CHICKS WHO GIVE A HOOT

My dear friend Sara Chambers, a long time blogger and PR guru, started a podcast called Chicks Who Give a Hoot where she is highlighting women who are activists in their communities and workplaces. It's absolutely brilliant, and I'm so glad she is getting these stories out there with her blog and podcast. 

I had the pleasure of being a guest on her podcast recently, and it was really an "ah-ha" moment for me because she wanted to interview me about how I champion the cause of authenticity in the digital space. I had never thought about it as a cause before nor had I thought about myself as a champion for it, but after chewing on it a bit I realized that it is indeed the foundation on which I have built my business.  To have a cause there must be a problem, and honestly, I identified the fake world of social media and blogging a LOOOONG time ago, and I've always hated it. And even though I suppose always being honest and authentic has always been a big part of who I am by nature, I realize that many people in the digital space don't really know how to take steps away from playing "the game."

It was an amazing conversation that really birthed my recent social media challenge that I shared a couple weeks back (I hope you are taking it with me). Please give the podcast a listen to hear how we really break down activism for the cause, and I would love to know if you're going to help join the cause for authenticity online.

Photos by Rennai Hoefer

SOCIAL MEDIA CHALLENGE TO MY MILLENNIALS

I'm a proud Millennial, and I'm tired of people always ripping us apart as if we are a generation to be pitied. People say we don't know how to connect personally and authentically because we are addicted to our phones and social media. And, while I would agree some of us could very well struggle in that arena and we can do a better job, these generalizations have my panties in a knot. What people often forget is that we made a way for everyone to have a voice to share what they are doing and how they are feeling to those that would listen. we created social media and adapted quickly to it because we have been raised by generations that hide their emotions and feelings as if there was a medal to be won for never crying or arguing in front of kids or saying you didn't like something. 

We were parented by the Baby Boomers that created the 50% divorce rate - the generation that grew up seen and not heard by The Greatest Generation. And, sadly, The Greatest Generation didn't have the luxury of emotions. They were just happy to be alive, so, of course, they told their children to just "be thankful and be quiet." 

Did you know that marriages of Millennials are lasting longer as reported by Bloomberg. We are actually putting hope and meaning back into marriage. Hooray! We are having emotional intimacy in our marriages and fighting for it. And I would bet a million dollars that it's the lack of emotional connectivity, expression of empathy and sympathy that the is culprit of the Baby Boomer generations continued decline of marriage (yes, they are still getting divorced according to the stats). 

But, we need to be careful how we're using our new found way of connection. We adapted quickly to social media without taking time to be intentional with it. We are sharing and liking and double-tapping so fast that we are just making noise now and not listening to each other anymore. Let's get back to that! Here's a challenge for us to help us continue to lead past and future generations in emotional connection. 

9 POINT SOCIAL MEDIA CHALLENGE

1. Say what we mean, and mean what we say. No more posting to post as if we're slaves to algorithms or imaginary Joneses. Be mindful that each post has the potential to influence people for good or bad, and take a moment to ask yourself, "Is this worth posting and will it hurt or help someone?"
2. Avoid mindless affirmations. When you double tap, like or repin something you are affirming a person, thing or business. Make your actions meaningful and not a twitch of your thumb. You may even accidentally like a post that you completely disagree with just because you didn't take time to read the post.
3. Read the captions. Take time to read and hear what people are saying. That's why they are sharing to begin with. If you don't want to hear what they have to say then maybe you shouldn't follow them. Let's have meaningful connections and interactions with the people we have chosen to invest in. 
4. Unfollow accounts that you don't enjoy or may go against your principles. People say that depression and self-esteem issues are on the rise because of social media. Part of that problem is the content we put out there and part of it is what we choose to consume. If something is leaving you feeling crappy take it out of your life. That doesn't mean we have to shut down our Instagram accounts and do the all or nothing approach. It means we should take inventory of what we consume.
5. When you see someone hurting or having a rough day please tell them they have been heard even if even you don't have advice or can't relate. Many times we take to social media with our problems because we want someone to listen or we're trying to find out if we're not alone. Take a moment to help.
6. Set limits and boundaries on what you share. Think about who reads your posts and who can potentially read them in the future. One day your children will read what you write and potentially future employers. Oversharing can be damaging when you don't set limitations.
7. Risk sharing some flaws in the midst of the beauty. Sharing a perfect life isn't helping anyone. In fact, it's causing harm because it's setting an unattainable standard for your peers and children.  There is plenty of beauty and happiness to be had, but there is always sadness and mistakes. Showing people you make them also allows you to show people how you overcome them. And that's just as beautiful as your sunsets, cocktails or outfits you post.
8. Pick a person to love on this year. Just one person that you go out of your way to encourage and be intentional with on social media. Who knows of the impact you can have.
9. Turn off your phone when you're playing with your kids or having a conversation with people. I have to put my phone upstairs far from where I can pick it up, but it works. It keeps me engaged. When I am meeting with someone I don't pull it out of my bag. You can hear your babysitter's call if there is an emergency. ;)

Photos by Rennai Hoefer
 

PINTEREST GROWTH IN 2016

I have written many posts sharing Pinterest tips in the past (H, but this post is going to share some new things that I have learned and really tried to do with my profile this year. I hope you find it all helpful. Please share if you do.

Yesterday, I spelled out 10 things that helped my Instagram grow, and today I'm going to share with you just five things that organically grew my account by 37,000 followers in a year.

1. Login to Pinterest every, single day and repin 20+ pins from the Pinterest community // Logging into the platform is really important. Every social media app out there would prefer you to natively pin through their platform rather than use third party scheduling tools. And I know this because I have tested it for myself. Repins that I scheduled using Tailwind didn't perform as well as they did when I logged in. 

  • Using third part apps as a tool to help you maintain activity, but you MUST login every day.
  • Repinning is just as important as adding new content. In fact, I would argue it's more effective. The algorithm is based on engagement, and so it favors content that is proving to be engaging. Thus, the content will surface higher in people's home feeds.

2. Add fresh content to each board you have regularly // Don't allow boards to sit idle on your profile. The only way boards are recommended to people to follow, as well as profiles, is if they are proven to be active. Pinterest wants people to have a great experience on the platform, so why would they recommend idle boards.

  • That said it's important to limit the amount of boards to 40 max so that you can easily add fresh content to them all of the time.
  • Keep your board topics fairly general so that you can add a lot of content regularly. Valentine's Day boards are only relevant two months out of the year on Pinterest. Maybe try having a "holiday" board instead where you can add to it year round.

3. Pinning Tribes // There's a new thing to help people increase traffic to their website, and that's called Pinning Tribes (an alpha tool in Tailwind). You can essentially have a group of people commit to repinning content from your site. Of course, they cannot be obligated and you should only pin content you love anyway, but, hopefully, you're in tribes with people whose content you love.  This is a MUCH better strategy than group boards since group boards that host the same domain names all of the time will get flagged as spam. Instead, pinning tribes allows people to repin content to their own relevant boards with their followers, and it's more organic.

4. Try promoted pins // I tried promoted pins this year to see what it was like, and I think paying for engagement is really helpful if you are wanting to grow. 

  • When you pay for engagement you are essentially paying for a longterm investment of traffic. When a pin gets engaged with it's like it gets a big push for Pinterest into the stratosphere of Pinterest, and long after your dollars are spent and your campaign has ended it will continue to perform and be recommended.
  • Use pins that have already proved successful on Pinterest.
  • I think experimenting with ads puts you in favor with the algorithm. I can't prove them, but I know that most social media platforms want people to have great experiences with new features are often rewarded in account growth when users try them.

5. Try .gif files // I uploaded a couple .gif files for the first time, and they definitely got more engagement than my average pins. Again, I don't know if this is because it's a "newer" feature that Pinterest is trying to promote or if it's because it draws attention more than other pins, but they worked well for me.

*All opinions are my own and not of Pinterest.

 

INSTAGRAM GROWTH

As promised in yesterday's post I am sharing what I think contributed to my Instagram growth this year. One of my biggest hopes of 2016 was to grow my Instagram account to over 10K, so that I could be classified as an influencer on more than one social media channel. But I didn't want to just get a number, I wanted to organically grow an audience that relates and enjoys what I share.

Up until fall of 2015 I had been using Instagram regularly, but I had been sharing a mix of my own iphone snaps and work of I had done as a stylist. It was kind of a mix of everything with no consistent message for people to understand and relate to. Essentially, no one could really know me from a glance of nine photos, and that's, basically, what people look at before they decide to click "follow." 

After I accepted the big problem of my lack on consistency and voice I became to determined to change that, and ever since then my Instagram has continued to grow organically. There are also some tools that I believe have helped, as well as wisdom I have gleaned about the platform. Below is a list of what I believe has contributed to the growth. I hope these things help you too.

1. I stopped posting my iPhone photos, and I hired a photographer regularly // I know that Instagram used to be a place of instantaneous photography. However, it's important to also note that since it's an image based platform people with photography skills and professional photographers are always going to have the upper hand. I came to terms with the fact that I can style an amazing photo, but I cannot take one to save my life. So, this year I had Rennai Hoefer come over every Monday of the week to create content for my blog and social platforms. This is content I make with my own hands so that it's still authentic to me and what I want to say. It's just that it's taken with a DSLR camera by someone that knows how to keep my style consistent. It's an investment that has paid off ten fold. Take the leap!

2. I use Planoly // This app is genius and helps me plan my grid. Being a curator is very important on an image based platform. You can have all of the best photos in the world, but if they don't go together in a pattern then your IG account is still going to look ugly. Appearance matters my friends, but that doesn't mean you have to lose authenticity either. It just means you need to plan. 

  • Follow the pattern: person, thing, person, thing. This was told to me by a popular Instagrammer and it works. Creating separation between faces is helpful to the viewer.
  • If you're a lifestyle blogger like me I often will mix-up the person as sometimes myself in an outfit and other times my kids. For the "things," I trade off between far away shots of space, close ups of objects and food.
  • Pay attention to a color scheme. I try to stick to natural warm tones that are in my branding. I never post bright photos like pink, green, yellow, etc. That's just not my style. Define your style...Are you bright and bold or soft and natural.

3. Post daily // This has been very important in telling the algorithm that you're regularly updating your profile. However, I don't post just to post. I say what I mean and I mean what I say. If you don't have anything to say don't say it. It can hurt you to have a post that is not engaged with. So, make each post count.

4. Spend time commenting and liking other peoples photos // This tells the algorithm you are active. I especially try to do this immediately after I post. I also joined a couple Instagram communities with bloggers and creatives whose styles I really love. They notify me when they post, and then I make sure to go visit their profiles and comment. We are by no means obligated to do it, but I genuinely want to do it because I love their stuff. This is also helpful since the new algorithm hides a lot of the accounts I love most.

5. I don't do giveaways // I tried a couple of giveaways in the past, and I find that they may result in spike of followers in the short term, but they aren't people that necessarily enjoy who I am and what I am creating. This can also pose a problem later on when brands will see a high follower count, but notice your engagement is low. Brands would rather partner with a 10K account that is highly engaged with than a 200K account that has a smaller of a ratio of engagement.

6. I installed MiloTree App on my blog // When people visit my blog a pop up shows up asking them to follow my on Instagram. It's very tasteful and not bothersome at all. 

7. Play the Hashtag game // I found the best hashtags for each type of content I share (food, home, fashion, kids) and I add the hashtags in the comments. It has helped my content get noticed and engaged with a lot. To find hashtags, visit popular Instagrammers and see what they are using.

8. Get featured on big Instagram accounts // This year my home decor projects have been reshared by some huge IG accounts and some very small ones too. But each time that happens and people give proper attribution in their post I gain quality followers. They genuinely like my content and click over to my profile to follow me. 

9. Posted on IG stories // So far I have noticed the more I use IG stories the more I grow. I think this is a temporary thing, but it has been working. Of course, I only post when I have something I really want to say, so don't force it. Quality over quantity!

10. I shared some videos // The algorithm seems to favor .mov files that I share on my IG profile. They get ways more views and engagement than regular photos. That said, it's time to start learning how to do video and investing in video.

I hope this post was helpful. Be sure to tune in tomorrow to learn what has helped my Pinterest growth.

MY BUSINESS IN 2016

This past year was one of those years where I felt like nothing came easily, but so much fruit came out of my hard work. It almost felt like every day I was thrown a curve ball or pitched a fast ball, and each time I stepped up to the plate, swung my bat as hard as I could and, by the grace of God, I scored a lot.

I wanted to share the areas in which my business grew this year with you because I think there are some key tools and nuggets of wisdom that helped make them successful. I'm going to break everything down into multiple blog posts though because there is simply too much to say for it all to fit. I'll share a new post a day for the next week or so. Be sure to check back and read the next.

2016 ACCOMPLISHMENTS

  1. More than doubled my Instagram account from 4,000 to 10,800
  2. Grew my Pinterest account by 37,000 people
  3. Published by top magazines & companies (Rue Mag, Lonny Mag, Domino Mag, One Kings Lane, Anthropologie, Martha Stewart, Adore, Elle Decor)
  4. Most partnerships to date. To name a few: The Home Depot, Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Gold Peak Tea, Fisher Price, Hudson Jeans, Coleman, Living Spaces, World Market, Decorist. See my collaborations page for more.
  5. Hired an assistant, photographer, intern and babysitter regularly
  6. Spoke at the most conferences to date (Alt Summit, Mom 2.0 Summit, Haven Conference, BlogHer Food).  I will be headed to Alt Summit again in 2017.
  7. Launched my online Pinterest classes for passive income
  8. Began Pinterest account management for Chatbooks and Guesterly, and will be taking on more.
  9. Decorated six rooms (master, girl room, nursery, guest room 1, guest room 2, living room)
  10. Managed to continue to raise two children, have a marriage and friendships

What helped me accomplish all of this? 

I don't say this to sound trite, but I truly believe what I have been given comes from God. In particular, I think the wisdom in knowing which business partnerships were wise and unwise, as well as which people to hire were guided by Him. Some people say they go with their "gut." For me, I do the same, but I believe it's a spiritual "knowing" deep within my gut. 

I also put in a lot of elbow grease and found some insanely great business tools to help me, and I would love to share them with you in the days that follow. Starting with Instagram...

Photo by Katie Jameson