in my dorm room, on Fountain Mall, in front of Pat Neff or other picturesque places on campus. It isn’t rare for me to ask my roommate or friend to take a few photos in exchange for a Common Grounds drink on me.

All of the products received, however, begs the questions: what does a company have to gain from sending hundreds of dollars’ worth of merchandise to bloggers and Instagrammers for free?

By providing an influencer with free products, a business can gain customers from the influencer’s following along with advertising content that can be used for their own social media platforms and website.

Social media influencers give businesses, both big and small, the opportunity to meet consumers on their level through interactions with someone who is “just like them.” It’s a lot easier to decide to buy something when someone you know is already a customer of the brand, right? Companies are able to build trust with consumers before they even buy anything when an influencer puts in a good word for the brand.

Not all companies are alike, but representing Jadelynn Brooke demands responsibility and a time commitment. If I were to forget to post on a day the brand scheduled for campus representatives to post, I would jeopardize my chance of receiving more merchandise and continuing to represent Jadelynn Brooke for the remainder of the semester. While representing a brand may just appear to be a fun way to receive free clothes, it actually requires commitment. By allowing you to represent their brand, a company is investing in you, and it’s your responsibility to return that investment with quality content.

I reapplied for the Jadelynn Brooke ambassador program throughout my high school years and I now serve as a Jadelynn Brooke campus representative in my seventh semester working with the brand. The benefits of working with the company have surpassed free clothes. I had the opportunity to mentor new ambassadors, which in turn allowed me to connect with other mentors and new ambassadors alike, thus creating several friendships with other girls across the country that have outlasted the semester. One of these friends is actually coming to visit me here at Baylor later this fall.

Aside from friendships, my time as an ambassador has also given me valuable experience with social media marketing. Because of Jadelynn Brooke’s standard for high quality posts, I’ve gained a better understanding of what factors cause posts to receive the most engagement. As a journalism major on the public relations sequence, I value my relationship with Jadelynn Brooke and I hope to intern with them before graduation.