It’s trendy and it brings you success: being an influencer is the profession of the moment. The difference between an influencer and a fashion blogger lies in the means of communication used, mainly social networks in this case. The scope of an influencer ranges from the world of fashion to lots more besides – from lifestyle to tourism, even social issues. Simonetta Lein, with over a million followers, is one of the top 100 influencers in the world. Every year her foundation, the Wishwall Foundation, gives a voice to people’s projects and wishes, helping them come true.
An influencer is basically someone who works with companies and institutions to help communicate a certain brand, product or service thanks to their large followings on the most popular social networks of the moment. They become the face of the brand, and guide people’s interests and purchases. Their success depends on the number of the followers, likes, views and interactions they obtain.
Born and bred in Casarsa, the Friulian home town of Pier Paolo Pasolini, Simonetta Lein – just over thirty – is one of the most influential women of the moment. She was brought up in a dynamic, multiethnic environment, graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, then decided to specialise in counselling. She quickly realised the potential of new digital communication tools, becoming a revelation, one of the most followed influencers of her day.
Today she lives in the States, is an artiste, journalist (she broadcasts for Vanity Radio and writes for a variety of international publications such as The Huffington Post USA, Elle Italy, Vogue, etc.) and author (her book “Tutto ciò che si vuole” (Everything is possible): a novel about the power of dreams is published by Sperling & Kupfer). But she doesn’t stop at that.
Today she is considered a social icon, a “princess of dreams”, as the writer Andrea Pinketts described her, or a wishmaker, as the media have called her.
She was the one behind the People Wish Tree, a virtual movement which collects wishes and which began on her blog (“Desideriamo”, also featured on VanityFair.it) and naturally culminated in the Wishwall Foundation, set up in 2015.
It gives everyone an opportunity to share their dreams and plans and find support to realise them, creating connections and generating interest.
Today, dream after dream, a kind of “social dream” has been invented. And the internet has become the preferred way of communicating these dreams, listening to them and granting them.
The Foundation collects stories and wishes from all over the world and Simonetta, the gifted storyteller that she is, tells them and spreads them. She says “wishes must be given value and often become a pretext for coming up with special awareness campaigns”. So a voice is given to people who battle against adversity and pain to help others or give something back, like the mother from Brescia who has set up the association “Protea” to campaign for human rights despite the many problems she has come up against. And the mother from Philadelphia, whose daughter was killed in a hit and run accident, and for whom Simonetta worked with the city of Philadelphia to rename the street in memory of the dead girl. These are just a couple of the many stories.
– Besides the labels and trends, tells us how you see your job and the skills you need:
“Being an influencer is a responsibility. It is an evolving profession, many people still don’t understand what it’s really about. In a recent article, I analysed this role in depth and explained that an influencer is an entrepreneur and an icon of self-branding. An expert in the sector who communicates through social media, an outstanding communicator. Every day in my job I have a precise list of the content I want to communicate on the social platforms I use. When I’m asked to work with brands, celebrities, other authors or influencers, I’m always very careful about the kind of collaboration I get involved in because everything I write or do represents my brand. My work is borderline between an entrepreneur, marketing expert and a celebrity who is closer to the public because she can be reached on social media”.
– The internet and social media represent a great opportunity but you have to know how to use them properly, with intelligence, skill and sensitivity:
“Every social media has its own energy and entity. My favourites are Twitter and Instagram. When I use Twitter, I have to have a well-thought out communication plan, like on Instagram, but followers respond differently depending on the platform you use. It’s easier to get likes on Instagram through the photos; Twitter is a more intellectual social network: not everyone shares your tweets, but they read them and this has an effect in the number of impressions under every post.
Social media are a fantastic opportunity for growing your family, a way of getting a clearer understanding of yourself and your relationships with others. We say “Your tribe is your vibe”, your tribe is your followers who become a real part of your everyday life: they respond to your vibe when you publish your posts. I personally believe in being polite and overall my tribe responds in kind. Sometimes, like in real life, you might not get along with a follower: my advice is don’t waste too much time on them, don’t get upset when it happens, have a change”.
– Simonetta, you studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome and now you are a writer and journalist. Which profession best reflects who you are?
“I’ve never actually called myself a journalist, I’m just an influencer with a lot of experience under her belt and three degrees, who puts everything she has learnt to good use in her communications. So I don’t think I can choose one profession over another, I channel all my background knowledge into different online and offline communication channels, using the television, radio and public speaking, too. I strongly believe in studying hard and being curious: it’s important to have a go at new things that can inject new life into your daily work, always focusing on a coherent way of working, introducing the new elements”.
– First we had fashion bloggers, and now there are influencers: how do you see this professional figure evolving?
“I think we will see the “past” and the “future” merging. I followed an approach to studying and working that was more institutional and it taught me quality, coherence, dedication and rules. The more modern working method that belongs to my generation, the Millennials, has taught me how quick communication can be, as well as sincerity and spontaneity. I think these two models should exist more and more side-by-side, bringing quality and method to today’s communication”.
– How did you come up with the idea of the Foundation?
“It came to me when I moved to the States: my blog where people could share their wishes (Desideriamo.it) had become so popular, I was receiving too many requests. So I decided to give my work a more institutional role, helping people to come up with their wishes. If a dream can come true and inspire people, then together we can really change things. First I came up with the idea of translating this concept offline in an artistic exhibition, The Wishwall, a mural where people could stick their meaningful wishes over a two-day period. This installation became a permanent fixture in Philadelphia and the Wishwall Foundation led to The Wishwall Online on www.thewishwall.org, leading to The Wishwall in Every City Project. This wall, which helps grant meaningful wishes, is becoming more and more popular and is spreading throughout the world”.
– What does the project mean to you, Simonetta, and what is the message you are trying to get across?
“The Wishwall Foundation is an integral part of me: it has radically changed my way of communicating, of choosing the brands I work with, of my actively improving the lives of those around me. Every post I write, every collaboration I work on, must have a message and a precise objective: to make a positive impact”.
– Tell us about some of the “wishes” you have granted.
“I managed to rename a street in the city of Philadelphia, in memory of a girl who had been killed in a hit and run; we used a different strategy to bring her killer to justice, it took us a year: these people have become a real part of my life. I helped a mother get her daughter an audition at a school of the performing arts because I wanted to broach the issue of accessing education in the USA. I guaranteed a guy an internship with my foundation, so he would have enough credits and not lose the whole academic year. I also got together with human rights writers and activist groups so we could share information and stories. The list is long and there are so many people who are inspired. You can read about them on the website (www.thewishwall.org)”.
– What does the future hold for you?
“I can see myself working even harder to represent my generation and women in general. I’d like more followers on social media and television: I’m working on a TV project and have others in the pipeline.
Plus, I would love to increase my involvement in promoting the Wishwall Foundation project and take our message of hope to towns and cities around the world”.
So for Simonetta Lein, being an influencer is not just a profession, it is a vocation, a lifestyle and choice. It’s no coincidence the slogan on the website says: “YOU MAKE YOUR DREAM COME TRUE”.