How to develop your Instagram style & grow your following #BlogCampVibe Part One
An Update (22/11/15)
I would like to reiterate that these How to Develop Your Instagram Style & Grow Your Following posts (parts one, two, three) are a summary of my talk at BlogCamp Vibe, which was a development of my earlier guest post at Ebabee about Instagram, and my sessions at BlogCamp River Cottage, as well as being informed by other guidance on Instagram published online.
It's a great privilege to be asked to speak at events and share what I have learnt over the last 4 years of blogging. Most days I feel like I have everything to learn myself but I also think it's so important to share. Share what you know, help others grow and everyday I meet someone, or read something that makes me feel inspired.
It always throws me, at events like the Tots100 event #BlogCampVibe, when people say after a session, "Wow thank you, so many don't seem to want to share what has helped them grow their blog." And I never understand that. There is room for everyone in the bloggersphere. We all have a unique voice that we can establish, nurture and develop. Don't get disheartened or be a slave to comparison. Be yourself.
There are no prescriptive right and wrong answers. The best advice I could give anyone starting a blog today is read as much as you can, soak it all up like a sponge like when you first start school. Be wide eyed and enthusiastic. When you feel inspired and passionate it shines brighter than any fancy statistic, any impressive follower numbers. Everyone can be successful, you just have to find what makes you feel alive and I promise people will hear you.
Now I know some people can't stand How to posts and Top Tricks and Tips type features but I find I learn something from every single one I have read. I have vowed to never let myself become so arrogant as to think I know it all. We can all write with more eloquence, we can all refine our design or improve our technical photography skills. There is always something we can learn from each other.
There are some amazing resources on the internet, workshops, e-courses and free taster workshops as well as courses you might want to invest in. You can sign up for a free Makelight taster course with Emily Quinton, Sara offers both 1:1 coaching a 7 day Insta Retreat course at MeandOrla.co.uk, Love & Colour have a new Insta Workshop and I have just signed up to a videography course with Xanthe Berkley.
Over the last year I have blogged a lot about a platform that has quite frankly changed my life.
It's changed the way I blog, it's changed the way I work and it's become a huge part of the positive energy I need to cope with a very hectic period in our lives.
And I want to share a little, or rather a lot, about the things that have helped me, that have organically helped me grow a following that makes me squeal in disbelief and has allowed me to connect and engage with my audience in ways that other platforms just can't.
This is my Instagram story.
These are the things that I and other's I have read over the last year about think can help you. Tangible things you can be conscious of and chose to ignore if you want to! This is a post for those of you who want to proactively engage the following you have already and grow the following you'd like to have in the future.
If you use Instagram as a hobby fantastic - enjoy it! But if you want to really take your feed as seriously as you do your blog, brand or website then this is the post for you!
I truly believe anyone can be successful if they find their style, hone their aesthetic and connect with their audience. If you look at the super successful bloggers in the Tots100 who have huge followings on Twitter or Facebook or Pinterest they often don’t have the same significant following on Instagram. Even the big blog networks themselves haven't achieved the same growth on this unique platform. Each platform has their own set of users and some that cross over. And when you find out what makes a platform individual you can start to subtly influence the way you use and post to each. So I'm not ashamed to say that I want to give my followers on each platform something slightly different. I consciously choose to share content in different ways to appeal to my different audiences, and give the people who so kindly follow me everywhere a reason to keep following.
You can look through the whole presentation in your own time but there's too much to fit into one post. Instead I am going to talk through 2 or 3 slides at a time over a few days, so that I can hopefully tell you everything I said at #BlogCampVibe and you'll feel like you were with us!
JUMP ON THE BAND WAGON
Is it just me or does Instagram feel like the cool platform the hot thing to be on right now?! There definitely seems to be a shift over the last year with more national brands joining Instagram and they’d be mad not to!
Just look at some of the latest statistics! They are mind blowing numbers.
Content is just as important on Instagram as it is on your blog. About 6 months or so ago I realised that I was only sharing photos to my feed that I would share on my blog. And even though they are 95% iPhone pictures, to me they are stand alone images.
Instagram is the fastest growing platform and gives you the potential to grow a global audience. It’s where real people live! The vast majority of my followers are real people like us! I feel so lucky that companies I adore follow me back but generally it's a platform made up of consumers. Teenagers, students, parents, couples and singles sharing far too many inappropriate direct message pictures with this married mother of two! Good grief!
The interesting thing about this platform is that the users are pretty evenly divided between men and women, Demographic stats show a relatively even ish spilt between users living in urban, suburban and rural areas, 28%, 26% 19% respectively and there’s a high concentration of users in their late teens to late twenties with the majority of followers in a $50k PLUS income bracket. It's a place brands want to be seen on, to share their products in the most natural way. (Stats via SproutSocial)
And the thing with this platform is that you can see the engagement in an instant.
Twitter and Facebook may still be the leaders for sharing content but the difference between likes and comments, retweets and favourites is significant. Because there’s no distractions, there’s no clickable links no extra noise! Don't you sometimes check your Twitter feed and for a minute or so, feel like you can't figure out what you are meant to be drawn to. It's just link, link link. McDonalds recently ran an all day breakfast campaign and 2 Instagram posts received more engagement that dozens of pinned tweets combined!
FIRST IMPRESSIONS MATTER
Your first impression is so important. In real life we take 7 seconds or so to make a judgement about someone or something but online this is about a tenth of a second! People make snap decisions about whether to click that follow button and what you want to to entice them with those first 3 images and make them disappear down your feed! You want them to get lost.
I see in my notifications that often a new follower will then go and like 5 or 6 or sometimes more photos, some from months and months ago. I can physically see that they have got a little lost scrolling back through my gallery. I do it myself. I look through a favourite's account, then I look at who they follow and start scrolling and before I know it I've lost half an hour to eye popping gorgeous inspiration.
THINK ABOUT YOUR PROFILE
Think about how people might find you. I spot all the time that people have different user names to their blogs or handles - make them consistent with your other channels! Make it easy for people to find you.
Like wise with your photo - keep it consistent - if you have a logo great, but think about the type of people on Instagram - real people - they might prefer to see you!
Really think about your BIO - don’t just copy and paste from somewhere else, think about how the users differ on Instagram. What do you want people to know about you - what interests do you have, set the scene for your feed. Write not only for the audience you have but the audience you want to attract. I want people to know I share a lot about our house and the fact that we live in the countryside. We travel, we hare all around the country seeing friends and family, we eat out, have our heads turned by beautiful product packaging, but my home is the heart of my feed.
I want people to know, that even though I don’t share masses of photos of the boys that I am a mother, that my job is that I’m a Blogger and Photographer and that I tell visual stories. Sometimes I use the comment and caption box to tell as much of the story as the photo itself.
LOOK AT YOUR GRID
Think about what your last 3 photos or like I do your last 9. What do they say about you. Do they give someone a real indication of what they can expect if they follow you? Do the photos compliment each other - do they show what you are passionate about, what you love? If you share similar images everyday, like your breakfast or your outfit is the light consistent, are your whites white? Or does your feed, when you look at it as a whole look a little grey? Your whole feed is as important as an individual photo. There's a big trend to post against a white background and all over the world people are photographing their shoes, their magazines, their lunch and inspirational postcards (YEP I'm guilty of that!) against a funny sheet of card they pull out from behind the sofa. But be white beware! Don't let your feed turn into fifty shades of grey. Take those photos in good, even, late morning light and store them for a rainy day!
There’s ways to be creative with your bio, some centre their text, whereas I like mine left aligned. I see people using interpuncts, brackets and braces (The swirly brackets on your keyboard). You can use apps to change the standard font - like Textizer and because Instagram is a more light hearted, positive platform you can show your personality! People use emojis, I’ve seen brands with great fun lines in their bios and just look at @brightbazaar - Will Taylor - a hugely successful UK interiors Instagrammer. He spells out quite clearly what you will get from following him and uses emojis to give it a playful feel even though he obviously takes his feed very seriously, sharing beautifully composed and edited snapshots as well as professional photos.
You can play around with the clickable link. Why not edit it as you publish a new blog post or if you are up for an award then let your followers know and direct them to the voting page! I am so guilty of sharing long url links but what I will do in future is use a shortening app Bitly or Google have an app so that it doesn’t appear as this great long link and clutter your bio!
Just be mindful that if you do play with formatting - the vertical spacing etc - check how it views on mobile and web as lots view profiles from a desktop or laptop. And sometimes it can look a little skewed! Like the formatting has gone awol!
Tomorrow I am going to talk through the importance of quality over quantity and finding your own rhythm. So pop back and have a read!
And if I have missed anything - leave a comment - I'd love to help if I can.
What do you feel you love or struggle with? Do you feel you've found your style on Instagram?