If you think you spend too much time on Instagram, talk to someone who works in social media. Right now (as I'm writing this), it's barely noon and I've already spent over two hours on the platform—which is, yes, slightly terrifying, but also what helps prepare me for my job.
Aside from producing content, uploading the photos/videos, and answering DMs on @shopcupcakesandcashmere, I'm spending a lot of time on Instagram to get inspired. I enjoy scrolling to identify new trends or tricks that can help tell a story, which is probably why I went into the field in the first place. Since a ton of you message us with questions about our methods, I opted to list a few of them out to help you with your personal (or professional!) experience on Instagram:
We get so many DMs asking about how to create the gradient colors in our Stories. Once I learned how to do this, it was a total game-changer: It makes totally boring and mundane text pop. Initially, a friend of mine instructed me on how to create it, but now there are tons of tutorials across YouTube that simplify the process. Here's how: Highlight the text you want to add the effect to, and hold down on the bar to the right of the text with your right thumb. With your left pointer finger, press down on the color you want the last letter to be, hold your finger there, then drag your two fingers to the left together. Ensure that you're creating a steady straight line with your right thumb, and you should see the individual colors of the letters start to change! For any visual learner who would rather watch us teach you, I'll be showing you how on Stories today.
This feature feels eerily similar to Pinterest, but it's incredibly helpful if you're mining Instagram for inspiration for an upcoming event or project. For example, I have collections for L.A. spots I want to visit, home decor, style, food/recipes, and travel that I can refer back to when I need them—whether it's for a photoshoot, renovation, or an upcoming trip.
On a vacation around a year ago, I decided to take photos and videos as I normally would, but wait until the end of the day to upload a more complete Story before bed. I gave each one a bit more thought and tried to create a bigger narrative about my day instead of arbitrarily pushing something live that I felt lukewarm about. I know this sounds like nutty social media editor speak, but as someone who generally lives on her phone, it wound up giving me more freedom to enjoy my day. Uploading your content piecemeal leaves engaged viewers at the edge of their seat for the end of the story instead of feeling satisfied. While this doesn't always need to be your approach, I've found it to be refreshing and makes the process of building content more enjoyable. I've even turned a few of our team members onto it (they say it's completely reshaped their relationship with social media!).
A downside to spending so much time on social media platforms is the inundation of content, specifically of those who exclusively show you their highlight reel. For someone who's constantly digesting what other people put out into the world, I know that it can make me feel like my (totally incredible) life is still "less-than." The simplest way to combat this is to unfollow, but we live in a weird and complicated time where unfollowing can unintentionally translate to, "I don't like you." Thankfully, Instagram invented the Mute feature, so you can remove someone's content from your feed without offending them. Muting people who make my life feel anything but great has been the best decision I've made for my mental health in quite some time.
One of the most frequently asked questions I get on my personal account is how I edit my photos to give them all the same look and feel. I used to go with an existing filter (VSCO is awesome), but when I began my design program at UCLA, I decided that I wanted my content to have a specific vibe—one that reflected me, and that meant having a unique preset. I spent some time culling through different accounts I gravitated towards (and saved the ones that resonated in a saved folder on Instagram!), then used Lightroom to create a preset that nailed the aesthetic I was going for. Now, I throw my filter on any photo I post on my personal account to ensure that people viewing it already know it came from me, even if they don't see my Instagram handle. It definitely took a bit of time on the front end, but it was work I feel was totally worth it.
With so many existing accounts, it's tough to become discoverable to anyone who doesn't already follow you. Using tags in general will help, but there's a way to sneak a few into your Stories that don't feel intrusive or distracting. Create some hashtags and shrink the text until it's as small as possible (while still having control over it!), and either change the font color to blend in with whatever it's in front of, or hide it behind a gif/other text. It's easy and adds your Story to any larger hashtag that someone might search for.
P.S., I'll be sharing my tips in action today, where else?, on @shopcupcakesandcashmere!