A colourful fashion blog supporting independents & sustainable fashion in Bristol and beyond since 2011

Friday, 29 January 2021

How to create great Instagram content without the stress

Despite all the lockdown madness and home schooling I still have my blogging mojo and would like to share my ideas on instagram content creation and how to get your own mojo back; whilst battling through this tough start to 2021.

Before we move on to my content creation tips, I would like to do a quick recap on last weeks topic on the instagram algorithm. It was really great to begin to create a community where we can talk about different topics, share tips, thoughts and ideas via social media.

The insta small business community agreed that the algorithm had certainly dropped engagement around Christmas, with some indie makers noticing a drop for quite a few months previous to this; with the feeling that insta certainly did seem to support corporate business over indie sellers.

Bec Denton from Dakota Rae Dust had a really interesting theory that may also have contributed to the Christmas drop in engagement.

Bec Denton designer at Dakota Rae Dust

"I definitely noticed a drop before Christmas. My stories views AND post likes and interactions dropped right off. I put some of it down to the increase in other similar businesses all upping their social media efforts at the same time, trying to push (their) Christmas sales". Bec Denton.

Did you notice this as a indie business or maker?

For me personally, I found the competition pretty full on if I'm honest, there was certainly a hardcore of sellers doing (insta) lives and posting loads of content BUT you want to get noticed and make sales right?

Or perhaps you were a potential customer wanting to shop small but found yourself overwhelmed with the amount of indie makers popping up on insta with their Christmas gift promotions? Maybe you were bombarded with corporate ad promos? Whatever you experienced, let me know! I'm intrigued!

Thanks to Bec and every one who reached out, I think we all agreed that trying to keep up with the algorithms is exhausting with many of us feeling beaten by it! Which is, sadly, just what instagram wants! Which leads me nicely to todays topic!

Motivating yourself to create that content....

As a newbie to product based selling (with my slow fashion brand Fruit Salad) this is my first January in business. I am learning this year, I have no expectations on whether the lockdown or a 'slow January' is affecting me or not. It's certainly a quiet time for sales......tumbleweed slowly rolls past....

Yeah, everyone is skint, but makers gonna make and sellers gonna sell, well that's the plan anyway..

After talking with various indie biz mates and insta community groups, it's clear that lots of us are feeling unmotivated and uninspired with a lack of content ideas for instagram. As January (and lockdown) continues many of us are STILL not feeling it and something needs to change, we need a boost!

After offering some motivational tips to a few indie makers (who seemed to appreciate it!) I felt I had something to share on content creation.

If I'm honest, I like creating content, as does my indie maker buddy Sophie Filomena who confessed, earlier this week, to be 'obsessed' with social media announcing she 'couldn't stop' creating content! Ha! Well good for Sophie, this needs celebrating in these times!

I can't say I am personally 'obsessed' but I do enjoy creating content and planning social media promos, I am, however, aware that many people hate it and find it stressful even (close your ears Sophie) boring!

It shouldn't be that way, especially if it is for your business. You should feel proud of your products and want to share them with everyone else. Why wouldn't you want your instagram platform to be the best it could be? It is, however, a very daunting and overwhelming thing to take on if your heart (and mind) is just not in it!

I am very much aware that social media can cause stress, anxiety and effect your mental health, I certainly do not want to encourage anyone to do something that may affect their wellbeing.

We all need to get the balance right and make social media posting work for us physically - how much time you can realistically spend creating content - and mentally - finding the times you are happy to post without causing stress.

This is REALLY important!!!

Sadly, the instagram algorithm doesn't care about your wellbeing so posting consistently - even if it is just once a week - will keep your content on the insta radar and popping up on your followers/ customers (and potential new followers/customers) feeds. Consistency is key!

Here are some tips based on my own personal experiences to get you inspired to create a back up library of posts without the stress - you will need put some work in initially but we cant just get everything for free, can we?

 Sophie Filomena 'can't stop' creating content!

Look at your instagram insights

Instagram insights hold a mass of information to help you to find out which of your posts have scored the highest in reach, likes, follows etc - You may be very surprised by what you find but these are your best posts!!

Insights enable you to be able to find out your best posts for all of the above and you can refine your search to include top posts for the past week, month, year and so on.

A quick tip here is to notice your Top 9 posts (squares) for each search only. This limits the amount of research you have to do and gives you the best of the best content.

Now you have a list/ a collection of images/ videos/ stories - whatever you searched for (yes, it sounds mind blowing but you can end up collecting lots of content and information to create new content - stay with me!) so what do you do with all this content and information?

Reuse your most popular posts

That's right, you don't have to constantly create brand new posts, if your 'Top posts' are still relevant to your business you can reuse them.

Nobody is going through your content with a fine toothed comb looking for repeat posts (unless they have far too much time on their hands) and if a certain piece of content worked for you last time, there is no reason why it shouldn't work again.

I have a rule, if I can't see that post in the past few months (or three thumb scroll through my insta wall) it's fair game!

Recreate your Top 9 posts

Whether its the Top 9 posts that got the most likes in 2020 or the top 9 posts that got you the most followers in the previous month, you can recreate these posts using your latest products / designs / makes.

If your Top post is a flat lay product shot, recreate that post using your latest creations/ products.

If another top post is of one of your customers with your products ask your customers to send in new photos, maybe offer a small discount to get them involved?

Customer photos are particularly helpful for fashion businesses in the UK atm as we are currently unable to produce photo shoots of our new products due to social distancing and lockdown rules.

It's also great to see indie makers using their own products, sometimes the best (and only) models for the job are yourself and your families. Get creative and get over hiding yourself away. Be your brand and think outside of the box!

Your Top 9 posts are always changing, as you add more content and the algorithms change. You will always have a never ending supply of content to reuse or recreate! Its a win, win!

Decide how often you can post

As I mentioned earlier, you have to be realistic about when you can post and find a time that suits you both physically and mentally.

Do you have a time to post every day? Do you need to post every day? Perhaps you can shorten the amount of time you post to just week days, leaving your weekends free or maybe you only need to post once a week?

Whatever you decide works for you, be consistent. Remember those algorithms like consistency and will continue to share your content with your followers whenever you post.

It makes sense to reduce the amount of content you create if you are finding it stressful, don't beat yourself up over posting a lot, it REALLY isn't worth it.

Following my (random) insta ban with my No Debutante account (see last weeks post) I became less inclined to post every day. I noticed that my followers and likes remained consistent - they possibly even started to rise - when I started posting less content! Which was pretty awesome, but I would never have found this out without taking (albeit an involuntary) step back from insta.

Find out what works for you, experiment with your posting until you find your own groove, where your content is still being shared and your followers (and hopefully sales) will continue to rise.

Make a plan

This is actually easier than it sounds.

There are, of course, social media apps (like hootsuite) that can help you schedule a years worth of posts if you really want to but I would suggest making things as simple as possible to reduce stress and a lack of inspiration / boredom. The less pressure you put on yourself the better!

Plan your posts once a week, I always decide on my content on a Sunday afternoon, ready for the week ahead. I select my images and email them to myself (or create a folder in google drive) so I have all my content in one place, ready to post.

I am a daily insta poster for my Fruit Salad account and I post every weekday morning around 10am - I often have weekends off posting unless I am taking part in a virtual market, have an offer that I need to promote or a new make I'm desperate to share!

I usually write my content copy (the words for my post) spontaneously on the morning that I post but if you find that difficult you could also plan your copy - Another tip here is to keep your wordcount to a minimum, if you are not a wordsmith and find this stressful, hashtags can say so much sometimes!

You can still be spontaneous!

Now that you have decided where, when and how you are going to post and have that library of content waiting to be used that doesn't mean that you rule out spontaneous posting.

If you have a new creation or a life moment that you want to share, screw your scheduled post and get it out there. We wanna see it! This also means you will have a spare (scheduled) post that can now roll over to next weeks posts, giving you more content to work with!

Amazing content by Dakota Rae Dust

Do your research - which types of posts work for you?

Going back to your Top 9 posts and insta insights, it always a good idea to see which types of posts work the best for you, perhaps its reels or maybe you get high engagement on stories? IGTV may work better for you or maybe you are all about photo content. Whatever works for you keep doing it.

Take time to experiment and find out what gets you the most reach or followers and also what you enjoy doing the most. Don't go making meet the maker or information videos if you don't like talking, make a reel instead and type in your words.

Push your boundaries but don't do it so much that you feel anxious, it's your platform, do what you like with it! You don't need to create reels just because everyone else is doing it!!

A tip here is that video is getting much more engagement and reach so perhaps find new ways to make video work for you in the near future.

Practise ideas and experiment before you share. I personally am not someone who really uses or enjoys tik tok but creating reels is fun and actually pretty easy. Hmmm! Perhaps I can create another blog post on video content in the future? Let me know what you think.

Remember to use a variation of products shots, lifestyle inspired content, inspirational or information graphics, people wearing/using your products (smiley faces are always a winner) on both photos and video.

One last tip - Reshare anything you post on your wall to stories, its instant content without the effort!

Don't worry be happy!

If you find it's all getting too much, take time out and post less regularly.

Do NOT obsess over how many likes and followers you have or compare yourself to others. Do your thing and you will get to know your usual amount of likes and how often you get new followers and learn to be happy with that.

Set yourself realistic goals, this will help you to recognise progress, understand what you need to work on and give you a little boost as your business grows at its own pace.

It's your platform so don't put too much pressure on yourself and try to have fun with it. 

All of the above ideas and tips are just that, ideas and tips. Do what you can and try and make things more manageable for yourself and your indie biz!

In my next blog post I will be discussing how lockdown and Brexit may be blocking indie business stock and creativity, sharing how I have personally been affected and starting a conversation with other creatives and indie businesses. Please do get in touch if you have anything to share on this issue.

Until next week, good luck with your content creating! I hope that this post may bring some inspiration and motivation to you, even if you are a fully established content creator! If you are the latter and have any tips and ideas, please do let me know so we can share them in the next blog post and vlog.

Speaking of vlogs, watch the latest IGTV video that goes with this post

One more thing....It's the Fruit Salad Weekender this weekend (Fri 29 - Sun 31 January) where you can get 15% off everything in our online shop! Just use the code WEEKENDER21 at checkout!

Big Love x 

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

What is happening to the Instagram algorithm?

How are you doing?

Feeling those lockdown-winter-January blues? It's not great is it? 

Since getting my blogging mojo back, I have started making lists about different topics I'd like to discuss in future posts. The mind-blowing conundrum of a topic that is sitting at the top of my list is...

What the hell is happening to the Instagram algorithm? 

Has anyone else noticed a big change recently? Have you experienced a drop in likes, reach or followers?

If you are a person who uses instagram as a platform to share your skills, your business and as a promotional tool, you will know that trying to keep up with instagram's ever-changing algorithm is like a full time job in itself.

The Instagram algorithm is constantly turning on you with unpredictable mood swings, it loves you one minute and showers you with gifts (followers) and then dumps you for your more expensive mate (fast fashion influencers and corporate companies) my gosh, I think the instagram algorithm is like the worst boyfriend ever! 

One minute your posts are pure gold, the next there's a drought of interactions from likes, reach and potential new followers!? Basically, you've been dumped! 

Let's set the scene.... After instagram shamelessly decided to randomly freeze my No Debutante account (and a whole load of other indie businesses, for no apparent reason) for a few weeks in September and then (equally as random) decided to reinstate my account - my instagram posts started getting a lot more likes and I was gaining followers without barely having to lift a finger, posting just once a week, if that. 

Maybe instagram had felt bad about this shameless exclusion and upped my reach...(you think insta really gives a shit about all the users its pissed off?? Hmm, wishful thinking perhaps) whatever it was those likes just kept coming.

The irony is, having that (forced) break up from instagram made me realise how much I really didn't miss posting and made me question why I was posting quite so often?  Of course, at first during my insta lockdown, I was fuming but then it was just...Meh...

To clarify, as a small business owner, I am super happy this did not happen to my Fruit Salad business account as this is currently my only outlet to my followers and potential customers. Basically, I'm in way too deep with this account! More on that in a minute...

Lately, I've been speaking to other indie makers and businesses (the insta small biz community is so supportive) and it would seem that many of us did see a drop in - mostly - insta likes over the Christmas period. 

The worst thing is that this drop happened a week or so before Christmas, just as we were all trying to make Christmas sales in, quite frankly, the best selling time of the year. Everyone was encouraging each other to shop small and locally and support indie business, it was a super positive and exciting time! Small business was thriving!

So why??? Like Boris Johnson (and the Grinch), why did the bloody algorithm have to go and trample all over our joyous Christmas (sales)???? 

I have a theory....and it is a theory...but stay with me....

Instagram changed the algorithm to support big businesses. Why? well, they already have lots of followers and can afford to buy advertising on instagram. 

Despite us indies working our asses off with our super organised Christmas posting schedules and amazing Christmas gifts and offers, we were side-lined. Instagram replaced us with a corporate team! Waaaa! 

Worst of all, this also means instagram was supporting mass consumerism and fast fashion! Aargh! Don't get me started! 

The thing is, Instagram is a big ol' corporate business, so it's no surprise that it wants to make more money. 

Let's look at what instagram has given us, for free, it's pretty great to be honest.....A platform where we can share our creations/ photos/lifestyle/ opinions/ events, meet new friends from all around the globe, create communities, sell our products, share, promote and support each other....

Why would they do all that and not want something in return?  You think Instagram is just a super kind business that just wants to spread love and joy to all for free? It sounds too good to be true doesn't it? Well, it probably is.

Once insta started supporting small business and big business alike and giving them the opportunity to use their platform with its business accounts and product links (for free), they are surely gonna want to reap some of these rewards for themselves...

How will they do it? Well, the plan is already well on its way...Firstly they have encouraged us to upload our whole lives and businesses and got us addicted to using their platform with gifts of followers and likes. 

We then started loving and depending on it so much that when they do drop the ultimatum timebomb - that we have to start paying for this service or lose all of our followers -  all of us (unless another lovely, thoughtful platform comes along) will just bend the knee and pay up. 

I know, I know, my blog posts are usually all sunshine and light, full of possibility and inspiration, but the instagram algorithm is seriously one of the most annoying and frustrating entities ever! 

In my next blog post, I am going to share tips and ideas on creating content and getting around the instagram algorithms but until then I'd love to hear your experiences and views on this and similar subjects. 

Remember this is MY THEORY, MY OPINION, it is not all fact! Although I have read many an article that says otherwise about instagram's plans. What do you think? Does it make sense? 

If you are an indie business and did notice an extensive drop in likes/engagement on instagram from the week before Christmas and are perhaps still experiencing this now, do get in touch or comment below. Maybe your engagement went up? What the hell happened? I'd like to hear from you. 

One last, POSITIVE thing I'd like to add is to help and support indie businesses (and your fave insta accounts). 

Please continue to support indie businesses every single day, by liking, commenting, saving, sharing their posts and buying their amazing creations and products! This helps boost their reach AND improves their place within the algorithm. 

The same goes for all of your fave accounts, support them and encourage them to post more content that you love! 

Whatever you do keep it indie! 

Watch my IGTV Vlog on this topic

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Independent and sustainable creativity is thriving despite the pandemic

Hello! It's been a while since I graced the pages of the No Debutante blog, following a year that has seen everyone grow and adapt to this new world, where things have certainly changed in many ways.

As a journalist who had regularly supported and written about indie business and slow fashion, I found myself wanting to say so much that it became overwhelming. As more writers and (instagram pages!) stepped forward to share the indie biz love, unconsciously, my focus began to shift.

My side hustle turned small business Fruit Salad

My side hustle and fashion brand Fruit Salad had started to grow and take on its own identity, which was amazing (especially in a pandemic) and all my spare time....

- Not that there's much of it - imagine a fast, intense photo montage here, with a superfast techno soundtrack, I hate techno but it captures the mood/chaos perfectly, of me looking after a family and working a day job and all those other side hustles in fashion, bands and radio shows

....was taken up by just wanting to create and make! So, swamped in piles of pre-loved fabrics, I found myself asking... 'Am I not a writer anymore?' 

Seriously, with a lack of writing flow and consistency and mind-blowing covid confusion,  I had started to doubt my ability and (like in everything I ever do) imposter syndrome snuck in and made me think I was no longer a writer - maybe I never had been really...despite being a Fashion editor, copywriter and JOURNALIST! (my eyes are now rolling at my own stupidity).

Yep, It's been a mad ol' time for self-doubt but I've also learnt that if I enjoy a thing and I'm kinda good at it, I can drop in and out of it as and when I like. It doesn't have to be completed NOW, NOW, NOW! It can be considered, I can slow down and actually enjoy it, without adding unnecessary anxiety and stress.

My favourite writing space at the kitchen table!

The term 'writing a blog' has also changed, with many people now pretty much writing articles on a single social media post or creating regular video content and podcasts, blogs and the written word, as it currently exists, look to become redundant!

As a journalist and blogger,  I had felt a tug of resentment against this new style of journalism but only as much as the journalists who actually studied journalism feel about an untrained indie journalist like myself, who started off with a self promoting fashion blog and a random, yet regular, fashion spread in a weddings (yes weddings!) magazine, as I stumbled blindly into journalism. 

Y'know what? It's all good. We all have something to say and we can share it however and whenever we want to. It's so exciting that we now have so many platforms and formats that we can share our ideas, thoughts and stories. It really is a time to communicate, learn and collaborate! 

There has certainly been an explosion of support for both small business and slow fashion during 2020 and into 2021, as more and more writers, instagrammers, online markets and indie businesses themselves have come together, to share the love, (well, the government doesn't give a damn does it?) which is truly amazing! 

I have, of course, felt guilty about not promoting all the other amazing indie brands out there as much as I used to, but as a multi-passionate creative, who thrives on being busy,  I have learnt to slow down in life - as many of us have had to lately -  I have got over myself and realised I can't do everything at once and that's just fine. 

Honestly, if I read myself saying this a few years back, when I started the 'you only live once do everything now' quest (for no real reason), I'd think I'd been hit by a hippy stick (quite possible in Bristol tbh!). 

I still agree that you only live once and if you like a thing, you should do a thing but perhaps try everything in moderation and take a moment to smell the flowers! (Yep, definitely hit with the hippy stick). 

Hello Dodo from the Indies in lockdown series

Looking back at my writing during the pandemic I am really proud to have shared new indie makers and brands whilst spreading the word about slow and sustainable fashion. I really love my Indies in Lockdown series where I got to speak to so many indie businesses about their experiences and learnt so much.

If anything, supporting all these amazing small businesses and interviewing so many inspiring indie makers and creatives over the years has encouraged me to bring forward a passion that has been on the back burner for a long while, giving Fruit Salad the push it deserves!!!.....Of course, I feel like an imposter fashion designer now, despite previously working as a fashion designer in industry for years!

After I had readjusted my mindset,  I got my writing mojo back and popped myself back into the journalist room on a mission to share my knowledge on sustainable and slow fashion.

In lockdown two, I was super excited to be asked to contribute to the first ever edition of The Indie Guide, an independently published magazine created by a collective of indie bloggers, sustainable fashion designers and photographers. The aim of the magazine is to support sustainability, independent creatives and small business. 

Proudly holding my copy of The Indie Guide

My excitement to be writing again went into overdrive which meant I ended up contributing two articles (once I start I cant stop) including 'My Slow Fashion Journey' and 'How to become a slow fashion supporter'. 

These are sustainable subjects that I could continuously write about, probably forever, or until I've managed to convert the whole fashion industry and all its consumers (that's the whole population no biggy) to slow down and bring an end to fast fashion. 

It was so awesome to collaborate with The Indie Guide founders and so many other indie writers and independent makers and fashion businesses to showcase how great the indie fashion/creative industry really is. 

Despite a pandemic, independent creativity is totally thriving!  

Like myself, during lockdown many creatives were given the opportunity to spend more time on their hobbies and side hustles to grow and evolve them into functioning small businesses!

We really don't need the fast fashion corporate chains and trend obsessive fashion houses anymore! How empowering and inspiring is that?

All the prints with independent accessory designer I am R

Remember, we can all support indie businesses every single day, not just by buying from them and writing articles about them but by following, liking, commenting, sharing and getting to know a whole new community of makers (instagram's a good place to start). Do your research and find your new favourite brand/artist/maker! 

I shall sign off  'the first No Debutante blog post of the year' here, full of excitement of what's to come. In an ever-changing world anything can happen and why the hell can't it be positive eh? 

So start writing, start creating, try something new or just do your thing, take your time, there really is room for everyone to get involved, you are not an imposter, you are fabulous, you CAN do this! 

Spread the joy and Big love in 2021 x

Buy a printed copy of The Indie Guide 

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