How to Grow Your Instagram Following and Stand Out Online

opening photo courtesy of Sarah Kirsch

opening photo courtesy of Sarah Kirsch

LAPTOPS & SMALLTALK: CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF? HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN BLOGGING AND WHAT MADE YOU START?
SARAH KIRSCH: I grew up shopping exclusively at thrift stores. I loved the hunt, and I loved giving under appreciated clothing a fresh new look. I wanted to attend art or fashion school, but decided that hair was a more practical route of being an artist. I’ve now been a hairdresser for 10 years. It became an incredible career and is closely tied to fashion. I began blogging on Instagram a little over a year ago, while taking classes at Portland Fashion Institute. We were talking about Instagram marketing in class, and I am working on a clothing line, so I was inspired to learn more about influencer marketing. I studied some blogs, watched free webinars on how to promote your Instagram, and a few months later I started blogging at sarahchambray.com.


L&S: YOU'RE WORKING ON A CLOTHING LINE?! THAT'S EXCITING! TELL US A LITTLE MORE ABOUT THAT?
SARAH:
 It's still in the beginning stages, but the aesthetic will be similar to my Instagram feed. I love classic shapes and softer colors. I'm working on some fun collar detailing right now :) I'm just starting though, so there's lots to learn and improve on. It's different than I imagined and there are so many details to work out. Sampling, sourcing material, funding, production... each step has new research and a new learning curve. It's also pretty exciting to be working towards a goal that I had when I was 16.


L&S: LET'S TALK MORE ABOUT YOUR AESTHETIC. HOW DID YOU DEVELOP YOUR AESTHETIC AS A CONTENT CREATOR AND NOW DESIGNER?
SARAH:
 My aesthetic trends towards softer colors and has evolved into classic silhouettes with feminine details. I’ve always loved pinks, so Millennial Pink has definitely captured my heart and continues to be a theme on my blog. Both of my parents are artists and instilled in me a love of minimalist art, and that influences my wardrobe aesthetic, though it’s hard to practice. I’ve been inspired by Marie Kondo and finding joy in your clothing, slow fashion and promoting small, local designers, and capsule wardrobes.


L&S: WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE APPS & TOOLS FOR EDITING YOUR INSTAGRAM CONTENT?
SARAH:
 My content is either shot with my iPhone, or by my husband on his DSLR. The camera shots are edited in Lightroom. I like editing in the photo app itself to adjust highlights, lowlights, and brightness. I use Facetune2 to bring out details of in clothing and haircuts. Big Lens is great for blurring a busy background. I also edit in the Instagram app, I like using the Gingham filter, but I bump it down to a 6 or 7 so it just gives it a little tint of a filter.


L&S: THERE ARE SO MANY BLOGGERS, DESIGNERS & CONTENT CREATORS OUT THERE. HOW DO YOU STAND OUT IN SUCH A SATURATED INDUSTRY WHILE STAYING AUTHENTIC TO YOUR BRAND?
SARAH: 
I want to attract people that resonate with my themes and enjoy my content, but I’m not trying to appeal to everyone. With the millions of IG users, you can carve out a niche. Something Pete Holmes often says on his podcast “You Made it Weird” is: there are thousands of comedy shows, paintings, fashion lines, creative endeavors, but this one will be done by me, so it’ll be different. That’s how I view Instagram. It’s like my own magazine, blog, and art form, and I get to be the creative director.

 

L&S: WHAT'S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO YOU WHEN IT COMES TO BUILDING YOUR INSTAGRAM AND CREATING COMMUNITY?
SARAH: 
Consistent posts and community engagement are my keys to building my Instagram. Posting regularly is hard when you first start because you’re always running out of content. Keeping themes, colors, general aesthetic, and content consistent is key to creating a visually appealing feed. Engaging with your followers, and with followers of users that are similar to yours, is the best way to grow your community. Engagement should be more than just liking and commenting on photos; I view it as complimenting. I compliment someone in real life if I like their sweater, their dog, or their new haircut, and Instagram engagement is an extension of that. I see genuine compliments as a way to spread positivity, and a good life practice.


L&S: YOU'VE GROWN YOUR INSTAGRAM FOLLOWING TO 16.1K! WHAT ARE SOME TIPS AND ADVICE YOU'D GIVE TO BRANDS WANTING TO GROW THEIR FOLLOWING AS WELL?
SARAH: 
Start with an attainable goal that develops your IG skills. My first goal was to post consistently every day, and to double my following of 450 – I still use knowledge learned while working on this goal. Develop a main theme, and work on one or two supporting themes, so that your feed has consistency. Avoid posting photo after photo of your product every day, as you need variety to keep people interested. Keep your color themes consistent. Whether it’s yellow in every picture, or a consistent filter that gives colors a similar tone, consistency is key. Pay attention to your top 9 photos and make sure they represent your themes and look cohesive. Your top 9 should represent your vision, as it’s all that many people look at before moving on. Follow accounts that inspire you and have similar themes /aesthetics to yours, and pay attention to their trends and what hashtags they’re using. Don’t copy others, but learning from someone more accomplished is a good way to grow in any art form.


L&S: I WOULD IMAGINE BRANDS REACH OUT TO YOU PRETTY OFTEN ABOUT COLLABORATING AND WORKING TOGETHER. HOW DO YOU CHOOSE BRANDS TO WORK WITH WITH?
SARAH:
 I collaborate with brands that I like and use, or when their aesthetic matches mine. I only promote things that I actually use or wear. I especially love working with brands that align with my ethics around sustainability, slow fashion, women’s empowerment, among others.


L&S: DO YOU HAVE ANY PET PEEVES OR THINGS YOU DON'T LIKE WHEN IT COMES TO BRANDS PITCHING THEMSELVES TO YOU FOR A PARTNERSHIP?
SARAH: 
I don’t really have a pet peeve – it’s such a huge compliment when someone wants to collaborate with me. I look for the brands that fit my aesthetic or values. Partnership must be mutually beneficial, so either the company should have a large audience, a desirable product, or they pay me for the exposure to my followers. I fall into the micro influencer category, and that’s currently quite popular with brands trying to reach targeted audiences.

Stay connected with Sarah on Instagram