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Welcome to our IZEA interview series with influencers and marketers of all niches to highlight their journeys, share their insights, and inspire! Today we are influencing with Christine of @thechicagogoodlife.

Influencing With Christine of @theChicagoGoodLife

Meet Christine of @thechicagogoodlife on Instagram, who has 23K followers that trust her recommendations on the best things to do in the Windy City. Christine is a mom of two, wife and former teacher and tutor who inspires followers to explore the city by sharing events and exhibitions, family-friendly activities, new restaurants, bar specials, and other things to do and see. She also offers city guides and itineraries for people who need ideas on what to do while visiting Chicago or during their staycation. She started her Instagram account in 2014 by showcasing fun dates with her husband, Manny. Her foodie and lifestyle influencer career has since grown to include hosting monthly events around town, including those that benefit local charities, and even appearing on a local news show to give her insights on Chicago Restaurant Week.

Thanks for chatting with us. In your own words, who are you and what do you do?

“I am Christine, a mom of two and wife in Chicago. I like to feature different things to do and eat and take advantage of all that Chicago has to offer. I started the blog in 2016 and the Instagram account was even earlier than that in 2014. (My husband) Manny and I would be out at a new restaurant or different concerts or comedy shows all the time and that’s how it started. I was a teacher and administrator for 11 years and then I was spending so much time away from Noah and I decided I will do education on the side and stay at home with him and focus on the blog. And then the blog took over everything. It’s now full time. When I had my two kids it became much more of a lifestyle blog. It started from showcasing the city as a young couple and grew into more of a lifestyle page as our family grew.”

What has been the coolest experience you’ve had thanks to your influencing career?

“We’ve had a lot of really cool things happen. One of the coolest things is we were featured in an HP commercial regarding diversity and interracial couples. I was pregnant at the time but we got to take Noah to the shoot and it was really exciting. Just recently I was on WGN showcasing Chicago Restaurant Week so that was really awesome.

What’s the biggest challenge?

I think the blogging and influencer marketing world is a lot of a comparison game and a lot of a numbers game. That’s kind of hard. I think if you’re first starting out it’s hard not to compare yourself. The second challenge is I think you sometimes hit a point where you know your worth and don’t want to do certain things you did when you started off. It’s hard to find that balance and still stay authentic to yourself.”

“I’ve gotten to the point where I’m so busy that I have to be really picky about what I do, otherwise I’d be off doing everything. As a mom it’s really hard to balance that. A lot of times restaurants want me to come in with the kids and hotels want me to come in with the kids and it’s so fun but it’s also a lot of work.”

How do you avoid burnout?

“I do have to be selective on what (events) I’m choosing now (to attend), because I get invited to a lot. A lot of it is really cool and I’d love to showcase it but I have to prioritize the kids and my mental health.”

Tell me about how you incorporate your kids into your content.

“If you were to see behind the scenes to getting ready for a staycation or an event, it does run pretty smoothly because they are used to it now. At first it was a struggle. But now I think I can shoot content really fast and I explain to them what I’m doing. This is mommy’s work. … They get it now. At first I was probably driving them crazy but now we have a system. We take photos right away and then they can get dirty and run around and enjoy.”

“Let’s say we do a staycation. I will shoot all the videos and photos immediately. So then we can enjoy the rest of the trip. If it’s an event, I think to get there on time if not early to get content and then be done with it so I can actually enjoy the event. I do not post live. A lot of people do — It’s not my style. I won’t enjoy it. I save everything to my camera roll.”

Have you had any viral moments?

“I’ve had a few TikToks gone viral. I’ve had a few Reels also go viral. Oftentimes they are roundup posts (of things to do in Chicago) — those do really well.”

“Instagram viral and TikTok viral are really different. I’ve only had a few people on Instagram say something negative. Most of the time it’s on TikTok. You have to remember that your For You Page are people who don’t know you and don’t follow you. There’s no sense of community whatsoever (on TikTok). I think it’s great to bring people into your other social media accounts but in terms of what I like to build on my page, which is a community, it’s very hard to do on TikTok.”

Tell me about the Reels Creator Program.

“It was an invitation. This past summer I did the pilot program for it. Then it launched to everybody. I really like it because it’s forcing me to focus on video content. You get paid pennies, so you’re not going to pay your mortgage with it, but it’s nice because the video content I make can also be applied to TikTok.”

Tell me about your shift to video. Has it come easily for you?

“I think it was harder but being a part of the Instagram Reels Creator Program really helped me. It was kind of like a training program for myself and I got to play around with different apps and I found ones that I really liked. I also found different fonts, different formats. It was hard and it took a lot, because you had to make three (Reels) a week. But now I could probably do four or five a week because now when I go to an event my brain is focusing more on video content. Now it’s so easy but at first it was so much work.”

What tools or apps or tips do you use to stay organized or edit?

“For organization, I have a Google Drive I share with someone who is helping me now. We update it every week with things I need to create, tasks, long-term goals, short-term goals and that’s a shared doc that helps me stay organized. I use Tailwind to schedule pins. I use Movavi video editor and Lightroom for photo editing.” 

What tip would you give someone who aspires to be an influencer?

“Stay organized and creating a schedule of the content you want to create is really helpful.” 

“Network, network, network. Being creative and building connections within your own city I think is really helpful. I focus so much on my niche that I need to have a lot of contacts.” 

Do you reach out to local businesses or do they reach out to you?

“It’s a little bit of both. I’ve been doing this a fair amount of time so a lot of the local restaurants and brands that are super hyperlocal, we already have a relationship so that’s nice. I do still reach out when it’s something I think will benefit my following.”

“For example, I started creating itineraries for purchase so I did a lot of outreach for those itineraries. We’re developing relationships over time because I am bringing in not only people from Chicago but people from outside Chicago to your business. I’m not charging them, I’m charging the consumer that buys the itinerary, so it’s a win-win for everyone. You give me a discount code and it entices more people to come to your business. Giving people a discount code is another reason for people to follow and engage with the content. It’s about bringing the consumer to the business and if a discount code does that then I’m useful in some sort of way.”

What tips do you have for working with brands?

“Making sure you have a clear understanding of the deliverables and making sure you have a contract or everything in writing so everyone’s on the same page.” 

What are your goals?

I want to hit 25K before the end of the year, and I also want to — with COVID-19 rates at a low — go back to doing monthly events. I love planning them and I think it helps businesses and the followers seem to like it. We just did one at Salon V and the next one is going to be at WhirlyBall Chicago (an amusement center).   

How do your hosted events come about?

A lot of times a place will contact me … and I’ll ask if they want to make it an event.”

“It’s more of a community-building event.”

Anything else to share about influencing local?

“Create a network and following that also has similar interests that you have. It gives people a sense that you’re a really good resource, and they’ll go to you first before Yelp! or asking a Facebook group. You’re their number one resource.” 

“This community has been built up over years and years. I am that number one resource for people. I’m there before Yelp and before other resources because they trust me. That’s the difference between me and going to Yelp Chicago is that you can DM me, you can see my reviews and know that you trust me and there’s a relationship there. And that’s why I like to do those events and meet people because it makes me seem more reliable and people see me interact with people and followers and shows I’m a regular, real person they can ask questions to.”

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