This week I reached 60,000 followers on Instagram. That is massive for me - I started my styling account on Instagram in 2016 and never dreamed I could get it to where it is now. To celebrate I bought myself some ridiculous balloons and decided to shout about it. People say numbers don’t matter and of course they don’t in real life but I am proud of what I’ve managed to achieve working full time in a “proper job” and running this little side hustle on evenings and weekends.
So whether you have ambitions for 100 followers or 100,000 followers, I thought I’d share some of my journey and some tips I’ve learnt along the way.
1. Hashtags - Are they important?
I would say yes, they still are important. Here was my first ever Instagram post - I used a total of 6 hashtags. I achieved 11 likes. Granted it’s not the greatest post ever produced but when you are just starting out, hashtags are the best way to get your page seen. And it still works even if you have lots of followers - one of my latest posts this week reached over 20,000 people from hashtags alone. This doesn’t convert to likes or followers but it means people are still finding my page and searching via hashtags.
You are allowed to use 30 hashtags per post on Instagram and I cannot stress enough how important it is to USE THEM ALL. Also make sure they are relevant to your post. Don’t use interior hashtags if you are posting a picture of the beach, for example. Have a look at people who have similar successful accounts to what you have or would like. See what hashtags they are using and use them too.
Another top tip would be to mix it up, constantly be on the search for new hashtags to make sure you don’t use the same ones for every post. This means you won’t just be seen by the same people but by more and more new people who have the potential to become followers if they like what they see.
I have always been an advocate of planning my grid for a number of reasons. Firstly, working full time during the week means I only have the weekends to create content. Once I have taken the photos, I load them into an app called Mosaico to place them in a grid like format which is linked to my Instagram account. This allows me to move and swap images depending on well they sit together.
Think about the images in terms of how they fill the frame. Some images are fit to burst in the square as they are close up, some have a bit of space as they were taken further away. Some have clean negative space to allow the image to breathe. Thinking about this will allow to balance out the images so visually the grid works together.
Other reason I love this app is because it allows you to save and store hashtags in categories so there’s no need to type 30 hashtags every time you post. They are all saved here, in categories relating to different topics and I mix them up whenever it is necessary.
3. Finding Your Style
Your social media account should represent you and what you like. People invest in people so it always helps if there is a personality behind the account. Instagram is a visual platform which means pretty pictures are always welcome but over the years we have seen stories, behind the scenes, posting what matters and being honest rise in popularity. There is still very much a community on this little app so find your people and reach out to them.
4. Editing & The Magic Healing Tool
Disclaimer Alert - I am not a professional photographer. I take most images on my iPhone and my Olympus Pen camera. Although I have a basic knowledge for composition and a probably a “good eye” picked up along the way from practise and my day job, my skill lies mainly in editing.
The power of technology these days means you don’t need a fancy Mac and a load of expensive software to edit pictures for social media. You can simply download a couple of apps and voila! Instant editing software with a few go to tools that will help enhance your image.
The first app I use is VSCO. This is preset/editing tool which helps to create consistent images for your grid. There are hundreds of presets to choose from and I mainly stick to A5. This is my favourite because it gives me a bit of contrast (huge fan of contrast) and a mood which I can’t really explain - it just feels like me! I would suggest trying out this app, have fun with it. Try things you would never try and find the preset that speaks to you the most. Once you have found “the one”, you can edit every photo with it and create a unique style for yourself. VSCO also has useful tools like exposure, contrast, straighten. As you can see above, a wonky picture became straight by using the tools available on this app.
I have recorded a quick and dirty video which you can see here of how I edited this particular image.
Another favourite app of mine is the Photoshop Fix app. The healing tools have been my lifesaver over the years. Editing out little imperfections such as a wire or like the satellite dish that was ruining the shot above, I don’t know how it does it but it is magic! And is done all on your phone using your finger and a gentle touch - perfect for on the go editing.
5. Working with Brands
And finally, the last thing I want to talk about is working with brands. As your Instagram grows, it may be an ambition of yours to work with brands and style up some product. When first starting out I would always recommend collaborating on a gifting basis which is where the brand will gift you an item in exchange for you photographing and posting it on your grid. This could be a cushion or a candle, a dress or some food - just make sure it is relevant to your style and ethos. In the early days, it was all about learning and gaining experience. My first ever collaboration was a cushion that was very kindly gifted by Happy & Co.
I spent hours on this photo, trying the cushion in all different positions, bringing in props and trying to coax the cat to pose perfectly alongside it! The final image is pretty ropey but it gained me so much knowledge. How to communicate with brands, how to slot the #ad into my grid, how to sound genuine and not sales pitchy. Over the years I’ve done many gifting collaborations and the one piece of advice everyone always says is “only do it if you like the brand, like the item and feel like it represents you.” It is 100% true. Remember what I said about people invest in people? Well if you’re trying to preach about a loo roll holder when your account is all about travel, you are not only confusing your following, you are being untrue to your page. And people can spot non genuine posts a mile off.
As you get bigger and grow, it might be time to consider your worth for working with brands. Especially bigger brands. Shots like this Flower Lounge image above took a full day to set up and plan. This is precious time for me especially working full time. I know I have to allocate hours to this project, hours I could be spending relaxing or spending time with friends. Luckily I love doing it but it doesn’t mean my time is free. Knowing your worth is really important and don’t be afraid to agree a payment if you want. There is a lot of negativity around Influencers and Instagram but it is a highly valuable tool for brands. If there were advertising in a magazine they would pay a fortune for ad space. This is exactly the same on Instagram - it’s ad space and it shouldn’t be something to be mocked.
6. Over To You
If you have made it through to the end of this post then well done you! And thank you! Thank you to everyone who takes the time to read my blog, follow my Instagram, comment on my posts and likes the images. It really means a lot! And I wish you all the luck if you are trying to grow and find your niche in the Instagram community! Give me a hello on there and I will be sure to follow and support!