Social media influencers highlight how they’re turning posts into perks

Using a camera and having an Instagram page can attract viewership and local businesses


Photos courtesy of Kendall Geist and Bryan Carter

By cultivating a following and sticking to a theme, social media influencers Kendall Geist and Bryan Carter of Sacramento often use their personal Instagram accounts to network and promote local businesses and restaurants in exchange for food or even free entry into social events.

As social media continues to evolve, so to do the people that use it. With that change comes a growing industry of social media influencers that are populating our timelines and newsfeeds.

A well-lit picture here. A positive caption there. One tap on the “Share” button later and thousands of Instagram users are swiping through their feeds seeing the latest trends in fashion and food, as well as getting a preview of upcoming local events.

Meet the influencers

Social media influencers are people who use their personal social media accounts to help businesses promote products and events.

For social media influencers Kendall Geist and Bryan Carter, Instagram posts serve two functions: growth and promotion.

Geist and Carter make up just two of a growing number of individuals online who market themselves and others by showing off branded products and promote local establishments and events.

Given the popularity of social media, Instagram in particular, it’s no surprise that companies reach out to people like Geist to promote their products. Local business owners and organizers look to people like Carter to achieve bigger turnouts at their events in Sacramento.

Both Geist and Carter do social media influencing as a hobby. Neither had prior marketing experience or even knowledge of how to use a camera.

“I attended my first workshop with [a photographer], barely even knowing how to turn on my camera at the time,” Carter said.

Now, his Sacramento based event promotion page @guysonthegrid boasts more than 5,200 followers.

As her page @kendallmgeist continues to grow with more than 9,000 followers, Geist said she only knew a few basic photography techniques when she started.

“I kind of knew how to do pictures and angles and lighting,” she said.

Carter, a graduate of UC Davis, designed bridges as a structural engineer and is starting a new job with CalTrans at the end of the month, he said. Geist, currently enrolled at Sacramento State, said she envisions a future as a professional organizer.

Although they don’t see social media influencing as their career, Carter and Geist are proof that there are available jobs in social media influencing.

Introduction to being an influencer

Carter says that he started the “Guys on the Grid” blog and Instagram account after he and his friends found themselves missing out on events they were “a day or two too late hearing about.”

His idea worked for him and @guysonthegrid is now a go-to promotion page for events and other social activities in Sacramento. Even after a couple years of experiencing growth in popularity and name recognition, Carter said he still doesn’t have any discernible marketing strategy for the account.

Geist manages her page with the same laid-back attitude. She says that she doesn’t campaign for followers, but just posts “when I’m outdoors doing things,” and her page continues to grow.


Although it might seem like brand recognition is simply a numbers game — those with the most followers win — Geist suggests that her success is not rooted in her follower count.

“I never really cared about the likes. I more care about the aesthetics,” Geist said. “It’s like one picture has 50 likes or something, or 100 likes, it’s okay because it looks good on the page and it’s the aesthetic, that stuff matters.”

Geist added that maintaining her “bright, positive, good energy theme” creates interest from companies wanting to market their product in the same way she promotes herself. She said that her marketing value results from the audience that she has cultivated through her page’s theme.

Carter doesn’t think his analytics are important, either, also focusing on his theme for @guysonthegrid, which revolves entirely around the city of Sacramento.

“I kind of ignore numbers in general,” Carter said. “If my friends and I find something interesting or cool around Sacramento, I’ll post about it.”

Carter says he gauges the success of his page by the number of people he connects with outside of social media.

“I can tell the word is spreading just by the amount of engagement I get on the platform or how many people are introducing themselves when I’m out and about.”


Neither Carter or Geist said they receive money for their posts promoting businesses or events on their pages. However, they both have received material goods in the form of food, access to events or sometimes free clothing in exchange for promotion.

Geist says she has been offered several free meals by reaching out to local restaurants and presenting them her page while offering to review their food.

Both influencers said that a series of meaningful, artistic posts and a thoughtful theme will result in an attractive page, which in turn, will appeal to businesses who are looking to work with promoters.

Geist encourages people to grab a camera, adventure around taking pictures and see what you can create. Carter does too.

“Focus on quality of content and don’t think about likes or engagement or things of that nature,” said Carter.

Emily Rabasto, Meg LaRiviere, Jesse Zalasky, Soraya Rigor contributed to this report.