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.

Recap of Alt Summit Winter 2015


Oh, Alt Summit. You are a genius. Three days of creative entrepreneurs and brands together in one space = magic. This was my third Alt Summit experience and my second one speaking, and it was just as incredible as the events in the past. Each year I have gone to the conference for something different. 2011 was about learning as much as I could about blogging. 2014 was about delivering a successful Pinterest talk. 2015 was about connecting with brands AND delivering a successful Pinterest panel discussion. AirBNB, Honest Co., Overstock, Wayfair, Microsoft, Munchkin, and many more were at this conference, and I definitely was able to have great, long-lasting conversations with each brand. If you want to get practice pitching brand partnerships, go to Alt Summit. It's the only conference I know where brands are genuinely approachable and WANT to be pitched content ideas.

Alt Winter 2015 Brooke Dennis

The most important nugget of gold I took home was to be purposeful with each social outlet of your business. Write out your objectives for each one and focus on that. Below, you'll find mine:

Pinterest | a curatorial experience of what A.V.E. Styles enjoys

Instagram | a portfolio, behind the scenes experiences and work philosophies of A.V.E. Styles

Facebook | a place to share latest blog posts

Twitter | an extension of Instagram and Facebook

Now that I have these filters in place I think it will be a lot easier to hone in on growing a genuine and engaged audience.

Alt Winter 2015 Brooke Dennis

The Pinterest panel with Rachel Faucett, Kelly Beal and Sara Martineau was a success. It was great hearing the different perspectives of Pinterest, and learning all of the new things Pinterest has in store for their users. Pinterest is truly a company that listens and cares about it's users, and for Pinterest to sit on this panel it was crystal clear that they value the blogging community. If you weren't able to attend the presentation here are 5 things you should know about Pinterest:

1| You NEED to Rich Pin - Okay, well, you don't need to, but if you're a blog or business that is not doing this you are missing out on MAJOR traffic. You see, Pinterest gives priority to Rich Pins and recommends Rich Pins to their users because it's content that is ensured to be good and valuable. How does Pinterest know that? Well, you have to apply to use Rich Pins, and a staff member at Pinterest goes through the applications to make sure you a a legitimate business that is not spamming people. Since using Rich Pins my site traffic and engagement has grown significantly. Go get them now! Run! Don't walk!

2| Get a business account - You might be saying to yourself, "Well, I'm just a blogger. Only big brands need a business account." Wrong! If you care about getting your blog content out there and growing your Pinterest community your business account will be able to give you statistics that will help you measure your Pinterest success. You'll be able to know how much traffic is coming to your blog from Pinterest, which pins are performing best, which users are repinning your pins the most, where in the world your community lives and more. This is all important in building a Pinterest strategy. Plus, it's free! Get one here.

3| Time does not exist within Pinterest - I'm not trying to be philosophical here. Time literally doesn't matter anymore when it comes to your feed. Your Pinterest feed is a smart feed based on the interests you follow, what you are pinning and who you follow. You will still see content from those you follow and your followers will still see yours as well, but it just won't be shared in a chronological format. What does this mean for you? Well, you can go on pinning sprees as not worry about stuffing your followers' feeds. Also, you need to be purposeful about SEO and optimizing those pin descriptions to get your content in front of your audience.

4| SEO matters - Did you know that search engines like Bing and Google pull in your pins now? Awesome, right?! That means it's important to write great pin descriptions that reflect what a user would search. Simply describe what you see in the pin. For example, "ivory sweetheart lace wedding dress by Claire Pettibone."

5| Image matters - Well-styled, illuminated, colorful content that's oriented vertically will out perform a landscape, black and white iphone photo any day of the week. Make sure you are paying close attention to the creation of your pins. If you don't know how to take great pictures, hire a photographer. If you don't know how to style images, hire a stylist!

Want more tips? Follow me on Instagram (@avestyles) where I will share a new tip each Friday, AND I'm starting to plan a webinar. Keep your eyes peeled for an announcement. If you are interested in being the first to know, please send me a note and I will put you on the notification list.

All images provided by Alt Summit and taken by Brooke Dennis.

Glitter Challenge


About a month ago, I had the idea of challenging my Instagram community to create art using glitter. I said I would commit to sharing the projects of those that participated in the glitter challenge by blogging about them and pinning images from the creators' sites. IMG_5834

Here is the first submission from Amy Hanen of Amy Frances Photography and Malori Maeva of Hoot and Holler. They collaborated and included some of their friends, Taylor and Kristina. I LOOOOVE what they created.


Go check out their blog post for the full shoot, click here. What do you think the next creative challenge should be?

Photos by Amy Frances Photography