How to reach 10K on Instagram

I still remember having a conversation with another instagrammer about reaching 10,000 followers. I said something along the lines of “Once I have 10K, I won’t pay attention to my numbers anymore.” She laughed. And you know what, I was definitely being naive! As much as I don’t want to pay attention to the numbers, I can’t help myself. I’ve read so much, experimented, listened to podcasts about growing your instagram, so I thought I might share some of what has worked for me.

Disclaimer: You’re probably reading because you want to grow your followers, which I hope to be able to help you do! But! Do not discount the power of being a microinfluencer. The microinfluencer market is HUGE right now. You don’t have to have 100K or 10K or even 5K to have influence. To have influence, you just have to have SOME followers, and share what you like. You can do this with photos in your feed, you can do this through comments, or even IG stories. Share what you like so other people and brands can see what you like, how you interact with people, how you talk to them, etc. There are some amazing independent small brands who are looking to work with smaller instagrammers, who have amazing engagement and a strong community presence and distinct voice. I worked with a few really lovely brands and PR firms when I was only around 4-5K, and maintaining that relationship has been an important part of my own growth and understanding of “how to work with brands.”

Ok, so assuming you do want to grow your IG followers (maybe you want the handy swipe up feature or maybe it’s part of your growth strategy), I have a few tips that could be helpful.

It took me a year to reach 10K, and it felt like for-ev-er. When I joined instagram, the algorithm wasn’t in effect yet, so my photos would be seen and “liked” by thousands, even though I only had a couple hundred followers. Once this changed, it really changed the way I had to interact and engage. It’s a learn as you go thing, but there are a few ways of using instagram that haven’t changed and make a big difference in your growth.

  1. Engagement  You hear about engagement ALL the time, and no doubt, this is one of the best ways to grow, and the most important. What is engagement? It’s not being a passive IG user – it’s liking, commenting, sharing others stories and posts through your stories, etc. Engage with the community you’ve found on instagram, whatever that happens to be. If you’re just getting started on instagram, find a handful of people that you like – they don’t all have to be from the same community, I think it’s best to follow people who have similar interests to you, because then you are genuinely following them and interested in what they’re sharing. Commenting on their photos, sending them friendly DM’s, etc., this will all increase your visibility on IG. When I got serious about wanting to grow, I made a point to spend at least 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening commenting and responding to comments on my feed. The most recent advice I’ve heard to make sure your posts are being seen (thanks algorithm!), is to spend around 20 minutes before you post engaging, then post, and spend at least 30 minutes commenting back to people and being chatty. It’s also a great way to get to know people a little more than just by their IG name!
  2. Hashtags There is so much confusion around hashtags – how many to use, which size to target, etc., should you use them at all. I have found a great community by using hashtags. Now that you can follow a hashtag, it’s a great way to find new accounts. One of my favorites to follow is #prettycitylondon – a HUGE community, but I’ve also stumbled across some lovely new accounts who have used the hashtag. Big accounts and small accounts show up on the hashtag, so it’s always worth using. How can you use and store hashtags? You can use up to 30 hashtags, and I write them at the bottom of my captions, not in following comments, if that makes sense. I recommend using the full 30, and using a mix of hashtags from different communities. If I’m posting a pink London photo, I’ll use hashtags centered around london, travel, pink, color, and a mix of lifestyle and design websites and brands I love. I store hashtags on the Notes app on my phone, separated by categories, then copy and paste for my posts. It’s important to switch up the hashtags you use every day, so you don’t get shadowbanned. How to find the right hashtag? Choose hashtags that have lots of engagement and some smaller ones, to ensure your posts are seen. A good resource for hashtags is Me and Orla, and google. This is a good post I bookmarked. Just search for whatever hashtags fit your niche. Also, don’t forget hashtags on stories!
  3. Feature accounts When you use feature accounts hashtags ( i.e. Pretty City London) or tag them in your photo, you may be selected as a feature photo. Find feature accounts in your community and tag away! Engage in the comments of feature accounts. Find other likeminded people in the community. It’s a great place to find other IGers, too.
  4. Stories Stories are still relatively new, and they are a tool that can have a HUGE impact. How do I know they work? Because I watch so many of them, myself! It’s 2019, we want to see what everyone is doing, we want to see the face behind the account, and it’s a great way to let your audience get a peek of who you are. I could go on about stories, including the apps I use to give them more visual impact, but I might save that for another post.
  5. Get creative to get noticed It’s a big community. There are so many ways to get your name and brand out in front of others! A few ideas: collaborate with like-minded IGers, do a small meet-up and tag each other. Ask an instagrammer or brand or feature account if they do stories takeovers and pitch yourself so you can appear in front of their audience. Be creative in the content you’re sharing.
  6. To niche or not to niche I think you already know which direction I took (hello pink things in London, that’s quite specific!). Personally, I’ve found positives and negatives from niche-ing, but I would say mostly positives. When I first started my IG, I would post anything pink that I came across. Soon, though, I realized I needed to set a tone on my IG to make my feed more cohesive. I still remember the day my friend pointed at a new shiny pink fiat and said, “hey! It’s a pink car for your feed!” And I immediately was like, “yea, that’s not on brand.” The only way I knew what was on brand for me was through months of reflection on what I enjoyed photographing and sharing. I’ve found a great community of people who love pink and London, and I’ve recently been working to ever-so-slightly break out of my niche. My opinion is that starting off niche is a great way to establish your IG brand, form a community and grow your followers. Then, once you’re more established, you can expand as you get more comfortable with what you want to share.

I hope these tips are helpful! I’ll be writing my next post on growing beyond a microinfluencer in the coming months. Let me know what else you’d like to hear about related to using instagram, I’m excited to share what I know!

My Guide to Surviving January in London (or anywhere)

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It’s cold and dark outside.

I’ve just recovered from the flu.

I’m endlessly searching warm places to holiday.

It must be January! Do you feel it?

I’ve never been particularly good at January, but especially since moving to London where it’s dark and the weather is often grey/rainy, I’m not the easiest person to be around this month. I tend to turn inwards, stay inside, and generally dream of being somewhere else.

We moved here from Washington DC in September 5 years ago, and that January was the hardest on record. I was lonely, getting used to being a stay at home mom for the first time, and to top things off I had two miscarriages in a row right before Christmas. It was a rough entry, and I just don’t regard January as a good month since that year.

BUT. I am trying to turn that around this year. There are a few things I’ve found that help me get out of my January funk, so I wanted to share.

  1. Go for a morning walk. As tempting as it is to crawl back into bed after the school run, instead I make plans for a walk through one of my favorite neighborhoods. I try to do one walk a week in winter (Hampstead is up next) because though it can be cold, I feel alive and that winter light is stunning.
  2. Schedule a breakfast or lunch with friends. Food is always going to get me out of the door. Somewhere light and airy is always good, with a good coziness factor, too, because hey it’s January.
  3.  Make travel plans for the year. This year we have our sights set on visiting the US with the kids, which will cut into a big portion of our travel budget, but it’s been too long since seeing family and reconnecting with our roots (aka visiting Target and going to an American movie theatre for buttered popcorn). I’m also looking at Morocco and Egypt, as my 7 year old has been asking to see the pyramids and camels for the past 2 years. We’re also planning on doing a bit of UK travel, too, as I’m planning on finally being able to drive again once I pass my driving test.
  4. Hang up new art on the walls. There’s something about a house refresh that gives me all the good energy. I love to find digital prints on etsy and print off through a local printer for an inexpensive change to my gallery wall.
  5. Buy new plants. We’re lucky in the UK to have a few good plant delivery services, and Patch Plants is one of them. I’ve just ordered a chinese money plant which are so peppy and happy, just the kind of plant I need for our coffee table.

This list isn’t exhaustive, just a few things I’ve done recently that have helped me shake off my January doldrums. I’d love to hear what you do to make the most of these winter months!

London in Bloom: Five Best Places to See Cherry Blossom

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Planning a trip to London? I can’t think of a prettier time to visit when the cherry blossoms are out in bloom. It’s no wonder it’s my favorite time of year in London.

So, when can you see cherry blossoms and where should you go to get the best shots of these lovely pink blooms? Here’s my guide.

London has several common varieties of cherry blossom, with the earliest blooming in mid-February.

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If you can believe it, I think this may be one of most famous trees on instagram! It might have something to do with the gorgeous pink door framed by the blossom. This house is instagram gold anyway, but when this tree is in bloom, it is literally swarmed by people wanting a photograph! You can find it on Portobello Road in Notting Hill. I snapped this photo last year on February 12.

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I love this instafamous cherry tree (yes, trees really are instafamous, i know, isn’t life grand!) in South Kensington.  It always blooms mid-late February, and can be found just off Thurloe Square.

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This tree is one of my favorites in London! It’s a different variety to the other types you typically find around London, but I adore it’s gorgeous delicate flowers, and the color pop in the colder winter months. You can find this one in Holland Park, close to St. James Gardens, and it blooms end of Feb/early March.

The fluffier variety of cherry blossom bloom in mid-April, and do they ever stop people in their tracks!

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They are so pretty, like little pink popcorn blossoms dotting the city. It’s my absolute favorite thing to see.

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A few trees can be found around Hillgate Place in Notting Hill, and the famous blossoms near St. Pauls Cathedral that perfectly frame the famous blue dome. Walking around some of my favorite colorful neighborhoods (Notting Hill, Chelsea, Holland Park), you’ll find some gorgeous blossoming trees.

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Of course, all blooming seasons are dependent on the weather, but if you can catch the elusive cherry blossom season, you’ll be glad you did!

Paris patisserie crawl: The highlights

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When my friend, Sara, invited me to a one day trip to Paris with the sole purpose of eating desserts, I booked my Eurostar tickets before even checking to make sure someone could watch my kids. Sara is a formally trained patisserie chef, and knows her way around the vast city of Paris with a patisserie on every corner.

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We hopped on the 8am train from St Pancras, arriving at Gare du Nord just in time for the opening of the famous patisserie, La Pâtisserie du Meurice from the Worlds Best Pastry Chef, Cedric Grolet. Upon making final preparations to open the stunning shop, the staff opened their doors and each staff member greeted us all with a handshake. It was completely adorable and also lovely to see how much pride they put into their work. We tried one of everything, and I suggest you do the same. My favorites were a fresh-out-of-the-oven cookie and an “apple” with a savory apple compote inside. Directly across the street is the Jardin de Tulleries, with benches perfect for digging into the boxes and boxes of patisserie you just purchased.

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A quick 2 minute walk away is the delightful Angelina Cafe, home to the famous thick and rich European hot chocolate. I had missed this one on previous trips, so I was happy to finally try it. IT WAS ALL I WANTED IT TO BE AND MORE. The hot chocolate is perfect. I made off with a few souveniers for the little ones at home (including some incredible caramels).

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Next, we took an uber to Pierre Hermes on Rue Bonapart and I missed out on the millefuelle because I’m an idiot, but Sara’s looked amazing. Also, pistachio chocolate croissants. I decided on a very good strawberry chocolate tart, but still have millefuelle regrets – and yes, that is apparently a thing.

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At this point, I’m beginning to feel my stomach turning on me. Too much sugar. Time to take a break. We walk to a cafe selling something I hadn’t tried before, Praluline – a praline filled brioche – from the cafe, Pralus.

Time for a quick uber ride across town to the 10th, for a walk beside the gorgeous Canal St Martin. If I ever live in Paris, I’m headed straight for the 10th. We stopped into Patisserie Yann Couvreur, home of some highly delicious and instagrammable patisserie. Raspberry and lemon tarts make their way into my hands and once again I miss the millefuelle. Only 50 are made daily. *Le sigh* *C’est la vie*

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From here, I swing by the Bensimon shop to pick up a couple pairs of summer shoes, then we walk to the Gare Du Nord. Home by 9pm, bearing the fruits of our labors for my nice husband who “worked from home” with the kids.

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If you’ve been following me on instagram, you know that I recently took another trip with friends, where we took the earliest Eurostar out of London and the latest train back. We were able to add on lunch at L’as du Fallafel and breakfast at a favorite, Du Pain et des Idees for the chocolate pistachio snail pastry. Keep an eye out for cheap tickets – Eurostar releases £50 return tickets every season.

London is Pink’s Guide to Holland Park

One of my absolute favorite neighborhoods to get lost in is Holland Park.

Holland Park is the genteel, quieter neighbor of the wild and colorful Notting Hill. It’s like the older sister who grew up, settled down and decided to buy a few nice things. But, even though older, she’s not afraid to show the fun side. Let me walk you through some of my favorite landmarks of this lovely neighborhood.

I start my walk from Holland Park tube, walk down the hill and take a right onto Portland Street. Lined with colorful doors, and one of the London is Pink landmark doors, the Hill & Friends pink googley eyed door.Holland Park door HIll and Friends

You will approach a courtyard with some lovely shops at Clarendon Cross. Don’t miss The Cross and Summerill & Bishop – both lovely and gorgeous.

Head down Penzance Place for a glimpse of another London is Pink landmark, the tall pink house.

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Walk back towards Holland Park high street on Princedale Road. I always swing by Daunt Books for a quick peek at their books and to pick up another tote bag, because you can never have too many tote bags. Melt Chocolates is a great place for a hot chocolate or cheeky chocolates, and I love Hop Like a Bunny  – a gorgeous children’s lifestyle shop.

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Next up, Holland Park mews is a great place to take some photos, especially during wisteria season. The Beckhams house is a stones throw away, and I’ve even run into Mr. Beckham himself at the local cafe, so keep your eyes peeled if you’re into football stars!

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Take a walk through the Holland Park to admire the peacocks, and if you’re in the mood for a tour of a beautiful historic home, I can’t get enough of the Leighton House Museum. The recently opened Design Museum is also a great place to explore on a rainy day, and the gift shop is one of the best in London.

You’ll be in Kensington now, but I can’t end this post without a mention of my favorite local pizza place: Pizzicotto. Get the margherita DOP, and thank me later!

 

Southern Spain: 6 reasons why it’s the perfect February holiday

IMG_9009If you’re looking to avoid sweltering heat and crowds, here are six reasons why you should consider southern Spain in February (February half term holiday, anyone?).

  1. Off-season = Lower costs and easier to book. We had a lovely stay in both of our airbnb’s in old town Marbella and in Seville (right across from this gorgeous hotel). Costs were outrageous (sub £100/night for 3 bedroom properties!) and we booked just a month ahead of time without worry.IMG_9144IMG_9636IMG_9082
  2. Empty beaches. Marbella’s crowded beaches were all but empty. With temperatures reaching 24 C a few days in Marbella, it was warm enough to slip on our swimming suits and play on the beach. Sure, it may have only been us and a few other Brits enjoying the warm (to us!) weather, which made it all the more special. It is the Costa del Sol, after all!IMG_9022IMG_9027
  3. Shorter queues for all the good cafes and restaurants. We never waited long to get into some of Seville’s hot spots, including our favorite tapas place, La Brunilda, and my favorite place for quick tapas and churros con chocolate, the buzzy Bar El Comercio.IMG_9132
  4. People-free photos of El Alcazar and Plaza de Espana. IMG_0109
  5. Perfect season for exploring. For this American-turned-Brit, I’ve grown accustomed to the cooler temperatures and me (and my kids + husband!) cannot handle the heat anymore. Anything over 27 and we all wither like a sad little flower. Daily temperatures from 20-25 left us happy on our city walks. Enough Vitamin D for it to feel like a sunny break, without the heat exhaustion. Our drive from the coast to Seville took us past mountains and valleys dotted with fluffy blossoming almond trees and beautiful craggy olive trees.IMG_9242IMG_9637
  6. February or not, you can’t miss Ronda, located about an hour up a very windy mountain road towards Seville. Even though it is higher in the mountains, we didn’t come across any snow (though we did see snow in Grenada from our airplane). The mountain air was refreshing, and the views of the bridge are SO incredible. We only stayed for a couple hours, but it was one of the most memorable parts of our trip. IMG_9145IMG_9147

Top tips: Definitely rent a car for Southern Spain if you can. We’re already thinking of returning to visit Nerja, and staying among the olive groves (I have my eye on this stunning place). Also some touristy spots, like the Alhambra in Grenada, book up weeks or months in advance. We couldn’t get tickets for our trip, but we’ll make it there next time!