My Real Instagram Story
Sometimes something very, very good comes out of something very, very bad. And this is my story, my personal story of how Instagram Success brought me to a place of fulfillment and renewed joy.
Before I begin I want to tell you it is not a sob story. Nor is it a Cinderella story. It is just my story. A real story. And I want to share a little bit of the reality behind the pretty pictures and my Instagram success.
I started my IG account because my family was having serious financial troubles. My husband lost his job 8 years ago. We had poured all of our savings into a new company that hadn’t yet become profitable. Basically, I started Instagram because I needed to stop shopping and spending money. Instagram was a much needed distraction and a great way to stimulate my creative passions.
Ok, I know this doesn’t sound like a very exciting story, but I promise it has a lesson worth learning!
I want to share my real Instagram story and 3 keys to Instagram success that I learned along the way.
Picture the setting
A happy, healthy family of 4. My husband, our two sons ages 3 and 1, and myself had just moved into our dream house in the suburbs of San Francisco. 6 months after moving in my husband lost his job. I was a stay at home mom taking care of my boys. This began a 3 year period without income. He did some soul searching and started his own business in the senior care industry. But getting the business off the ground took all of the savings we had left.
The next 4 years were full of stress and sacrifice. We were reaching a critical stage. The business was growing but not fast enough. I had gone back to work helping my husband and helping with payroll costs, but it wasn’t enough. The bills were piling up. With each passing year we made more lifestyle adjustments, cutting out gym memberships, travel and luxuries we had for so long taken for granted. New clothes, mani-pedis, the occasional facial or message became a thing of the past.
Finally, it seemed that everything in my life that I had relied on for my happiness was no longer part of the budget. I became bored and even depressed. I was desperate for something to distract myself from the stress and worry. My previous go-to “solution”, which was shopping, was of course now off limits. Even window shopping was too depressing. It just reminded me of what I couldn’t afford.
Eventually I came to terms with the idea that it was better if I just stayed home in order to avoid temptation. I started to sink into a depression mostly based on feelings of boredom, stress and feeling sorry for myself. I withdrew from friends and used our lack of money as an excuse. But it was more than that. I just wasn’t happy and didn’t know where I was going to find my joy again.
Hold on….the story is about to get better!
Enter my twin sister Julie. It was about 3 months after she had moved into her new “dream home” in Seattle when she started talking about the “decor community” on IG. She talked to me with giddy excitement about how she was sharing her passion for decorating with others! (For more details on Julie’s Instagram Story click HERE.)
Julie suggested I get on IG and join her decor community. She said how kind and encouraging everyone was, how she was making friends, and how I could join too. But I was very hesitant. Sure she was having success and finding friends because she had a new beautiful home.
But what would I post?
First of all, I knew nothing of home decor. Even more importantly I hadn’t thought about decorating my home since we moved in 6 years ago. I hadn’t spent a penny on furniture or new decor….not even a new pillow (can you imagine??) and I certainly didn’t have any way of making changes now! Last but not least I knew absolutely nothing about photography. I thought, what could I possibly offer? Who would want to follow me?
(Yes, I do know what it’s like to be new on IG, to just be starting out and to have those feelings of insecurity and self-doubt!) Remember, I’m no different than you!
And she can be very persuasive! One day I thought, what do I have to lose? I took a bold step, took a picture of my kitchen, and posted it.
Ok….not so bad. I got a few likes. No one said anything mean. Actually, there may have been a nice comment or two. I breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe my sister was right. I started contemplating my next pic.
Another Reality Check
Ok. Let me pause right here for another REALITY CHECK. My first pictures were CRAP!! Sorry for my language but there really is no “sweet” way to say it. The angles were all off. The lighting was horrific. I could see the difference between my pictures and the decor pictures I was swooning over but I had no idea how to change it. Not yet.
So what next? I started looking for inspiration. I started looking for accounts that I loved. Anything that really spoke to me. My creative juices were sparked!
I began experimenting with lighting, turning lights on and off, taking pics at different times of the day and from different angles….and I started to experiment with photo editing for the first time.
And I started sharing love.
While I was busy getting inspired I was also finding mentors. Once I found these people/accounts I spent focused time and energy connecting and creating real relationships with these people.
I was doing all the important things that I now teach others to do!
3 KEYS to Instagram Success
Here is what I learned.
Key #1 Try
Be brave and just try. And try some more. You have to be willing to risk putting yourself out there. No, your first posts will probably not be great (unless you are a professional photographer and already an expert in your niche.) Think of every post is an experiment. Every day is a new day to learn something. Use IG to figure out who you are, what you like….what works, what doesn’t work–a place to perfect your craft.
Key #2 Find Your Niche
Find your niche. What are you passionate about? Where does your heart lie? This is the time and the place to dream. Do you love to travel and explore the world? Do you love make-up and beauty? Is fashion your thing? Figure out what you want to focus on and then find accounts and people you really love. Follow their lead. Watch what they do. Learn from them. Allow your own style to emerge in your pictures. Find your own voice on your posts.
Key #3 Share the love
When I started out I knew my pictures weren’t good! I knew that my decor really wasn’t “swoon worthy.” So, I decided to make up for it with kindness. And it worked.
I liked and commented and didn’t hold back! I engaged with everyone around me every day as often as I could.
Did you know that people are just as likely to follow you if you are KIND to them as they are to follow you if you have nice pics? Well, maybe not everyone, but the people that you will end up being your true supporters and your most valuable ENGAGED followers will!! The people that you want in your corner are going to follow you for your heart as much as for your pics….even on Instagram.
Did you know that IG rewards engagement as much, if not MORE than number of likes? Do not underestimate the power of spreading the love, engaging, commenting. I promise you it had as much to do with my Instagram success as improving my home decor and photography!
How my story ends
My story is a happy one. Not because we are out of our financial crisis. Actually, we are still struggling. But do I sound depressed? No. Anything but! I have found happiness in spite of our financial situation. I have found my voice on IG. Thanks to my sister and my many thousands of encouraging, supportive followers. I have found love and compassion and an optimism that comes from the feeling of succeeding at something you love….just because I tried!
What lessons did we learn? What are my 3 Keys to Instagram Success?
- Just try.
- Find your niche, your passion, your peeps. Find what inspires you.
- Spread the love. Connect, and engage!
These 3 Keys helped pull me out of one of the hardest times in my life. No one’s life is perfect but you can find rays of hope, renewed purpose, and ultimate happiness when you pour your heart into something you are passionate about. You’ve got nothing to lose, but so much to gain. Take my word for it.
For more Instagram insights, tips and strategies be sure to read our other posts on this topic including: Grow Instagram Following: 10 Tips