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7 Tips to Rock Instagram

I’m a newcomer to Instagram, but my friend and fellow blogger DeBalino is rocking it. So I asked her to cover I is for Instagram in this series for me. Here’s what she has to say about making it big on this social media platform.

7 tips to rock Instagram (ABCs of Blogging) - lady taking picture with her smartphone

The influence and power that Instagram carries in the social media circuit was something I was not fully aware of until I worked the first of many kid’s fashion week events in New York. Being new to the city, it was to be expected for our family of wide-eyed Californians to experience a good dose of culture shock. However, within minutes of arriving amidst the crowd of press, attendees, micro fashionistas, and models, Little Mama, who was shy of two years, was spotted multiple times by friendly strangers claiming they knew her. I mean REALLY knew her.

Oh, I know what you’re thinking. Creepy… But don’t be startled. They kindly approached both my husband and I before interacting with my otherwise confused toddler. At first, I thought this was some kind of initiation planned meticulously by the welcoming committee directed at influencers and stylists, such as myself.

By the time we had already done a good handful of requested selfies with some strangers, I realized… this wasn’t some friendly gesture by the welcoming committee. These people actually recognized my little monkey and her mama via the wonderful and intricate world of the interwebs! Instagram put our name on the map, and within minutes, we were hugging fellow stylists, brands, and fabulous mamas while making insta plans for live coffee dates.

Who would have thought Instagram would lead to Insta-friends!

I have a lot to learn and even more to implement into my Instagram platform; however, I am thrilled to share with you what helped me increase my IG exposure and led me to a few surprising moments of pseudo insta-fame all across the other side of the country. Instagram really is a powerful tool, and if you are not on it… stop what you’re doing and join the rest of us Insta-crazed users!

To help get started, here are some my top 7 tips for rocking Instagram:

1. Who Are You?

It always amazes me how many incomplete profiles are widespread across social platforms. I am no exception to this. When I first decided to take my account to another level, I realized that what I was missing first and foremost was the most basic detail.

I had none.

I merely included my account name, a generic photo that I figured was too small to notice, a startling amount of whitespace in my description area, and an embarrassing rendition of emoticons that even my 12-year-old niece would shake her head at (apparently, I am nowhere near hip enough to use them). Everything needed a good face lift, including my account name. I had to ask myself a very simple question: do I use my “real” name on the account, or do I use my brand?

This is determined by what you want your readers to know about you. Do you want them to have a more personal connection with you or does your business name play a bigger role when it comes to your personal brand identity?

Funny story—those wonderful folks that approached us in New York kept referring to  me as “De,” giving me cheek to cheek kisses like I was some faboosh socialite, and my little one was simply tagged as, “babyStylista.” I mean, she was the baby between the two of us, after all. And I gotta say, she’s got the style thing down pretty goot. So I guess they weren’t too far off.

In any event, it made my decision pretty clear. For me, I found that my name was secondary to my already established brand name, but it was still important for my followers to know they were following an individual, not a business. I wanted to include both. So I chose to leave my account as my already-exposed brand name (babyStylista), and my username as my personal name (DeBalino…. Oh and I know what you’re thinking: who does this mono-named lady think she is—Madonna? Prince? And to answer your question… I sure do <insert pompous emoticon here>).

You need to determine how you want your readers to find you—as YOU, or as your brand? One thing you need to ensure is that your account name is consistent to the profile names of your other social media platforms. Avoiding confusion is equally important. In my case, I am pretty much “De” across the board—and well… I’m okay with that.

Blogger and Stylist DeBalino on Instagram

Editing your profile is key. In the limited amount of characters, you have to explain who you are, what you like, and what you can do for your readers. Do you have a blog? Are you an author of a book? Are you the owner of a shop? Include the link, and position yourself in such a way that your readers will want to click on your profile link at some point during their visit on your account.

Keep things short, light, and let it reflect the awesome that is you, in the best way you can. And don’t forget a call to action. Give them a reason to click on your link and get to know more of you.

2. Consistency

Now that you have determined who you are, think about what represents you and your brand in the best way possible. Do you have an existing color motif that you want to keep consistent among all social networks? Do you have a favorite overall mood palette? What reflects your personality? What interests YOU?

Consider two elements when posting each of your photos. How does it look to your existing audience? And how will it look at a glance among your other photos on your profile page for a prospective follower?

A rule of thumb to remember when adding photos to your page is that, if your name and profile image weren’t visible, would your existing follower know this was your account? For me—I have a really interesting 4-year-old, but I can bet my bottom dollar there are millions of other really interesting 4-year-olds on Instagram.

I like to be clear and specific with my photos. She’s always enjoying a particular moment, usually right in the middle of monkey business.My photos are more bright and bold with a whole lot of saturation, movement, and fun. Basically, my photos reflect the very essence of my daughter—bright, bold, and loud I mean, very hard to miss and definitely fun. Our photos therefore, reflect our overall brand. Play with positioning, do some close ups, throw in some pops of color, but in general—keep consistent.

3. Looks (and Quality) Do Matter on Instagram

I have a confession. I don’t want you to see my first 100 photos. Make that my first 1000.

For the most part, I didn’t pay attention to lighting, temperature, clarity, and overall mood of the photo. I simply took the photo and without much thought, uploaded it on to my account. I mean, it is called “insta” after all! However, that is simply not the way to do it in the Instagram world.

With all the apps made readily available, literally at our fingertips, quality is key. Sure, we’re not all photographers with a natural knack for placement, or have the innate ability to find just the right light to delicately wash through the image without actually making it look washed out. But we just have to know a couple simple rules: If it’s dark to you, it’s probably going to be too dark for the person who wasn’t actually there.

No one likes grainy, fuzzy shots. They actually give me a slight headache. And no one likes a photo that makes you feel like you’re walking into the middle of a conversation that the other person is having without you. Be clear. Use as much natural light or non-harsh lighting you can muster up in an insta-flash. Make it look good.

If you’re not one of the lucky ones with cathedral ceilings, and walls made of windows, or have a home oozing with flawless, crayon-mark-free ivory furniture (all NOT me, FYI), there are ways to get around those minor technicalities. Your smart phones are called smart phones for a reason. It’s time to use them!

Here are some fun editing considerations to make your pretty mug look even prettier:

  • Image editing apps such as Pic Tap Go and Afterlight are my go-to. There are also very user-friendly, not-so-basic editing tools made available on the photo app of your smart phone. Finally, the actual Instagram app itself has oodles of fun filters to play with.
  • To say or not to say—that is the question. Should you overlay clever text or an attention-grabbing title on your photo? Ask yourself, does it add to the story you’re trying to tell or does it make it look a little spammy?
  • Full image photos vs. montage. Variation doesn’t hurt, but too many multi photo layouts may appear busy. Once again, look at the photo as a part of your whole profile. If you take a snapshot of your profile page, are there images within multiple montages that make your profile page look too cluttered? Always opt for a more minimal effect. Less is more.

4. Engage, Engage, Engage

I love the reciprocal mantra of giving love to get love. It’s especially true in the world of Instagram. It’s not just about doing it for the favor returned, however. In fact, it’s about actually interacting and having a conversation with your followers.

“Like” photos you actually dig, leave comments where appropriate, and if a comment on your photo calls for further interaction, by all means, join in! You don’t have to respond to every “Love it!” comment, but a genuine response to a valid question or a detailed comment is always a good thing. No one likes being ignored. So answer those questions.

Make time to insta-socialize, and definitely pop into your newsfeed as often as you post and give love to others. You’ll be a name that pops up as active, and your photos and overall brand will leave a lasting impression with your built-in attentive audience. The trick is to keep them attentive.

And be kind. Please be kind. I have made some of the greatest online friendships on Instagram. Life isn’t always as perfect as the image one captures. We all have stories to tell—some sad, some shocking, some down right damaging. Be kind. We all want to be heard, and we all want a safe place to express ourselves. Who knows, one day you’ll post a photo that defines heartache for you, and all it took was a simple hug emoticon to know you were supported from a million miles away.

5.  Give Them What They Want

Know your followers. What do they want to see? Look at their behaviors on their own accounts and their interaction with others. I am by no means encouraging online trolling, but if you want the results, it’s worth doing the research (check out your followers’ likes and comments on the activity tab in your notification screen).

Do they like color? Do they prefer scenery shots over photos of your baby attacking a bowl of spaghetti? Do they like minimal layouts? Do they prefer over exposed photos? Low contrasts?

See how they react to the quality of photos you put up. Do they tend to respond to giveaways? If so, round up some of your fellow IG buds and post a cool loop giveaway.

Of course, we can’t make everyone happy—that would be pretty tough. But you will see that there is an overall theme that appeals to your audience. Give them what they want while maintaining who you are.

6. Time is not Necessarily of the Essence

I have yet to find the exact, perfect time to post. It’s somewhat of a science, and I’m more of a humanities kinda gal. The issue for me is… how can I ensure that all my followers are picking up their smart phones and seeing what I post? It’s simply not plausible. Therefore, I like to post when “I” like to go on the phone.

Okay—I’m on my phone A LOT, so that’s rather broad… but when do YOU like to skim through your newsfeed? Last thing at night? As soon as you get up in the morning?

For me, that’s when I look at incoming messages. I am far too sleepy to write quality responses, or put up remarkable posts, much less actually open an app and engage. By the time breakfast is set for the family, and we have completed all of our morning routines, it’s more likely that I will find myself more alert and energized to interact on Instagram. I will also feel less guilty about abandoning my responsibilities as mommy, to put up a manicured photo of my daughter jumping on a trampoline in her cutest pair of chinos.

Find that time that works with YOU, because at the end of the day, you are engaging with like-minded folks. Chances are, they are feeling your schedule too.

7. Plan Ahead

In my world of fashion, being on the west coast means I have to accommodate to my east coast counterparts. That means, early morning check-ins, comments, and responses are important in keeping up with my friends. It’s a small sacrifice to make, but it sure is worth it. Let’s revisit the previous point where my mornings are pretty much useless as far as brain function and creativity are concerned. Could I possibly come up with good content that early in the morning?

Well guess what, my friends… there’s an app for that.

I like to use Hootsuite for scheduling my already completed posts. At the time you wish to schedule, you simply copy it onto Instagram (it actually does it for you, hooray! The less I have to think in the morning, the better) and voila—it’s ready to post.

This is a game changer for me because I sometimes have moments of inspiration late at night when most of my followers and friends are well into their 4th REM of sleep. It’s always fun to have candid convos with my Aussie and Asian friends across the seas, however—but they too, wonder… what is babyStylista doing up this late on Instagram? In any event, having a scheduler is awesome and helps keep posts ready on the queue, so with one insta-push of a button, your post is ready for the world to see.

Hope you enjoyed these simple tips for Instagram. Come play with us as I continue to find little gems that I always love sharing with our readers!

Let’s be Insta-friends!

ABCs of Blogging

About DeBalino: I have a lot to say, so I write. I adore kids, so I had one. I’m obsessed with fashion, so I style. I am a Stylist by day :: Blogger by night :: Mama 24/7. Come join our party and see how we come up with ideas outside of the dress up box, share micro fashion tips, parenting hacks, family life, and killer giveaways at www.BABYSTYLISTA.com. And yes—I dress my dogs.

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