Instagram is the biggie isn’t it? Becoming an influencer (yes, we ALL hate this term) is slowly becoming a full-time employment choice, but it gets a lot of bad press. Why do people want to be influencers? Or Bloggers? Is it fame? Money, attention or to inflate your ego? Perhaps. There’s nothing like inflating your ego by straddling a washing machine and trying to look cool. LOL.
But for me and probably the majority of people on Instagram, we get to turn our passion into our living, become our own bosses and turn our back on the rat race (although I say that tentatively, there is definitely an internal rat race on Instagram! )
Last year a survey was carried out to find out what 11 – 16 years old wanted to be when they grew up and 17% said a social media influencer, only just below a doctor! Influencer marketing is now big business and many companies are turning their backs on traditional methods of advertising and we’re all scrambling to get a slice of that pie.
But, I often find myself questioning where is it all going? Where will I be in a few years time and will this Instagram bubble last? This is why I think it is so important to become a brand in your own right and not put all your eggs in an Instagram shaped basket.
You may be thinking, I am an individual with nothing to sell, why do I need to become a brand? The thing is, it isn’t just about having a logo or a product to sell, you ARE the brand. Your style, opinions, personality and storytelling are how you interact with your audience and it is important to keep this consistency on your social media channels, Pinterest and blog.
So, where do you start?
It’s all in the name. If you want to be in this for the long haul, your name is extremely important. Personally, I don’t think you can go wrong with using your actual name, because that will always be totally unique to you! My original name on Instagram was mjhomestyle but my husband used to joke that it sounded like a DJ who played house music so I swiftly changed it.
You also need to think about what your niche is and tailor your name around your intended audience. If you’re all about interiors, try to include the word interiors, home, design or house. Above all, keep it simple so people will remember it when they go to look for you and that it is easily distinguishable from other brands.
How many accounts have we seen called “the house at *insert number here*”. What happens when you move?
Originally, I wanted to call myself Melanie Jayne Interiors but this domain name was already taken. My favourite colour is green so I decided to add Jade to my name and went with Design as I thought this wouldn’t limit me to just Interiors.
Niche niche niche (bless you)
Which leads us onto niche, probably one of the most important things when it comes to blogging and creating a brand. Why? Well, you want your audience to come back time and time again and not all of your audience will be interested in the things you personally love.
If I consistently posted pictures of my kids on my feed, or started talking about my love of ornamental ducks (don’t ask), I would probably put off my already engaged followers as that is not what they visit my Instagram or blog for.
If you stick to a topic, it is highly likely that your followers and readers will be interested in all your other content too. I wrote about what Instagram has taught me over the last year and what works in this blog post.
Another important thing to consider is to make sure it is a niche that you love! Can you still see yourself writing and taking pictures of your niche in 5 or 10 years time? If it is something you are passionate about, you will continue to evolve, learn and slowly become an authority or expert in your field.
The world is your oyster when it comes to choosing a niche for your social media channels
Build a “voice” and stay true to yourself
Your online voice is a bit like your online name and should be unique to you. It is important to keep your voice and tone consistent when you are communicating on your social media channels and stay true to yourself and who you are. It is very difficult to keep up the pretence of being someone you are not and by being authentic and using your personality, you will gain your readers trust.
When I first started out on Instagram, I found it very difficult to find my voice and style. I absolutely love interior design, whether that be modern rustic, Scandinavian or maximalism and my home was consistently changing to suit what the current trends were. I did it all; wrapping cotton ball lights around everything, flowers in the sink and even fruit in the bath. You name it, I was there for the Instagram cliché!
But ever since I’ve realised what I love about home décor (green and pink anyone?) and have stayed true to my style, my feed and blog have really taken off and my followers are fully engaged.
So, what works on social media? I think it is best to be open and genuine on internet platforms, you’ll make it easier for people to relate to your brand. A mixture of both a professional voice and a friendly voice works, being professional and inspiring about your niche because initially this is what your readers have come to your channels for, but adding in your personality and real life stories so followers can relate to you and see you as “one of them”.
Again, it took me a while to realise this and to begin with I talked about nothing other than my cushion situation (boring myself and others, I’m sure). I was always a little apprehensive about putting the “real” me on Instagram because I occasionally swear, my kids get on my nerves and I am anxious about life at times.
But my main problem was how people would perceive me, and that included my Mum! I was worried that if I told stories about my kids, my school mum friends would read it and think less of me.
In fact, even my own Mum said when she started reading my captions, it didn’t “sound” like me, but my captions are absolutely what is going on inside my head. I then realised that perhaps I was also putting on a persona in real life too and by writing short stories in my captions, I actually found a lot out about myself!! Sorry, this has turned a bit confessional hasn’t it? Haha…. You get my drift though yes?
Without an audience, you don’t have a brand! You need to figure out who is your ideal audience and what they want to get from your online presence. I know full well that most of my audience come to me to see pictures of my home and maybe a funny family story or two thrown in. This is why it is so important to have a strong brand that can communicate with your audience what you are all about.
People are also trying to find solutions to answers they have, whether that be how to wallpaper, what colour to use in a north facing room or how to upcycle a piece of furniture. Provide solutions (and a good before and after) and you’re halfway there.
I think one of the most important things with having an online presence is to engage and communicate and I have said this often. I always try to answer every single comment and keep up with my DMs and I think Instagram rewards me for that. But just remember, you can’t please all of your audience all of the time and they will either move on or find you less relevant to their lives.
Finally, if you ever get the niggling feeling that a post, photo or caption doesn’t feel right to you or your audience, don’t do it.
A tag line or motto
I’ll be honest with you, mine is pretty crap! I came up with “Designs for the Home, Travel and Life” when I first created my blog and have never changed it. Why is it important? This helps sum up what you are about and what you can offer your readers. It needs to be straight to the point, prominent and appear directly next to your logo or brand name.
I think it also helps to use the same language running throughout your blog to your tag line, this will help show your personality. If you’re a straight-talking kind of person and that runs through your blog, make your tag line assertive and straight to the point. If you have a lot of humour, make the tag line funny. You get the picture!
If you get it right, your tag line can be just as memorable as your blog name. We all know Nike – “Just do it” and L’Oreal “Because you’re worth it!”
Are the images on your Instagram feed and blog a good representation of your style? As they say, image is everything and we live in an increasingly visual world where we are all competing as amateur photographers. In this age where we are all wrangling for our own space on the internet, it has never been more important to build a brand image that customers automatically recognise and feel comfortable with.
When I started my Instagram and blogging journey, I was always obsessed with photos on accounts that did well with engagement on Instagram and I would try to emulate this but it never sat well with me. Did I really want the Scandinavian style in my home? Was I suppressing my urge to experiment with colour?
A bit like being your own voice, you have to stay true to what you love and your brand image will evolve from this.
I think I can safely say that I have now found my brand image that represents what I like!
This is something that takes practise and develops over time, my first pictures on Instagram were absolutely awful! I thought I was the next David Bailey with my close-up shots of flowers and coffee on a tray or photos taken from above, but in all honesty, my 6-year-old daughter could have taken better photos.
It’s taken me two and a half years to really understand my brand image and if I was to ask you what that is, I’m sure you would reply with green and pink, plants, jewel colours, pattern and floral designs.
Your images become the “face” of your business and they need to complement the aesthetics of your Instagram feed and blog.
Which finally leads me onto consistency! I think this has to be one of the most important factors if you want to build a brand and be successful at Instagramming and blogging. In order for people to trust you, they have to feel like they know you. To get to know you, they have to be aware you exist, recognise and remember you. And to do this, you have to be consistent.
People automatically connect with accounts they feel familiar with. I find I am much more likely to read a blog post from someone I regularly connect with and follow them on their social media channels.
Instagram loves consistent posters as it’s a signal to the algorithm that your account is worth a follow. You don’t have to post every day, just find a balance that works for you and you can stick to religiously. When I first started out, I was posting twice a day! Twice!! Not only did I find that stressful, I must have been extremely boring to my followers because I was totally boring myself!
I now stick to a schedule of posting and have taken the pressure off to post 6 times a week and I’ve found that not only am I enjoying it more, my follower count has grown rapidly. This also goes for blogging. Be realistic about how many times you can publish a high-quality blog post and stick to a routine, the internet search engines will thank you for it.
Consistency is also about your name, image and voice. If you follow all of the above, this should be easy to implement. I make sure I use my name across all social media platforms and that my style stays constant throughout. If I’m following a person because I love their interior style and then they start talking constantly about their passion for bird watching, I would be confused as to what message they were trying to get across and maybe weren’t for me anymore.
Don’t get me wrong, I think we all need to mix our feeds and blogs up a little from time to time, but from my insights and engagement alone, if I post a picture with myself featuring, people recoil in horror!!
There have been some fabulous accounts that have managed to mix things up, including @shnordic, @hygge_for_home and my fabulous friend @victoriaemes who has changed niche completely, but it takes time and commitment to get it right.
And last, but not least, if your goal is to work with brands, consistency is key! Think of all the bloggers and Instagrammers out there, it’s a minefield for brands and PR’s to find individuals to work with so they will want to see exactly what you stand for and whether you’ll be a good fit for their product. If brands land on your feed or blog page, will they automatically know what your message is?
Well, that was an epic blog post and one that turned out a lot longer than I expected! So, thank you if you’ve got to the end of this. This post is rather poignant and topical for me as I have just hit 100,000 followers on Instagram whilst I was writing it! I think I can now confidently say that all the above has worked for me and it can work for you too!