How to Be an Instagram It Girl

(I want to point out before we begin that I really wanted to title this post "Instagram? Insta-DAMN" but I decided to go with the more straightforward approach instead.) So, I don't know about y'all, but for the longest time, Instagram was a total mystery to me. I mean, I liked looking at people's pretty pictures, and I'd occasionally post a Starbucks 'gram and be stoked if  I got 11 likes on it. But as far as using it as a legitimate tool to further my blog and brand? I was clueless.

But then, last year some time, Instagram really took off as a social media network, at least for bloggers. Or at least for the bloggers in my social sphere. So I got curious, and started doing some research. It turns out, there actually are a few formulas and tricks to seeing great Instagram success.

(P.S. let's be friends on Instagram!)

1. Find a winning combination of hashtags.

There are countless posts listing massive amounts of hashtags to use (like the ones listed below) so I won't go into too much detail here, but I will tell you that a good group of hashtags can make a world of difference. My favorites to use are #myunicornlife #thehappynow #thatsdarling #livethelittlethings and #flashesofdelight.

Here are two MUST READ posts that give you a full breakdown of amazing hashtags and their uses:

>> Instagram Hashtags for Bloggers That Will Triple Your Likes by Venus Trapped in Mars

>> The Best Hashtags to Get Your Instagram Noticed + Shared by The Nectar Collective

2. Develop an aesthetic.

Maybe this is more of a personal preference, but I see a lot of bloggers offering the advice of creating a themed or curated feed... And that certainly has its uses - you do you - but more often than not, it just seems theme-y and weird. I don't know about you, but I like to see behind the scenes in my favorite bloggers' lives. And while seeing flat lay after flat lay of gorgeously styled shots is certainly aesthetically pleasing, it doesn't always hold my interest.

In this regard, I suggest developing an aesthetic or a photo style that looks cohesive, but can work for multiple subject matters. One way I like to do that is by using the same couple of filters for nearly every photo. I love Aden, Lark, and Ludwig. This way, I can take photos of various subjects, and still have the same dreamy tone to each of them.

3. Don't be afraid to outsource.

While Instagram's native photo editing tools are amazing (and have really improved in the past year or so) sometimes you gotta try out some new stuff! Check out all the amazing free photo editing apps available, and find the perfect combination to make your photos pop. I love VSCOcam's preset filters and Pixlr's versatility. I also recently downloaded a featured app called Darkroom, which seems to have a lot of great features. The free version has plenty of power, but if you buy the full version for like $2.99 you can create your own filters to reuse and even have full control over the curves. I'm definitely excited to get into this app more!

4. Post original content.

While Instagram is a great tool for sharing your latest blog posts, it's not quite the same as Twitter or Facebook. You don't want to get into a rut of just sharing your latest posts, because it gives people no incentive to follow your Insta. Give them some details, show them some behind the scenes, share momnents from your day so they feel like they're getting to know you as a person as well as a brand.

If you do choose to share new posts, do so wisely. I usually only post to Instagram if my post was really photo heavy (like a DIY project). It is a photography app, first and foremost. And maybe this is a personal pet peeve, but don't say "link in bio!" because 99.9999% of the time, I am not going to click all the way through all that hot mess to find your post. Just post a shorted form of your blog's url (like just octoberjune.com instead of the whooooole post url) and people can copy and paste. You do you, but I'm just saying.

5. Create your own hashtag.

There's no better way to grow community on your blog and social networks (as well as increase your followers) than to create your own hashtag. If you've got a link up, a blog series, an e-course, or just a damn good idea, decide on a unique but easy to remember hashtag (and make sure it isn't already being used by someone else) and pimp it out in your blog posts, newsletters, and social media channels like crazy! Once people catch on, there's no telling where it might lead. Plus it's a fun way for you to explore new photos and accounts that are posting things you like.

6. Follow, comment, and like similar accounts.

Explore your favorite hashtags to find likeminded people that post beautiful photos, and when you see one you like, leave a thoughtful comment, double tap, or even follow. Many times, that person will reciprocate the gesture, or at least check you out. If they like what they see, they just might follow back!

7. Put your email in your bio.

I never really understood why people put their email addresses in their Instagram bios until a few weeks ago. I just got a fancy new email address (hello@octoberjune.com) and I wanted to show it off, so I added it, and in like 5 days it had scored me two new brand collaborations. Yeah, it really works! I received an email only a couple days afterwards from an up and coming influencer network complimenting me on my Instagram feed and inviting me to take part in their newest campaign. Bada bing!

8. Find your community.

The best advice I can give is to find a community on Instagram. Find likeminded people with similar interests and content and then support the heck out of each other. It's tough out there for creatives and bloggers, especially on social media. Finding those people you can bounce ideas off of, get advice from, and just generally commiserate with is invaluable.

And the best part? I have the answer right here.

I created a hashtag community and challenge all geared towards being more authentic and intentional on Instagram. Introducing: The #AuthenticSpark Community.

We'll be using this hashtag on Instagram as we go, so be sure to follow along and use it on your posts! On top of that, if you sign up for the challenge, you'll get access to an exclusive Facebook group where you can connect with other creatives, find pods, and build your community.

And there's a free workbook packed with a month's worth of content ideas and over 500 hashtags to snag for all types of niches!

Sound good? Learn more here or sign up below!