On a whim, Katie Stauffer started an Instagram account so she could post some of her favorite photos, something a lot of moms do.
Nowadays, however, Stauffer and her family are on the verge of becoming multi-millionaires. Their popularity on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube puts them in a coveted class called "social influencers".
Katie Satuffer, along with her twin daughters Emma and Mila are famous. Photos and videos of the twins have made them social media superstars. They are part of a new class of online entrepreneurs called "Social Influencers", and Katie runs a social media empire with three million follows.
"It's kinda weird, because I'm not in the photos a lot, like other people," said Katie. "I can go anywhere and no one knows me, but if I'm with her? We're stopped all the time."
It all started so innocently four years ago, when a bored Katie opened an Instagram account. Now, she has over two million followers on Instagram, 1.5 million likes on Facebook, and 105,000 followers on YouTube.
"When it first started it was slow," said Katie. She said she posted cool photos, shared them on popular pages, and got lots of likes.
"So people discovered me that way," said Katie.
Then, it was a simple photo of her handsome son, Finn, that brought in more likes and freebies.
"A company would send me a shirt to wear and repost and tag," said Katie. "And then, I had the babies and that's a huge thing, and so, even with the followers I had at that time, companies wanted to send things."
Then, Katie dressed her twins up in funny costumes, but when she started posting videos of Mila, things exploded.
"Videos are what people wanna see, and they wanna see funny videos," said Katie.
It's all been fun, except for the occasional comment calling Katie a "bad mom" for exploiting her kids.
"People don't know what we're doing," said Katie. "They think we are at home like, 'you're gonna do this video!', but no. She likes to do it. We do it when she likes to do it, and a lot of the videos she'll say, 'let's do a video'. So, we'll do it and she'll be done in 5 seconds. It's no difference to me than the actors on TV, kids on TV, but because I control it."
In five months since Mila's videos went viral, Katie has added more than three million followers.
"I just got a manager in July, because everything blew up," said Katie. "So any email I get with a company, if I want to do it, I'll send it to her, and she handles it as far as negotiating with them and setting it all up."
Huge companies like Gap, Apple, and small companies who want Katie and her adorable family to post pics with their products.
"I get a ton of mail, boxes of stuff all the time," said Katie. "From big companies. One company, a big company, sent me 5k or 6k worth of clothes, and they want you to post, and they want you to post the clothes but not pay you, so I would do that because I was so excited to get the clothes and they were cute, and she said you have to stop doing that. You don't understand what you have here. They are doing that because they know you'll post."
In other words, the companies will not only send you free stuff, they'll also pay you to post it. Her Gilbert house is full of the freebies.
The success has been so big, in fact, that Katie quit her day job and made being a social influencer a full-time gig. The income potential is endless, with discussions of a TV show for her daughter, as well as a clothing line.
All this began with that simple decision to post a photo on Instagram, four years ago.
Katie said she only agrees to do ads on products she and her family use, or would use. All paid-ads social influencers post must be marked with '#ad'.