I have never received a pitch email that begins, "Hi, found your blog while aimlessly surfing the web."
No. It usually goes a little something like this: "Hi, stumbled across your Instagram page and we think you'd be perfect for..." or "Found your blog through your Instagram and we want you to be a part of..."
Spot the difference? Social media (particularly Instagram) rules the game.
Instagram became popular at my high school when I was a sophomore. Unfortunately, I didn't have a smart phone at the time, so I had to be the "#instagramlessCristina" in my friend's pictures for a year or so. When I finally was gifted the beloved iPhone 5 Christmas 2012, I'm pretty sure the first thing I did was make an Instagram account. (It's a different account than I have now, otherwise you could go creep on my awkward #selfiesunday pics.)
When I started my blog, there was no doubt in my mind that I should use Instagram to endorse it. Though I wasn't an Advertising/PR major yet, I was head over heels with the idea that social media was the world's new favorite medium to broadcast and market. Why shouldn't I be on there promoting my brand?
I've come a long way with this practice of using Instagram to stand out to companies and fellow creatives. (Not bragging, just noting my graduation from overly-filtered photo collages to cleaner images. Haha.)
Just within this past month or so, I've had more opportunities to work with brands and businesses I admire. Now, I don't want this to be written off as a "blogger" post. These aren't just tips for bloggers because gal pal, *anyone* can use these tips. (And should, if they want to stand out, increase traffic, and maybe even get some cool gigs.)
Think about what you like to do and what you like to share: Maybe you're in a sorority and you love taking pictures with your sisters at sporting events and tailgates. Maybe you're really into photography. Maybe you are obsessed with your dog and you Instagram feed looks like it's his, haha. Maybe you really, really love coffee.
(Here comes the nerdy, marketing talk. My dad will be so proud.)
Companies all have goals when it comes to their customer relationships. Ultimately, a company wants to take you from being a new customer to a regular purchaser and finally, an advocate. They want you to represent them. Your post on Instagram about how much you love, for example, Coca Cola packs more punch than theirs. Especially if you are a relatable student, a Youtube star, a blogger, a mother, the student government president, etc. You are their best best and they want a relationship with you.
Long ago companies cared mainly about production. Everyone bought the Ford Model T when it came along because there was no competition - nothing better. Nowadays, due to increased competition and the age of social media, companies can not just focus on what they want but what the customer wants and needs or they'll be extinct.
They need you to be their voice, and the first place they'll look for you is on social media.
(Nerdy talk over. Thank you for staying with me.)
So, some of you may be sitting here at this point going "great! This is awesome! I have a blog/small business and I want to get noticed!"
But some of you may be like, "ummm...I'm just on Instagram so my friends and I can post pictures and my mom can see what I'm up to." That's cool, too!
It's not all about making money or gaining product. Most bloggers aren't going to sit here and lie that they don't make a profit on Instagram. But *huge disclaimer* I'm not on Instagram for the promotion opportunities. I want to post a picture about my day or what I'm doing to build a relationship with those who follow me. I'd say 90% of the people that follow me, I've never met in person and I most likely don't have their phone number. So I want to reach out to you because I'm a brand and I don't want you as just a regular customer (in this case, a regular reader) I want a relationship with you.
Recently, I've really noticed how much social media plays a part in my daily life, my brand, and my business. I was even looking at an internship application and there was a spot to leave your social media links so the company could see how savvy you were in this social media era.
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So what should you keep in mind if you want to stand out online?
Use hashtags, even if you hate it
I think hashtags are ugly. Especially when you have 40 of them. It doesn't look cute. But yes, I utilize them...and I'm never going back. I've said it before that hashtags are a mating call.
Scenario: you post a picture of your Coke. It's an artsy pic: a sweaty, chilled bottle on a warm day by the lake. Your friends love it and they comment nice things about your artistic eye. You add Coca Cola's hashtag, #makeithappy. Suddenly, people from all over the world who are searching that hashtag are looking at your picture. Maybe they take a second to look at your whole gallery and see that you have amazing photos, so they follow you. Maybe one of your new followers is looking for someone to promote his candy subscription box company. Boom. Connections.
The hashtags on each of my pictures don't just randomly spew from my brain. I often look up hashtags to match the brands I'm wearing in the picture. (Example: for Charlotte Russe use #CharlotteLook.) If you want more info on what hashtags to use, Seashells + Sparkles has a great post for you!
Like and comment ya'll, like and comment
I am the biggest chatterbox on Instagram. (I'm the biggest chatterbox in real life, too.) I love scrolling through my feed and liking pictures that catch my eye. I will often comment on an outfit I love or if someone posts a picture of their cute dog. (All the heart eye emojis.) Most times, these interactions turn into a relationship. It's small at first - maybe we just follow each other, but maybe that person is a company or a blogger that wants to collaborate. Again, not in it for the collaborations, but if that's what comes from double tapping, why not?
Find people, find partners, find relationships
Not only can companies find you on Instagram, but you can find companies. (Obvi.) When I'm sitting down to write a post about, say, room decor and I want to give my readers the best place for them to find gallery wall prints, I'll search on Instagram. By searching hashtags, I'll sometimes stumble across a small business that has prices that suit my audience and an overall aesthetic that I really love. I'll link them on the blog or perhaps even send a direct message to see if I can collaborate with them on the post.
Work on your photography skills
I fought this tip for a while. After all, Instagram is just a place to upload my pictures from my BFF's birthday party or the cute cupcake I just devoured. But, I had to admit, I did want my pictures to look more Pinterest-worthy. You don't need a fancy camera or a photographer. Just take photos in good (preferably natural) lighting and don't over filter.
The more often you post, the higher your chances are to be featured on the popular pages. No, it's not about "popularity", but it is about exposure. I post almost every day, but that's more so because I'm kind of addicting to Instagram. #thefirststepisadmitting
Follow the brands you like
Not only is this a great way to be kept in the loop about sales and potential giveaways, but companies (especially the smaller ones) will really take notice if you like and occasionally comment. Once again, it's a part of graduation to that advocate level of a brand-customer relationship. You never know, they may want you to help in their next campaign :)
So those are all the social media secrets I have for you at this time! Sorry for the points that I got really nerdy about it all, haha. Let me know what you think in the comments. How do you use social media? What ways do you try to stand out?