Copyright & Social Media Use: When you can and can't use other people's stuff (and what to do instead).

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The #CreateorCredit hashtag currently has just over 4000 uses on Instagram alone. Launched to bring awareness to the ever-growing issue of unauthorized content appropriation on social media, it’s a movement that’s gaining traction fast. It is almost standard practice these days for individuals and businesses to find images on Instagram or Pinterest that fit their aesthetic, and ‘curating’ a perfect-looking social media presence that gets all the follows and double-taps…but is it right, or even legal?

As a content creator myself, I understand the frustration that creatives face when they spend thousands on equipment (their ‘tools of trade’), years on developing their craft and honing their skills, and countless hours building relationships, selling their services & promoting their portfolio, only to have someone use their work for free. It can feel disappointing, and at times bitterly unfair when another account is using the content you slaved over to further their own brand.

‘But…we credited you!’

Yeah, the last time I checked, ‘credit’ didn’t pay my phone bill or put food on my table, mate.

Despite my obvious vested interest in the topic, I was curious as to where the law stood in Australia. What are my rights as a content creator? What are the rights of social media users to appropriate content posted on various platforms to fill their own feeds? Believe me, I get it - it’s TOUGH to build a social media presence worthy of engagement if you don’t have the time, skill or resources to create quality content. Does that mean it’s ethical to use other people’s work to build your following? No. But if you did, would it be legal?

Well…no.

 Image courtesy of RawPixel via Unsplash

Image courtesy of RawPixel via Unsplash

A Question of Copyright

I recently chatted to Intellectual Property lawyer James Skelton of Swaab Attorneys about copyright law in Australia and how it applied to social media use.

‘While each social media platform will have it’s own Terms of Use that outline what you can and cannot do with the content posted there, the guiding principal should be the Copyright Act of 1968,’ says James. ‘The law is federal and doesn’t rely on a system of registration. Protection arises automatically on the creation of an original work or protected subject matter.’

James advises that content creators and users alike should become familiar with the Terms of Use for each of their preferred platforms to avoid any potential legal consequences. It is not uncommon for users to automatically provide their social media platforms with licenses to use images, blogs or other content that is uploaded by them. Sometimes, the social media platform can also sub-license this content to third parties without the owner's consent.

READ INSTAGRAM’S TERMS OF USE HERE

READ FACEBOOK’S TERMS OF USE HERE

 

Is Crediting Enough?

According to James, you must ALWAYS seek the content owners permission before using any of their work on your own account, even if you do give them credit. Failing to do so can make you vulnerable to prosecution for infringing their copyright.

‘Having said that,’ says James, ‘once you receive permission, it is perfectly acceptable to share that person’s work. They’re likely to be grateful that you’re opening them up to new audiences!’

However with so much content doing the rounds of social media these days, it can be extremely difficult to trace the original owner of a single piece of content – so what then?

‘Not seeking the consent of the content owner could mean that you're on the receiving end of a nasty 'cease and desist' letter. By using a particular work without permission, you are infringing the owner's copyright and the owner may then try to take you to court to receive money for your use of their copyrighted material. The number one rule to have in your mind is “if in doubt, don’t.”’

So just to be clear here, guys…’Pic via Pinterest’ or ‘Source Unknown’ simply won’t cut it (and could get you in a LOT of trouble).

 

Individual vs Business Use

If you’re thinking, ‘But I’m just one person! I’m not using it for commercial purposes!’ it actually doesn’t matter, although the potential penalties may differ.

James says, ‘Both individuals and businesses can be sued for copyright infringement. Of course, the severity of each situation will depend on the particular circumstances, [and] using an image for commercial purposes will usually be treated more severely if penalties are being considered by a court.’

And just so you understand what those potential penalties are, James explains below:

‘Fines usually only apply for criminal offences involving the Copyright Act, but can be up to 550 penalty units or imprisonment for up to 5 years for some indictable offences for an individual, and even higher for corporations.  Civil remedies are more common and can result in damages, an account of profits, delivery of the infringing material or an injunction being ordered by the court.’

Yikes.

 

 Image courtesy of NordWood Themes via Unsplash

Image courtesy of NordWood Themes via Unsplash

A Sharing Economy

When every blog, news article & video in the Internet-O-Sphere has every social share button in existence attached to it, you could be forgiven for assuming that you’re being encouraged to share other people’s content, and to an extent that’s true.

James says that when you ‘share’ content by using share buttons, the difference is that it links to the original source, driving your audience directly there as opposed to a simple ‘credit’ that relies on a user to decide for themselves.

If you find an article you think will be of interest to your followers, but it doesn’t have share buttons, James says it’s advisable to share a link to the original content, rather than making a copy and reproducing it on your own site.

‘Sharing a link allows you to spread an idea of interest but also direct your followers to the content owner's own space.’

 

Memes, and the idea of ‘Moral Right’

Everyone loves a good meme – they are generally hilarious, and can often make poignant social or political statements. Sharing them (or making them) can seem too hard to resist at times.

But James says that you must proceed with caution. ‘Memes, images, videos and GIFs also attract copyright protection under the Copyright Act so you should still seek the owner's consent before posting any of these. In fact, if someone uses a photo or illustration without the owner's consent and turns it into a meme, this could be considered an illegal adaptation of the original work and the original creator's moral rights could also be infringed.’

So what is a ‘moral right’ and how does it differ from copyright infringement?

‘Moral rights are the rights individual creators have in relation to copyright works they have created,’ says James. ‘They include the right to be attributed (credited) for their work, not to have their work falsely attributed and not to have their work treated in a derogatory way. If moral rights are infringed, a court can make orders for things including financial compensation, an injunction (that the particularly activity be stopped), a declaration or an apology.’
 

#Motivation – When Is It Ok To Use Someone’s Words?

It might be surprising to learn that using other people’s words – whether that’s quotes, lyrics, poetry or literary excerpts – can also put you in breach of copyright.

James explains that copyright ‘generally lasts for a period of 70 years after the end of the calendar year of the date of the author’s death for works (provided the work is published at the date of death), and 70 years from the date of publication for sound recordings and films (provided the work is published at the date of death). Copyright in broadcasts continues for a period of 50 years from the year in which the broadcast is first made. After this time the works usually enter the public domain – like Christmas carols for example.’

So it pays to stop & think before tapping out that Oprah quote & posting it on Instagram – it just might land you in hot water.

 

The Instagram Feature Account & How To Navigate Copyright

Many accounts these days exist solely for the purpose of #inspo. Many do this very well and have large followings, engage with their audience, and credit their ‘features’ correctly. Most artists would be thrilled to have their work featured on these accounts. However, owners of these accounts need to understand that a happy artist & a correct credit doesn’t negate the need to seek permission first.

James suggests that the owners of these accounts reach out to the copyright holders to establish an arrangement to share the content, but agrees that in most cases the content creator would be more than happy to allow this to happen. ‘Think about how much designers are willing to have their works profiled in magazines. So try to find an arrangement that works for both parties.’
 

 Image courtesy of Jesse Orrico via Unsplash

Image courtesy of Jesse Orrico via Unsplash

How To Protect Yourself As A Content Creator

I’ve spent a lot of time in this article trying to help you understand what you can and cannot do as a user of social media, but I want to address some of things you can do as a creator to try and avoid any nastiness in the first place.

James’ advice is: ‘If you want to protect the copyright in your works, the best way to start is to make your readers aware that you know that copyright subsists in your works. This is usually done by adding the © symbol and the copyright owners name. You should also have a way for people to contact you to seek your permission to use your content on their own accounts.

If you think that someone has infringed your copyright, there are a number of good resources available on the Australian Copyright Council and Arts Law Centre websites for you to check out in the first instance. You should then talk to an intellectual property lawyer to see what options may be available to you. Most issues can be resolved without having to go to court.’

If you want to make people aware not to use your content without permission, another way is to simply state this on your social media profiles and website. By adding a simple line to your Bio and About pages such as, ‘Please ask before reposting or reusing my content,’ you are publicly making people aware that it’s not ok to republish your work without consent (whether they heed this or not is another matter!).
 

Ok, I Can’t Use Other People’s Stuff – What The Hell Do I Do Instead?!

That’s a great question, and I’m glad you asked. Using other people’s content without permission is a big no-no, and a practice that I hope starts to die really soon. But I do understand that not everyone has the skill, time or resources to develop unique content for all their channels, and THAT’S OK. There are definitely other avenues you can take.

Here are 6 easy options you can implement today:

  1. Reach out and ask that person if it’s ok to repost their image / blog / video. Nine times out of ten, they’ll be happy to oblige, and thrilled you even want to. Problem solved.
     
  2. Use paid stock images. There are heaps of good sites doing gorgeous, affordable stock imagery these days, it’s not necessarily the boring, cliché images of old. Try Haute Stock or Her Creative Studio for styled images geared towards the modern female entrepreneur. For thousands of design assets at your fingertips, give Creative Market a crack – it’s like Etsy but for photos, fonts & graphics! (Make sure you read and understand the licensing agreements when purchasing stock imagery, so you know how and when you can use the images).
     
  3. Invest in a photographer or stylist to create some bespoke images for you. If you really want your products showcased in their best light, this is the way to go. It’s more affordable than you think, and your branding will thank you for it. Contact yours truly for on location photography, or try my friends at Creatively Squared or Pretty Squares for the hot styled option.
     
  4. Use free stock sites. Yes, there are quite a lot of free stock sites where you can download and use high quality, gorgeous imagery to your hearts content, mostly without needing to credit (but please double check licensing agreements as they can vary). Try Unsplash, Pexels and Pixabay for a range of great imagery across lots of different niches, all donated by generous artists.
     
  5. Sign up to Canva. If you’re in need of quick & dirty graphics for social, blog & websites, Canva is your new best friend. With thousands of templates on offer, you no longer need to outsource to a graphic designer EVERY TIME you want something to share on Facebook. And best of all, it's free.
     
  6. CREATE IT YOUR DAMN SELF. Stop worrying so much about your image being as perfect as what you’d find in Vogue, your graphic looking professionally designed, or your blog being a Pulitzer Prize winner, and just make it authentic. You don’t need to slave over creative to make it resonate, just put your heart into it.

I hope that has helped clear up any confusion you might have regarding how, when and if you can use other people's content on your own accounts. Keep in mind that there are content creators out there struggling to make a living, and using their content without permission is unethical at best, and illegal at worst. If you are unsure, remember James' sage advice: 'If in doubt, don't.'

Karli xx
 

Disclaimer: This article is not legal advice and the views and comments are of a general nature only. This article is not to be relied upon in substitution for detailed legal advice.

ABOUT JAMES SKELTON

James is a member of Swaab Attorneys’ corporate, commercial and intellectual property practice with a focus on business advice, corporate and commercial transactions, commercialisation of intellectual property rights and brand protection strategies.

James has been named the '2017 Australian Young Lawyer of the Year' by the Law Council of Australia. He won the 2017 Lawyers Weekly "30 Under 30" Award for commercial law in Australia and was previously a finalist in the 2017 & 2016 Australian Law Awards for "Young Gun of the Year", achieving industry-wide recognition for professional competence while highlighting a passion for the law and dedication to personal advancement.

Prior to joining Swaab, James worked at the Federal Court of Australia and also has experience with matters in the Federal Circuit Court, the Copyright Tribunal and hearings conducted before IP Australia. James has a Juris Doctor and Bachelor of International Studies from UNSW, developing additional international business experience at the University of Bonn, Germany.

If you need to get in touch with James, he can be reached at Swaab Attorneys or via email on jas@swaab.com.au.

 

Cool Creatives: Q&A with Katie Jane of Pretty Squares

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Ok, so I’m a wee bit excited about this! I have been wanting to develop a series of features & interviews with Australia’s top content creators and online creatives for a while now, and I am legit smiling from ear to ear that it’s finally here!

The Cool Creatives series aims to bring you the lowdown on the best tips, tricks, info & workflows from amazing, generous creators, so you can steal all their insider secrets for yourself – whoop!

Our first cab off the rank is the beautiful Katie Jane of Pretty Squares. For those of you who don’t know her, Katie is an incredible stylist, designer & mama, who has been working tirelessly to create an online marketplace that matches super cool content creators with brands who need high quality product imagery. If there is anyone qualified to discuss all things visual content, it’s Katie! She was kind enough to discuss her journey and the challenges brands face in getting their online image polished to perfection, and she gives us her top 5 tips for creating your own Pretty Square!

 Oh...hey Katie!

Oh...hey Katie!

Tell us a little bit about Pretty Squares and what made you start?

Pretty Squares is a visual content creation service. We match businesses, requiring affordable and engaging styled images, with talented photographic stylists.

I’ve always been a passionate people person and an enthusiastic problem solver. So I knew one day that I wanted to form a business aimed at making a positive difference in people’s lives and businesses.

The creation of Pretty Squares has been a natural progression from my time as a brand representative and product stylist for a variety of food, interior and lifestyle brands.

Throughout that time I witnessed and experienced both the shortness of work for creatives who are either living in an area of low opportunity, or at a stage of their lives where family comes first, as well as the lack of affordable options for businesses needing styled content. So it seemed like a good idea to create a marketplace that solves both of these problems.

We believe that visual content is super important to a brand’s online presence. What have you found to be the biggest challenges small businesses face in getting their images on point?

Yes you’re absolutely right. The imagery is the brand’s identity and sells their value, so it’s hugely important to present your product in the best way possible in all aspects of your advertising.

This doesn’t need to be by hiring a top agency, or even outsourcing to an alternative option such as Pretty Squares, it can be through learning how to take great, clear and well thought out shots yourself. It’s such a priceless ‘owned’ skill to have and will give your business an advantage over it’s competitors.

From speaking to many business owners they seem be lacking the confidence to even have a go at creating their own images. I’d say the technical photography element of our job is probably the most challenging and daunting aspect, and absolutely the most important part to get right. It’s all about practising your lighting, angling, and editing!

My advice? If after having taken a short styling and photography course online, speaking to a mentor and practising your shots you’re still not hitting the mark, perhaps look into finding a brand representative who’ll be happy to take some of your product as compensation for their images. Whilst this is usually a bandaid fix, it may just see you through your launch stage and get your business on the map and onto people’s screens.

What have been the biggest challenges you have had in building your own business online and how have you overcome them?

Challenges are forever hitting me in the face like unexpected meteorites, and are ongoing! It’s all about how you deal with them and not to let it get to you.

Prioritising jobs has been my biggest challenge. You have this incredible idea and goal and you set about creating a business and marketing plan, a website, some PR material, all your social media pages and think you’ve got it all sorted only to realise that you’re only 5% there. You then create a list of things to do and find it’s actually all a top priority!

I’ve learnt from my days renovating to just pick the one thing that you actually feel like doing that day and get it done before moving on to the next. It’s a great feeling ticking things off. That’s my super secret ‘worth it’s weight in gold’ advice, ha!

How important has social media been to growing awareness of Pretty Squares? What has worked / not worked for you?

Social media has been the launching pad for this crazy helicopter ride. I was fortunate enough to be able to leverage off my personal styling accounts that had a great following consisting of small business, PR reps, magazine editors, and all round supportive people. The majority of my conversions have come from social media - it’s imperative to have a strong digital presence!

I think there’s two factors to really consider before signing up to every social media platform. Firstly, you have to really look at who your target customers are. This will determine what channel you should be really focusing on. As I mentioned above, prioritising is so important and will save you so much time. For instance is your target other businesses? Then you should have a strong presence on LinkedIn and Facebook. Is it retail consumers? Then make sure you’re on Instagram and Facebook.

Secondly, determine your product value and niche. Create social media campaigns and be transparent in your offering and point of difference, and of course have beautiful, engaging and consistent visual content!

What are your 5 most important tips for crafting the perfect ‘Pretty Square’?

1.  Props

The background and props you use will determine the overall style of your shot. Consider who your target audience is and style for them and in their environment. This will become your brands identity.

Another cool trick is to find a brand that nails your preferred ‘look’ and study the elements within their images. What is it about this that appeals to you? Why and how are these choices supporting the product? Then try to gather similar props to re-create the style in your own unique way.

2. Composition

This is so important when product styling. You must consider which layout and angle works best to highlight your product.

Sometimes it’s by placing your piece front and centre and allowing it to be the hero among other props. Or it may be that the colour/shape of your product is so striking in comparison to your props that you can set it off to the side for a more curious, edgy style.

Overall I prefer contrasting images that really hone in on the details of the product, I find this style very striking and appealing to most people. Show your product’s value and draw people in to the detail that makes your product unique.

Note from Karli: I actually wrote a blog post a while back about the Foundations of Composition, so if you're interested in diving deeper into this area, go and have a read!

3. Lighting

This step will make or break your image! If you don’t get the lighting right then the next two steps are irrelevant and you need to start here again.

Always shoot in natural light, preferably indoors next to a window. Make sure you have at least two white foam boards to reflect light into all angles of your shot (these can be purchased at hardware stores) - you might even need these to shield the reflections on those shiny pieces like sunglasses.

The best time of day to shoot is in the morning with silver skies!

4. Photography

Whether you’re using your phone or DSLR camera, make sure you move around and take the shot in a variety of angles. This gives you more choice when it comes to editing. It’s also a good idea to change up your composition slightly and add/remove props. This technique may also provide you with a more diverse selection of squares to use at no real time cost!

Did I mention to make sure you have your HDR on if using a phone camera?

Note from Karli: New to iPhone photography?? I outlined the camera basics here!

5. Editing

This is where the magic happens and makes you second-guess if it’s actually the same image!! Go back to tip #1, where you found a brand that has your perfect look. Copy these images and your un-edited images to your notes alternately between yours and theirs.

Now it’s time to play ‘spot the difference’!!! How much brighter is their image? Is their white the same as yours? If not, do you need to cool/warm your tones? Do their colours pop more? Are their images more defined? Then use your answers to edit your images in Lightroom, Snapseed, VSCO or Photoshop (or editing program of your choice!). Continue comparing until you feel you’ve achieved the look!

Please don't let this stage of comparing daunt you or make you feel unworthy, I guarantee your style icon has been where you are before.

Katie Jane xx

Is there anything you'd like to know more about when it comes to crafting your 'Pretty Square'? Comment below and Katie & I will do our best to answer all your burning questions!


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ABOUT KATIE + PRETTY SQUARES

Katie Jane is an interior designer, stylist & serial renovator. With years of experience working with top lifestyle brands to create engaging product photography, Katie knows brands and how to present them. If you are a business in need of stunning, styled visuals for your website, social media channels or print material, you need Pretty Squares! You can contact Katie at KJ@prettysquares.net. You can also follow Pretty Squares on Instagram (@pretty_squares), LinkedIn & Facebook.

SEO: A Beginner's Guide

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Search Engine Optimisation. Three little words that send most small business owners into a technical tailspin. Everyone knows they should be ‘doing SEO’ but few know exactly what that means or how they would even go about it if they did. The result of this is that they either a) do nothing; or b) throw their hard-earned dollars at some random SEO company who dangle magical traffic increase carrots in front of them and promise an ROI that has them seeing glittery dollar signs. Just so you know, I don’t recommend doing either.

What is SEO?

SEO is the work you do behind the scenes of your website to ensure that when people are searching for your business or services online, your website ranks among the top searches. While I admit that it is a specialist area of online marketing and good SEO consultants are worth their weight in gold (I don’t pretend to be one, and if SEO is going to be a major marketing channel for you, you should definitely do some research and hire one of these magical unicorns), there are a few basics that anyone can master that will, over time, increase your traffic and help you market your services. Ready?

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Know your niche

This might sound a little obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t tailor all of their website content to their niche. It’s super important for SEO to ensure that all content on your website is centred around your niche, because Google’s algorithm will rank you based on how much of a ‘specialist’ it considers you to be. It’s sneaky back-end programming will do a sweep of your content and if it sees that all of your content & blog posts are based around a similar topic, it will consider you a specialist in that area and rank you higher. If, however, you have an online clothing shop with a page about your favourite holiday destinations, blog posts about your cat, and your ‘About Me’ is all about your previous life as a teacher, you will appear fractured & non-specific. Do yourself a favour and FOCUS.

Be strategic about your keywords and then sprinkle them like fairy dust

If you haven’t got across Google’s free Keyword Planner tool, get on that immediately. It will show you the exact terms people have been searching for, the average monthly searches per term, and give you suggestions on which keywords to use. Invaluable, I tell you.

Now you know about that, consider what your content is trying to say in broad terms. Are you writing a product description on organic skincare? Try entering ‘organic skincare’ into the Keyword Planner, and have a look at what terms around this topic people are searching for. Or maybe you want to write a blog post on using accessories to update your bedroom – maybe try ‘bedroom styling’ and see what results it returns. There’s a little bit more to understanding your Keyword Planner results, and I might go into this in another blog post (you should sign up to the newsletter to keep in the loop!).

Ok, now you’ve got your keywords, where should you put them? There are a few places. Like so:

  1. Your post / product title (a no-brainer)
  2. Your post / product URL (you should be able to change this in your website settings)
  3. Your content headings (throughout the blog post or product description, ensure your keyword/s is / are recognized as an H1 or H2 heading, i.e. bigger font than body text, not just bolded)
  4. Your image name (you should be able to rename these when you’re uploading them)
  5. The alt-text of your image
  6. Throughout your content (bear in mind it doesn’t need to be identical to your post title)

Get other people talking about you

Google loooooves when there are links to your website from other sites. It tells the algorithm that what you’re doing must be pretty good, or other people wouldn’t be recommending you. Guest blogging on other sites is a brilliant way of establishing specialist credibility and get links to your website out there on the internet-o-sphere.

Other things you can do is share your content all over your social media platforms, on sites such as Medium (if you blog regularly, this is a must-do), and collaborate with like-minded businesses or influencers who will link to you from their websites.

Update your website regularly

It is crucial that your website is updated with new information on a regular basis, as Google is more likely to recommend sites that it sees as active and relevant. You can update your site regularly through adding new products and / or descriptions, or having a blog that you add to often.

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HOT TIP: If you have a service-based business, having a blog is absolutely essential to your SEO efforts.

You should aim to update your website at least every 2-4 weeks with new content to optimize for SEO.

Optimize for speed

Search engines like Google want to be seen to only be recommending content that is relevant to a user’s search AND provide a great experience once that user lands on the site. That’s why the speed of your site is super-important. Make sure that you resize ALL your images before you upload them so that browsers don’t have to spend time trying to download them, ensure you keep your website software up to date, and minimize your plugins & apps to keep your site agile & secure.


Of course, there’s a LOT more to having a great SEO strategy, like meta-data, categories, site security, etc. and as I said before if this forms a key part of your online marketing, you should think about investing in someone with in-depth knowledge in this area. But if you’re just getting started or looking for easy ways you can DIY your way to increased web traffic, make sure you implement these 5 key tactics and start optimizing your way to a successful online business!

Special note: SEO takes time, it's not an overnight fix. If you implement these tactics consistently, you will see an effect, but don't be disheartened if it doesn't work immediately.

 

Karli xx

7 Ways To Spring Clean Your Online Marketing

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Ahh, Spring. For me, it’s such a joyful time of year. The weather starts to warm up, the blossom starts to bloom, and the world seems to be full of opportunity again. Admittedly I am not a hay-fever sufferer, so I’m probably more pro-Spring than most. But I really do think that Spring is the time we come out of our winter fog & start feeling positive again. It’s the perfect time for renewal.

If you’re anything like me, you probably will have been doing the same thing over and over to promote your business for the last 6 months, because winter is so damn unmotivating, and people are grumpy & cold & don’t care about your marketing efforts. But it’s a new season, friends. Time for a little spruce up to reinvigorate your business, your marketing, and yourself!

So grab your favourite drink and work your way through these easy steps to overhaul your marketing efforts and get your business back on track for online success!

7 Easy Ways To Refresh Your Online Marketing


Go Back To Basics

Time to dust off the old business plan and have a good hard look at whether your marketing activity is helping you get you to where you want to be. It’s crucial that we check in with our goals periodically to make sure we’re still heading down the right path – or whether we need to redefine our business goals entirely.

It’s easy to get set in our ways with marketing & promotion, and keep on flogging the same activity over and over again, hoping for a better result. But CHECK YO’SELF BEFORE YOU WRECK YO’SELF…is the product or service you are offering, your price point, your promotional activity & the channels you are marketing on, in line with what your ideal customer wants / is willing to pay / responds to / regularly spends time on? If not, it’s time for a change before you do some permanent damage to your biz.

It also pays to check in with who your customer actually is. Many businesses (mine included!) start out with an idea of who their target market is, only to find a year or two (or ten) down the track that there is an entirely different demographic actually buying your product or service. If that’s the case, you may need to look at your activity, tone of voice & marketing distribution channels to ensure you’re communicating with the customer who will cough up the dollar bills, and not the ones your ego wants.

 Back to business basics.

Back to business basics.

Check In With Your Analytics

Ok, let’s get real honest here. Hands up if you don’t check in with your website analytics as often as you should (you can’t see me but I am raising my own hand in shame). I will crow ‘til the cows come home to my clients about the necessity to get intimate with your analytics, but it’s one of those things that’s easy to put on the back burner when you’ve got a million and one things to get through. Do as I say though, not as I do…

Your analytics are such a great tool to really understand where your traffic comes from, how people flow through your website, where they are landing, and where they are jumping off. By checking in with it regularly, you can start to see patterns emerging. Is there a particular page where your bounce rate (where users click out of your website) is particularly high? Ask yourself why. Do you spend most of your time marketing on Instagram, but your analytics are telling you that your highest social referrer is Facebook? Time to rethink your strategy. Don’t see a noticeable spike in traffic whenever you post a blog? You might need to look at your SEO.

Try and make it a habit to go over this regularly and make necessary tweaks & adjustments. Your business will thank you for it.

 This data tells quite the tale...

This data tells quite the tale...

Talk To Your Customers

How long has it been since you actively sought feedback from your customers? They are an absolute gold mine of valuable info, and it’s a good a time as any to start asking them some questions.

You could do a little phone around and ask if they could give you some insights into what you’re doing right and where you could improve. If you’re not comfortable doing a one on one interview (it can be really confronting for the uninitiated!), consider a quick online survey. Tools like SurveyMonkey or Typeform are simple to use and easily emailed to a database. The downside to surveys is that they are easier to ignore than a phone call! If you want to go this way, consider offering a reward such as entry into an exclusive competition to maximize your responses*.

The answers you get from your customers will give you valuable insight into what you need to tweak within your marketing plan to offer even better value.

*Writing survey questions is an art form. The trick to getting the most valuable, honest information from your clients or potential clients is not to ask leading questions. If you’re unsure how to phrase your questions for the best insights, I suggest you seek professional help from a copywriter or research marketer.

 Start a conversation with your customers.

Start a conversation with your customers.

Cast An Eye Over Your Branding

Businesses – especially small ones – can be ever-evolving beasts. Every 6-12 months, it pays to look critically at your branding and ask yourself if it still represents you & your business. Does it resonate with your ideal customer? Do your website, social profiles, packaging & communication pieces appear cohesive? If there is a disconnect, it might be time for refresh. This can be anything from small tweaks to a complete overhaul.

Small tweaks can be done easily, with minimum expense & effort, and the transition can often go unnoticed by your customer (an ideal scenario!). A complete overhaul is the opposite – it’s time-consuming, expensive, and if it’s not done properly and for the right reasons, can do more harm than good. If you’re going in for the overhaul, really think about why you’re doing it. If your business is heading in a new direction or your target market has changed dramatically, you might need to invest the time & money to do this. If it’s simply because you’re bored with your current brand, take a deep breath & wait. Don’t do something you’re going to regret later.

 Branding game strong.

Branding game strong.

Revisit Your Content Plan

We’re all about valuable content here at Little Star, so planning to put your best foot forward online is something we can get behind!

Check in with what’s working & what’s not. Look at your posting days & times, and see if you can spot any trends emerging. Forget what the “experts” say about when you should post. If you notice you get the most engagement when you post at 10am on a Monday or 12pm on a Sunday, keep doing that!  Have a look back at the last 3-6 months and pull out what posts did the best for you in terms of engagement & conversions (whether that’s visits through to your website, sales or enquiries). What do they have in common? Do more of that!

If you’re one of those people that flies by the seat of their pants when it comes to posting on your socials, consider planning out a calendar in advance to keep yourself on track, even if it’s only for the next week. It will save you from faffing about in a tizz every day, wondering what the hell you’re going to talk about or what in god’s name you can take a photo of.

Need help with your visual content? Get in touch with me!

Refresh Your Hashies

If you’re an Instagram-a-holic like I am, you’ll know that hashtags are one of the greatest tools you can use to increase your visibility & engagement on the platform. If you find that your engagement is stagnating or dropping, perhaps it’s time to shake up your hashie game. I wrote a blog post a while back on how to use hashtags effectively on Instagram – you can read that here. By changing up what tags you use, you can access a new pool of potential customers, meet new people who could become friends or potential collaborators (or both), and open you & your content up to new hubs & communities.

Just make sure your hashtags are relevant & still reflect the product or service you are offering – for example, if you are a baby clothing designer and you use the hashtag #plussizefashion simply because it’s super popular & will garner you a bunch of likes from spam bots, that is straight up dumb-assery. I know that will seem like common sense to most of you, but I’ve seen it happen and it needs to be said out loud #notsorry

 Get those hashies on point.

Get those hashies on point.

Set One Big Goal For The Next 3 Months

Rather than putting yourself under incredible pressure trying to do all of the things, streamline your efforts by focusing on just ONE major outcome per quarter, then break that one thing into smaller, manageable projects & tasks to smash that goal out of the park!

Work backwards from your major yearly objective (say, ‘increase revenue by 15%’), then identify the four major things that will help you achieve that (these might be: increase incoming leads / enquiries by 50%, launch new product line, secure coverage in a major national publication, and design a collaborative campaign with like-minded brands). For each of these major goals, create a 3-month project plan that will help you achieve them. Stick to it, and you’ll put yourself in the best possible position to achieve your goals without stressing yourself the f**k out.

 Project plans for the win!

Project plans for the win!

I’d love to know if these tips work for you and your business! Please get in touch or let me know in the comments below.

Karli xx

5 Ways To Get Yourself Out Of A Styling Slump

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You know the feeling. You have a week’s worth of pretty content to create for Instagram and you’re sitting there in complete disarray, props everywhere, having spent the last hour trying to get ONE DECENT SHOT of a basic flatlay and NOTHING IS WORKING. The composition is off. The colour is wrong. It’s just plain BORING. You decide that visual content is the Devil and you may as well delete your Instagram account because you will never have anything decent to share ever again. I feel you.

But…pump the brakes, friend. You are more than likely just in a styling slump, and definitely not as crap as you think you are. The best news is that there are some easy ways to overcome said slump and shake off the styling yips.

 Try as I might, I couldn't get this image looking right...

Try as I might, I couldn't get this image looking right...

The 5 best ways to get yourself out of a styling slump are:

1. Drink a big glass of water

Ok, so this might sound like a weird one, but hear me out. Before you go getting all judgey on yourself for being crap at all the things, have you considered that maybe you’re just dehydrated which has given you the massive brain-fuzzies AND made you extra-irritable, leading to a) a reduced inability to think clearly and creatively, and b) a lack of patience and resilience? Yep, it’s A Thing. Most of us don’t drink near enough water to keep ourselves hydrated and at peak condition (I am SOOO guilty of this), so before you collapse in an emotional heap because you can’t seem to get that image right, drink up!

 Drink up!!

Drink up!!

2. Feast your eyes on some fresh #inspo

Now that you’re re-hydrated and ready to tackle the creative beast once again, get your eyeballs all over some creative inspiration. Sometimes we try and make things hard on ourselves by constantly reinventing the wheel (‘Oh but I simply MUST be original!’), when in fact, taking a cue from someone else’s fabulous work might just help you get your mojo back. Jump onto to Pinterest or flick through a magazine, and when you find an image you like, try creating something similar with the props & products you have. You will probably find this will kickstart your creative flow again and one idea will lead to another, and another, and another, and…YOU’RE BACK, BABY.

 Give me any excuse to get on Pinterest...

Give me any excuse to get on Pinterest...

3. Get walking

Nothing can quite reset your creativity like some fresh air. Go for a walk for 20 minutes or so and you’ll find that the exercise will get your blood pumping and the oxygen will calm your nerves, making you feel more positive, alert & open to creativity. The bonus of being outside is that it will stimulate your senses – you might notice colours or textures that will lead to fresh ideas, or you’ll admire the way someone you pass has put together an outfit which inspires something in you, or you’ll catch a delicious waft from a nearby café that will give you a jolt. Whatever it is, it’s 20 minutes better spent than you would at home, surrounded by props & crap imagery, crying into your cold coffee.

 GET OUT (and about)

GET OUT (and about)

4. Just play

One of the best ways to get yourself out of a styling slump is to just play around without putting yourself under the pressure of making it perfect. Remember, you don’t have to post EVERYTHING you shoot, so why not just have some creative play time just for you? Have fun with it. You could pick three props (let’s say a cup of coffee, a succulent, and your keyboard), and experiment with the different ways you can style these three simple items to create interesting shots. Or you could spend your walking time gathering pretty flowers, leaves & stones off the street, then play around with creating different shapes & compositions with them. Or pick a new styling medium you’ve never tried, like food styling or fashion styling, and see what shots you can come up with by using whatever you have in the pantry or your wardrobe. It might have nothing to do with your industry or usual aesthetic, but it will force your brain to think differently and most importantly, you’ll rediscover the joy of just creating!

 Style your afternoon tea for a bit of something different.

Style your afternoon tea for a bit of something different.

5. Let go of your insecurities

If we’re really honest, sometimes it’s not a ‘slump’ in the true sense of the word. It’s more like you think your image is bad because you’ve got a nasty habit of comparing your work to all the other beautiful photos on Instagram, and you always find yourself lacking. Hands up if you’re guilty of this (*raises own hand*). I call this ‘Perfection Paralysis’ – you don’t believe your work is good enough to compete or even come close to the accounts you admire, so your brain gets all hyper-critical of everything you are doing, and eventually shuts down so you don’t actually create anything. What an a-hole. Firstly, take a deep breath. Recognise that you’re being really hard on yourself and tell that Negative Nancy in your head to pipe down. Then remember this: for every beautifully curated, stunningly styled, perfectly lit feed with a ton of followers, there are legitimately THOUSANDS of people with accounts who wish they could style & shoot an image like you can. Stop worrying what everyone else is doing, and just do you. Maybe it’s not perfect, but it’s yours and that’s pretty damn cool.

 This is a really badly styled image of mine...but it's still mine, ya know?

This is a really badly styled image of mine...but it's still mine, ya know?

So there you have it. My top 5 ways you can get yourself out of a styling slump. Do you have any special things you do to overcome creative block? Let me know in the comments below!

Karli xx

18 Truths I've Learned From My First Year In Business

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Yesterday (30th June, 2017) marked one full financial year of being in business for myself as a freelance photographer, content creator & social media consultant. It’s been wild. It’s been awesome. It’s been really fucking hard. It’s been totally confusing. And it’s been completely freeing. Most of all, it’s been one hell of a learning experience.

As someone who has long dreamed of business ownership but never taken the entrepreneurial leap before (I’ve never even had a side hustle), the last 12 months has been some kind of ride. I’m feeling tired, inspired & reflective (yep – all three!) and wanted to share some of the hard-won, surprising & heart-warming lessons I have learned from my first year as a solopreneur! Here goes:

1.  It’s lonely as fuck.

You leave your shitty office job thinking, ‘thank absolute fuck I don’t have to deal with people and office politics anymore!’ And it is a perk, granted. But there is a huge caveat. You don’t actually realize how much you will miss being around people. You will end up talking to yourself (or your dog or your cat or your fruit bowl), you will find yourself spending more on take away coffee than you used to (simply so you have a reason to go out & talk to someone), and you will spend a lot of time getting inside your own head – so you’ll need to be mentally strong & work at not letting that negativity weasel its way into your brain thoughts.


2. Yes, it’s ok – and sometimes necessary – to say no to work.

There is no doubt you will get offered all kinds of work – some will be well paid & interesting & get you one step closer to your dream - but more often than not it will either be a) underpaid; b) something you’re not passionate about; or c) for someone you don’t particularly trust. It is OK to say no. As woo-woo as it sounds, the more you say no to shit you don’t want to do, the more the universe starts understanding what you do want to do. Do yourself a favour and say NO.

Little Star Social - 18 Truths I Have Learned From My First Year In Business

3.  The person you will need most in your business is your accountant.

Before you do anything else, get yourself a good accountant. Get someone you trust, who understands small business and what you can and cannot deduct. Invest well in this person. They are worth their weight in gold. My accountant has kept me on track with my quarterly tax instalments, advised me on what receipts I should be keeping, and prepares all my tax returns without me having to worry. He’s a godsend. He’s also my cousin, so that helps!


4.  If you don’t keep track of your P&L – and save money for tax and slow weeks – you are setting yourself up for stress.

Set up a spreadsheet, and keep a record of what you earn vs. what you spend. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but your accountant will need it to prepare your tax bits & pieces. Also record the dates your invoices get paid, because you only pay tax on what’s been PAID, not what’s been INVOICED (lil tip!). And religiously put aside 40% of what you get paid every time, so you have money for tax, GST & a little bit of a safety net should work dry up for a week or two!


5.  Your lifeline will be the network you create, probably not the one you’ve got.

As much as I love my friends and family and couldn’t do without them, it’s the networks I have forced myself to create with other people building their own businesses that have become my entrepreneurial savior. They are the ones who know what you’re going through, who can give you valuable advice, and the constructive feedback you will 100% need. Your loved ones are the ones that will tell you they love you and you’re amazing – your network will tell you when you need to tweak that marketing campaign to get a better result.


6.  You will quickly discover the people in your life who truly have your back.

Speaking of friends and family, it will become very clear, very quickly, who are your champions and who are your detractors (and trust me, this might surprise and hurt you). Don’t be bitter about it. Your detractors have their place too. They will make you think critically, they will help build your resilience, and they will teach you empathy.

Little Star Social - 18 Truths I Have Learned From My First Year In Business

7.  No matter how passionate & driven you are, you will struggle with procrastination.

At some point in your entrepreneurial journey (usually the early days!) you will get excited about being able to set your own working hours, and probably start sleeping late, kicking back with Netflix on a Tuesday afternoon, and catching up with your mates for afternoon coffees. Then you’ll realize that actually doesn’t get the work done, or the new clients on the books. Set a routine early, and stick to it. I personally like to be awake by 7.30, social media & emails done by 8.30, exercise, shower & breakfast by 11.30, and working by midday. Then I work through to 5.30, cook dinner & eat by 6, then 2 more hours of work before I clock off. It works for me.


8.  You’ll need some self-imposed boundaries.

About 4 months into the year, I really had to set some no-no’s in order to keep myself on track – maybe you will too. For me, the TV does not go on before 5.30pm (lest I go down a Blacklist hole), I try hard to stay off my personal social media channels during ‘work hours,’ and I keep social appointments to outside of the traditional 9-5. No doubt there’ll be more rules to come!


9.  You will get fat if you’re not careful.

This was a hugely surprising one! I thought that not being stuck in an office, having the freedom to exercise as much and as often as I’d like, and having time to make healthy, home cooked meals would definitely mean I’d lose weight…but actually it’s the opposite. If you work from home on your computer, you will sit A LOT. You will find that you probably snack more, just to give yourself something to do. And despite the dream of working out all the time, you probably won’t (unless it’s your thang). Be aware of it, and set up your good habits early.


10.  It’s super easy not to leave the house – but if you don’t you’ll end up a weird hermit with no social skills.

There’s always something to do in your business – if it’s not actually doing work, it will be following up on work, looking for new work, marketing your work…it’s endless. You could easily stay in and tap away at your laptop for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And the longer you go without human interaction, the less likely you are to put yourself out there again. You almost forget how to talk to people, and you certainly won’t have anything much to talk about other than your work. Don’t do it to yourself. Get out of the house (or at least pick up the phone) and talk to someone, every day.

Little Star Social - 18 Truths I Have Learned From My First Year In Business

11.  While it might seem like a time waster and / or something you don’t want to do, keeping up with your business’ social media channels is one of the best things you can do.

Do yourself a favour & schedule this into your day. It’s such a great marketing tool, and you’re likely to make some fabulous connections for your network (see point 5.) along the way.


12.  If you don’t keep learning, your brain stagnates.

Without having other people to bounce ideas off and nothing but your work to stimulate you, you will start freaking out that you are becoming dumb as fuck. Make learning a key part of your week, because your brain will need the exercise! I try to make Thursday afternoons my learning time. I either do an online tutorial in something in my field (photography!) or I do something completely different by listening to an interesting podcast (ABC Radio National’s ‘All In The Mind’ is awesome!), or reading a non-fiction book. Just do something to keep your curiosity alive and your brain active.


13.  Celebrating your wins with others is more important than you think.

If you come from a corporate culture that does Friday drinks or monthly awards, celebrating the little wins is something you will really miss. Find a way to give yourself a pat on the back when you do a good job, whether that’s by taking out your partner or a friend or your mum for dinner, or having a few mates around for cocktails – you’ve done a good job, and you need to share that with people. It will help motivate you.


14.  Entrepreneurial martyrdom is a silly and pretty destructive myth (IMHO).

A lot of people will disagree with me on this one, but I whole-heartedly disagree with the idea that you need to be working 20 hours a day, 7 days a week in order to be a successful business owner. Sure there’s a lot you COULD be doing with your business, but you don’t HAVE to do it all. Work smarter, not harder. Pick your battles. Build slowly. Continue having a life. Spend time with your family. Remember this is about doing something you love and making a difference, not simply about making millions (if it is, I’ve got a rude shock for you friend…you probs won’t). Don’t give in to the cult of the ‘Hustle.’ You’re doing fine.

Little Star Social - 18 Truths I Have Learned From My First Year In Business

15.  You won’t be rich. Sorry.

Following on from the above, yeah…money. You are likely not to make much of it in your first year. Or second. Or probably third. Keep working at your business consistently, keep learning & adjusting & pivoting, and I have no doubt you’ll get there. But the ones who strike it rich in the first year are few & far between. Don’t expect it, you’ll just be fucking disappointed.


16.  You’ll be surprised at what you’re capable of.

You probably got into your business because of one particular thing you’re passionate about, but you will fucking ASTOUND yourself at what you know and what you get good at – you’ll become a designer, marketer, customer service expert, accountant, sales manager, and everything in between. Take heart that almost everything you don’t know will have a tutorial available on YouTube, and if you’re really struggling, you can outsource it (Airtasker will be your godsend).
 

17. You’ll want to quit. A lot.

Like, every day. You’ll cry and scream and be so frustrated that you’ll subscribe to job search ads and update your LinkedIn profile to ‘looking for work’. But you won’t quit. Because for all the shitty days there’ll be good ones, and that reason you started in the first place doesn’t ever leave you.


18. You are better, smarter, and more talented than you think you are. That’s a fact.

Self-doubt is an asshole. It will worm its way into all your thought crevices and eat away at your confidence. It happens to everyone. But I am here to tell you that you are way better at what you do than you think you are. Almost every person in the world underestimates themself. You are brave, or you wouldn’t be taking this leap. You are smart, because you are learning as you go and making adjustments along the way to do better. There are a million people who would love to have the cojones to do what you’ve done, and probably never will. You are fucking amazing.


Good luck, my fellow solopreneurs! I'm always here with a friendly ear and some not-always-awful advice if you need it.

Karli xx

iPhone Photography for Beginners: The Foundations of Composition

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If you read last week’s blog and have had some time to practice, you’ll be pretty familiar with your iPhone’s camera features by now. Hopefully you’ve had fun playing around with a few things you didn’t know you could do!  Contact us and let us know what you learned!

This week, I want to help you with you composition - an important thing to master when you want to create compelling imagery. There are a few basic rules to understand, but once you do it will make such a difference to the quality of your photos! Bear in mind this is not specific to iPhone photography, however it is important to know how to compose a great image before we dive into advanced features & editing. Let’s get started.

What is composition and why is it important?

Before we get stuck into how to create good composition in your images, I thought it would be important to talk about what it is and why you need to be mindful of it. Composition ‘describes placement of relative objects and elements in a work of art’ (photographylife.com). In a nutshell, it’s the way in which the elements within your image are placed within the frame to bring to life the overall interpretation or story.

The reason composition is important in your image has to do with the way human beings interpret visual cues. The human eye loves balance – it makes us feel more comfortable and interpret that image as pleasing or more attractive. Additionally, it is important to remember that the elements within your image are not only arranged in a balanced manner, but are relevant to the story you are telling (so pick your props carefully!).

 What story does this image tell you about the photographer? Colour, props & arrangement have all contribute to your interpretation.

What story does this image tell you about the photographer? Colour, props & arrangement have all contribute to your interpretation.

The Rules of Composition

There are several ‘rules’ or guiding principles for good composition. If you’re new to it, these will be something that you will probably consider quite mindfully at first but once you practice it will become second nature.

Rule of Thirds

This is the most basic rule of composition, and forms the foundation for great image-making. If you are learning photography, it is usually the first principle you will be taught and is by far the easiest to master. The idea is to split your frame into a 3x3 grid, forming 9 squares:

iPhone Photography for Beginners: The Foundations of Composition

If you find this difficult to do mentally, check out last week’s blog where I talked about how to turn on your iPhone camera grid!

The idea is then to place your subject or points of interest at the intersecting points of the grid, like so:

The theory behind this is that the human eye is more inclined to travel to these intersecting points rather than the centre of the image, which allows the viewer to interact with the image more naturally.

The Golden Ratio

The Golden Ratio is the Rule of Thirds more sophisticated older sister! Also sometimes known as the Fibonacci Spiral, it origins are scientific in nature and the result of a very complicated maths equation that I can't even begin to understand or explain! Nevertheless, it is known in art & design circles as the ultimate tool to creating perfect composition, and has been used for centuries. It looks a little something like this:

iPhone Photography for Beginners: The Foundations of Composition

This is a pretty advanced form of composition, and I wouldn’t blame you for foregoing this one in favour of the simpler Rule of Thirds. However, if you are feeling adventurous, Sarah Vercoe explains how to use it to compose incredible imagery in an article from Apogee Photo:

The simplest way to compose an image to apply the Fibonacci Spiral is to visualise a small rectangle from one corner of your frame then bisect it from corner to corner so that an imaginary line crosses your entire frame diagonally.

The line will cross over several focal points associated with the Fibonacci Spiral within the rectangle. From here you can envision a spiral leading out from your main focal point in a wide arc leading out of the frame.

 Putting aside just how magical this photo is, note how the photographer (Sarah Vercoe) has captured her point of interest (the figure walking) right in the small rectangle, and built out the elements of her image from there.

Putting aside just how magical this photo is, note how the photographer (Sarah Vercoe) has captured her point of interest (the figure walking) right in the small rectangle, and built out the elements of her image from there.

Design Elements & Principles

The foundations of good design are also important tools in guiding you toward better composition. These will likely not be the first things you think about, but if you consider them within your frame, it is a huge step toward being a better image-maker!

Elements

Colour
Be mindful of your palette. It’s important from a branding point of view, but creating a visually appealing image using colour requires an understanding of the colour wheel and how each one interacts with the other. At a basic level, it's advisable to use either complementary or contrasting colours for highest visual impact. The images below are from my favourite Instagram colour-popper, Nikki @revisededitionstyle.

Line & Direction
Help the viewer's eye move through your image or point toward your subject by including lines. Diagonal lines indicate movement, vertical lines gives a sense of balance & formality, while horizontal lines suggest calmness & tranquility. How’s this one from the amazing Ruth @thecontentcreative??

iPhone Photography for Beginners: The Foundations of Composition (Photographer: Ruth Stephensen @thecontentcreative)

Texture
Add depth and interest to your image by including textural elements. This is mostly to do with prop choice, and you should bear in mind how you want to make your viewer feel (e.g. if you want to invoke a sense of calm, keep your textures light & floaty; for coziness, textures should be darker, warmer & more natural, such as wool & wood).

iPhone Photography for Beginners: The Foundations of Composition

Space
This refers to the area around, between or within the components of your image. Positive space is the shape of your subject and negative space is the open space around that subject. It’s important to note that the eye loves space, and negative space when done correctly will lead the eye firmly toward your focal point. My lovely Insta-friend Jenna (@alovelyspace) uses negative space to perfection.

Size or Scale
Thi kinda speaks for itself! Be mindful of how the size of an area occupied by one shape relates to another within the frame. This can have a dramatic impact on how the viewer feels about your image, and what they interpret from it. This one’s from my girl Christall @underthekowhai.

iPhone Photography for Beginners: The Foundations of Composition (Photographer: Christall Lowe @underthekowhai)

Value
This is sometimes also referred to as tone. This is about the lightness or darkness in your image and how that relates to the overall storytelling.

Principles

If you think of the Elements of design as the building blocks of your image, the Principles are how you bring those blocks together!

Balance
This refers to the distribution of visual weight within the image. There are two types of balance: symmetrical (evenly distributed weight) is considered, formal & stable, and is usually achieved through repetition. Asymmetrical (informal balance) involves different elements that achieve an equal visual weight, and is usually achieved through experimentation with colour, value or size (or a combination). For example, darker objects are considered ‘weightier’ than lighter objects, so while one element might be larger in size and light in colour, you can achieve asymmetrical balance by offsetting this with a smaller object that is dark in colour.

Harmony
Harmony is when a number of elements within the frame share common traits. It could be commonality of shape, colour, texture, pattern, size, style, etc.

iPhone Photography for Beginners: The Foundations of Composition

Contrast
The opposite of harmony, but equally as impactful, depending on what you want your image to say! The occurrence of contrasting elements creates interest and pulls attention to the focal point.

 Note the contrast of shape, colour & texture.

Note the contrast of shape, colour & texture.

Repetition
The rhythm of repeating a pattern over and over creates a dynamic image. Repetition suggests organisation and strength. It is formal and ordered.

iPhone Photography for Beginners: The Foundations of Composition

Dominance
Where one element stands out over the rest. Dominance can give an image interest, and counteract monotony. It is also an easy way to show your viewer exactly what you want them to focus on.

iPhone Photography for Beginners: The Foundations of Composition

Unity
Very similar to harmony, but generally refers to style alone. It is about telling one story at a time.

iPhone Photography for Beginners: The Foundations of Composition

There are other elements that go into creating incredible composition within an image such asthe rule of odds (i.e. groups of 3 are more visually appealing than pairs or groups of 4), depth of field, and lighting, but the above are really the foundations of good composition that you should learn to master before playing around with the details.

Of course, rules are made to be broken! There is no law that says you need to bind yourself forever to these rigid regulations – some of the best photographers flout these all the time! - but it is important to understand them and why they are almost always present within compelling imagery.

If you have any questions or comments, please shoot me an email at hello@littlestarsocial.com or comment below with your feedback!

Happy snapping!

Karli xx

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iPhone Photography for Beginners: Camera Basics

iPhone photography for beginners 1.jpg

How good are smartphones? So good, in fact, that they pretty much contain our whole lives. We talk, chat, get social, do our banking, surf the net, organize our diaries, watch videos, movies, tv, order food, read the news, get directions…and that’s just part of it. And for anyone who isn’t a pro photographer, our phones have pretty much replaced the trusty old point & shoot camera. I mean, why carry an extra piece of equipment when you can get the same, if not better, results with your phone?

The iPhone camera is actually pretty nifty, when you get to know its features well. It has a range of orientations, filters & editing options that can all enhance your final image. Let me take you through the basics.

Turning on the Grid

iPhone Photography for Beginners: Camera Basics

Your grid is the white lines that appear in your frame when you open your camera app, splitting your image into nine squares (3x3). Turning on your grid is super important for framing & composition, and I highly recommend you have this turned on at all times. It’s not an automatic feature though, so you have to manually activate it like so:

From the home screen of your phone, hit Settings > Photos & Camera > Grid

I will be going into detail in another blog post about composition & why your grid is important, so stay tuned for that one down the track!

Your Basic Features

When you open your camera app, you will notice several icons across the top of your screen.

iPhone Photography for Beginners: Camera Basics

To your far left is the Flash, represented by a little lightening bolt. If this has a cross through it, it means your flash is turned off and will not activate even in low light. If there is no cross through it and it has turned yellow, it means it is turned on and will activate every time you take a photo. You can set it to automatically use the flash only when the camera determines the light is too low by tapping the icon and selecting ‘Auto.’ My whole-hearted recommendation is to always keep your flash OFF. The flash lighting is harsh & never looks natural, so where possible ALWAYS use natural light. See examples below - on the left is with natural light, and the right is with flash. Yuck.

Next up is your HDR, which stands for High Dynamic Range. What this is supposed to do is merge a higher & lower exposure to capture as much detail in the highlights & shadows as possible, making for a high quality image. Below are two examples – on the left is with HDR turned OFF, and on the right is with HDR turned ON. There is some visible difference in colour capture (note the white of the book is brighter and the pink strip is slightly more vibrant), but overall there is not a huge difference really. I do imagine that it would have a much bigger impact when shooting outdoors and for portrait photography. Set it to auto, and let it do its thing.

Next to your HDR is a funny circular button with three rings – this is your Live setting. Live is actually a pretty cool little feature if you can use it effectively! Live is essentially an animated photo, and when turned on it will capture 1.5 seconds of footage before and after you take your still, so what you end up with is something like a GIF.  They’re quite fun to play with, but keep it turned off unless you really want to use it for something or you’ll burn through your storage like no one’s business (they take up a LOT of space!). It only has the two settings, on & off, and you tap the icon to toggle between them.

After that you have your Timer button. Pretty self-explanatory. Use it for when you need to be in the frame, and need a delay between setting up the shot & the shutter releasing so you can get your pretty face in there. The iPhone has two timer options, a 3 second delay and a 10 second delay (that’s pretty standard for most cameras, my Canon is the same). Again, simply tap the icon to select your option.

The three grey circles to the far right are your in-camera Filters. You can choose a filter before you take a pic, so you can see what the end result would be like before snapping. Just tap the icon every time you want to change your filter, and select ‘None’ when you want to revert to a normal setting. Check out filters & results below!

 All of the filters available for iPhone.

All of the filters available for iPhone.

Filters below are (clockwise from top left): Noir, Chrome, Transfer & Filter. How good is Chrome?!

Functions & Framing Options

Below your frame is another set of options. Automatically, your camera will open on ‘Photo’. This is the default setting of a rectangular portrait or landscape aspect (depending on how you hold your phone).

iPhone Photography for Beginners: Camera Basics

Stills Options

Use your finger to swipe through the options from side to side. Swipe left, and you have all your stills photo options. The next option is ‘Square’. This will change your framing from portrait to a perfect square, which is ideal for Instagram. Swipe left again, and you get ‘Pano,’ your panoramic option. It will prompt you to scan your phone from left to right. Do so slowly, keeping the arrow on the centre line, and when you’re done capturing your panorama, hit the shutter release button again and voila – panoramic image!

 Low tide at St Kilda Beach, Melbourne. This is only half of the scene that your Pano function can capture, I just ran out of pretty scenery!

Low tide at St Kilda Beach, Melbourne. This is only half of the scene that your Pano function can capture, I just ran out of pretty scenery!

Video Options

Swiping right gives you all your video options. Option one is straight ‘Video’ – tap the red shutter release button once and it will start recording. Simply tap it again and it stops. You will see the timer at the top of your screen so you know how long your recording has been running.

Hot Tip: Instagram now allows up to 30 seconds of video, in case you didn’t know. It used to be 15 seconds, and lots of people still think it is!

Swipe right again, and you get ‘Slo-Mo,’ or slow-motion for the uninitiated. Take a quick video in this function and it automatically slows the footage down throughout the middle part of the video. You can adjust where slo-mo starts & stops after the fact, but I’ll go into this further in a future tutorial (but check out my seagulls – this is post-edit).

And finally, you have a ‘Time-Lapse’ option, which is essentially the opposite of slow motion! The idea is to take a long recording with a lot of footage, and then speed the whole thing up. Time lapse videos are great for shooting things like recipes, styling set ups and craft projects – activities that in reality take a lot of time, but where you want to show the process and end result in a short, how-to type video. You will need to set up your phone on some kind of tripod or holder where it won’t move, but again, I’ll go into more detail in a further tutorial. Time lapses are super fun to play with!

Preview & Camera options

The last two features we are going to look at as part of Camera Basics are the two either side of your shutter release. To the left, you have your preview option. Tap it, and the last photo or video you took will appear on your screen. You then have the option of sharing it, flagging it as a favourite, editing it, or deleting it. You can go through all the photos you have taken by swiping right and left. If you want to leave it for now, simply tap ‘Camera’ at top left and it will take you back to shooting mode. Tapping on ‘Photos’ in top right will open the Photos app which is where all your albums are stored.

iPhone Photography for Beginners: Camera Basics

Hot Tip: Every week or so, open your Photos app from the home screen, tap ‘Albums’ on the bottom right of the screen, and scroll through until you find the album ‘Recently Deleted’. Click into it, and you will see a whole bunch of pics / videos that you thought you deleted…only you didn’t really! Tap ‘Select’ on the top right of the screen, then ‘Delete All’ on the bottom left. It will then prompt you to ‘Delete X Items.’ Click on that, and it will empty that folder, freeing up valuable storage space on your phone and permanently banishing your terrible drunk selfies!!

Finally, to the right of your shutter release is a little camera icon with two circular arrows in the middle. Tapping this will toggle you between cameras – the one at the back of your phone (when you’re taking pics of other people and things), and the one in the front (for when you want to take a selfie). Little known fact though…did you know that the camera in the BACK of your phone is of a much higher quality than the one in the front? That’s why your lunch and beach pics are generally so much nicer than your grainy selfies! Of course, light quality has a LOT to do with how well your pics come out, but still…interesting!

So that wraps up Tutorial 1 for iPhone Photography for Beginners! While a lot of that might be fairly elementary for you and are things you already know, bear with me. I am laying the foundations for some cool stuff you probably DON’T know about what you can do with your iPhone camera, and ways you can take your photography to the next level without investing in expensive equipment! I’m going to go into detail about in-phone editing, advanced features, external editing apps, composition, and lots more! Click the button below to sign up and we’ll keep you in the loop!

Happy snapping!

Karli xx

Important: Please note that these tutorials are based on the functions available on an iPhone 6S. Earlier models may not contain some of the functionality discussed here, and iPhone 7 and above will have newer features & alternative ways to access them.

Easy Strategies For Dealing With Online Negativity When You're A Business

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As a business, particularly a small one, your online persona can make or break you. While you can carefully manage your branding and messaging, it can often seem like you lose control over your image through negative comments & poor online reviews that are publicly visible to everyone. And when you have put your heart & soul into your business this can seem like the end of the world.

But don’t panic! I have put together a few tips to help you deal with the disgruntled customers and professional trolls in a way that will make you feel empowered and come out smelling sweeter than ever! Let’s go…

The Bad Review

The rise of online review platforms has made it easier than ever for businesses to leverage peer recommendations to their full advantage. With people more likely to buy a product or use a service from a business with good online reviews, it can be a great marketing tool for brands when used effectively. But there is a downside.

If you have Facebook or Google Reviews set up for your business (and you should), you are bound to get the odd bad review, even if you work tirelessly to provide value & quality for your customer. These are usually borne from one of two things: you have a customer who has not got what he / she expected, or it’s fake.

The Fakes

Let’s deal with the Fakey McFakers first. These can be written anonymously by a competitor who is hoping to bring down your star rating so they look better (a-holes), or by someone who has appropriated someone else’s Facebook account to spread some hate (lovingly known as a ‘troll’). Unless you are a business like a café or bricks & mortar retail store where you don’t track the names of your customers, these will be easily identifiable because you won’t know them, recall doing business with them, or be able to look them up in your system.

How to deal

Respond to the review politely as if it is real (acknowledge their feedback, state that you strive to provide excellent service / high quality at all times, etc.) but mention that you don’t recall doing business with them. Ask them for details such as an order or membership number so you can look up their record. If it is indeed fake, you won’t get a response (or you’ll get a very confused & bewildered response from an account owner who doesn’t know they’ve written a review for a business they didn’t use!). You can report these to Facebook or Google if you wish, who may or may not choose to remove it on your behalf, but regardless, your future customers will see that you have dealt with the feedback professionally & proactively, and that 1-Star review was very much a one-off!

The Realsies

If your poor review is from a genuine customer who has taken some kind of offense to your product or service and leapt on to a review platform to vent their frustration, rather than see this as the end of the world you can choose to see it as an opportunity to improve.

How to deal

Respond publicly & sincerely. If it is a genuine failing on your behalf, whether through a lack of quality control or a failure of process, acknowledge it and then state what you are doing to fix it.  If you know you have done everything in your power to ensure that customer has had a positive experience with your business, and through circumstances beyond your control something has not gone well, acknowledge their frustration, empathise with them, tell them what you are doing to help address the issue for them, and let them know you will keep them in the loop with any developments. Ultimately, people just want to be heard. By addressing these reviews in a public, polite manner, future customers will see your commitment to service and the respect you have for your current customers, and judge you fairly.

The Drainers

Then of course there are the cases where the customer is genuine, but has been nothing but unreasonable, and possibly rude & disrespectful to you through the whole process. There is likely nothing you could have done that would have saved you from their online evisceration, because being an asshole is their part time job. These are possibly the trickiest ones to deal with.

How to deal

Your natural reaction is always to bite back and defend yourself in these situations. Don’t. They are looking for a reaction. Don’t give them one. Respond publicly, in a simple and polite manner. Tell them you are sorry that this is the experience they had with your business, and reiterate that the majority of your customers walk away feeling happy & positive. Suggest (politely) that perhaps you weren’t the product / service they were looking for, and that you wish them better success in the future. If most of your reviews are positive, your future customers won’t take too much notice of a review that is blatantly nasty and probably personal in nature.

Things to remember about reviews

  • By nature, people will generally only review your business if they have had a really great experience or a really crappy one. That’s why the majority of your reviews will be 5-Star or 1-Star. If it was average, they probably won’t bother. Just focus on providing the best quality product & highest service possible at all times, and it’s likely you won’t go too wrong.
  • Unless your reviews are blatantly fake, don’t waste your time trying to get them deleted. It’s an annoying, often futile, process and in the end it is much better to show your potential customers how proactively & respectfully you deal with negative feedback. People pay attention to this. However, after commenting on a genuine customer’s bad review, if there is a bigger conversation to be had in order to reach a resolution, take it offline into a private chat, email or phone call. Respond, but don’t air your dirty laundry if it’s avoidable.
  • If you have a few 1-Star reviews that are bringing down your average rating and you are worried about it, rally some friends or family to write a few positive reviews for you to counterbalance them. But do tell them to be genuine (it’s even better if they are or have been a customer of yours in the past!). People can smell lack of authenticity a mile off.

The Negative Comment

As a brand, being able to build your social media platforms & communities is so valuable in terms of awareness, reach & loyalty. However, social media has created a situation where everyone has a voice, and that can be problematic as a brand when in order to access the marketing opportunity that SM provides, you are also opening yourself up to constant comment & critique.

It’s almost inevitable that you will receive some negativity from a disgruntled customer, shade from a competitor, a diss from someone who didn’t like the way you styled your IG photo (or the FB article you shared, or the fact you chose the wrong form of there / their / they’re, or that your product or service is no way up to their high-falutin’ standards despite the fact they are not your target audience), or a nasty, uncalled for comment from someone you don’t know whose side-hustle is to be a complete & total f-wad to everyone all over the Internet until they become the self-proclaimed King of the F-Wads. Those people deserve some special kind of hell. For all the others, here are some strategies for dealing with the haters.

When it’s from a genuine customer with a genuine issue…

Deal with this in a similar manner to how you would deal with a bad review. Acknowledge it publicly, empathise with them over the bad experience, and offer to help resolve it. Then take it offline.

When it’s someone who has taken issue with your product or service based on their own ideals / morals / values…

These types of comments can range in severity from the passionate vegan who takes issue with your meatball recipe, to the fitness fanatic that low-level fat shames you, to the army of practically perfect parents who will virtually destroy you because you were tired and chose to give your kid Maggi 2 Minute Noodles for dinner instead of a made-from-scratch, nutrient packed, organic, raw, superfood veggie bowl (ugh).

If the comment is genuine feedback on what’s in your product or the values of your service, take it as an opportunity to address it. You might learn something you hadn’t taken into consideration. Don’t be afraid to voice your own values & ideals here either - just because someone doesn’t agree with you doesn’t mean you’re wrong. It just means they’re not your ideal customer. Always be polite & respectful, but focus on targeting your tribe and don’t worry too much about the detractors.

If it is a middle-range jab at your product or service because it’s not up to scratch according to that particular person, thank them for their feedback and state that you have found your customers to be very happy with their purchase. You can end by saying that you are always looking for ways to improve, so their view is appreciated. And leave it at that. Don’t become defensive, just try to diffuse the situation.

If it is borderline bullying, there are a couple of things you can do. Calmly state that you do not tolerate that kind of language / behaviour on your platforms, and direct them to your online community guidelines should they wish to have a look (every brand should have these, more on that later!). Finish by saying that if they do have any constructive feedback that it is very welcome and you would love to connect and discuss. If they keep going, and the feedback is neither constructive nor warranted, you can choose to ignore it or block them.

When it is obvious, trolling behavior…

When the comment is personal in nature, nasty, and uncalled for – you can choose to ignore it dependent on the severity. That person is just trying to get a rise out of you. Don’t let them. However, when the comment breaches the platform’s (or your own) community guidelines, by including discriminatory language, actively defaming your brand without cause, personally threatening you or a member of your community, or other such hateful behavior, then you should report it, delete the comment, and block them immediately.

Things to remember about comments

  • Unless the comment is particularly offensive & a breach of guidelines, don’t delete it. It’s important that your community sees how you deal with criticism & negativity, and for the most part they will love you all the more for being a good & imperfect human. Also, deleting a comment can often add fuel to the fire of the commenter, making them feel unheard and the situation even worse.
  • Take some negative feedback as an opportunity to open a dialogue. Is there something you hadn’t considered about your ingredients or supply chain that you can take on board? A way of doing business that will streamline your processes and make the journey easier for your customers? An ethical consideration you hadn’t thought of? This is all really valuable, so try and treat is as such.
  • Try to develop some community guidelines or house rules, so your followers know what you will tolerate and what you won’t. It establishes boundaries and gives you a place to refer people if they get out of line. It’s not legally enforceable, but shows you’re serious about the online wellbeing of your staff & community.
  • Don’t encourage your community to fight your battles for you. It is common when you have built a loyal fanbase for them to take on the role of defender and protector but this will only escalate the situation, and staying silent while a comment war is being waged on your profile is the same as condoning it. Deal with the core issue / commenter as swiftly as possible, thank your followers for their support but state that you would prefer they didn’t put themselves in a situation where they could get in trouble.

So that’s some strategies for helping you deal with negativity online. Just remember to be polite, be respectful, and be honest, and you should have no problems!

Karli xx

WANT HELP WITH YOUR ONLINE IMAGE? GET IN TOUCH TODAY!

Need more info on social media community guidelines? Links below!

Facebook Community Guidelines

Instagram Community Guidelines

Twitter Community Guidelines

LinkedIn Community Guidelines

YouTube Community Guidelines

Pinterest Community Guidelines

Snapchat Community Guidelines
 

Cyber Bullying Laws in Australia

If you feel you are being bullied online, please refer to ACORN (Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network) for more information: https://www.acorn.gov.au/learn-about-cybercrime/cyber-bullying

10 Steps To Growing An Authentic, Engaged Instagram Following

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I had someone recently in a Facebook group who was looking to grow their Instagram following but didn’t want to fall into the shitty trap of follow / unfollow & automated comment bots (hi Katrine, if you're reading this!). I don't blame them. It’s a horrendous tactic that is ruining the Insta landscape and I really hope it will die by fire very soon (I discussed it here recently – have a read!). I also realised that this is a common problem - most people DO want to grow their accounts in an engaging, ethical, human way, but find themselves left for dust in a world of #ClickHereForFreeFollowers. Cue eye-roll emoji here.

First of all, let me tell you one very important thing - and write this down because you will want to remember it...got a pen? Good. Here goes - THE NUMBER OF FOLLOWERS YOU HAVE IS NOT AN INDICATION OF ONLINE SUCCESS. I caps locked that one for full effect. If I teach you anything, I want it to be this: As a brand, 100 genuine, loyal, engaged followers will mean more to you than 1000 so-so ones. Please try and take that on board. But now that we have that out of the way, I do understand that you might want to grow your following to boost your brand awareness and find potential new customers.

Growing the RIGHT Instagram following (and it’s about quality, not quantity) is of huge value to your brand, but you do need to put in the work. However, it’s not as hard as you would think – you just need a strategy! Below are some tactics you can use to consistently grow your following a little bit every day. Yes, it’s slow and takes a bit of time, but the effort is worth it as you will build valuable, lasting connections with your audience, and you will ENJOY being on Instagram because your feed is full of accounts you actually like! WINNING!

10 steps to growing an authentic, engaged Instagram following

Step 1: Know who you’re targeting

As a brand, you know exactly who your ideal customer is and what their interests are (and if you don’t, get researching friend). Do a bit of digging and find out what kinds of hashtags they are using and searching, what Instagram hubs and communities they frequent, and who else they are likely to follow. Seek them out.

Bonus tip: don’t just look for your ideal customer. Also seek out your ideal collaborators. Collaboration is a huge growth tool if you can find someone who complements you.

Step 2: Develop and refine your hashtags

Hashies are a great way of getting your content seen by a wide variety of people (I blogged about it here), but it pays to ensure that you are including hashtags that are likely to be seen and frequented by your target audience. Do some research. Create a ‘model group’ of your ideal audience (e.g. 20 or so of the key accounts you would like to work with) and see what common hashtags they are using. Then use them.

Step 3: Stalk your competitors followers

It stands to reason that if someone is following the account of your key competitors, then the chances of them following a similar account (i.e. yours) would be pretty high, yeah? YEP. Make a list of competitor accounts you admire and have a scroll through their followers. Find accounts you genuinely like and follow them.

Bonus tip: if you actually engage with these accounts rather than just do a random follow, the chances of converting them is over 50% higher. I find that liking 3 photos and commenting on 1 gives you the highest conversion rate. But please god don’t EVER go through and like every single one of their photos – it makes you look like a psycho.

Step 4: Stalk your key hashies

Regularly search your key hashtags to find accounts you like. Repeat Step 3’s process.

Step 5: Choose your follow-backs wisely

Yes, it’s always nice to follow back people who have followed you, but you don’t want your Insta feed turning into a dog’s breakfast of random accounts, because that won’t make your own experience enjoyable. If the person who has followed you is not an account you like or someone in your target market, just leave it. If they unfollow you, who cares? If the person who has followed you IS in your target market but is NOT an account you would particularly like to follow, that’s ok – maybe just find some time to thank them by liking a few of their posts. If they choose to unfollow you just because you haven’t followed them back, I would dare say you either don’t have content that has kept them interested or they are not someone you’d ideally like to work with. If they are both in your target market and have a cool account that you’d definitely want to follow – HALLELUJAH! Start building a relationship now.

Step 6: Focus on your content

 Of course, photos of Paris always help...

Of course, photos of Paris always help...

You’re probably sick of hearing about how your content needs to be valuable to your audience, how it needs to be high quality and informative. There’s a reason everyone is banging on about it – because it’s the key to attracting the right types of followers and keeping them once you have them. Make creating your content an essential part of your working week. Make sure it is on-brand and delivered consistently. And make sure it delivers on one of the three E’s – Education, Empowerment or Entertainment. Trust me, your hard work will pay off.

Bonus tip: I pre-prepare all my content in advance, usually in bulk on the weekend, so I don’t have to fluff around with what I’m going to post every day. I draft my captions and keep my hashies in the notes section of my phone, so it’s a literal cut & paste job. A real time-saver.

Step 7: Be consistent

It’s hard to run a business and I know you wear a lot of hats, so finding the time to focus on your social media can be challenging, but it’s important. While there is a school of thought to suggest that posting 3-4 times per day is optimal for gaining followers on Instagram, if you simply don’t have the time then don’t lose sleep over it – just make your presence consistent. I only commit to posting once a day to keep my sanity and make sure I have time to focus on my client work, and that’s fine with me.

Step 8: Have some manners

If people leave genuine comments & feedback on your posts, thank them. If someone regrams you or tags you in a post, thank them. If you want to reach out to someone you’d like to work with, be polite and respectful. I realize this is common sense but I feel like it needs to be said. Having some manners goes a long way toward building genuine relationships. Don’t just go in for the hard sell every time.

Step 9: Get into a routine

Find a social media routine that works for you. For me, when I first wake up in the morning I get up, shower (sometimes – I work from home, so…) and make a coffee. Then I sit down, log into Instagram and it goes a little something like this:

8.00am-8.10am: reply to any comments that have been left overnight.

8.10am-8.15am: check accounts that have followed me overnight, and like some of their posts or follow them back if I like what I see.

8.15am-8.30am: scroll through my feed and engage with the people I follow. I like their posts, I make genuine comments, and I contribute to discussions.

8.30am-8.45am: find 10 accounts that I would like to follow (see Steps 3 and 4!).

All up, my morning ritual takes about 45 minutes (all before the working day begins!). Then I repeat that whole routine after I have completed work for the day, usually with a glass of wine in hand!

You don’t have to do exactly what I do if you don’t have the time, just find what works for you, schedule it in and do it regularly.

Bonus tip: Spending time engaging with your followers and the people you follow is a great way of discovering new content ideas. Pay close attention to the conversations happening online, and develop ways you can contribute or solve a problem.

Step 10: HAVE FUN!

 Do all your Instagramming by the pool for maximum #FunTimes

Do all your Instagramming by the pool for maximum #FunTimes

Instagram is not meant to be a chore, it’s meant to be enjoyable even when it’s work! Stop stressing about the number of followers you have and comparing yourself to others, and focus on having fun with your audience, creating the best content you can, and finding amazing partners to collaborate with for even more growth!

Karli xx