How To Grow Your Instagram With Engaged Followers

by The Classic Brunette, 4:00:00 AM
I've had some great luck with Instagram these past few weeks. After being asked to share my secrets, I thought I would do a follow up to my How To Use Instagram Like A Pro post with a few more tips and a few of those secrets that I've been keeping. ;) 

Use The Right Hashtags

Not only do you have to find the best hashtags for your niche, but you have to make sure your photos aren't going to drown in the thousands of photos that get posted there each day. If you're serious about finding the right hashtags for you I recommend taking at least an hour to sit down and research. Look at the hashtags your favorite Instagrammers are using, your followers are using, and other bloggers in the same niche (and same size!) as you are using. I also try to use hashtags that aren't overused. I don't want my photo to get lost, so I attempt to use smaller, but active hashtags to reach the most amount of users. I ideally only use hashtags with under 100,000 posts, but I do have a few larger hashtags as fillers until I can find 30 (Instagram's max) that really fit my posts. When you get more followers you can use bigger hashtags, but I'm a fan of using the same ones 85% of the time, but change a few depending on what the image is about. 

Using the right hashtags will earn you more engagement and followers, but it will also let you connect to your ideal audience. The more someone sees you in a hashtag, the more likely they are to check out your account and possibly give it a follow! I shared a few of my favorite hashtags to use in my other Instagram tips post, so check those out to get started! Also, be sure to use all 30 of Instagram's allowed hashtags!! I always put mine in the first comment so as not to crowd my image, but if you don't use all 30 you're just wasting potential. Think of it this way, if you were given 30 lottery tickets, would you only look at 20 of them when the winning numbers popped up just to not look like you're trying too hard to win the jackpot?

Engage In Your Hashtags

You don't just buy an outfit and never wear it, right? If you're using hashtags, you should also be engaging in those hashtags. Like and comment on the top photos at least once a day, then go like a few of the recent photos in the hashtag. I try to do this a few times a day for 5-10 of my hashtags just to have my name pop up on some people's feeds who may be interested in what I'm posting. If I really like someone's post I'll go onto their profile and like/comment on a few more of their images or follow them! This can seem like a lot of work already, but if you're interested in really growing your page it's necessary to put in the work!

Use a DSLR When Possible

I want to say that about 70% of the photos I post on Instagram now are from my DSLR. It's insane how much of a difference in growth my account has seen since I started posting these higher quality images. Of course I still put up iPhone photos since I don't take my actual camera everywhere, but if I do I still try to make those photos as high quality as I can. If you aren't sure how to move your camera photos over without removing the quality here's what I do. I upload them to my computer, put them in an email, and send them to the email that I get on my phone. Boom, high quality photos! I used to upload them through Facebook, but realized that degrades the photo! Also, if you don't have a DSLR, don't worry, iPhone pictures are still amazing quality!

Respond To Comments

This really goes for any social media (and your blog!) but replying to comments is just a nice way to say "Hey, I noticed you, thanks for checking out my post!" even if all you do is say thank you. On Instagram, if you reply to others they get a notification, and will most likely want to check what they said on your post to help refresh their memory. When they come back to look at the photo they commented on, they might look at your most recent photos as well and engage with you more! Plus, Instagram's new algorithm doesn't differentiate between your comments and other's comments, so it only adds to your post's "score" and helps get your more reach in the long run!

Engage With Others Who Engage

This sounds weird, but I couldn't think of a shorter title for this tip. Basically, engage with those who are engaging with you and who are engaging with other profiles like yours. If you notice the same people are commenting/liking your posts, comment and like on a few of theirs! They'll be more likely to keep up with you, and you might make a new Instagram friend! :) Then after you engage with your own followers, engage with those who are commenting/liking accounts similar to yours. When you engage with those accounts you're increasing eyes on your own account, and again those users are likely to check out and engage with you!

Create A Theme

I talked about this in my last post, but I'm bringing it up again because it's seriously so important! I've realized that you have to edit each photo almost identically otherwise it doesn't seem cohesive enough. Eventually I'll try to incorporate some more color into my theme, but for now it's mostly white with pops of color. It's difficult to keep a theme when you want to photograph a lot of different things, so I always try to keep something consistent. For me it's normally the white background, but to keep it from being boring I'll change up the backgrounds with different mostly white patterns. 

Join An Engagement Group

This has been a game changer for me. A few of the blog Facebook groups I'm in created engagement groups where everyone in the group likes/comments on a photo when you post. The point is to help speed up the natural engagement process and help your post's overall reach on Instagram. With the new algorithm, comments and likes within the first few hours is crucial, so having a group of pals to help is awesome! I feel like there's some weird thing about being the first one to comment on someone's post, so this takes away that initial hesitation. The more comments people see, the more someone is inclined to join in on the conversation! Like I said, being in one (or more) of these groups is also good because it makes it easier to make it into the Top 9 photos in your hashtags, which means even more exposure. At first it may seem "fake", but if all the users in there are friends it's really just a quicker way to let them know you posted and you want to know what they think. If the people in the group are only commenting things like "Nice!" "Great post!" etc, then that isn't the best group for you. If you engage with their posts genuinely, they should also be engaging with yours genuinely!

Have any other specific Instagram questions you want answered? If there's enough I'll make a third post, but if you email them to me I can answer them a lot quicker!

I'll also be doing a post soon all about how I edit my photos and my favorite editing apps, so keep an eye out for that soon!

Favorite Fall Nail Polish Colors + Pairings

by The Classic Brunette, 4:00:00 AM
I'm just a little bit obsessed with doing my nails. If I'm not getting them professionally done with gel I'll normally change my manicure every few days since I never want to stop trying fun colors! I especially love the Summer to Fall change of seasons, because it's always a great time to break out the darker, warmer colors from your beauty drawer. Since I've been trying out some new looks I thought I would share a few of my favorite colors that I love for Fall nails, as well as how to pair them with other nail polishes if you want to do an accent or some nail art.

I love the color red for Fall. Mostly I stick with the darker maroons, burgundys and wines. I think the brighter reds are great if you want to make a statement, but I tend to leave those for Winter, especially around Christmas. My favorite Fall mani though is doing a burgundy and gold ombre. I also love mixing in some navys and dark hunter or olive green in my nails. I think they are great warm colors that blend well with the color trends that normally show up in the cooler months. As far as accent colors go I love pairing all my warmer tones with gold (but maybe that's just because I have an obsession with the color...) I hope these colors and pairings inspire you to paint your nails in pretty Fall colors! I would love to see your Fall manis, so tag me @samimast on Instagram so I can check out your gorgeous looks!

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How To Be Productive While Studying In The Library

by The Classic Brunette, 4:00:00 AM

Although I don't want to admit it, it's almost the start of midterm season. I've already had my first quiz, and can already start scratching some major assignments off of my calendar. I know that every college is on a different schedule, but whether you're in the middle of your exams, heading into them within the next few weeks, or are not even close to thinking about exams, I want this post to be here for you when you're ready to buckle down and study. 

Now I have to admit, I wasn't always a fan of studying in the library. It wasn't until last semester when I had my junior thesis class that I realized I was going to have to get familiar with the place I had only walked through to save me time while walking through campus. (Seriously I probably could count on one hand the number of times I had been in the library for over 10 minutes before then) But after spending numerous study halls and group power study sessions with my thesis friends, I grew to kind of enjoy studying in the library. I still don't do it as often as I probably should, but I try to make an effort to study there at least once every two weeks, which is something that I definitely couldn't say before. 

After staying in the library for many, many hours last semester, I kind of got into a routine of how to be productive. Of course everyone has their own way of studying that works for them, but I thought I would share a few tips and all the essentials I keep with me just in case someone is looking for a new study routine!

Tip #1 Book A Study Room

I can't study in silence. It drives me insane when there isn't at least a little background noise going on. I always like to book a study room so that I can invite some friends in to study with me, can talk to myself a little, ask some questions, or grab something from my backpack without feeling the judgement and angry stares of the other 25 people in the room. Even if you study alone, having a study room is nice because you can get up and take a stretch, eat a snack, or play music out loud if that's your thing. 

Tip #2 Listen To Music Without Lyrics

I don't know about you, but I can't help but sing along if I know a song when it comes on. This is my downfall when studying, since I love listening to music at the same time. I've found that instrumentals are great for giving me the necessary noise that I need, but don't distract me from my work. I love the Disney Instrumental and the Pop Hits Instrumental stations on Pandora!

Tip #3 Take Breaks Ever 30 Minutes

I've found that it helps me to break up my studying into 30 minute intervals. It doesn't matter how long my breaks are, just as long as I get my mind to wander a bit. I never take longer than a 10 minute break though, because then you won't be as committed to your assignment. Usually I take a lap around the room (whether it be the study room or the library room I'm in), browse social media for a few minutes, or head to the bathroom. This helps you to stay alert, get your blood flowing, and keep you from being too bogged down by work.


Earphones/Headphones for when you don't have a study room to listen to your tunes out loud.

A snack to keep your energy up and to keep you from starving! It's always best to keep something in your bag, since sometimes you're at the library longer than you thought you would be. If you don't opt for the study room, I recommend something without loud packaging.

A beverage, I recommend some form of caffeine or water to keep you hydrated and happy. Ever since Starbucks moved onto Chapman's campus I've been a well-caffeinated gal that doesn't mind a cold library room if I have my nice hot white mocha. :)

Fuzzy socks that will keep your toes warm and will make you feel more cozy. Heck, why not bring a blanket as well and make yourself comfortable.

Similar to the socks, dress in comfortable clothes. Yes, looking cute is great, but when you'll be sitting in the same spot for 4 hours, just put on those leggings and that spirit jersey and get that work done. Sometimes you just have to let the extremely comfortable side of your closet take over.

Always bring your phone/computer charger if you know you'll be in the library for the long haul! I always know that I'll be using up my computer battery within a few hours, so having it with me is a necessity.

Optional, but I like to have a study buddy to chit chat with on my breaks, or discuss homework if we're in the same class. I think it's nice to have someone else in the room with you so you don't go a little insane being alone for a few hours!

What are your library study essentials?

I love using Pinterest to find new recipes that I may or may not get to, outfit inspiration, cute puppies, and of course blogging tips. Pinterest is one of my favorite social media outlets, and it's where more than half of my blog traffic comes from. If you're not utilizing it for your blog, you should go right now and start! Over the past few months I've been testing different things on the site to see what works, and what doesn't. I've recently had a few posts go viral as well, so I thought now would be a great time to share some tips.

Join Pinterest Group Boards

Unfortunately there isn't a way to search specifically for group boards on Pinterest. However, if you search for your niche and then select search specifically under "Boards" and scroll through, you'll see some with a little gray symbol at the top corner. If you click through to the board, there should be instructions on how to join if  it's accepting new pinners. If you join specific groups that are relevant to your blog and reciprocate by pinning other posts in their niche, it can help make others aware of what you're writing.

Use BoardBooster

I cannot stress how crucial BoardBooster was to my Pinterest growth. It's a pin scheduler that allows you to pin things to secret boards and spread them out over a few hours. This can save you a lot of time during the week if you're available for an hour to pin a solid amount of content which can last through rest of the week. I normally have my scheduling set to 3 or 4 pins per board starting early in the morning and going until mid-day until I can pin things myself if I have free time. This is helpful because it also prevents your followers from getting annoyed if you have multiple pins in a row and you're the only person they're seeing on their feed. Also, if you're scheduling pins evenly throughout the day it will open up that content and your profile to new viewers, thus leading to more pageviews on your profile and blog.

Have a Board For Your Blog

This is such a simple thing that many bloggers don't think about. Even if you put your blog's url in your profile description it's important that you have a board dedicated to your blog posts. It's also important to consistently pin blog posts directly from your blog into that board. I typically use that original pin as the starting point of pinning that same content to other relevant boards. By pinning the content from your blog board to other boards, it will eventually lead all those re-pins back to the board that has your blog name and url. This means that people who trace the origins of your pin will run into your other posts as well and hopefully will either repin or visit your site! 

Apply For A Business Account And Rich Pins

If you look on my "The Classic Brunette" board on Pinterest, you'll see that each pin has a bolded title, a url source, as well as a description on what the image/post is about. These type of pins are called rich pins, and can provide extra information, and make them look more appealing to click on. These pins easily stand out amongst the "regular" pins, and are a great extra tool  when you verify your website. I'm not 100% sure if you need a business account to apply for rich pins, but either way applying for this type of account is one of the best things I did for my Pinterest! Business accounts get you access to analytics for how many views your account and pins are getting, as well as how many of those viewers are interacting with you and your website. If you take one piece of advice from this post I would hope it's this, because having access to these analytics is crucial for understanding which pins are doing well, and how to improve the pins that aren't performing as best as they can.

Vertical Pins Are King

My pins are always vertical. My go to pixel size is 650 x 1000, however evidence shows that the best pins are closer to 700 x 1100. It all depends on your preference, because my dimensions work best for me and my blog, but yours may work with something else. No matter the dimensions though, they should be on the larger side and always vertical. Vertical pins statistically do better and stand out more (aka take up more room on your homepage) than other pins, and will get your content noticed. Once I made the move to have all my pins vertical my analytics skyrocketed! 

How To Get A Pin To Go Viral

Promote, promote promote. My most successful pin has over 45k repins. I never expected to have something go over 100 repins, let alone thousands! I credit the success of this pin (and a few others that have gone "viral") to both the tips above, but also to the amount of promotion that I did with them. I repinned these few pins to as many relevant boards as possible, promoted on other social media, told bigger bloggers who I got inspiration from about it, and continued to promote the pin every few weeks so that it didn't fall out of circulation. I think it is 100% okay to re-pin your own pins every so often, because there could be a number of your followers who didn't get a chance to interact with that specific pin the first time around. If you actively promote the pins you're proud of, and do it in a strategic way that takes your analytics into account, you can bring success to a pin. However, there definitely is a point of over-promotion, so don't re-pin things constantly because it will annoy your followers!

Do you have any pinterest tips that you swear by? Also, apologies for how long this post is!