Should you switch to Instagram Stories?

 Why you should switch to Instagram stories

So unless you've been living under a rock lately you're probably well aware that Instagram went into full copy cat mode last week and created their own version of Snapchat stories. And by their own version, I mean that they copied pretty much every single thing about it. Naughty.

Now I'm very much a 'stuck in my ways' kind of gal. I hopped on the Instagram bandwagon about a year later than everyone else, and I didn't use snapchat properly until a few months ago, so when Instagram Stories came about my instant reaction was to run for the hills. My friend Olivia however, is much more experimental when it comes to marketing, and so when she told me that her Instagram Story views quadrupled her Snapchat

views in just a few hours, I obviously had to give it a go. 

And - as usual - she was right. Now, my average Snapchat story gets around 300 views in the space of 24 hours. But my Instagram Story? Within about an hour of ordering, snapping and eating my dinner my views ended up at over 400. By the time I got home it averaged out at around 900. Same picture, but three times the amount of views in just a few hours. Since then, I've been using Instagram Stories almost exclusively (apart from those times when I really want a dog filter on my face) and I thought I'd do a little run down of the pros and cons of each incase you're still on the the fence about whether to switch, stay, or juggle them both.

It's all in one app

This might just be a plus when it comes to lazy girls like me, but if I'm out and about and I want to snap something for both Instagram and some form of 'story' then I find it so much easier to do it all in one app as opposed to having to flit between Instagram and Snapchat. Another plus side of using just one app is that you'll only need to build up one following as opposed to two, so you can really focus on creating quality content, as opposed to quantity.

It's easier to use

I'll be honest - I find snapchat a bit of a pain to use. Ive been using it for months now and even still I forget which way to swipe. Maybe I've become one of 'those' older people that aren't down with the kids, but sometimes I just get irritated with the way Snapchat is designed as a whole. Instagram stories is super simple to use and it doesn't interfere with the app as a whole, as it's more of an add-on as opposed to a complete app overhaul. Snapchat's additions just seem to make the app more complicated.

The filters aren't as fun

The only reason I go back to Snapchat now is to give myself a bit of an ego boost with the fancy prettifying filters. There are definitely more selfie benefits with snapchat, but - lets face it - I probably should go on a bit of a selfie ban as it is, so maybe it's a blessing in disguise. The Instagram story filters are still very basic, but chances are if Insta's happy enough to copy Snapchat to such an extent, the filters are well on their way.

Your audience is already there

Chances are you probably have more people following you on Instagram than you do Snapchat, which means there's already a higher chance of audience engagement. For me personally, I find it a lot easier to gain Instagram followers than I do Snapchat, so it only makes sense for me to utilise that by using Instagram stories over Snapchat.

WILL YOU BE SWITCHING TO INSTAGRAM STORIES?


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How to take better outfit photos

Outfit photos really are the bane of my life sometimes. I mean, sometimes I'm just simply not in the mood to have my photo taken, let alone have it taken in a busy town centre with millions of passers by wondering what the hell it is that I'm doing posing by an office block in evening wear at ten in the morning. But sometimes..sometimes shooting can go really well. So well that I can look at those photos and actually feel excited about posting them. It's empowering. It's probably a bit vain too. But screw it - who doesn't like a nice photo of themselves?

Recently, I've been feeling more and more inspired by some of the photos Ollie and I take. I think that's the hardest part about this type of blogging. The words are always there - I mean, they're sat there in your head just waiting to pour out onto a screen. All you need to do is write them down, proof read and publish. But photos? Photos are needy buggers that demand attention. They need styling and planning. They need the correct lighting, the right location, the ideal equipment and - on top of all that - the need man power..and lots of it. 

 

LOVE YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER

Maybe you don't need to love your photographer like I love mine (who if you didn't know, is my boyfriend of four years #InstagramHusband) but having a relationship with the person/people that take your photos is really important if you want to both enjoy taking the photos and end up with a nice set of snaps to blog about. If you feel awkward around someone, it'll show in the photos. Sure, you might not have a photographer boyfriend or a family member that takes amazing pictures. Maybe you will have to go out of your way to find someone to take your outfit shots. And yeah, they might start out as a complete stranger, but that doesn't mean you can't form a friendship with them. The more at ease you feel in front of that person, the more at ease you'll feel in front of a camera (and the more smokin' hot you'll look).
 

HAVE FUN WITH IT

This again relates back to shooting with a person you, you know, actually like. If you're not in the mood to take photos, it'll show in one way or another. Fun generally results in smiles, which make any photo look a whole lot better. If, however, you're like me and appear to show zero emotion in all images, it'll at least improve your body language. If I stand still and pose, I'll look like I'm posing, so I like to keep moving whenever the cameras on me. I'm not talking one of those America's Next Top Model challenges where you have to strike a new pose every five seconds, but just move naturally. Joke about with your photographer. Try out new things and take risks. If you look stupid, you can laugh about it, but you never know - you could look kind of great.
 

DO YOUR OWN THING

I'm sure we've all done it before. We've seen something we've liked - whether it be an outfit picture, a hairstyle, whatever - and we've tried to recreate it ourselves to no avail. I could plonk myself in the same location as some of my favourite bloggers, wear the same outfit as them, use the same lens as them, everything. But would it look the same? Of course not. For months Ollie and I would try to take photos in a certain style, but they never looked quite right to us because - you guessed it - they weren't our style. Then one day we decided to just wing it. He did what he wanted to do and I posed in a way that felt natural to me. They turned out to be some of the best photos we'd take in months. Sure, you could take nice photos in the style of someone else, but why not take the best photos in your own?
 

HOLD OUT FOR 'THE SHOT'

If you live in the UK and you want to take outfit pictures then i really do feel your pain. One minute the weather might be perfect, the next the clouds will roll in and all your light will be gone - or vice versa. It's frustrating, but unfortunately unless you're a pro when it comes to rain/sun dances then you really can't do anything about it but wait. Waiting is the biggest killer with me and outfit pictures these days, but I know that when the time comes it'll be worth it. Waiting could mean going away and grabbing a coffee for half an hour, but it could also mean waiting days until circumstances change. Sometimes your ideal location (check out my post on the best places to shoot outfit pictures if you're lacking imagination) might be busy all week apart from a specific time on a Thursday morning. Sure, you could just work with what you've got that day, but if you really want to do your best, wait for the best situation.
 

DON'T FORCE IT

Most of us bloggers are not models in any shape or form, and so we can't always just switch 'it' on or off as and when we please. Sometimes I'll head out to take some photos and after a few minutes I'll realise that I'm quite simply just not in the mood to get my pose on. It happens. Just like waiting for the weather, it's always best to wait for a time that you feel like you actually want to have your photo taken as opposed to settling for some sub-par photos that you feel obliged to post online.
 

KEEP PRACTISING

In my eyes, there's always room to improve, whether you've been taking photos for five weeks or five years. You can stock up on the most amazing equipment in the world but if you don't use it, you'll never get any better. The best way you can improve on anything in life is to just do it over and over and over again. You may suck for a little while, but every time you do it you'll suck even less until you get to a point where you're actually kind of good at it. Hustle my friends, hustle.
 

WHAT DO YOU STRUGGLE WITH MOST WHEN TAKING BLOG PICTURES?

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How to get 100 instagram followers a week

 How to get 100 instagram followers in a week

In the past few months I've started to take Instagram seriously, very seriously, or at least, as seriously as you can take a mobile app made up of squares and emojis (which apparently, is pretty damn serious). I dedicate days to stocking up on Instagram pictures, only to spend the next day editing them and typing out the 'perfect' caption. A few cute emojis, a few tags - not too many, not too little - just enough to keep things ticking over nicely. I have literally begun to see aesthetically pleasing things as squares on my iPhone. Will it fit my theme? Did I post something similar in the last few days? I don't know whether to be proud of my commitment to it or not..

But alas, the reason you're here (which I assume is because of the title of this post, and not the allure of my sheer wit and beauty) - how the hell do you gain over a hundred followers each and every week, in the least proactive way possible? High five lazy ladies, I'm wid u.


Shoot in bulk

I don't know about you guys, but I absolutely do not live in a world of marble work tops, flourishing cacti (I kill every one I adopt) and good lighting. My life looks so ugly compared to what I plonk on Instagram, so if I had to take a photo of what I was actually doing in the day, as I was doing it, it would be a series of photos of me feeding my cats or sitting at my desk in some form of Primark pyjamas that are probably so old they should have been thrown away years ago. You know how they say Instagram isn't real life? Yeah, it's not. All those flatlays I shoot are pictures I've taken in bulk that I've scheduled throughout the week. Oops, secrets out. And editing my Instagram snaps? That can take me hours when I'm doing a bunch. Like I said, not sure if I should be proud or ashamed of myself. So to make sure that my feed is getting updated regularly with pretty pictures, I shoot everything one afternoon when the lighting is good, and I'm feeling patient enough to take five million flatlays. I literally turn my bedroom and office into some sort of photography studio, lights and all, just so I can take a few fancy pictures of latte art that went cold half an hour ago.


Queue your posts

So, funny story. During my last few weeks of semi silence I've actually been working behind the scenes to queue every single blog post, video, Instagram snap -you name it - weeks in advance. Why? Because it just makes life easier (once you've queued them..when you're trying to edit ten videos in bulk, it's hell). Queuing all my Instagram posts around a month in advance means I'm able to focus more on the content that actually matters without having to worry about what I'm going to take for my next insta pic. I use Latergram to schedule all my posts. You can upload everything straight from your computer and type captions on a normal keyboard as opposed to a 2 inch iPhone one. Whenever you've scheduled your post for you'll get a notification through on your phone. Just copy and paste the caption and boom, you're officially organised. Constant content = more followers. Bonus points if you manage to queue two or more a day.


Have a theme

When I follow someone on Instagram I don't follow them because they posted one pretty picture. I follow them because they post hundreds of pretty pictures. Just like with your blog, you need to have a theme. I mean, if I suddenly started writing about health and safety procedures in Mcdonalds you'd probably think I'd either lost my mind or been hacked by Ronald McDonald. #NotSpon. It's the same with your Instagram. My feed is predominantly airy and simplistic. I shoot everything on the same camera (the Olympus PEN E-PL7 for all of you that have asked before) at the same time or day, in the same type of setting. A theme looks pretty when you click onto someone's profile, and it means there's no surprises for the people that follow you. It's easy to get followers by spamming, but it's much more useful to get ones that engage with your content.


Take note of what's trending

Whether it's a new beauty product launch you've managed to get your hands on or a dress from the new-in section of Missguided. The trick to gaining followers is to be relevant. No one wants to hear the words 'sold out' or 'discontinued' when they ask on your picture, and companies probably aren't going to re-gram you if the picture you took is wildly outdated. Re-grams = more followers. You know the drill.

Hope that helped a few of you out! I've written a similar blog post including more tips and tricks on how to get more followers on Instagram, so be sure to take a peak at that one as well. 

Let me know if you have any tips on upping your Instagram game too!

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How to make your own handwritten fonts

Last week I was invited up to London to take part in the  Dell Sessions based at the Bourne and Hollingsworth buildings (AKA the most Instagrammable place in existence) to try out the new Dell XPS because - let's face it - us bloggers are suckers for new gadgets. I spent the day surrounded by some of my favourite people, swapping stories and snapping Instagrams in the designated flat lay station. And no, I'm not joking. There was an actual work station there to help you create your own flat lays. Best thing ever.

Anyway, whilst it may have just looked like I spent the day snacking and socialising (which is only half true) I did get to grips with the new Dell XPS laptop and, guys, I kinda need one. Here's me typing away on a laptop that barely stays charged for three hours, and then there's Dell's version that stays alert for up to eighteen hours. That thing stays awake for longer than I do.

Not only that, but during the event we were also treated to a few masterclasses from famous faces in the industry - which is what I've chosen to share with you today. The second session of the day was hosted by Shini - who as we all know is the mastermind behind the blog Park & Cube and Cube Collective - and focussed on a bloggers graphic toolkit. 

The session focussed mostly on how to transfer your handwriting onto the internet. You know how you log into Instagram and you see millions of inspirational quotes in beautiful calligraphy? She taught us exactly how to do this. Or at least, kind of how to do it. The fancy writing part was lost on me and so I simply decided to embrace my toddler-esque hand writing and go with it. 

Shini talked us through the process and encouraged us to step outside of our creativity comfort zones. She advised us to stop copying and pasting various fonts online into our own spaces (ahem, guilty..) and instead inject more of ourselves into our posts by literally hand writing it. Or at least, a few words of it - don't go expecting a handwritten blog post from me any time soon. That's a big old hand cramp waiting to happen.

Anyway, to celebrate the return of my Tip Tuesdays I've decided to share everything I learnt during that session, in hopes that some of you might get some use out of it for your own blogs! You can thank Shini Park for this one, but the handwriting is all me baby. 

As if that's anything to be proud of.

 

 

xo.

how to create your own handwritten font


STEP ONE:

Get a plain piece of white paper and start sketching! Be sure to use a dark ink to make sure it shows up well enough for the next few steps. The trick is to keep on doodling your life away until you come up with the perfect typography. You can easily mix and match the letters, so don't fret!


STEP TWO:

Once you're happy with what you've done (woo!) get yourself in some decent lighting and snap away in flatlay format. Obviously the better the quality of camera, the better the outcome of the image, but an iPhone works just fine. If you have one, try scanning in your work for the best quality possible.


STEP THREE:

Next it's time to upload your images which you can do by either uploading in the bog-standard way or emailing yourself the photo. Open your typography flatlay and your chosen photograph into Photoshop (or your photo editing programme of choice!) and select the image with your writing. Next, click on the image tab, scroll down to adjustments and select the levels option.


STEP FOUR:

This might look a little intimidating, but levelling out your text is a piece of cake. The aim of the game is to get the white as white as possible, and the black as black as possible. You can also do this by upping the contrast and brightness, but changing the levels takes just a few seconds. Play around with the three arrows underneath the graph until you get the perfect pic.


STEP FIVE:

Now it's time to desaturate your image. It doesn't make too much of a difference if you're using black ink and white paper, but I do it anyway just to be safe - like I said, we want the black as black can be, and same for the white. You can find the desaturation option by selecting the 'image' tab and however over the
'adjustments' option. Click that for instant B&W.


STEP SIX:

Now we want to select the words / letter / doodles that we actually want to use on our final piece. To do this, select the 'lasso' tool (near the top of the left toolbar) and roughly draw around the text you want to include. Don't worry about the extra white space for now. Next, hold down the 'CMD' key and drag your selection over to the image you want to put the text over.


STEP SEVEN:

So now we have this big old blob of white with some text on top. Not quite what you were looking for? No sweat. Whilst you've still got that layer selected, head on over to the tool bar on the right hand side and find the drop down menu highlighted in the picture (it'll probably be the menu with the word 'normal' on it by default). Click that and voila! No more white background.


STEP EIGHT:

Now all you have to do is shift your text to it's desired location and there you have it - you're officially on your way to becoming Shini herself. Ahem *goals*. Anyway, be sure to fiddle around with different materials (inks, markers, biros - you name it) to find out what mediums you prefer. Other than that, it's all about practise, practise, practise! 

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*This post is in collaboration with Dell, but all thoughts, opinions (and handwriting) are my own!*

 

How to track the success of your blog posts

Oh hello there Tip Tuesdays, it's been a while (I seriously need to get that tattooed to my forehead or something). I swear, if someone could gimme some tips on surviving dissertation writing whilst doing, well, life, then that'd be greatly appreciated. But anyway! Enough about me and my inability to write anything other than my name at the top of a Pages document *sob* - in true student procrastination form, I've decided to scrap the schoolwork and write a blog post instead! Here are a few of my favourite, fool-proof ways to track how popular your posts are.
 

 

Google Analytics

GA is probably the most popular tracking software around since you can do pretty much anything with it. Don't worry, I'm not going to reel off all the magical things Google Analytics can do (because I've already written a blog post about it, heh) but I will graciously direct you over to Behaviour>Site Content>Pages where you can find out everything you need to know about specific blog posts and URLs, as well as which of your posts are coming out on top. Maybe you received a referral from a super cool website, or maybe you just found the secret ingredient for what makes your readers tick. If it's the latter, take note! Of course you shouldn't churn out the exact same posts every other day (because, yawn) but if there's a particular theme that constantly comes out on top, then keep at it.
 

Social shares

Post popularity doesn't just stop at a blog post - in fact, a lot of your readers probably come from the big wide world of social media, like Facebook or Twitter. It's important to keep track of how many likes/mentions you get regarding certain posts. You want to make sure you scope out what people are saying on your own posts on social media, as well as what their friends are saying on their profile (if they share your post of course). Kinda like Facebook stalking, but this time we're calling it research. Yeah, 'research'..
 

Clicks and Conversions

Counting your clicks is especially important when it comes to working with brands or monetising your blog, as it allows you to track what's popular and what's a bit of a flop. My favourite way to track clicks (and oh, is there a lot) is just by using a link shortener like bitly. It takes an extra few seconds to do, but it means you're able to see exactly how many people click on a certain hyperlink. Perhaps your in-post links are working better than the links in your sidebar, or vice versa! Link shorteners are also great for sites like Twitter, where you've gotta make those characters count.
 

Pinterest pins

We all know how pinning stuff works, right? The more pins the better, you know the drill. One way I like to track my pins however is by searching for my own site at www.pinterest.com/source/TypeYourURLHere. There you can do a little digging and see exactly which pictures your peeps rate the most. The outcome of all this? Take more pictures like that. Simples.
 

Comments

Over the past few years the Blogosphere has seen the number of 'quality' comments decline. You know the ones I'm on about. Things like 'great post' and 'love your blog'. Sure, they're all nice messages, but it's the really engaging comments you want to focus on. The more of them you get, the better your post is performing.
 

Add This Reports

You know that little set of social icons that sneaks into the top right of your screen whenever you click on my blog? That, my friends, comes courtesy of Add This - AKA the lazy girl's answer to everything. Well, nearly everything anyway. All you have to do is input a quick code, type in a few URLs and voila. Every week (or whenever you fancy) you'll get an email telling you the amount of new visitors you've gotten that week. Where they came from, and how many people followed you on social. You don't even have to lift a finger. Huzzah!
 

Sharetally Results

Again, another lazy girls traffic tracker (do you sense a theme going on here? Who has TIME to spend four hours tracking traffic. Not me). Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, ShareTally. I'm just popping this one here as it's a recent discovery of mine, and I love it. All you have to do is type in the URL you want to track and there you have it - an overview of your social shares from pretty much every social networking site imaginable. Apart from Bebo. Is Bebo even a thing any more? I miss my other half.*

*Update: Bebo is no more. RIP Bebo.

 

 

ABOUT THE LOOK:

Remember that post where I spoke about my newly evolving personal style? To all of you that bet I would be back in my leathers in no time at all, I salute you. You know me better than I know myself. For this look I decided to try something a little bit new by airing out my shoulders and throwing my hair up in a messy ponytail - something that's become a bit of a recurring theme with my main as of late. I'm talking about the not-so-sexy buns I sports during spin classes, but still, I'm slowly getting there.

I'd also like to dedicate this blog post to my beloved leather trousers that have potentially graced this blog more than any other item ever. They died a tragic crotch-splitting death a few weeks ago. I'm slowly introducing these new shiny trews from Zara to my capsule wardrobe. I can't bend my legs in them, but whatever, who needs flexibility when you've got #style!? As for the new Ray-Bans cautiously balancing on my nose? Well, that relates back to the dissertation and my lack of sleep at the start of this post. Photoshop can solve a lot of things in life, but sometimes, just sometimes, a big old pair of under eye bags requiring an equally dark set of sunnies.
 

Aviator sunglasses by Ray-Ban Sunglasses *
Off shoulder knit by Lovers + Friends via REVOLVE *
Zara faux leather trousers with zips (Missguided version)
Boutique 9 leather court shoes (New Look version)
 

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