Step up your Instagram: For Bloggers + Business Owners (Part 2)
In case you missed Part 1 of this series, check it out here.
3. "That's so not #Authentic" is so not in my vocabulary.
Two months ago, I feel like I finally found a groove and visual flow for my 'Gram---AFTER TRYING TO FIGURE IT OUT FOR SO LONG. It began to grow and I began to connect with some really cool people. My pictures began to showcase the artistic side of me, the side I'm discovering and cultivating on a day to day basis. The part of me that's been there all along-- I just wasn't showcasing my art, design, projects, and self the way the instagram world was excited to see it. And honestly when looking at my instagram, I wasn't really excited over my top 6 pictures either. Why would my target audience want to follow me if I didn't even think my feed was super great?
But Colorful walls, cute outfits, watercolor handwriting, and fresh flowers. Those are all things I love to show the world. They are all things that are truthfully consistent in my life. They are all things I enjoy curating pictures of--- and guess what? My pictures are all things my followers and future clients enjoy seeing. "Win Win" as Michael Scott would say. And "WIn" as Pam would say.
Even with a visual flow, I hear the complaint (SO OFTEN) that pretty Instagram feeds don't actually reflect their owners' real life. It's not #liveauthentic. I hear ya. I love presenting myself authentically. But sometimes I have to treat myself as a business and market my instagram as a business. Once I came to terms with this idea, it really helped me make my instagram great.
Here's what I've found: Visually, you put down what you want to put down--- I agree, we all like a good dose of real life every now and then--- and I think I've found a good balance of (1) pretty pictures and (2) authenticity by what I write under the picture.
When I focus on relating to my friends, clients, and future clients by being honest about life's joys and shits, I feel purpose behind my picture collection. I think it's not just important, but essential, to share how much fun I had at coffee with a friend, or how sad I am this season, or what I'm learning about growing my small business. I'm more focused on connecting and relating than outdoing others with my pretty feed, because that's how Stacie in real-life is. She's for others. She wants to connect and encourage them. She wants to relate in the beauty and the grime.
4. I Host Shameless Photo Sessions with my Girl-fraaaans
Who doesn't like having a few cute pictures of themselves on their phone for a rainy day? Maybe one of your gal pals needs new head shots for a resume or an updated profile picture for her dating profile.
A phone photoshoot is a win for you and your friend. Most of the sessions I've had with friends are fun, laugh-filled, and full of good conversations in between takes. It's a good excuse to get some cute pictures of someone else--- a way to visually celebrate them.
I really appreciate taking pictures of my friends for how it impacts my followers. I've always had a heart for young women and the journey they find themselves on--- I aspire to be a role model to teenagers or girls in college, and I think one of the best ways to do that is by showing them I have and need community. Showing them the importance of celebrating the lives of my friends.
Recently I started doing a #meetmyfriends series and I've really enjoyed showcasing what I love about their characters, style, or dreams. This has been SO lifegiving for me especially since Instagram feels like a platform for comparison. This is my favorite way to rise above the shadow side.
5. The VERY HUGE importance of Hashtagging, Instagram Challenges, and Direct Message Etiquette
Holy Hashtag, Batman?!
Researching hashtags is really key. I've really had to reach outside typical hashtags to connect with my followers. Y'all, it's SO worth taking the time to find hashtags that connect you with your followers or people who can relate to or enjoy your feed.
Are you trying to reach a certain city? Culture? Club? How about Small Businesses or Brides? Type in a hashtag to see how many people are using it. If it's too popular, your picture might get lost in the flow. If it's not popular enough, your picture might never be seen.
Here's a great example of hashtag culture: My friend Danielle just got involved in the "Currently Reading" culture on Instagram. I'd never heard of it, but there are a ton of 'Grammers out there who love sharing and discussing what they're reading with each other. They are connecting. They are celebrating books and their love to read. They use specific hashtags to do that. Go get 'em you book readers!
For my own business I could try searching the popularity of a hashtag--- Maybe other Lubbock Entrepreneurs are hashtagging themselves and I hope to connect with a few who need logo designs-- I start by hashtagging one of my logo designs with #lubbockentrepreneur. First, I could try researching #lubbockentrepreneurs to find out if that's a viable hashtag. Or even #texasentrepreneurs if I want to find a larger audience. There are endless possibilites, you just have to take the time to find them. :)
- Participate in Insta Challenges
Find a few insta-heroes you love and participate in their weekly challenges or brand hashtags. The best example I can give, although their Insta is SO popular it's difficult to be noticed, is Elise and Emma's A Beautiful Mess Instagram--- and all their brilliantly crafted hashtags #Abmtravelbug #abmstyle #abmlifeissweet. Participating in those hashtags has not only given me a network of fun creatives to follow, but they've also led other creatives to my instagram. Participating in those kinds of challenges or creating your own also leads to reposts and features on other people's instagrams-- getting featured on someone else's instagram is one of the best ways to gain more followers. It's best, etiquette-wise, not to ask via Direct Messages for features. There are certain instagrams made for features, go ahead and message them, but the best way to annoy those in your industry is to ask them to feature you. Don't do it.
- Direct Messaging
>> Clients DM me to work with me. That's what DM is for!
>> If I ever DM someone else or one of my Insta-heroes, it's to ask them questions, thank them for their impact on my creativity, or ask for advice. No ulterior motives. Sometimes they graciously take time to reply. Sometimes they're too busy, and I don't blame them for not answering.
I DEFINITELY never ask anyone to feature me. I think it's important to network without asking for handouts. To me, asking someone for a feature on their instagram is like Michael Scott always thinking he needs a microphone in his hand when he's in public. He's the LAST person who needs a microphone in his hand. He embarrasses himself when he reaches for the mic. And you don't want to embarrass yourself in front of people you might collaborate with or work alongside one day, do you? Work hard on your 'gram and other people will begin asking you if they can feature you on THEIR instagram. Woo! Woo!
6. Bonus Step!
Have an Instagram Husband? Or an Insta Bestie/Roomie? Or maybe an Insta Stranger at the Coffee Shop Who Seemed Nice and not too Judgmental? Use all of them when they are available to take pictures of you. It'll become normal. After awhile you'll forget they're quietly judging you--- I mean, supporting your dream. Lord bless my husband for taking so many pictures of me or helping me with my photoshoots, but he could tell you now it's worth it because that's how I'm getting clients. I think that makes him BEYOND okay with my picture-nagging.
Those are my tips for now! I'm sure in a few months I'll have learned a bajillion other tid-bits I'll want to share! Or maybe I'll look back and think these were puny tips in comparison to the even bigger ones I'm learning two years from now! Who knows!?
I'd still love to hear your thoughts and ideas. What's working for you? What's not working for you? What instagram goals have you made for this year? How do you want to grow?