A wave of “Instagram vs. reality” memes and pictures hit Instagram earlier this year, sparking laughter and a chorus of ‘so trues’ all over the Internet.
While funny, the Instagram versus reality trend exposes the desire among Instagram users for content creators to pull back that perfect curtain and show us life, unfiltered.
“Be authentic, be real, be genuine” are just a FEW of the buzz-phrases I’ve seen all over Instagram in recent days.
It seems those magazine-worthy lifestyle shots are losing their luster a little bit! You don’t need to be “candid” in the latest designer outfit on a yacht in the Mediterranean in order to get more followers.
That’s also true for businesses. While a suite of sets, product backdrops, photographers and multi-million dollar video campaigns might be #goals, you don’t need them. You can sell your products and connect with your followers using exactly what you have.
It’s really this simple: your followers want to know and connect with YOU – The authentic, real, genuine you. 😍
But, that doesn’t make it any less scary to be vulnerable online, and it can feel so overwhelming to add another task to your marketing to-do list.
That’s definitely how I felt when I first started my blog. I still feel that way sometimes!
Real talk: When I took the plunge and shared my very first Instagram post, (back when I had a vintage reseller shop), I was terrified. I had no idea where to begin! For all I knew, people wouldn’t want to see anything other than beauty and absolute perfection on the ‘gram. They certainly wouldn’t want to see a regular gal like me sharing mirror selfies every day!
I never expected how much growth I’d have by being myself. My authentic, real, and genuine self.
And boy, did I experience growth. In fact, I ended up transitioning my vintage resale shop into a successful style blog. In under a year, I went from a handful of Instagram followers to over 25,000! 😱
The only way I could keep up with the momentum (and preserve my sanity) was by examining my values time and again to be sure my purpose was aligned with my presence on Instagram.
However, I had to identify those values first! 😅 Doing a deep dive into my values was necessary before fearlessly living them online as a brand.
For me, that was deciding which types of products and businesses I believed in and felt comfortable promoting. I began a practice of carefully researching the ethical and sustainable values of brands I partnered with!
It was also important for me to balance honesty and realness with my audience, while still maintaining my privacy. That’s a tricky one that I’m still learning to navigate today!
Pssst… if you need some inspiration on what brand values are and why they’re so important in your social media presence, make sure to check out “Why Your Brand Values Matter to Your Followers – More Than Ever!”
I was able to grow and create a community by being me – repeating outfits and sharing thrift-store clothing from the comfort of my bedroom!
Talk about incredible validation. My followers don’t need to see me with a new look in a glamorous new place every week. They just want to know who I am, and what I stand for in my life and my business.
In fact, I think if I started sharing snaps from fancy vacations with a different dress in every photo I’d actually LOSE followers. That’s just not my reality. Those images are not representative of the values I’ve shared with my audience since the very beginning.
That’s how important your values are to your Instagram followers – and your business growth.
Knowing that you should share your values freely with your followers and live by them online is one thing, but actually putting that into practice is another! #AmIRight
Don’t stress – that’s why I’m sharing the six methods I’ve used to share my values with my Instagram followers. They can work for any brand, blogger or business – big or small.
Ready to shatter the myths of Instagram perfection and show your followers the reality they’re searching for?
Let’s get to it!
Part of living your values means resisting the urge to conform to what you think people want to see from you. You don’t need to lead the perfect Instagram life and have all the latest gadgets to connect with followers over your blog. You also don’t need gorgeous models and stunning sets to sell products.
In short, you don’t need to invest in a brand new Instagram life. Embrace the life you already live!
Brand new wardrobes every day and stunning backdrops in exotic locales are not necessary to post a fun photo of yourself or your products!
Where do YOU really spend your time? What do YOU wear?
More importantly, what do your followers look like, do or wear when they’re using your products or services?
Even though I’m a style blogger, I proudly proclaim myself as an outfit repeater. Why?
One, I don’t want to have to shop for new looks every day. And two, I know my followers aren’t doing that either! Rewearing staple pieces in new combinations is natural, authentic and relatable.
After all, I definitely don’t throw out my best jeans after one wear, and I know my followers don’t either! 👖
When making content as a blogger or a business, don’t get caught up in what everyone else is doing and what their content looks like. Instead, step inside your follower’s lives and make content they can truly relate to!
Here’s another example. You may notice in the picture above, I have the new Pixel 4XL. I just have to tell you, I felt insane pressure to get an iPhone.
I’m a HUGE Google nerd, and I love their products far more than I love Apple products. But my humble green Android messages were constantly the butt of jokes. Plus, I saw so many other bloggers repping their iPhones on social media! 😱
Not to mention I schedule my content with Tailwind, which meant I had to do it from my desktop without the help of the iOS app. 😫
Even though it was hard to ignore the pressure from friends and competitors, (and at times downright inconvenient!), I didn’t switch from my beloved Pixel. That was an important part of staying true to my values and being real (both to my followers, and myself!)
So I quietly scheduled from my desktop and waited for the day when Tailwind would publish an app for Android users like me…
which came sooner than I thought!
That’s right- Tailwind is officially launching it’s Android app on the Google Play store on Monday, November 11th!
You can find the new app here! 🎉
I use this example to show you that everyone – even people who have found success on Instagram – feels pressure to do something different. Conforming is not the answer.
Don’t make content or invest in tools and props that you don’t believe in just because everyone else is. Start with what you have, and make content right where you’re at. Your followers will love you all the more for it!
Instagram Stories are the latest and greatest way to connect with your Instagram audience. So what makes them so great?
They only last for 24 hours, which means you don’t have to invest all that time prepping and polishing like you might in a feed post!
You should absolutely reshare your best content to Stories, but you don’t need to look and feel perfect when you share what’s happening behind the scenes, too.
For me, Instagram Stories are a way to test out what kind of content my audience might be interested in – especially when it’s not related to style!
That’s because I really value being able to express myself and pursue all of my interests. I have so many interests, and so do my followers!
It’s important for me to be authentic and human with the community I’ve built. I’d feel pigeonholed into one category if I only ever focused on style!
Recently, I shared that I’m working on a non-style-related IGTV video about knitting and asked who would want to watch, knowing that some people wouldn’t be interested at all.
I didn’t prep and polish for my Story creation either – I just hopped on Stories from my bedroom and threw a poll on there!
Make sure to share the behind-the-scenes and the real human experiences that go into making your content. For example, maybe you’re planning a photo shoot for a new product!
Try snapping a photo of yourself in your sweats as you run errands and prepare for the big day!
Or maybe you’re spending the whole day crunching numbers. Take a quick selfie video talking about the “boring” parts of your business that allow you to share the fun and creative content you post to your feed.
This is encouraging content that your followers will relate to – and they’ll never see the whole picture (and appreciate the end result) without you sharing authentically!
If you’ve had a month of low sales or engagement, it’s not the time for a #humblebrag. Take this opportunity to build trust with your audience by sharing the lows. Instagram shouldn’t just be a highlight reel.
In your next caption, talk to your audience about what’s been going on. “I might look SUPER happy in this photo, but the reality is that this month has been a struggle for me.” You’ll be amazed by how your audience responds.
I went through a really hard time earlier this year, and my followers had no idea.
It may have seemed like I was my normal, cheery self on social media.
But suddenly, I felt the overwhelming urge to open up to my audience and let them in.
On International Women’s Day, I shared from the heart about my niece passing away.
I received so many messages and comments from women who had gone through similar events or had experienced the pain of loss.
Not only did it make me feel more connected and supported by my audience than ever but it also forged a bond with my followers- and between them.
You can interpret this however feels right for your blog or your business. You have complete control over what you share. It’s important to note though, that your followers are human beings who have experienced as much as you have.
Don’t be afraid to pull the curtain back and talk about the highs – and lows. Humanizing your business and living authentically online will build connections where you least expect them.
A Fun Idea to Try:
Make your own Instagram vs. Reality feed post or Story! The “Instagram” version can be the carefully edited, posed and perfect version. The reality might be a messy workspace just beyond the photo, or maybe your child screaming in the background!
Have fun with the idea, and make it uniquely you!
At the end of the day, your business is about the bottom line. You need to support yourself, and Instagram is a great tool to help you reach that goal!
Plenty of content packed with information about new blog posts or products will support your goals. But take the pressure off yourself, too! Not every post has to be about selling a product or promoting yourself.
Building trust and connection with your audience over shared values can be just as impactful to your bottom line. Try to make space in your content calendar for posts that accomplish this goal!
Honestly, these posts and the connections that come from them are some of my very favorite pieces of content on Instagram.
It’s important to me to take breaks between promoting my blog posts and sponsored content by sharing the little details of my life.
I share fun facts about myself and things I’m excited about, such as the vintage Ralph Lauren skirt in this post!
Posts like these inspire my audience to share more with me about their own lives!
Try It Yourself:
Post a snapshot from a family vacation, and invite your followers into your world so they can get to know the person behind the business!
Or try asking your followers for their opinions and interests outside of your business.
This can be as simple or deep as you like. Some ideas to get you started:
In the age of cancel culture, getting personal and living by your values is bound to cause some problems online… just like it does in real life.
You may run into a situation where you alienate your audience unintentionally or mess up in your attempt to get vulnerable.
It’s not the end of the world. If you’re honest and own your mistakes, your followers are likely to understand.
Here’s what that looked like for me! 😱
Sourcing clothing from brands with ethical and sustainable manufacturing is a core value of mine, and one of the differentiators of my style blog.
I had to decide early on in my blog whether or not I would ever purchase clothing from brands that still had room to grow in their ethical manufacturing practices.
However, that’s easier said than done in some cases! Here’s one example of when I received a jumpsuit from a brand that needs to improve in its transparency.
I knew many of my followers wouldn’t agree with my choice, but it was important for me (and for them!) to see how thoughtful and intentional I was in making that choice. I spoke with a lot of my followers and ultimately decided to move forward – even if it was against my core values here.
If you find yourself in a situation where you say or do something online that doesn’t align with your values, tell your followers both what and why as well as how you’re going to DO BETTER.
An example might be:
“By announcing this new top, I know that I’m alienating some of you that don’t fit in my size offerings. I want you to know that by the end of this year, I will be exploring ways to make more size-inclusive pieces!”
Update your audience when you’re out of sync with your own values… and allow yourself to be human! We’re all works-in-progress, and your followers will respect you way more than if you never addressed the problem at all. ❤️
Truth: Being authentic, real, and genuine is difficult to achieve IRL (in real life) — let alone online. It takes time. But the process is incredibly rewarding and worth the effort.
Be patient with yourself.
It might take more time for you to build loyalty and a sizable following than it does for someone else. A lot of that has to do with finding what works for your followers!
I’ve had my account for over a year now, and I’ve tried a lot of new strategies.
When I look back at this post where I introduced myself to some new followers, it’s astonishing to me how much has changed!
Bottom line – it takes time to find your voice and figure out how to live your values. You might make some mistakes along the way, or make content that doesn’t resonate!
Challenge yourself to change your perspective about Instagram. What would happen if you focused more on building trust than growing your follower count?
Now, that’s not to say you should ditch your Instagram plans and strategies (let’s not get crazy, now!).
However, you’d be surprised how much easier it is to follow through on your goals when constantly look to your values to guide you.
I’d love to hear three ways you are going to experiment with living your values online!
Let me know what you’re going to try out and how in the comments below.
I read every comment, and will be sure to answer!
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