Long time bloggers know the story all too well: blogging was once basically a way to make your journal public, and everyone had fun uploading amateur photographs and spewing out feelings whenever they pleased (no blog schedule or editorial calendar here!). Then blogging became cool and people made money off of it, and it became more job than hobby, and things got real curated and a bit inauthentic for awhile there. THEN, readers got annoyed that these successful bloggers had gone from authentic to insincere. Since readers are what keeps a blog relevant, bloggers decided to start being more transparent. And here we are – even the big bloggers are making an effort to stay true to their voice. Whew!
I see the same thing happening with Instagram. 2016 will be big for authenticity. 2015 got a little too curated, and people are frustrated by the fact that they can’t post an authentic photo without feeling like their career in social media is on the line. Not to mention that Instagram is owned by Facebook, and we’re starting to see the effects of it as an advertising tool. The last thing a blogger should strive for is their photo looking all too similar to the watch and denim ads their fans are already scrolling past. It’s a delicate balance, having a beautiful feed but an authentic one, and by now we all know the reasons why. Life isn’t always as beautiful as we make it seem, yet we all love to see pretty things. So we want to keep seeing and posting pretty things, but we want to keep it real. I do believe this delicate balance can be achieved. When I see accounts that are getting it right, here’s what they’re doing, and how to do it yourself.
Be intentional (but not obsessive) about curation
Curation is very important on Instagram, just like on Pinterest. That’s why when I wrote about VSCO Cam, I recommended not getting too carried away with filters. Similarly to branding your business, you don’t want to be switching things up so often that people don’t recognize you or get confused. And if you also use Insta to promote your blog or biz, you don’t want to come off as unprofessional because you get way too personal. For those reasons, and just because people love a great aesthetic, curation is key. I think if you get obsessive over it, however, you’ll stunt your own creativity. I think this about every form of creative expression, too! You’ll get in your own head and things will start to seem too formulaic. Don’t take your photos, filters, and captions so seriously that you leave your personality behind.
Post it + Leave it Alone
Here’s something that’s going to seem suuuuper crazy to anyone who doesn’t Instagram much. Many Instagrammers will often post a photo, and within a split second they know whether they like it or hate how it looks in their feeds. They don’t even bother with the caption until they know. Then they delete it anyway and repost with a well thought out caption if it passes the test. To some degree you have to do tricks like this if you want to make sure your photos are consistent and curated. However, if authenticity is important to you, post and leave it up for a bit longer. It keeps you from becoming over analyzing this one photo. The idea of taking a break from your work and coming back to it later is even true on social media, and is insanely helpful!
Take cues from blogging
The rules of genuine connection on Instagram are similar to those with blogging. When someone comments, be polite and respond to their comment. If they often comment or like your photos, check out their feed. Follow if you like them, but not because you want follows. Comment if something strikes you, but don’t leave the same comment on 50 profiles just to say you did (as spammy on Instagram as blogging!) And never, ever follow people just so you can unfollow them after they’ve followed you back. It’s just good etiquette :)
Utilize hashtags correctly
Last year we posted a big roundup of our favorite hashtags to grow your blog on Instagram. It gained a lot of traction and resonated with people. We started seeing our Instagram friends using the hashtags we suggested, but a lot of them weren’t using them quite right, which I should have explained better. To be using them correctly, you need to only stick with the ones relevant to you. In other words, don’t just copy and paste our list to each of your captions. Why? Because many of those hashtags are community based, meaning by using them you’re joining a community. For example, we created #TBMworkspace so we could share photos of our styled workspaces with everyone. If people start posting their own workspaces, it’ll become a community where we can all get inspired by another blogger’s space. Can you also tag photos of your dog or selfies as #TBMworkspace? You totally can, but you won’t be reaching people who want to see dogs and selfies, only people who want to see desks and notebooks!
Whew, longest post ever over! Any thoughts? You can follow us on Instagram, and our personal accounts here + here.