Blog, instagram

How to Improve and Grow Your Instagram


Last week I shared my story about how I became an Instagram influencer. I promised that I would come back and give some tips for how to improve your feed and grow your instagram. This post definitely requires a major disclaimer right from the beginning. There are posts like this all over the internet. And I’d say probably everyone is more qualified than I am to give advice. However, I still wanted to share a bit from my perspective since I think I have a slightly different view than other people.

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How to Improve your Instagram Feed

The first step to becoming an influencer is to make your overall feed look good. When someone clicks on your feed, you have a few seconds to impress them before they either decide they’re interested or they click away. You don’t have to be a professional photographer or own a fancy camera to make your feed look good. Until the past month or two, probably 98% of my pictures were actually just taken on my iPhone. I have incorporated more DSLR pictures lately. But even still, I would still say the majority are iPhone photos.

You want your feed to have a very cohesive look, with all the photos having the same style. So it’s important that you figure out the style you like and then be consistent (with your photography and editing style.) Whatever “style” you choose, make sure you’re choosing it because it’s something YOU love. Not because it’s what everyone else on Instagram is doing.

This post isn’t going to give you a full guide to better photography (especially because I’m not qualified.) But I do want to share a few things that I do with my pictures. Just keep in mind that these are general “rules” and sometimes rules are meant to be broken. But first things first. Clean off your lens before taking pictures! I can’t tell you how many times I looked back at pictures and noticed they were blurry because my phone lens wasn’t clean.

1) Utilize natural light

In my opinion, this is probably the best advice for improving your photography. I try to take all my indoor photos as close to a window as possible. We get creative with how we make that work; sometimes moving furniture around.

Outdoors, we try to work with the weather or the positioning of the sun. While more light is always better when it comes to photography, you don’t want direct sunlight (of course there are always exceptions.) I love overcast days or sunny days with lots of cloud coverage. And when it works with our schedule, we try to take pictures at golden hour–the hour before sunset (or the hour after sunrise but there’s no way we’re up and ready that early.)

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2) Simplicity

Pictures always seem easier to look at when you are able to easily spot the subject of the photo. Details are fun and can absolutely be integrated in the picture. Just make sure the overall photo isn’t too busy. You want someone’s eyes to settle on the subject immediately. I love using simple backgrounds for my photos to make the subjects pop. And companies also love this because it means their products will stand out instead of getting lost in the chaos.

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3) Rule of thirds

If you aren’t familiar with this photography term, it’s just referring to the placement of your subject.  If you imagine your photo divided into 3 equal sections, you place your subject on one of the dividing lines. This is a very simple explanation so if that doesn’t make sense, feel free to google to get a better idea. I don’t always follow this rule. It just depends on the look I’m going for. But it definitely adds interest instead of always centering your subjects.

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4) Mix it up

You don’t want your whole feed to look like you are taking basically the same picture over and over again. Get creative with different setups, angles, and styles of pictures. Instead of always taking closeups, try stepping back to take in the whole scene. Instead of always taking a picture straight on, try to take a picture from above. Just try mixing up the look of your pictures so that it adds interest when people are clicking over to your page and seeing your feed as a whole.

On the flip side to this, I also like to do some “series” of photos. Like group shots of the kids, pictures of Clementine sleeping, and pictures of the 2 girls together. I just try add a little variation each time.

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5) Don’t use borders!

Instagram now allows you to post full size photos, in addition to square crop. My personal preference is to always post square (I don’t really have any major reasons why, I just like squares for IG.) I know some people prefer the full photos. And that’s fine! But make sure you’re using Instagram’s built in sizing instead of adding borders in editing apps. It makes your feed look so much cleaner when all the photos look like the same size. And I know a lot of brands won’t repost photos if they have added borders.

6) Take a LOT of pictures

When I say “a lot,” I don’t mean 10-20. I mean however many it takes to get a picture you’re happy with. If you only knew what my camera roll looked like after attempting a picture. For every 300 pictures I take, I probably get a couple of decent ones. Then it takes me a long time to pick out my favorite. I usually bug my husband to help me pick a favorite…and sometimes I actually use the one he chooses 😉

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7) Use editing apps

My two favorite apps for editing are Snapseed and A Color Story. I almost always pass it through Snapseed first to adjust the white balance, brightness, shadows, and ambience (I actually have no idea what this setting is actually doing but I like what it does to my photos.) I also sometimes use the brush tool for exposure–usually to brighten up a white wall or blanket. Then I use A Color Story to add a filter (my favorite is “punch” from the Blush pack) and I play around with curves until I’m happy with it. I’m still learning with this. Sometimes I’ll think a picture looks okay but then it looks awful compared to other photos or on my laptop.

 

How to grow your Instagram and better your chances at becoming and Influencer

There are articles all over the internet that will give you advice on how to grow your Instagram. I don’t really do what others advise but I’ll share what I do!

1) Be authentic

I think I kind of covered this in my last post. But authenticity is so key. It’s hard for me to want to follow someone when they portray their life as perfect. Now here’s what I’m not saying–I’m not saying that you need to take pictures of your messy house and makeup-less face to be authentic. There are ways to show that you are a normal, imperfect human–just like everyone else–but still share pretty pictures.

Real, genuine captions are definitely helpful. You don’t have to share every detail of every day. You don’t even have to make it super long. But people feel more connected with you when you come across as a real human. Share your highs and your lows. I love getting to know people on Instagram, not only through their photos, but also through their writing.

2) Engage

I can’t tell you how many times people have been surprised that I responded to them. Now, I used to be way better at responding to every single comment. But sometimes I miss them when they’re on an older post and I don’t see them for weeks or even months later. But I try my best to respond to everyone who comments. When someone takes time out of their day to leave a kind comment, the least I can do is acknowledge them by responding and answering questions.

I also try to make a point to stop and engage on other people’s pictures. I don’t force it. But if there’s something about the picture/caption that stands out to me, I like to leave a comment instead of keeping my thoughts to myself. This is a great way to build relationships through the app and find a community of people with the same interests! And you never know how much your comment could mean to someone.

3) Show your face on your feed

I feel like this is a good follow up to the first two points. I am always more likely to follow someone if they get in the pictures sometimes. It’s good to see the person behind the photography.

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4) Tag brands

There are multiple reasons to tag brands in your photos. First of all, it’s helpful for others to know where you got a certain item. Brands also love to see customer photos. I mentioned it on my last post already but tagging brands gives you the opportunity to be reposted on their feed, and therefore giving you more exposure and the possibility of more followers. It also allows other shops to see that you do a good job representing a brand. That gives you the opportunity to work with companies who like your style.

5) Use hashtags

I know some people aren’t too fond of hashtags. But they really do help your pictures get more exposure outside of your followers. Some hashtags are brand related or associated with certain accounts and therefore give you another chance at having your picture reposted. I like using hashtags that are relevant to motherhood and children and are very community based. I avoid very general hashtags like #mom, #kids, #fun, etc. because they are so overloaded and usually not helpful. I keep a list of hashtags in the notes section of my phone so I can quickly copy and paste the relevant ones into the comments of my pictures.

6) Share what you love

This one kind of has a double meaning. First of all, the obvious. Share what you love–meaning your family, your clothes, your home. You want your feed to reflect who you are. So make your feed showcase that.

Secondly, share material items that you love. If you love a certain shop because their products have amazing quality and fair prices, tell people about it. Do product reviews…even before a company asks you to do one. When I did my first product review about Tubby Todd, I had just found out about their All Over Ointment and was just so excited to share my thoughts on it and was so hopeful it could help others. After that post, I started getting multiple messages from companies who wanted me to try their products as well. Promoting companies shows other companies that you’re willing to share your experiences.

7) Post consistently

In order for your feed to remain relevant, try to post as consistently as possible. I aim for around one picture a day. However, don’t post a picture just for the sake of posting a picture. Make sure the picture is something you’re happy with.

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8) Giveaways and Like/Comment Pods

I actually haven’t used either of these methods to grow my feed but I thought I would mention them because so many other people do. Hosting a giveaway that requires people to follow you for an entry method is a good way to quickly get followers. However, be prepared for a dropoff in numbers after the giveaway is over. It does give you more exposure so people may find that they like your account and therefore stick around. I personally don’t like doing this because I don’t want people to be following me out of obligation. But I’m also weird and kind of have a list of “rules” set up for myself on Instagram.

Like/Comment pods, from what I understand, have about 10-15 people who keep an ongoing group message. When someone posts a new photo, they share in the group message and everyone quickly goes to the picture and “likes” and/or comments on it. This is supposed to help give the post more “value” in the algorithm and therefore will be seen by more people. This can be a great way for you to build a community with people who have the same interests and it can help your picture get more exposure. However, I have struggled with thoughts about this not feeling authentic so I don’t take part. This is where I feel like it’s very important to consistently engage with other accounts that you love and they will be more likely to engage with you in return!

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 And with that, I think I’ll wrap up this super wordy post. I’m really excited about the next post I have planned for this little “Instagram series.” I am planning on putting together a “behind the scenes” look at how I get a picture (in this case, it’ll be a picture of Clementine napping.) I’ll start with how I come up with the idea, how I make it happen, and how I edit the photo afterwards.

 

If you have ANY questions or want me to expand on anything, please let me know. I just feel like there’s just too much information to put in one post so I find it difficult to narrow down my thoughts. But I always love to hear what’s on your mind so feel free to comment! Thank you so much for reading and I hope this was somewhat helpful! Have a great Thanksgiving week!

Blog, instagram

How I Became an Instagram Influencer


When I was a little girl, I always dreamed of becoming a social media influencer when I grew up. Hopefully you can sense the sarcasm in that statement since social media didn’t even exist back in my day (I’m 30 now so I can talk like that ;)) There’s no way I could have even imagined this being my future a few years ago, much less when I was a child. In fact, I don’t think I even knew what it meant to be an influencer until I had already become one. If you aren’t familiar with the term, a social media influencer is basically just how it sounds–someone who uses their social media presence to work with and promote brands.

Because I have had multiple people reach out to me for advice on growing their Instagram, I wanted to share how I got to where I am now, the benefits that come along with it, and how I choose my collaborations. I also wanted to share a few thoughts I had on the subject. And later this week or early next week, I’ll be sharing tips on how to improve your Instagram feed and how to grow your following.

How I became an Instagram Influencer

Almost 6 years ago to the day, when my 3rd baby was a tiny little newborn, I joined Instagram. For your viewing pleasure: my first Instagram photo (in all it’s bad lighting, grainy glory.)

When I first joined, I never put any thought into any of my posts. I just posted what I wanted, when I wanted. My pictures were awful and the editing I did was even worse. But by the time my first daughter was born, I had become interested in photography. I purchased a DSLR and spent time learning about what makes a good photo. I also took an online course, Snapshop, from a blogger that I admired (and still do) to learn more about iPhone photography. Over the next couple of years, I took the time to improve my photography and editing.

It wasn’t until 3.5 years after I initially joined Instagram before I began to see growth. I probably had around 220 followers at this point and I wasn’t setting out to gain any. But over the course of a few weeks/months, multiple photos of mine were reposted to larger accounts and I began to slowly see growth.

Fast forward 6 months, when I probably had around 1,000 followers. This is the point that I got my first collaboration request. I couldn’t believe it! Someone wanted to send me free product in return for pictures. This was a new company starting out so they were looking to get their name out. I quickly agreed and this was the start of my new “gig” as an Instagram influencer.

When I received the items, I could tell this shop was new and the product quality was not amazing. But because I had already agreed, I took the pictures and promoted the shop. I didn’t like promoting a product that I wasn’t completely happy with. And it still bothers me that I did. This experience, along with a few others, are what have helped shape my philosophy on what collaborations I will agree to, so I will share more about that in a minute.

I spent yet another year and a half working on improving my feed. I learned more about the style of photography and editing I liked (and currently still seeking to learn/grow.) And I spent more time working on how my feed looked overall. This past summer I had about 10k followers, all gained organically (meaning that I didn’t buy followers.)

Then, of course, our pregnancy announcement went viral. Within 24 hours, I had gained 36k followers…with more trickling in over the next days/weeks. There were times that I wanted to hide and make my Instagram private because we were attacked with hateful comments from across the internet. But I left it public and now I’m currently sitting at 53k+. Though some of the people reposting our photo did it with cruel intentions, sometimes I laugh and think about how the joke’s on them because it has provided me with opportunities that I may have never had.

The benefits of a Social Media Influencer

As I already shared, the initial benefits of becoming an influencer is free product. Shops started reaching out to me to take pictures of their products. They would send me free items, I would photograph them and share them on my Instagram, linking to the shop. And if they loved the photos, sometimes the pictures would be shared on their feeds (which in return gives more exposure and leads to more followers.)

Because my niche is motherhood/babies, the majority of items I receive revolve around that. Being a mom for 9 years and having 6 children has definitely made me well informed of products in this category so it makes me a good fit to review these items.

Only within the past couple months have I been offered monetary compensation in addition to free product. I never imagined that I would be paid to post pictures of items that I love. But it has truly been so amazing for our family. Though I don’t make any kind of substantial income, I hope to eventually be able to use the money to help contribute to our family and make the burden lighter on my husband.

Though I’m probably making it sound easy, it is still work. Not only do I have to remain organized, but even the creativity aspect can be work sometimes. Also working with lighting, weather, and kids who don’t always feel like being in a picture. So while it is fun work, it is definitely still work.

How I make decisions about collaborations

I already kind of touched on this but when I got my first few requests to collaborate, I accepted a lot of the requests without putting much thought into it. It was easy to take a picture and get free products in return. However, after the first few collaborations and realizing that I didn’t feel good about promoting items I wasn’t in love with, I had to re-evaluate how I was doing things.

Authenticity is super important to me. I want people to be able to come to my feed and trust that no matter what I’m posting, whether sponsored or not, I believe in it 100%. I now subconsciously run through a list of questions in my mind before taking on any new project.

1) Am I interested?

This may sound like an obvious one but the first thing I do is look and see if the product/company is something I am interested in promoting. I am trying to become more organized and have set up email folders so I can easily sort them into “interested,” “maybe,” or “not interested.”

2) Is it a good fit?

Sometimes it can be tempting to take on a project just because someone is offering something for free or offering money. There are a lot of times that I may actually be interested in the shop’s products, but overall it just seems very out of place for my feed.

3) Do I feel good about supporting the company?

Not only do I have to like what they’re selling, I have to like the company itself and truly be supportive of them and their values. A lot of times, I’m already a customer or follower of the company I’m working with. Other times, when it’s a new-to-me company, I do my research to make sure we share the same values and that the company has overall good reviews.

4) Will it benefit my followers/readers?

Listen, I’m not doing all these collaborations just to benefit myself. When I find something I really love, I find joy in sharing it with others. I’ve always been that way. So when someone approaches me about working together, I want to make sure that it’s something that all of YOU will be interested in too.

5) Is it worth it?

My husband is always trying to get me to realize my worth. And I have to admit that that part is pretty difficult for me. But I do understand to a degree. Sometimes what people are asking for is just not worth it–they are just asking too much for what I get in return. I try to decide if the time/effort that I’m putting towards a project is worth what I am receiving.

6) How will I feature this item authentically?

Almost always, before even agreeing to collaborate, I try to imagine the photo I will be taking. I want sponsored posts to blend in with the rest of my feed. If I’m having a hard time imaging how I could do that, I just don’t take the job.

My thoughts on being an Instagram Influencer

First of all, I’ll say that this is pretty much a dream “job” for me. I’m able to stay home with my children, homeschool them, and I’m paid (in products and money) to take pictures of my family–something I would be doing with or without the “paid” part. I feel very blessed and so very undeserving. I have no idea where things will go from here but I’m hoping to be able to continue to grow and earn more as time goes on.

However, I’m sure there are some people who don’t like the whole idea of it. I actually used to be one of those people to some degree. I would see someone’s sponsored post and think “they’re just doing it for the money.” And I know some people really are. But I would hope that I have built up enough trust with my followers for them to know that that’s not who I am.

I don’t take this all lightly. As I’ve already outlined, I put a lot of thought into every single post. I want to remain authentic, even if I’m getting paid. It is also more important to me to remain authentic and share our family with everyone who has been so kind to us than for me to essentially make my page into constant advertising. I would rather decline jobs than make you feel like you’re constantly being sold to.

Now instead of rolling my eyes when I see someone post something sponsored, I try to be supportive and engage as I see fit. Because really, we’re all just trying to make the best of our opportunities and spend more time with our families.

I really wouldn’t even be in this position with out all of YOU! So thank you so much for following along! I’ve already said it but I feel so undeserving. There are so many accounts out there that are so much more deserving than mine, yet you all still come back to support me time and time again. Thank you so much! I hope this post shows my heart behind everything that I post and that you can continue to trust that I am always being completely genuine. You are all the best!

Stay tuned for the next post where I’ll share some tips on improving your feed and growing your Instagram!

P.S. If you’re a shop that has reached out to me with no response, it could be one of three reasons. 1) I didn’t find it to be a good fit. 2) I didn’t want to take on too much (for example, I get a TON of requests from shops that sell bows/headbands. I have missed out on collaborating with some really amazing shops just because I felt too overwhelmed to take on more.) 3) I misplaced your email or your direct message on Instagram disappeared before I could respond. I’m working on becoming better organized! Feel free to reach out again!