Meet the Creator: Ramona Jones on Content Creation, Brand Vetting, and More!
Ramona Jones is a full-time creator! Learn how she stands out and manages her unique brand.
The value of an influencer is undeniable. Authentic exposure, high engagement, brand advocacy, quality content, and more. The idea of value can actually mean something else, which is also extremely important for your brand. When entering an influencer marketing collaboration it’s important to not only consider the value of the influencer but how the influencer supports and aligns with your brand values. A partnership implies to the public that but parties agree and support one another’s messaging.
Brands aren’t the ones able to determine who and what is the right partner for them. Influencers, especially those known for an authentic persona, are also vetting brands to ensure their sponsored content remains true to their voice and loyal to their audience. We spoke with influencer Ramona Jones of @monalouge, a lifestyle influencer who collaborates with a broad range of brands that support her ethos. Her vintage-inspired content is like a step back in time, with fun and modern collaborations.
Imagine if Jane Austen had an Instagram. Rolling English countryside, Victorian dresses, and lots of cottages. Romona Jones’ account @monalouge is a modern twist on a simpler time. With over 255K followers and collaborations including Nespresso, Daniel Wellington, and Visit England, she has managed to find a brilliant intersection with her personal values, a love of vintage, and the 21st Century. We talked with Romona to learn about how her influencer career began, how she is handling COVID-19, and more
Did you intend to become an influencer or did it happen organically?
I didn’t intend for it to happen. I started out in 2011 before influencers were actually a thing. My first account was a fashion account, and it grew quickly to almost 70K followers. Then, I switched to my Monalouge account in 2013 and began to grow that. Back then, it was much easier to grow your account. It just happened organically and there wasn’t as much competition.
Also, this was a time when Instagram had a thing called “Suggested User”. Instagram would highlight accounts they liked, and it was a great way to exposure and followers. I was picked for that, and I gained 30K followers. It was quite a big deal back then.
The suggested user feature really changed the game for you. Were you selected randomly?
I think so. There was a period when Instagram was still running the feature that after you were selected, you could select someone else. Perhaps a friend suggested my account. But, it was a monetized scheme. I got an email saying I was a Suggested User and then got tens of thousands of followers.
While you were growing your follower count, was your social account a hobby or a job?
The first three years of Monalauge was just a hobby for me. It was around 2016 when brands began taking notice and getting involved. But, at that time influencer marketing was something people were just experimenting with, no one really knew what they were doing. During the early phases of influencers, I don’t think brands were always choosing the best creators. It was like they just wanted an influencer, but they didn’t really think about whether the influencer’s values aligned with the brand. I would say that at that time influencer marketing was mismatched and done rather poorly.
How big of a role do values play in influencer marketing?
There are many ways brands will look at values. Aesthetic values are important because that’s the first interaction that users will have with your content. But, there are also underlying values and real-world beliefs that must be taken into consideration.
How do your beliefs impact you as an influencer? Do you consider them when collaborating with a brand?
I certainly have criteria that are impacted by my values. I’m a vegetarian, so I would never partner with a brand that participates in animal cruelty. I am also very against the entire fast-fashion industry, so I would never partner with a fast-fashion brand. But, it’s not just ethical values that impact my decision-making process, it’s also the content request and campaign brief that determines if it’s the right collaboration for me. If a brand just wanted a close-up shot of the product, it’s not something I would do because it wouldn’t fit my overall account and aesthetic. But, if I have creative freedom and can create something in my style, I would definitely be more inclined to take the job.
I actually love working with food and wine brands. I did a project with Bombay Sapphire that I loved. I think the content that they want aligns with the content that I’m already creating. My content is very nature-oriented with flowers and gardens, cool brands are very interested in that aesthetic.
So, one of your main vetting criteria would be how brands let you create content?
Yes, absolutely. I want to ensure that if I’m entering a partnership it will still fit my overall content aesthetic and will sit well with my audience. I don’t want them to be turned off to me because of a poorly chosen partnership.
On Klear, you’re shown as a Travel Influencer. Is that something you still identify with?
I definitely started out as a Travel influencer, but now I am more focused on Lifestyle. I’m also based at home now, for obvious reasons, and showing a lot more of my home and garden. But, you can’t just switch your industry overnight. It takes time and I’m working towards that.
Is being an influencer your full-time job now?
Yes! It started as a part-time job while I was working at a start-up, actually doing marketing and social media. But, once I really grew my audience and was steadily booking collaborations, I knew I had to take the plunge. Also, I wasn’t able to keep with my Instagram while working a 9-to-5.
Now that you’re a full time influencer, how many collaborations are you typically involved in?
I try not to do more than one a week, so four a month. I do tend to get more work in the summer than I do in other months. So, sometimes I will do more collaborations in the summer and less during the winter. I think it works best for the brand and the influencer if sponsored content is spaced out. You don’t want your audience to be inundated with ads, though people have become much more supportive lately. They’ll say “good for you!” when you post an Ad, or “I love to see you working with this brand.”
What does the collaboration process look like? Are there elements that make it more successful?
A successful collaboration would have a brand sending me brief, perhaps they would request a concept or send over a mood board for inspiration. More often, I’ve noticed that brands want me to provide a concept board. I will typically send examples of past collaborations that I feel are inline with the brand and the project. I’ll often send around three examples as well as a location suggestion for the shot. This process is also helpful for me because it streamlines the creative process, and then I can just go and create the content. I find, in a process like this where we have agreed creatively, brands typically edit the caption but not the content. Campaign briefs have also really improved and now offer enough details that me and the brand are in agreement.
In the past, I had to do a lot of resubmits, mainly because a brand wouldn’t specify their needs. One time a brand told me I couldn’t have my dog in the photo, but that was never mentioned in the brief. So I had to redo the whole thing. That happens much less now because brands say; no children, no pets.
What’s the biggest collaboration pain-point?
I haven’t really had any bad collaborations in the last year, things have really improved. But, miscommunication will always be an issue. If a brand doesn’t say exactly what they want then I won’t meet what they need without knowing.
What is the turnaround for a project and how do you keep yourself organized?
It really depends on the brand and the project. Sometimes it’s a two-day turnaround and other projects could be due in a month. Most of the work I’ve done in the last year has been really quick turnarounds.
I’m in the process of transitioning my project management right now. I used to use my phone calendar, but I need something more visual. I’m working with time blocking so I see a few weeks at a time what I have to get done but also when I have time for myself and to take a break.
What content trends are you observing? What are brands begging to request more?
Video content is the biggest push at the moment. I’ve noticed a lot more requests for all types of video content like carousel posts, small stories, swipe-up links, and short feed video posts. Most videos are around 30-seconds, very short and to the point. Luckily my partner is a videographer, and he helps me with that.
Final question! There are a lot of influencers out there. How do you manage to stand out?
I think a lot of success comes from being personal, open, and honest. If you present your real self, with your quirks and the qualities that make you different, people will relate and respond quite well. It’s just about embracing the things that make you weird. When I’m out in public wearing a victorian dress taking my photos people stare at me like, “what on earth is she doing,” but the internet celebrates it.