Around this time last year I was working furiously behind the scenes to get Blue Jay of Happiness ready to launch on January 1st. At that point I knew I wanted to return to Twitter (I was an early adopter but hadn’t been active there in a few years) and I wanted to put some actual effort into my Instagram account.
Back then I was using Instagram as many people do, to share personal pictures using pretty filters. I didn’t use hashtags, I didn’t have a theme, I didn’t style pictures.
Starting in January I tried my hand at styling pictures and posting daily, which lead to some panic-posting and, ahem, interesting images…
I had about 140 followers and was keen to see how putting an effort in would affect that number and the traffic to Blue Jay of Happiness. And I wanted to have some creative fun while I was at it.
Today I have 617 followers, I use hashtags, I have a ‘theme’, I style photos and I even plan my grid (I also say grid now).
These numbers and accomplishments aren’t huge, I know, BUT, Instagram is now my second biggest source of referral traffic to the blog. It’s where I’ve discovered blogs, podcasts and dare I say it, found my people. I found body positivity here. I rekindled my passion for photography and refuelled my creativity.
I’ve been vulnerable. Fought back tears on my stories to talk about anxiety symptoms. I’ve become comfortable talking to the camera. And I hope, I’ve connected with people.
So despite the odd eye roll from those around me for being on Instagram too much or sharing every moment on stories, I’m pleased with how I’m using it and am gaining a huge amount from this little app.
Today, I wanted to share some of my personal favourite props, tools and resources, just in case you’re also on a mission to improve your instagram. You may well have already read about these, but if you haven’t, I hope they’re helpful.
If you follow me you’ll probably recognise a lot of these tried and tested props/subjects:
- Fairy lights (hold them up, wrap them around something, use them in a flatlay)
- Hands (add a human element to a flatlay, add some movement to a static image, hold something)
- Coffee (use a pretty mug, tell a story of your day, make something abstract)
- Flowers, leaves, nature (add some colour, play with petals, make a fun portrait, add them to inanimate objects)
- Cats (because, well, cats)
- Yourself (make shadows, take a faceless portrait, get comfortable with yourself)
- Books/magazines (discuss what you’re reading, start a conversation)
- Light (capture golden hour, make shadows, make your own light)
- Stats (If you have a business facebook page, turn your instagram to a business account to get stats and see what performs well)
- Mosaico (I use this to plan out my grid to ensure it flows nicely)
- Afterlight (this is my editing app of choice, other popular ones are VSCO and Snapseed)
- Lumyer (a recent discovery where you can add moving effects to images)
- Hootsuite (I use this to schedule my blog-related Instagram posts, the rest I do manually)
- A tripod (I got this one for my iPhone, but want one for my ‘proper’ camera next year)
- A remote (I got this one for my iPhone)
- Anything/everything Sara Tasker has to offer (including her courses, blog and podcast)
- Dominique from All that is she’s blog and newsletter
- Barbora from Herinternest’s newsletter and instagram stories
- Make Light website and hashtag tool
- Pinterest! I always go here to get inspired
I’m certainly not an Instagram expert, I don’t have a lot of followers – but the following I do have is engaged. They join conversations, click onto my blog and (I think) care what I have to say. So here are a few general tips that have served me well so far:
Find your style (Sarah Ferguson wrote a great post on this). Experiment, see what images you are drawn to, see what your followers respond to.
Be consistent. Once you feel you’ve found your ‘style’ (for me it’s warm, neutral tones, playing with light and simplicity), try to be consistent with it. Find an editing style you like, use a similar colour pallet, plan your grid, be consistent with your posting times and keep quality at a certain level (better to skip a day than panic-post something you don’t love).
Engage. Instagram is a community – you have to engage with it if you want people to engage with you. Try spending some time before and after you post engaging with your followers, exploring hashtags, commenting, liking and connecting. Avoid superficial comments (‘Great shot!’) these will look spammy. Take the time to write a genuine comment.
Be engaging. If you post a picture of your coffee and caption it with ‘Mondays’, it’s unlikely people will want to comment. Tell people about your day, tell a story, ask questions. Use your captions to enhance your image and connect. Reply to comments, have conversations. This will encourage people to come back.
Have a go at stories. This is a great way to stay in touch with your followers when you’re not posting a picture. It allows them to get to know you better and you can be less ‘styled’ over there – show your personality, and your vulnerability.
Save images you like. Use the save function for images that blow you away and come back to them when you need a little inspiration. You don’t have to copy the image, but maybe write down what you like about it, then do your own spin on it. This is helpful when starting out if you’re struggling for ideas.
I could probably go on, but we’re heading towards the 1000 word count, so I’ll stop! Let me know if you found this helpful and if you would like more Instagram related posts here.
Hope you’re all having a thoroughly festive Christmas eve and that you have a brilliant day tomorrow. There’ll be a new post on the 27th about finding calm, so come back if you’re feeling in need of a little break from the Christmas madness!
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