If you are a fashion and lifestyle blogger, chances are that you know that the pressure to perform well on Instagram can be stressful at times. In many cases, Instagram has a heavy influence on whether or not a brand wants to work with your blog, or even how much income you will make in a month.
Figuring out how to successfully navigate and conquer the waters of this powerful social media platform can on a good day seem daunting, and on a bad day, seem down right impossible.
Do Any of These Sound Like You?
"Instagram is like the Pandora's box of social media... I can't seem to figure out the secret!"
"If I have to think about having to take another Instagram photo today I'm going to quite literally lose my sh**."
"How am I supposed to build my blogging empire when I'm only getting like- three followers a day?"
Yeah, I feel you sister. I've been there once before too.
So Why Focus On Instagram Then?
Pinterest drives traffic.
Twitter builds a community.
Facebook creates engagement.
And better yet? Instagram will do all three when used correctly.
Instagram is a powerful tool that can be used to build and curate an audience of potential blog readers. When your followers see your face everyday via snap shots of your life, it builds trust and strengthens your brand recognition within your audience.
Let's break down your new Instagram strategy into the basics shall we?
One last thing before we dive in. Make sure to download your FREE 10+ page Instagram workbook that accompanies this blog post. Click on the button below to get your copy!
Get your Instagram workbook for life + style bloggers
The Basic Principles
1 | Followers Aren't Everything
Everyone seems to place the utmost importance on the number of followers that you have. While yes, followers are important, having an engaged following needs to be the priority. I see so many life and style bloggers with crazy high follower counts (think 50-100k and up) that have very little engagement for the amount of people that their content is exposed to.
Yes that 103k looks pretty impressive, but if no one really cares about what you're posting what good does it do?
Brands want to see engaged viewers that are actively commenting and participating in the community that you have created with your feed.
2 | Get Engaged
Engaged followers are more likely to buy from any brands that you are promoting, click on your affiliate links, head over to your blog to read more of your content, and most importantly, keep coming back for more.
For this reason, I would strongly recommend against building the majority of your Instagram following using giveaways and other "quick fix" methods. A little of this is okay, but you can really hurt your brand in the long run if you predominantly rely on building your followers with disengaged followers received from giveaways. More on giveaways a little later!
3 | Consistency Is Key
Posting consistently is more important than ever with the recent algorithm change. If you are posting more frequently (think at least 1-2 times a day) Instagram is going to show your content to more people. When your content is shown to more people, Instagram can see that it is enjoyed by your followers and other users, and will then in turn show it to even more people. Funny how that works...
If the thought of coming up with engaging content to post twice a day makes you want to curl up in a ball, then hang in there.
The solution is coming, i.e. keep reading lady!
4 | You Get What You Give
This last principle is a simple one. You get what you give with Instagram. Yes, there are definitely strategies to speed the growth process up, but as a general rule of thumb, you get what you put in when it comes to Instagram. You can't expect dozens of people to follow you everyday if you aren't engaging with your followers and other new users that aren't familiar with you yet.
Be friendly and engaging. Like a few photos, comment something meaningful, etc.
It's all about the romance. Yes, even on social media.
Quick Note - Please do NOT be like the lazy people that comment generic one word comments looking for a follow. "Beautiful" and "Nice top!" do not count as engaging comments ladies.
*steps off of soap box*
How To Target Brands With Your Content
While all bloggers may not choose to work with brands, doing so can reap many benefits such as:
- Direct exposure to the brand's potentially large and influential social media following
- Compensation via products and fees
- Increased exposure to other brands (leading to more opportunities in the future).
As the blogging industry continues to grow, brands are becoming more selective with the bloggers that they choose to work with.
When it comes to Instagram, they are looking for someone with an engaged following that fits into their ideal customer model, consistently professional content that is posted frequently, and aesthetics that match the look and feel of their brand.
This might sound like a lot to take into consideration. However, never fear, content strategy planning here!
Let's do this ladies.
Choosing the Brands
First things first. Before we get into the logistics of optimizing your content for certain brands, we need to figure out which brands best fit into your brand, website, and content. Make sure to remain true to your blog's content and avoid targeting brands just because they are large and influential.
For example, Home Depot is probably not the best fit for your website if your blog is predominantly fashion focused.
When choosing the brands that you can see yourself working with in the future, consider the brands that you already use on a daily basis. Which products and brands can you see naturally fitting into your everyday lifestyle?
Promoting brands that you already use daily will make for an organic campaign that rings true to your audience.
Make Your Brand "Bucket List"
Start by making a list of all of the big brands that would essentially make you wee your pants with excitement if they ever came knocking. I know that's dramatic, but imagine Nordstrom ringing your door bell with free clothes and a social media promotional campaign... Exactly.
Next make a list of all of the mid-level and smaller brands that you would also love to work with. Use the space next to each brand to jot down a few collaboration ideas that might interest them. Note: Consider separating this list into local v. non-local. Local brands will entail different types of collaborations and interactions (meet ups, brand events, in person meetings, etc.)
It is important to have a clear focus on both the top level brands that you would love to work with in the future, as well as the more attainable ones that you can work with a bit sooner. This helps to keep your blog and social media content aligned with the companies that you are targeting in the present and future.
Quick Note - I am in no way suggesting tailoring all of your content to brands just so that you can work with them in the future. Please stay true to your own message and content that makes your blog uniquely yours (brands prefer that anyway, I promise). These are just tips and strategies to help to grab their attention with your unique content.
Creating Content That Resonates With a Brand
Refer to your lists that you created above, and look at what some of these brands are about. I strongly encourage you to make notes for each brand that you wanting to work with in the note section.
Are they predominantly fashion based companies, or do they fall more into the lifestyle vertical?
What kind of personality would their ideal customer have? What are some habits and activities that they might enjoy?
Do they use bright, bold colors on their social media accounts or do they opt for darker, moodier colors?
Do they re-post customer photos on their Instagram, or do they exclusively post their own photos?
Are there any relevant hashtags that they use frequently?
These are some examples from Lisi Lerch's Instagram account, a preppy jewelry company. As you can see, they feature bright colors and happy patterns on their feed. They often re-post styled photos of bloggers featuring their pieces.
If you are a preppy fashion and lifestyle blogger that loves bright colors, this brand might be a great fit for you! Pay attention to the aesthetics of each brand in order to determine if it is a good fit for you or not.
Take the notes that you have taken for each brand and keep them in mind when you are creating future blog and Instagram content.
You want your Instagram feed to tell a story of a sort about what you and your blog represent. What story would best resonate with each brand that you have selected? Try to find a common ground with several brands and focus on gearing your content toward their ideal customer. More on content creation later!
In the meantime, have you downloaded your FREE 10-page Instagram workbook yet?
Get your Instagram workbook for life + style bloggers.
Choosing Your Instagram Theme
What Is An Instagram Theme?
An Instagram theme is a general set of design rules that create the overall look and feel of your Instagram feed. For example, a few design rules for the theme that I have included below might be:
1. Use the *insert filter name here* filter on all photos
2. Boost the contrast in all photos
3. Only include photos with predominantly white backgrounds
4. Post a quote every four pictures
Those were just some examples of design rules that this Instagram account might follow. While every photo that you post doesn't have to strictly follow every one of your design rules, it needs to visually work with the rest of your feed.
Why Do I Need An Instagram Theme?
If you are a blogger, you don't NEED an Instagram theme to function, however, I would highly recommend looking into them. Not only do Instagram themes look professional, they can make your feed more appealing to specific brands with a similar aesthetic.
Dark With Contrast
If you notice in @caitlinbea 's Instagram theme, she sticks to a muted color palette featuring greys, blacks, and other dusty colors. There seems to be a grey tint over all of her photos. While I am not sure of her exact editing process, I would guess that she boosts the contrast, decreases saturation a bit, and then applies a grey tinted vignetting filter over the finished picture.
This theme would work well for you if you are not a huge fan of bright colors. Caitlin typically wears darker colors, so this theme works well with her existing life style and wardrobe.
Warm and Rustic
This warmer Instagram theme also stays true to blogger @besspearson 's style. I like that she still incorporates colorful objects into her feed even though she uses a darker filter over her photos. While the filter is still similar to @caitlinbea 's filter above, Bess uses nature scenes and subject matter to warm up her feed.
Bold and Colorful
I love that this Instagram feed is so bold and colorful. The bright colors fit @lonestarsouthern 's personality perfectly! While she doesn't seem to use a filter over her photos, each picture has enhanced highlights and saturated colors.
Soft and Pale
This soft feminine look de-saturates the colors in each photo and adds a hazy glow. This soft theme works perfectly with @marissalace 's shabby chic apartment and boho wardrobe. PS. If you haven't watched any of Marissa's Youtube videos you are seriously missing out. I LOVE her.
If you haven't downloaded your printable 8-page workbook, get to it lady! These are the same planning sheets that I designed and use for myself so I know that you will love them.
Create Your Own
Don't feel the need to pick just one of these Instagram themes to use as your own. Mix it up and experiment with different toning and filters until you find the combination that you like! For your photo shooting convenience I have included my favorite apps and tools that I LOVE:
If you don't get any other app, get this one. Similar to Adobe Lightroom, this app allows you to edit the toning (saturation, highlights, exposure, etc.) of different PARTS of the photo instead of the whole thing like with other apps. Want to boost the exposure of just your face and not the rest of the photo? This app is your girl.
Another photo editing app that has a lot of neat filters that I enjoy. While I don't personally use this app that often (i'm not a big filter girl) I know that a lot of Instagrammers love it!
White Foam Board
This inexpensive tool is PERFECT for taking those iconic Instagram layouts shots. Foam board is sturdy and makes for the perfect white background! You can purchase a piece of this board for about $5 from your local craft store.
Making Money With Instagram
Many life and style bloggers, in addition to securing paid brand partnerships through Instagram, monetize their feed with Reward Style's Instagram affiliate program Liketoknow.it.
If you are unfamiliar with what this program is, it is a service that allows your readers to shop the products and items that you feature in your Instagram photos by signing up for the program, liking your photos, and receiving the direct product links straight to their inbox.
You as a blogger, will receive a commission if your reader clicks through the link that was sent to them and decides to purchase products through your source.
Related Post: 10 Ways to Boost Your RewardStyle Sales
The amount of money that you can make through this powerful affiliate program is all dependent on the amount of followers that are liking, signing up for, and viewing your content. I know many bloggers with large followings that make a sizable portion of their income from Instagram affiliate programs alone.
For this reason, if you are new to blogging or are an existing blogger ready to take your own brand to the next level, it is important to have a strategic plan when curating content for your feed.
Sponsored Instagram Posts
The second way to monetize your Instagram feed is through direct brand sponsorships.. Many bloggers, in addition to affiliate marketing, will accept compensation in exchange for posting a sponsored image that meets the brand's specifications. The amount of compensation that you receive is dependent on the number of followers that you have as well as how engaged and responsive your audience is.
This ties back into why it is so important to have an ENGAGED following, not just a large one. Brands will pay close attention to the amount of likes and comments each photo is receiving.
Get your Instagram workbook for life + style bloggers.
Content Planning Like a Pro
Now that you have selected an aesthetic that you want to stick to with your Instagram feed, you can now begin creating content. However, before I begin actually styling and shooting photos, I like to work off of an inspiration file to get the creative juices flowing.
I have a secret board on Pinterest that I use to collect some of my favorite shots that I have seen on Instagram. I browse through this board before I shoot to get ideas for my own content.
To do this, all you need to do is create a Pinterest account, make a board, set the visibility to "secret," and pin away!
I also like to have separate secret boards for specific seasonal content such as spring or Christmas. This helps me to stay organized and always have fresh content for each holiday and seasonal change.
Shoot Instagram Photos In Large Sessions
It is hard to always have content to post if you are only shooting one to two photos a "session." Shoot several photos every day? Um no. I basically live in yoga pants so shooting an "outfit of the day" just isn't going to work without planning most of the time.
Who's with me?
My solution? Shoot your photos in large sessions. Use my handy dandy worksheet that you can download here to plan your Instagram shoots. I usually shoot once a week and get at LEAST enough photos for the upcoming week.
Set a time limit for each shoot so that they don't stretch on for hours. I am such a perfectionist and I can easily spend half an hour on one photo. Yikes. Working with a time limit lights the fire under your well toned rear and will increase your productivity.
Make a list of all of the shots that you want to get and the supplies that you need to create them. Do you need to have your nails done? Do you need any special props like flowers or a Starbucks latte? (#werebasicbitches #itsfine)
Collect everything that you need ahead of time to make shooting easier.
Make sure and download the printable workbook that you can use to follow along with this post.
Identify Your Content Focus For The Month
Be mindful of any holidays or events that are happening each month. For example, is it the first month of spring? Did a brand just launch their new winter collection? Is there a huge sale happening that you can capitalize on such as the Nordstrom semi annual sale? Staying aware of the events that are happening allows you to better tailor your content to your audience and what they want to see.
Post Your Instagram Photos at Strategic Times
Stop what you are doing right now and go sign up for Iconosquare. This amazing tool is only $5 a month and invaluable to boosting your engagement and follower growth. Iconosquare is an analytics system that tracks all of your Instagram activity and growth. This baby does it all, follower growth, hashtag performance, you name it! My favorite feature of Iconosquare however, is the audience tracker tool that allows you to see when your audience is most active on Instagram and your individual feed.
This feature allows you to post at the optimal time every day for maximum engagement, likes, and exposure. Here is an example of someone's audience activity separated by day of the week:
The Bottom Line - When you post at strategic times each day, you are optimizing your post for the maximum amount of views, likes, and comments. Do it.
Boost Your Engagement and Get More Instagram Followers
While there is no quick fix solution to gaining Instagram followers, there are several strategies, that when utilized, can be very effective in building your following.
First and foremost, you need to focus on hanging out in the right places on Instagram.
Finding the Right Hashtags
It is important that you are not only hash tagging your photos with the right tags, but that you are actively commenting and interacting with Instagrammers using the same hashtags.
Hashtags are great tools to find where your potential followers are hanging out.
Find like minded individuals using the same hashtag as you. Begin interacting with them and liking a few of their photos, and do the same with some of their followers. Chances are if their audience likes this Instagrammer in your niche, they will like you as well and potentially follow you.
Sarah from Venus Trapped In Mars wrote one of the best articles that I have found for using hashtags to increase your likes and followers. She includes an extensive list of active hashtags that fashion and life style bloggers can tag their photos with.
Becoming a Social Butterfly
As I mentioned before, it is important to get yourself in front of the right audience, but it is even more important to actively interact with them. I used to be so guilty of mindlessly scrolling through my feed and only liking the occasional photo.
When I made it a habit to no longer just like a photo but to like AND comment on each one, I really started to see a difference with the number of followers that I was receiving.
Host a Giveaway
Hosting a giveaway can be a highly effective way to obtain followers. I find that it is best to team up with at least one other blogger when doing so, in order to maximize your audience reach.
The trick is to give away a prize that would specifically appeal to your target audience, not everyone and their mom. You want to maximize your chances of having these giveaway followers stick around after the giveaway has ended by targeting your ideal followers in the first place.
Unfollows are to be expected, but you want to hang on to as many engaged followers as you can since that is the main purpose of hosting a giveaway.
While simple giveaways teaming up with two or three other bloggers can be immensely effective, I don't recommend participating in the loop giveaways that involve upwards of 10 or more bloggers. In my humble opinion, loop giveaways can come across as spammy and frankly, desperate. More importantly, loop giveaways won't provide you with engaged followers. They are simply there for the metaphorical free food and booze.
Grab your Instagram workbook for life + style bloggers.
I know that this novel length post was a lot to take in, but these strategies will really work for you! Make sure to download the 10-page workbook that accompanies this post by clicking the link above and take your Instagram game to the next level.
Let me know in the comments below if you already use some of the strategies that I mentioned above. If so, how have they worked for you so far?