Rachel Brathen’s résumé really needs only one thing on it: a link to her Instagram page. Thanks to photographs of oceanside yoga poses, personal anecdotes, and, yes, her good looks, the 26-year-old has attracted more than 900,000 followers since she joined in 2012. Brathen is part of a new generation of social-media stars who are turning their following into dream careers (more on that later). She teaches sold-out yoga workshops and retreats across the world, and her yet-to-be-titled book will be released in Sweden (her home country) this fall and in the United States next spring.
FACE RECOGNITION: During her first year on Instagram, people began recognizing Brathen, then a yoga teacher at a small resort in Aruba called Manchebo, on the street. At a 2013 surf expo in Orlando, Florida, fans convinced her to hold an impromptu class. Yogis squeezed into every corner of the studio and spilled out into the lobby. “That was the first moment that I really thought I could do something bigger with this platform,” says Brathen.
TELL A STORY: Brathen credits her inspirational captions for her success. “I focus a lot on what I write,” she says. According to Darren Lachtman, who helped found Niche, a platform that connects brands with social influencers, Brathen’s touchy-feely posts–like “Everything you need is already inside you”—help build a personal connection with her audience.
FAR-FLUNG: There’s one big upside to Brathen’s gig—the travel. “I live on this tiny island, so it’s very limited in terms of what you can create here,” she says. This winter, she’ll go to Thailand and Costa Rica to teach workshops and classes.
Sharing the Wealth
Want to use social media to turn your passion into a career? Do what these guys did.
Instagram followers: 1.1 million
The surfer wanted a picture of a wave to hang in his house, so he started swimming with a camera and posting the images online. Today he’s an award-winning photographer.
Facebook likes: 9.4 million
Stanton started taking photos of people he met on the street for his Humans of New York Facebook project in 2010. His work has inspired copycats from San Francisco to Tehran.
Instagram followers: 11,400
The climber’s hand-drawn maps of places like the Grand Tetons and Mount Everest may receive only a thousand likes on Instagram, but he translated that into an online print store and a clothing company called Meridian Line.