I've been feeling a little sentimental lately. I don't know if it's the holidays approaching or the change of the seasons, but I've been reflecting a lot about where I was this time last year and where I'm at right now. And it hit me the other day that I started my business account on instagram just a little over year ago. I had just decided that etsy was something I wanted to commit all my time to and had stumbled across several very successful shops in my field, and I was all sorts of fired up about all the magical possibilities that running my own shop held. So I just went for it. I started a new account, shared a little photo from my shop, left a caption where I was up front that I had no idea what I was doing but that people were welcome to follow me along on my journey anyway, and then I followed any and all etsy shops that loved to work with yarn like I do.
I did study other successful instagram accounts for inspiration, but it mostly was just me winging it everyday. (Bah ha ha let's get real, I'm pretty much always winging it everyday.) I would just sort of randomly snap photos at any time of the day if I thought what I was doing was worth sharing. I would try to find good light and good angles but definitely not as hard as I try now. I don't even know when I seriously started using hash tags. And I definitely never meant to grow a following. I was just having fun with things and sharing pictures that I thought were pretty and making friends along the way.
Fast forward a year and holy crap you guys, I can't even believe how far I've come. This little shy wallflower that struggled with making friends in high school now has a little over 4,000 followers on instagram? Whaaaaat? Like is this even real life? I'm dreaming right? Where have all of you come from? But seriously, I am so happy and so flattered that ya'll are here following along in my story. It makes me feel special, like I have something worth sharing with the world, and I can't thank you all enough for giving me that.
So pretty much what I'm trying to say here is even though I still don't really know what I'm doing and I never really intended to get "big" on instagram, this social media platform is the freaking best and everyone (especially those who have a shop) should be using it. And I figured since it's officially been a year since I found one of my true loves in life, instagramming, and because I've got all these thoughts up inside my head that probably aren't that useful to the average person, I figured I'd share some super random tidbits of knowledge that I've gained after a year of being on instagram right here on my blog. You're welcome.
Disclaimer: Prepare for some serious rambling because I'm about to share any and all bits of advice that I can think of off the top of my head. It's about to get real up in here.
Without further ado, here's how I work on my instagram feed and some of the things I've learned this past year.
Post quality pictures.
People love to see bright crisp photos (which is perfect because those are my favorite kinds of pictures to take). I think I've read a few times that studies have shown that you have a better chance of getting more likes with pictures that contain a white background than a black. Don't get me wrong, you can totally rock at instagram by taking dark and sort of moody pictures if it's done right and that's the tone you're going for. I'm just saying that people typically respond to bright pictures vs dark.
Try to use natural lighting. I always try to take my instagram pictures between 10am and 12pm because that's when the light is best in my house. It's challenging because if I miss that window, I kind of miss out on taking a picture for the day because I believe in quality versus quantity.
But speaking of quantity, it is recommended you post at least once a day to engage your audience. I personally know that I gain a lot more followers on the days that I post a photo than on the days that I don't. And I've seen first hand ladies who post every single day grow their following twice as fast as I have. So be sure to post quality pictures, but if you're serious about gaining a following, you've got to try real hard to post everyday too. This is definitely something I've been working on, posting every single day, even weekends, and you know what? It is hard. I spend way more time than a human being probably should on instagram related tasks everyday. But it's okay because I love it and it's fun :)
I don't know if you've already seen my post where I admit that I take pictures with an actual camera rather than my phone (because that's how much of a crazy perfectionist I can be at times ha ha). After being disappointed in my photos for months and constantly fighting my phone, I came to the conclusion that I have a fancy schmancy camera that takes really good photos so why in the heck keep fighting with my phone? Plus that way I can edit everything on my huge computer screen and then plug in my phone and taa daa now the pictures are on my phone and I can post them to instagram. Also, I've been taking my level of craziness a step further lately and have been uploading the photos to the app VSCOcam and adding a little bit of a filter before I upload them to instagram. (Please don't judge me for doing all this just for an instagram photo. This is a safe place right?)
Think about every element in your pictures. It's already clear that I'm a crazy perfectionist from the paragraph above so it should come as no surprise that I worry about everything that it's actually in a picture. Does this blanket match that yarn okay? Would this white yarn show up on this cream colored background? Maybe I should use a brown one instead? Oh no this shirt looks weird with this butterscotch yarn, maybe I should change my shirt real quick just for the picture? (Sometimes my life feels a little silly with the things I worry about during the day ha ha). Plus I've been going for a more minimalistic look lately because for one I love simplicity, I think it's beautiful, and for two it's just so much easier to not have to worry about silly things like where to place my planner or notebook in a shot. It keeps my pictures from looking cluttered and keeps the focus on my work.
Consistency is key.
Take the same types of pictures so that you have a cohesive feed. I think you've got to just play around and work until you find your own rhythm but you're pictures should always have the same types of elements. I try real hard to always have either yarn or a crochet hook or knitting needle in each picture since that's what my business is, and I keep the pictures bright and clear. I'd love to be able to mix it up more and I've seen a lot of accounts that do this successfully, but I'm still finding my style. Sometimes I worry that my pictures are getting too repetitious but then sometimes I think maybe that's a good thing because maybe by me doing so, people can instantly recognize that it's me taking the picture even if only my hands or legs are in the shot. I've seen other successful instagram accounts do this and I think it's such a smart idea. There are a few that I can instantly tell who they are just based off of the type of photo taken.
Plus people clicked 'follow' on your account for a reason. They like the way your feed currently looks and those are the types of pictures they hope pop up on their feeds while they are checking their homepage everyday. Don't just take the exact same photo over and over and expect to get a ton of likes, I'm just saying if you find a style that works for you, go for it. I love taking high up above shots where I have to stretch my arm farther than human beings usually do. I love the look. So it's what I do. It's what I've done since the beginning. I mix it up by using different backgrounds, working on different kinds of pieces, how I position my legs, etc.
Also, sharing the process of how things are made typically gets way more likes than finished product photos. People love behind the scenes. They like to know that you are a real human being and they love to know how you do what you do. Share it. Share all of it. My community shares pictures of when they are yarn shopping, piles of yarn while they are sorting their new buys and putting it all away, when they get started on pieces, when they are finishing up pieces, them drinking their morning coffee while they are sitting at the computer and editing photos, their piles of packages they are about to send, mail run days, all of it. And I love it. I love getting to see a sneak peek into others lives and getting to know them on a more personal level. Doing this builds trust. It lets others know that you are a real person behind the screen and makes you seem more relatable.
Find your community.
Now it maybe seems a little backwards befriending your "competition" but in my experience, it's the absolute best thing ever. I started my instagram by looking at accounts that I found inspiring, following ladies that made me think, "Man that picture is absolutely stunning. What a great shot," or "I'd love to be that successful someday." And you guys, I seriously about died the day that those ladies started following me back. I remember thinking, "Oh my gosh. I did it. I made it into the cool kids club." My instagram community is filled with the most beautiful and kind hearted people I have ever met. They are my best cheer leaders and my best good friends.
In my experience, you gain the most by joining your community and making friends with those who share the same loves as you do. I don't think I'd use instagram as much if I didn't have the friends that I do on there.
Hashtags. Use them.
Now I still feel like a little old lady at heart sometimes and it took me the longest time to figure out what the heck hashtags were but I think it's so smart to use them. However, I have seen accounts grow without using hashtags or only using them sparingly so we've all got different tricks. I, and other shops similar to mine, probably spam way too many hashtags ha ha but I figure the more the better because I want my page to be found. I make sure to post all my hashtags in the comment section of each photo so that it's not as obvious that I use so many of them. But let's get real, I'm probably not fooling anyone. I think I'm going to take an honest look at narrowing down my hashtags one of these days but for now, I'm so scatter brained and busy that I have a massive list of hashtags saved in the notes section on my phone that I just copy and paste for every picture I take, just changing a few whether a project is knit or crochet.
Have fun with it.
I guess I do try in a sense to gain more followers, but I mostly post photos because for one I absolutely love photography and for two I just find it fun. I try real hard to not get too swept up in the game of "Why does she have more followers than me?" or "Why didn't this picture get as many likes?" and I know it's hard to not play that game sometimes. But I feel like I'm always the most successful when I just do it for me, not for anyone else. I just be myself and take pictures that I love the look of and post them and if I get likes, cool, if I get followers, cool, but if I don't, that's okay too. My world keeps spinning just the same. You just have to give up control because to a certain degree, you can't control who likes what you have to share. But all that really matters is that you like what you have to share. Just keep being yourself and doing what you love and I promise, you're going to be surprised by how much of a following you get by just being your unique self.
Don't take it all too seriously.
Wanna know when I'm feeling the most successful on my instagram? When I'm being myself. When I'm sharing whatever the heck I want. When I say what I want to say without worrying about being too personal. It seems when I'm trying hard to be someone I'm not, when I'm trying too hard to look like I have it all together, like everything in my world is perfect, that's when the followers, likes and comments stop coming. But when I'm being me, when I'm being real, that's when I make a deeper connection with my followers and my numbers are no longer numbers, they are my friends.
Wanna hear my crazy goal for the year?
Five thousand followers by Christmas.
I don't know why but I just have had that number in my head for months now. I've got a goal to start posting every single day that I possibly can to grow a better following. I used to only make time to post to instagram maybe two or three times a week. So this seven days a week has definitely been a challenge so far. In order to help me with that goal, I've been taking photos in advance. Is it bad to admit that? I feel like it's bad to admit that, but I just don't see how else it's possible for me to be able to post that often. I currently have three pictures saved in my phone where if I'm having a busy day, or I just feel like hanging out with my husband instead of setting up a shot, I've got a picture to share. It's helped to take the pressure off. It feels a little like cheating I'll admit, but I just don't know how else to honestly post that often otherwise.
But anyway I think it's always fun to have goals. Like I found this little notebook that I used to write patterns in and I stumbled across a page where I wrote down that I had a goal of having 500 followers on instagram by last Christmas. It just blows my mind looking back that 500 seemed like such an outrageous, unobtainable goal and now I just somehow passed 4,000 followers. Like how did this even happen?? Where did all these beautiful people come from? I find myself often wondering why people are even following me but man I am so happy and so honored to have that many people around the world interested in my story and what I have to share.
Phew that was probably a lot of information. But it's what I felt like writing about this week so here ya go. I see so many people being so secretive in my community that I just have to laugh sometimes. Why can't we all make it? Why can't we all have successful instagrams and etsy shops? I personally love helping others and want us all to succeed. We've all got something special to share.
This post may have been all over the place and it may have been a bit of an overshare but if I helped even one person out it was all totally worth it ha ha I love giving advice whenever I can so if you guys ever have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask! I pretty much never really know what to post on the blog, what you guys enjoy reading or whether or not I have any knowledge that you guys could find useful so if you'd ever like to see anything specific, let me know! I may not have all the answers in life but I love to help everyone whenever I can :)