In the last ten years at A+B Consulting, I've met many a blogger/influencer. Carly, known as "The College Prepster" has been hands down one of my favorites. I love what she represents in the online world where oftentimes, women are doing disrespectful things for more followers and "likes". Carly is true to herself, is smart, clever and a great example for your daughters to follow. She is also incredibly impressive. Her audience is far above average when it comes to engagement, she also runs circles around her competitors when it comes to monetizing her blog. In this field, she is an expert. See below for her tips on building a blog, a following and being Insta-famous.
Tell us about how you met and know Alatheia.
Alatheia and I met three years ago through a mutual friend! We met for coffee downtown one day and I immediately loved her between her bright red hair and cashmere-clad infant daughter. At the time I was looking for a manager for my blog and we hit it off.
Everyone wants to be "Insta-famous" these days... In all seriousness, what have been your most successful ways in growing a following on Instagram, FB and Twitter? Do you use Pinterest?
I would say that consistency has been the number one thing that helps me grow a following. By consistency, I mean I post frequently (across all channels) and I'm also consistent in what I post. I'm not latching onto the current "it" trend or jumping around with who my brand is. My content has definitely evolved over time, but it's an evolution that matches my personal growth.
As far as platforms go, the trick is to be everywhere you can be without losing the quality of content. I tweak my content per channel without losing the overarching message. I want my readers to get the biggest story by following all of my channels without overlapping of content, but that they could also follow on one channel and still get the idea.
Unfortunately, growing a following on social is so much harder now than ever before. I got a kickstart on Instagram by mastering the "Popular Page" algorithm back in the day (~2013) but of course, that doesn't work nowadays.
The old marketing adage still rings true here: Content is king. You really have to commit to good content that feels unique to you. Snapping a quick picture in a dark restaurant isn't going to cut it anymore!
I use Pinterest, but only as a tool to throw traffic back to my blog. I reluctantly use Tailwind to schedule pins for me. Between Pinterest's new algorithm and terrible user experience (not to mention Instagram's rise in popularity), it's a much harder game to play.
How do you feel about social media in general? Do you have a healthy relationship with screen time?
I used to love it, then I hated it, and now I'm in a position where I see it as my job and nothing more. When I realized how much time I was spending mindlessly scrolling through Instagram, I made the decision to seriously cut back. I don't follow many accounts because certain things on social drive me crazy. If I don't want to see it, I just don't follow.
In a sea of IG models, how does it feel to be viewed as an influencer that has a squeaky clean persona // content? Do you feel pressure to add more sex appeal?
"Good for you, not for me." That's kind of my motto. Could I have more followers if I contoured, got eyelash and hair extensions, spray tanned myself to a deep bronze, wore bikinis, and showed my butt and cleavage? 100% yes.
But that is not me and it's not what I want to be known for! It lives forever and you never know who's screenshotting and saving that material and what they're doing with it.
I'd say, in general, I'm a pretty conservative person... but it's not that I don't have fun at times too. But there are also things that I just don't believe belong on social media. The "rosé all day" and "champs" thing sends a bad message. I'm not against having a glass of wine at dinner– I just don't like the notion that you have to have alcohol at every event.
You speak openly on The College Prepster about dealing with anxiety, what are some of your triggers (working as a blogger) and how do you deal/cope when you feel anxiety coming on?
Identifying what is causing my anxiety and then getting to the root of the problem (i.e. why it's making me feel anxious) is so important in combating it. I used to get really worked up over negative comments and trolls online. Then I started getting to the root of it and realized that as long as I liked what I was doing and could sleep at night, it didn't matter what other people thought of my blog or me.
Now that blogging is my job, the anxiety I feel is more related to running the business (taxes, contracts, etc) more than the front end of social media.
This year, I've started meditating a lot and love it. It's great for day-to-day stress management. I feel more in control of how I react to certain situations now that I'm meditating daily.
What is your best advice for bloggers just starting out?
1) Just start. Too many people wait for the right branding, the right ideas, etc. The sooner you get started, the better. Don't share it right away. Just take the time to start writing content, finding your voice, and honing in on your vision for the brand.
2) Set yourself up for success by setting realistic expectations. It's realistic to expect to connect with a community, build a portfolio of writing/creative content, learn a few new things, and have a fun side project to enjoy. It's unrealistic to expect to "get famous" or earn a full-time salary. The full-time blogger/Instagrammer is almost entirely a myth. I don't have actual numbers on it, but trust me, very few people who do social are actually doing it full-time. There are people funded by (related and unrelated) side-hustles, parents' money, spouses' income, and credit card debt). Trust me, it's an illusion. Most of my friends who are blog "full time" may do it as their only job, but they're not responsible for household expenses, mortgage payments, retirement funds, etc.
3) Don't accept campaigns or free stuff just because it feels exciting. I get it, it can feel great when brands reach out wanting to work with you. Unless it's something you genuinely like or want to try, promoting products too early (and for no money) is going to hurt your brand and alienate whatever readers you may have gained. Say "no" a lot and continue to build trust with your readers. One piece of advice I have is that it's also easier to say "yes" to a $1,000 campaign than "yes" to ten $100 campaigns. Same money at the end of the day, but those $100 campaigns are not worth your time.
What type of photos get the most likes?
Photo engagement depends on you and your brand. I used to lose followers every time I posted a photo with my face in it, but over time I kept posting photos with my face and, yes, I lost followers but I still gained new ones who liked my face. It was worth losing those other people!
It's easy to think that you should post basic photos that you know people are going to like. But in the process, you completely lose your point of view. You have a Gucci bag and acrylic nails? Great, so does every other Instagrammer. Yes, it "works" for getting likes, but now you're just one of many... instead of being YOU!
Don't fall for the "basic photo" trap! Just do you and share the photos that interest YOU. (Which may very well be Gucci bags. Don't listen to me if that's what you want to post! ha)
I will say that the quality of photo does matter. You can use a professional photographer, but honestly, some of my most-liked photos have been taken my (totally not professional) mom on my iPhone. Good lighting and interesting content can go a LONG WAY. iPhones often capture better photos than a camera since you can whip it out right away and don't have to worry about settings.
How do you have such great engagement?
I try to have a relationship with my reader. I don't want to come across as some snobby Instagrammer who is too important to connect with a follower. Hello! I have my job because people follow me! It's rude and wrong to put myself on a pedestal.
From the very beginning, I've made a point to answer readers' questions, respond to comments when I can, and actually build a relationship with the reader. I don't want to feel disconnected from them. I think the engagement then goes up from there, since it's genuinely genuine. I appreciate every single comment and like and I want my readers to know that by my actions.
So even though it takes a lot of time throughout the day, I absolutely prioritize it because it's important to me.
You've started using a lot more video in your content, do you think video is as if not more important that still photos? How often are you incorporating?
I still prefer photos, but I can't deny that we're living in a "video first" world. I mean, bloggers are small potatoes compared to YouTubers! Those are the people with serious influence!
How do you find time to exercise?
Finding a class that I really love helps me stay motivated to workout. I don't think I'd prioritize it as much as I do if I didn't enjoy it. I also put it on my calendar and work my schedule around my classes as much as I can. It's a standing "appointment" for me on my Google Calendar and I try my best to avoid having to cancel it.
I also know I work better when I workout. Even though it takes 1.5 hours out of my day, I gain so much valuable working time out of it.
@artofbeingfemale on Instagram