Business is booming for social media influencers

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NEW YORK — Alex Mehraban's job sounds too good to be true.

She takes pictures of food and posts them on Instagram, and companies pay her to do it.

"Once I started working with brands and working on paid posts and creating advertisements I realized people were starting to see the value in what I was doing," she said.

More than 270,000 people follow her "Eating NYC" Instagram account. She's considered a social media influencer because her posts theoretically influence her audience about what and where to eat.

Gil Eyal is a founder of Hypr Brands, which runs a search engine for companies looking for the right influencer to sell their products.

"It's a basic rule of marketing. The better you target, the more targeted your audience is, the better the outcome is likely to be."

Eyal said this new form of advertising is especially popular in the fashion, beauty and leisure industries. There are 10 million influencers — all of whom are supposed to identify paid posts as ads, but many as 90 percent do not.

"Now we're seeing a shift towards disclosure because the FTC has kind of stamped down and said okay, we're looking at you."

Mehraban has promoted brands as big as Oreo's and McDonald's.

"I can imagine you didn't start off as a kid saying I want to be a social media influencer?"

"Definitely not," Mehraban replied. "I've had the opportunity to watch this whole cultural transformation unfold."

If a picture is worth a thousand words, for Mehraban is can also be worth thousands of dollars.

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