How to Beat the Instagram Algorithm in 2019!

Pink Tulle Dress

Ever since Instagram implemented the algorithm, there have been countless posts about how to beat it. From quick and easy hacks to complicated, time consuming strategies, everyone is trying to find a way to beat Instagram at its own game. As an influencer, part of your success depends on your reach and the engagement you get on your posts so performance is critical. I’m far from an Instagram expert, but I have learned a few things on my journey as a microinfluencer, so I’m sharing some of my tips for how I’ve managed to maintain my account, get decent engagement, and keep the algorithm from making me crazy!

Pink Tulle Dress
NYC Photo Shoot Locations
Fashion Photo Shoot Styling

Focus on Instagram Engagement

Engagement is everything! You can’t control who sees your posts anymore, and you definitely can’t control who likes or comments on them. Since this post focuses only on things you can control, when I speak of engagement I mean how you are active and engaging on the platform. You can’t just post once a day, disappear, then expect your account to get traction. I spend about an hour a day on Instagram, engaging with new accounts and people that follow me. Yes, I go through my followers list and like, comment, watch and Insta-story or something to let my followers know I pay attention to them! If you are engaging with their accounts they are also more likely to see your posts in their feed and engage on yours!

Create Compelling, High Quality Content

There are so many influencers and brands posting on Instagram these days it’s impossible to stand out if your content isn’t up to par. Focus on creating content that is in line with your aesthetic, is eye-catching enough to make someone pause on your pic not just scroll past, and has an interesting caption. I admit I am not the best at captioning! I typically schedule my images so the visual flow makes sense, but I don’t caption in advance so I usually end up posting on the fly. I’m challenging myself to work on better captions because I firmly believe they help with boosting engagement and beating the Instagram algorithm.

Collaborate with Other Bloggers in Your Niche

Collaborating with other influencers isn’t just for fun! It can help organically expose you to a new audience and help you create new types of content that engage and excite your followers! I had a blast shooting with some of the Exclusively Social babes around NYFW and I hope to do more partnerships with other bloggers to have fun and help each other grow!

Have Fun and Remember Why You Started

I started my influencer journey to have a creative outlet when my corporate job felt stifling. It became my personal passion project, a place for me to challenge my creativity, make new connections, and post about things that excited and inspired me. So whether I’m posting from far-flung destination or frolicking in a tulle dress in a Brooklyn studio that rivals a Victorian mansion, this is my place to create what I want. Think about what you want, and how you can find other people that want to see what you create!

Instagram can always change their algorithm, and probably has by the time you read this post! By remembering the things that motivate you, inspire you, and challenge you as an influencer will make the journey all worthwhile.

Tips to Beat the Algorithm

Let me know how you are surviving Instagram and your life as an influencer!

Secure the Bag! How to Make Money as a Small Blogger

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So this has been a highly requested post that I was saving for the end of the year! I am going over all my invoices and making sure my accounting dashboard is up to date, but so far it looks like it’s been a pretty good year for the blog! If you are a new blogger or have been struggling to monetize your blog here is what has worked for me as I’ve established myself. I’m still working on it, so please take all of this as inspiration or my personal tips. You should definitely develop your own strategies and test them as you go on your blogging journey.

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Have a professional media kit and rate card

Before you can start making money, you have to look legit! Make sure you have analytics for your blog set up, and all of your social networks are Business Accounts so you can get insights. Then design a stellar media kit and rate card. I use Canva since the templates are so easy to work with. You should also do your research on what is a reasonable rate for you to charge based on your following/blog traffic.

Join Every Blogger Agency/Network

There are dozens of influencer networks/agencies that you can opt into. Most of them require you to make a profile and connect/authenticate your social profiles. Then you will either be in their database so they can include you in lists when their brand clients request influencers for a campaign, and some even show you a list of sponsorship opportunities you can apply to. It makes getting your profile and pitch in front of brands so much easier, and they are usually clear about the deliverables and guidelines, so you know what will be expected and when.

Here are a few that I have signed up for:

Social Fabric

Activate

Hashtag Paid

Fohr

Collectively

Clever

StyleHaul

Some have different requirements to join so check out each website and get to applying! The beauty of these programs is they connect you to brands that are their clients, and are super streamlined and easy to work with. There are several brands and retailers that I’ve worked with through these platforms on multiple occasions, so it gives you a library of content that you can use to pitch the brand directly! I do a good amount of my business through Social Fabric and Clever and they are super easy to work with. There are some tips and tricks you’ll need for a successful application in these networks, so stay tuned for a follow up post on that!

Use Affiliate Networks to Drive Sales

 Affiliate networks are a great way to generate revenue from your blog. Companies like RewardStyle, ShopStyle and Amazon all have influencer affiliate networks. The process is pretty simple – once you join the network you can create trackable links to use for products you post about. If someone clicks the link and makes a purchase, you get a small commission on it. If the customer returns the item within a certain window, usually 30 days, your commission goes away. The commission you get on each sale is pretty small, around 3-15%, but the awesome thing is you get commission of their entire order, not just if they buy the one item you had in the post! So if you start out clicking on an eyeshadow palette I had in a Sephora beauty post, but end up buying $500 worth of skincare, I get commission on the $500 total! So when you have good traffic , spendy followers, and post regularly in can start to add up.

For example, here is a shopping gallery where you can see the items I’m wearing in the images above. When an item is sold out or no longer available, like the Manolo sandals I’m wearing, I link to something similar.

If you click the slip and go shop on Savage x Fenty, I will NOT get a commission because that brand is not in the affiliate network. But I still included it because I love the brand and think you guys should check it out! However the jacket and shoes are from in network retailers so I will get a commission. This is not a very big stream of income for me just because the payouts are quite low and I never link to things I don’t actually like. 

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Not Every #Ad is a Paid One, and That’s ok!

The fact is not every partnership is going to be a paid one, but free stuff is fun too! The fact is a lot of brands do not have influencer budgets, or only spend on bigger influencers or celebrities. However some companies do very generous gifting or products and experiences! I’ve gotten amazing skin care and beauty sets, clothing, complimentary salon and spa treatments, access to exclusive events, and even free travel! If you are new to brand partnerships, working in exchange for product is a great way to get experience creating branded content. It also really helps to offset the amount you spend on things you will use anyway. Plus there is always pressure on a blogger to have new items to post about or review, so having connections to brands that will gift will enrich your content and expand your reach and experience. If you are still struggling with pitching, here are some networks that specialize in getting you freebies!

Influenster

Octoly 

Bzz Agent

6 ways to make money blogging


Pitch Brands Yourself 

Once you have your banging media kit and successful examples of brand work from agencies or free collaborations you may feel ready to start hitting brands up yourself! The art of the pitch is really something that deserves its own post, so more to come. However, the best way to negotiate your projects and payment on your terms is to work with the brand directly. Typically when you get a gig through an agency, the brand went to that agency with a total campaign budget that also included agency fees. If a third-party isn’t taking a cut, you can definitely get a higher rate! I usually send an introductory email with my stats attached and a description of the project or concept and ask if they would like to work together. I usually pitch about 4 to 6 weeks out, so started holiday in October, Valentine’s Day right after New Year’s and am now working on ideas for Spring Fashion in March. The timing gives me time to get my pitch list and concepts organized and ready to go. Plus, you need to get in front of brands before budgets are allocated! Most brands have an influencer marketing budget that they break up seasonally, so you should get on their radar before plans are locked-up and other influencers cast. 

 Create a Product You Can Sell

A lot of bloggers and influencers also earn money selling products. The most common ones I’ve seen are presets for photo editing or e-courses. Some also do merch like mugs, t-shirts, etc. If you feel like you have a service to offer that your audience would be interested in think about selling it on your blog. I’m personally debating putting together an e-course, so let me know in the comments if you’d be interested! 

And Remember - It’s ok to Say No!

Just because you are new to the game and trying to secure more partnerships does not mean every opportunity is right for you. It could be a question of timing, deliverables, the pay being really low, or it not being a brand you vibe with. Personally, I say no to a lot of projects if the I feel what the brand is asking is taking advantage. Because of my background in marketing and my experience in campaign production, I can easily call bullshit when a brand asks for certain terms. I have said no to brands asking for an unfair exclusivity term, image usage rights I was uncomfortable with, and when they ask me to not disclose our partnership. Every influencer and brand knows the FTC requires disclosure so it’s a dishonest practice that will get you fined for not obliging. Evaluate every offer carefully, and do some research in blogger groups or influencer platforms to get a better idea of what is and is not standard to ask in a partnership.


If you are a new blogger or influencer reading this and are hoping to start cashing in, I hope these tips helped! I’ll be continuing this series with posts like the below: 

 

  • Contract Negotiations with Brands so you can get the most out of all the sponsorships that will be rolling in!

  •  Tax Tips You Need to Know for Your Blog

  •  Content Creation Strategy

  •  Double Duty – Managing a Blog and a Full Time Job

Making Money as an Influencer

 

 

The Instagrammers Guide to San Diego

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Back from a fabulous weekend in San Diego! It was my second time in the city and I fell even more in love. It's absolutely beautiful, with amazing food, stunning beaches, and super friendly people. What's not to love! I'm more of a travel blogger now than I was when I went a few years ago so obviously I wanted to hit up as many Instagram worthy spots. Priorities,  I know! If you want to make the most of your San Diego trip while also getting as much #content as possible, here are my go to spots in the city!

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Wander around North Park

North Park is to San Diego what Brooklyn is to NYC - cute, trendy, and getting more and more buzzy. Start with a healthy bite at Communal Coffee, a coffee shop that sells classic hipster fare lie bowls and vegan baked goods. They also share a space with Native Poppy, the cutest florist, and next door is Pigment an adorable shop featuring a giant pink wall, a build your own succulent station and plenty of other social media bait. 

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A few blocks way is Holy Matcha, or the place of my dreams! The decor is all pink and green, and the menu is full of beautiful and refreshing drinks and snacks. When I was there pretty much everyone was taking advantage of all the photo opps, and the staff didn't mind at all.

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After you've gotten a healthy bite, wander across the street to Hammond's Gourmet Ice Cream. All of their flavors are incredible, so get a tasting flight so you can sample them all! 

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Take the Ferry to Hotel del Coronado

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The Hotel del Coronado is a San Diego icon. It has a rich history, beautiful beach, and cute restaurants and bars with beachfront views.  If you are in a rush you can take a taxi or drive, but the ferry is also a great way to get to the island if you want to take in some views on the journey. 

Hang out in Pacific Beach

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Pacific Beach, or PB as the locals call it, is a laid-back surfer town near the beach. Grab an acai bowl from The Mad Beet to snack on while you catch some sun, and when you are ready to dig in, stop by Kono's, a low-key beach front restaurant serving breakfast all day.  

Explore the Old Town

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The Old Twn is the historic heart of San Diego. It was established in 1769 and was California's first settlement. There are lush gardens, great restaurants, and a charming, old world Mexican-American feel. 

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There is so much more to experience in San Diego, from Sunset Cliffs, to Balboa Park, and even day trips to Mexico. I only had a few days so had to choose carefully, but I will definitely be back to this charming city. Let me know your favorite places in San Diego for when I plan my next visit!

Pin me!

Pin me!

Insta-Famous! Social Media Tips for New Bloggers

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So let me preface this post by acknowledging that I am FAR from Instagram famous! In the grand scheme of things my following is tiny, but I am so proud to have grown it to what it is and am celebrating crossing the coveted 10k threshold on Instagram!

I've put a lot of effort in and learned a lot along the way and I wanted to share it with my blog family. Hopefully it helps you on your road to social media stardom, or something like that. 

Be a storyteller

I found that engagement on my posts increased significantly when my captions got longer- giving insight, inspiration, background to the photo or my mood that day. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a beautiful caption can only enrich the story. Give people a reason to be interested, and they will be. 

Be authentic

My most watched Instastory of all time was one of my showing my aloe vera and coconut oil pre-shampoo treatment. Most of the pics on my feed are of my hair styled super polished, and I had been long-term protective styling so that was the first time many people had even seen my natural hair. I think that viewers appreciated little sneak peek into my all natural, undone self. And while that will probably not become a regular trend, being more open only make you more human. I know there is so much pressure to curate the perfect feed, but nothing beats showing off who you are and what you stand for. 

 

Diversify Your Platforms

Instagram may be a big, wildly popular social network, but it's not the only one! As much as I love the gram, I split my time between Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Snapchat, and my blog, the only platform that is truly mine. Remember, a platform as popular as Vine can disappear overnight, crushing the careers of tens of thousands of influencers. No matter how big your Instagram following is, you don't own that audience. Think about your website, your email list, and other ways to build your brand, outside of one social network. 

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Don't Sweat the Algorithm

Yes there is an algorithm. Yes it changes whenever Facebook or Instagram feel like it, often dealing a crippling blow to engagement. It's a widespread problem that everyone in the industry is aware of. Instead of going crazy over the thing you can't beat, focus on the things that you can. You can always create high quality original content. You can always find a way to engage with your audience and potential new followers. And you can find brand partners that will evaluate you as an overall package, not just how many likes you average on each post.

Know the Rules (and follow them)

Shortcuts may be tempting, but taking them will only hurt you in the long run! Every aspiring influencer can get frustrated with growing at what seems like a snail's pace, while you see and hear stories of other people skyrocketing overnight. And you never know what tricks someone may have up their sleeve, so you really can't compare. But stuff like buying likes and followers is never kosher, and will come back to haunt you the second you start trying to pitch brands for sponsored work. Most companies use analytic tools like Hypr, or Fohr Card to get the scoop on an influencer's following and how authentic it is, so if you cheat you will get caught at some point. Your reputation is all you have and it can be destroyed in seconds if you are caught buying likes or followers, so just don't do it!

Keep it Up!

When I did my first shoot with a pro for my blog he asked me my goals and what I planned to do. I just said I was going to give it a try for a year and see what happened. His response was, "why only a year"? And if I would have stopped after a year I would have just given up thinking it was impossible to get past 500 followers! Yes it's a different ball game than it was a few years ago before all the platform changes, but that doesn't mean you can't do well with hard work, patience, and the right strategy! 

Pin this for reference later! 

Pin this for reference later! 

3 Things You Need to Know About Solo Travel

Wine tasting in Stellenbosch, South Africa

Wine tasting in Stellenbosch, South Africa

I finally posted my 5 things about me Insta-Story and got a lot of questions about 1 post in particular – my week alone in South Africa. I got so many questions about that story, how I ended up traveling there alone, and what it was like as a woman being along in a foreign country, I decided to do this quick post about my experiences as a solo traveler.

Tips for Traveling Abroad Alone
Strolling along the beach in Cape Town

Strolling along the beach in Cape Town

South Africa wasn’t the only time I traveled on my own. In that case, I ended up catching a fare sale for a round trip ticket for only $500 so I had to jump on it. But all of my friends missed the boat or didn’t have the money to spend in the moment, so I decided to not miss out on an opportunity to have a bucket list trip for an amazing price. Before that adventure, I had already travelled solo through several cities in Spain, St. Kitts and Nevis, and the South of France, so my fear factor was pretty much nonexistent. Yes, South Africa is farther away and some areas have a reputation of being dangerous, but I had an amazing time and no regrets about making it a solo journey. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions I get about solo travel, in general and in regards to my Insta-story!

The end of a hike through Cinque Terre

The end of a hike through Cinque Terre

What do you do all by yourself?

Whatever you want! That’s the beauty of it. You can wake up as early as you want without worrying about your travel buddies, or sleep until noon if your heart desires. You can do every tour on your list if you want, or just wander aimlessly and sit in a café and people watch. Traveling alone gives you an indescribable sense of freedom to experience a new place on your own terms. I usually set up a loose itinerary to make sure I don’t forget anything, and check days/opening hours for things I know I want to see so I don’t miss out. But other than that, I give myself plenty of time to wing it.

In Soweto, Johannesburg

In Soweto, Johannesburg

How do you stay safe?

I think the biggest fear women have about traveling alone is security, and you definitely need to be aware of your surroundings at all times. You probably already know to not dress conspicuously or wear anything flashy or expensive, but here are a few other tips. When I’m alone I typically opt for an international chain hotel instead of a small boutique inn or AirBnB, just because they usually have better security. I also never tell anyone I’m alone – if someone asks just say your friends are doing a different tour and you are meeting up after. In most cities you can find a free or super cheap guided walking tour. I like to do those on one of the first days of the trip to help familiarize myself with the city. I also recommend the hop-on-hop off bus if you are somewhere that isn’t pedestrian friendly or you are too nervous to walk around alone. I did in Johannesburg and got to see everything on my list in a safe, efficient way.

When I am walking around I try my best to avoid pulling out a map or navigating on my phone. Before I leave the hotel to walk anywhere I go over the route and memorize what I’m looking for so I don’t have to stop and double check too often. And if you are somewhere that doesn’t have Lyft or Uber available, make sure you know how to recognize an official taxi, and don’t be afraid to take a picture of the license plate before you get in! I have done that several times and sent the pics to my group chat so friends at home would know the deal.

 

Stunning views in Capri, Italy

Stunning views in Capri, Italy

Who is taking your pictures

Pics or it didn’t happen! When you are traveling alone, the best way to get photos is to ask other tourists. I usually look for a couple or small group of girls and offer to take a shot of them, then they’ll take one of me. If the pic they take is awful (and it usually is) politely thank them, wait for them to leave, then ask someone else. Or if you join a group tour you can always ask the guide, and they tend to be pretty good since they are used to it. Depending on the location, you can also travel with a portable tripod. I’m a huge fan of them for shooting outfit posts. Just be careful to place it somewhere that someone couldn’t easily grab it and run, and avoid using it on windy days. The lightweight ones can easily be knocked over and you don’t want your phone to go flying.

Paris is always a good idea!

Paris is always a good idea!

That’s it for now, but let me know in the comments if you have more questions about solo travel that you want answered! 

Tips for Women Traveling Alone



Insta-Obsessed: My Fave Accessories Brands Found on the Gram

It's no secret I spend  A LOT  of time on social media. In addition to the friends, fashionistas, and foodies I follow, I tend to go off the deep end whenever I hit the explore page. A few of my binge browsing sessions have helped me find amazing brands, with gorgeous products and inspiring, witty content. Check them out below!

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Love Cortnie's oversized clutches are unique enough to start a conversation and big enough to hold more of your essentials than the average clutch. Keep your eyes on the One & Done page for items that are truly one of a kind! 

This brand's assortment of sexy chokers (on sale now) and bad ass bandanas is killer! And since they were just started a few months ago, dropping their name will give you instant it girl cred. 

Head wraps are one of my summer staples and The Wrap Life is the go-to place for bold colors and fresh prints! If you have no idea where to begin tying one of these, check out their fun tutorial videos. 

If custom name chains and rose gold grills are your thing, Melanie Marie is your go-to shop. Their designs are edgy and bold perfect for anyone who likes rock-star ready jewelry.