Friday, 9 December 2016

Roy Ayres at the Jazz Cafe

I have to be honest, although I have a developing love for soul music, I wasn’t completely sure of Roy’s back catalogue. My boyfriend got the tickets months ago after seeing he was playing in London and told me we were going and I would need a babysitter – at the time, it seemed like an incredibly long time away so I didn’t do anything, about it until a few days before the gig when I had a huge panic! Luckily one of my old work colleagues teenage children is trying to raise some money for travelling so I managed to wrangle a last minute sitter, I’m pretty sure the boyf would have never let me forget that I missed Roy Ayres through bad planning and disorganisation…

Babysitter sorted we set off to London. I hadn’t been to the Jazz Café before, a beautiful Art Deco bar and club in Camden – I’m a huge fan of the style and it was a bit an extra treat for the night! We were pretty early and managed to get a great spot right by the side of the stage which we guarded with our lives, never leaving less than two of our group in the spot – the whole place was packed. I kind of wished we had splashed the extra £15 per person to sit up on the balcony, they had tables and an impressive view of the stage as well as their own bar, I will definitely get up there at my next Jazz Café gig come hell or high water because the photos from that vantage point are *lit* (Do cool kids still say that?)

The support act was surprisingly cool - I was really happy to be introduced to Louise Golby’s music, she belted out some pretty nice soul – we actually bought her album at the event and listened to the whole thing when we got home that night. She even got up with Roy later on in the night and sung with him, which was super fun!

And then there was Mr. Ayres. As I said, although I obviously recognised some of his music I would not have been able to sing the lyrics to every single song. The majority of the audience were  clearly lifelong fans as they knew every single word cheering and whooping as they heard the first few bars of each song he played – the atmosphere was incredible. I always think you can tell how well a gig is going by how many people are in toilets during it and there was not a single person in that corridor for the whole of Roy’s stage time!

Have I told you about my love of the keytar? I live in hope that one day I’ll be musically inclined enough to be able to play it. I tried learning the piano but I struggle to play different things with each of my hands so I hit a bit of a plateau but seriously, that instrument is the bomb. I’m sorry for not catching the guy’s name but the keyboardist in the band was something else, at times playing both a classic Rhodes organ and the keytar together – he was obviously hugely talented and definitely elevated this gig from enjoyable to incredible for me!

My only teeny tiny gripe? I wish the drinks weren’t quite so expensive at The Jazz Café, I know they have to maintain the place and staff and it’s in the centre of Camden which can’t be the cheapest of places, but I feel if you pay £30 for a gig it’s nice if you can afford to have a couple of drinks as well – although, let’s be fair, it was a school night and I probably shouldn’t have been knocking back too much gin anyway ;-)

Overall, we all had a great time - it's clear that Roy isn't the springiest of chickens but he has an undeniable stage presence and an incredibly loyal following which makes for an extremely enjoyable night - I'm now working my way through the Roy Ayres back-catalogue through my headphones at work and I'm loving every single soulful second...

What’s your favourite Roy Ayres track? Where you at the Jazz Café this week? Let me know below

Katy x

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Seasonal Affective Disorder - 6 Tips For Boosting Your Serotonin

Many of my posts recently have been about digital marketing, and I definitely want to carry on sharing those things - but I also want to share other types of content that I hope will be enjoyed and today is one of those posts - I would be more than interested in hearing about your thoughts and experiences so please leave a comment or come follow me on Instagram

I've been planning this post in my head for a really long time, since August, basically. It's kind of a scary thing to write about because in the most part, people don't really talk about depression openly. I'm starting to think that isn't because of a fear of seeming weak, but because suffers are worried that by speaking out, they risk looking like they are asking for sympathy or attention.

I should say here that none of these tips are in any way meant to substitute for getting advice from a doctor. There is nothing to be ashamed of in going to your GP- even if it just means getting a diagnosis and then seeing if you can boost your happy hormones yourself - if you can't GO BACK!! There is no need to suffer unnecessarily.

75% of the time, I feel fine. I've always been a huge worrier, but this gets significantly worse in the winter months.

Seasonal Affective Disorder has a hit rate of about 1 in 15 people, depending on what you class as SAD. It's characterized by a variety of symptoms, including anxiety, lack of interest in normal activities, feeling hopeless, changes to sleep patterns and weight gain & craving carbohydrates. The causes aren't completely known, but seem to be a combination of an increase in the production of melatonin and a change in the body's circadian rhythms, both of which affect sleep patterns. There is also significant evidence to suggest that a reduction in the body's production of serotonin has an impact on happiness levels in the winter in SAD sufferers.

There's quite a lot more information on SAD on the NHS website (click here) This post isn't meant to supplement doctor's advice, but I wanted to share a few things that have helped me and might help you or a friend.  These things might seem silly and insignificant, but they are proven to boost serotonin and might give that little extra needed to get through the day a bit more easily. Don't scoff until you've tried every single one!

Dark chocolate boosts serotonin production - this is a fact. Dark chocolate contains serotonin and L-tryptophan, as well as carbohydrates from sugar, which can signal the body to produce even more serotonin. Personally, I don't love it, but I try to eat a few squares a day just to give my serotonin receptors a little boost, We tried Montezuma's geranium and orange chocolate last night and it was incredible, but a bit much for my tame little taste buds.Green and Black's 85% Dark is my go-to.

Obviously, just eating chocolate won't help. Eating right and drinking lots of water will make you feel  better at any time of the year - I kind of feel that's a given here.If you eat properly, you will feel better than if you don't.

'Bear' with me - I know the majority of people will probably think this is silly, but there is some research to suggest that watching baby animals doing funny or cute things can boost the serotonin production in your body and therefore ease the symptoms of depression and SAD just a little.

Here are some of my favourites:

Anxiety sucks. It can cause a huge range of symptoms both real and imagined. It can convince you that you are going to die or that everyone is against you. The key to fighting rising anxiety levels is to learn about it. First, you need to recognise when you are feeling anxious and when you are actually in danger. When you start to recognise that certain situations are creating anxiety, you can avoid them, or manage them appropriately. Reminding yourself that it's just anxiety, it's just your body and not an external threat of any kind can help to calm you in a situation that could otherwise develop into a panic attack. Even during a panic attack, calmly telling yourself:

"This is a panic attack, I have had them before and it always feels like it's the worst one. This will be over shortly"

can be enough to see it off. Learning about anxiety and ways to fight it can make a significant difference to your quality of life,especially if anxiety is stopping you from doing anything. There are lots of tips and tricks online to fight panic attacks, such as having an elastic band on your wrist, mantras and exercises to help with breathing and blood flow. Do your research and find what works for you.

Here is one of my favorite serotonin-boosting facts. Hugging for 8 seconds gives you a surge of the happiness hormone! I've tried this out many a time, in fact if you are reading this and you know me in real life, chances are you've had a slightly-too-long semi-awkward hug with me at some point. I've learnt it helps to explain what you are doing before you grab someone for an 8 second hug, otherwise they might feel like you are a little crazy and perhaps are not planning to let go. Or maybe that you doing that thing where you shake someones hand for way too long just to see how they react. Often, if you tell people that hugging for 8 seconds will give a chemical happiness boost, they are up for it - this is tried and tested to the point where many people in my life now will hug me for 8 seconds anyway when we greet, just so they don't have to listen to my speech about serotonin. Good times!

Hands down, the thing that has made the most different to managing the winter blues for me, as been this little piece of equipment. (Here's a link to Amazon)

It's a Lumie Bodyclock and it's changed my sleeping habits completely. It creates a sunset in your room - I have a completely white bedroom wall so I have it on a pile of books in front of that, the slots in the back create a sun pattern and the light dims slowly, it wakes you up by getting brighter and brighter. An alarm eventually goes off if you leave it longer than 15 mins or so before you get up and press the button. My parents got it for my birthday and I love it. I live in fear of the bulb going and having to order and wait for a replacement (it's just occurred to me that I should order one before it goes - I am getting so much better at adulting). But anyway, if you struggle to get up in the morning this might help. Being jarred awake in the middle of a deep sleep isn't the best way to start your day and a decent night's sleep is essential when you are trying to fight seasonal depression without the use of traditional pharmaceuticals.

I also have a new sleep toy to play with which I will be sharing in the next few weeks!

It's not a cure, but trying to lead a positive life WILL make you feel better. This means smiling at people, trying not to get frustrated in public over people taking too long to use the ATM or standing in front of the good cheese at the supermarket so you have to pretend to be looking at the garlic bread but really, you want the cheese. The rule is, for every negative or mean thing you say, whether out loud or not, you should try and create 5 positive things too. It doesn't always work, but it's a nice ideal to aspire to.

I know people who know me in real life will probably not agree, but I am trying  to reduce my complaining. If I hear myself complaining, I try and stop and I wish other people would to. People complaining for hours about something instead of putting that time and energy into finding a solution really bother me and I often can't help but to complain about that! It's a cycle that I want to break - if you cannot be positive, at least be quiet.

These are not steadfast solutions, I know that some people will need extra assistance to fight seasonal depression (and all-year depression, obviously) however I know I would prefer to try every option before going down that route and so far it's done me pretty well. I still dread the nights getting longer every year but if you build yourself a toolbox of ways to deal it can be a lot easier.

Katy xx

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

HELP! My Christmas Ornament DIY Went Viral And I've Been Trying To Make The Most Of It Since 2010

Christmas - the most shareable, pinnable, instagrammable time of the year. For bloggers and pretty much anyone in marketing, it basically takes up around three to four months of your life. There are a million articles and informative podcasts and youtube videos about how to make the best of the world's interest in crafts, baking and cheese at this time of year- with the ultimate aim of creating some content so awesome that it gets pinned a billion times and drives traffic to your blog for years to come.

I did this - but I've struggled to capitalise on my creation for the last six years and now, I need to know whether it's time to just give up, and move on, or if there is something I can do to get the traffic that gets so interested in this DIY to come here, instead of the web address that's been attached to it since the beginning.

In 2010 I was writing on a different little space on the internet. I'd been blogging for quite a few years by this time and I knew what I was doing with photographs and sharing my content, I was getting around 100 hits a day, not amazing, but it was going steadily upwards and I was making jewellery for an Etsy shop that I've since shut down. Because of this, a lot of my social network at the time were crafty types and a lot of the content I was creating was craft related. When it came to Christmas 2010, I was at home with my little guy, I'd just been made redundant and I had a lot of time on my hands. I created this:

I popped the DIY up on the blog and did the usual round of promotion, a post on twitter, Pinterest and on the Etsy forums. Instagram wasn't as huge a thing back then and I hadn't quite worked out how to best use it to promote my content. It's since been pinned 4,700+ times - linking back to the original post on my old blog.

I have tried everything I can to capitalise on this creation in my new space, here at I moved most of the content over to here when I migrated to the new username but because the original Pin linked to the old blogspot, traffic is still being driven there by Pinterest and it drives me INSANE. Hits on the old blog go up to around 3K a day as we get into prime Christmas crafting time, and the old article still gets shared regular as clockwork by all the major crafty DIY sites and blogs. It would basically be a dream come true for traffic and my profile in general - IF the traffic was going to the correct blog! I haven't updated the blog over at the old address for nearly 6 years - I don't want to use the username anymore, I want to use this username and keep the content here. I want traffic to come here, driven by the awesome DIY I made 6 years ago and all the other Christmas, crafting and digital marketing / social media help I've posted over the years.

As someone who works in digital marketing and has done for nearly eight years, I feel like this is an issue I should be able to solve and it frustrates me no end that I can't. That's why, dear reader, I am calling in the big guns and asking for help. Here are the things that I have done to try and get the traffic coming here:

  • Reposted the entire article on this blog under the same username and repinned it. The pin has been shared 47 times. That's 1% of the times of the original. You can read the article as reposted here by clicking here ➡click here
  • Put a big link up at the top of the original post directing traffic to this space
  • Put a link at the top of the new post
  • Set up an automatic divert on my old blog - with a large image that should have just enough time to load before the viewer is diverted. I think I still lose about 50% of traffic as they lose interest (or panic because scammers) - although towards Christmas hits on this blog do go up with the majority of traffic coming from the original blog.
  • Repeatedly over the last six years reposted and resubmitted the pictures and article to many crafting sites, repinned it hundreds of times myself, shared it on every social media platform imaginable
  • Written this post in an attempt to find a final solution - or give up and accept that I can't make the most of the interest in this DIY on a new blog.

I can't change the link on the original Pin, and besides, it's too late. Perhaps I have no choice but to watch in resigned pride as the hit count on my old blog goes through the roof every Christmas and accept the fact that I cannot get that traffic here. Or perhaps, someone out there knows the answer. Perhaps someone has helped a business or individual solve a similar issue and wants to share with me the secret to diverting traffic from one ridiculously popular source to another. I have lots of DIY content here for people to enjoy. I have the full DIY for the Christmas bauble. Which, by the way, fell apart after two days because I didn't use strong enough glue and no longer exists - in case you thought I  got it out every year and cried over it, weeping for my lost traffic. I'm only saying this because I would definitely do that if it hasn't have been such a shoddy DIY in the first place.

So, digital marketers, people with ideas or Pinterest experts - how can I make sure that the traffic comes to my blog here this year? What are you tips and suggestions for driving up the traffic of this here blog based on this one successful DIY I created 6 years ago? Or, I feel this might be the one, is it time to let go of the dream and concentrate on creating more Amazingly Awesome DIY's that will bring readers here themselves. Please drop your thoughts and ideas below, I can't wait to read them :)

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Amazingly Awesome Instagram Accounts You Must Follow (if you don't already!)

In the last of my strange little series of posts about Instagram, I wanted to share some of the fun accounts that I came across - people who are very clearly doing it right! I'm having a little issue with the HTML on my blog, and I can't seem to make links show up very clearly in the text. Since I learnt my HTML skills playing Neopets about 11 years ago, this does not come as a surprise to me.If anyone feels like giving my blog template the once over and maybe tweak it a bit, I shall repay you with a beverage of your choice - but I have linked the account in the name above the picture in the meantime.

I hope you like these :)

Can you believe this kid? She's 3, and has this adorable blog as well as over 35,000 followers on her hilarious and full-of-attitude instagram. I'm a huge fan, as well as being slightly jealous that there's no way I'll ever have this much sass.

This crazy old lady gives me serious #OAPGoals - If I reach this age I want to be sitting front row wearing a sheer sparkle bodysuit and swearing at the camera for sure.

I found this amazing Aussie-Based-In-Paris gal  whilst on the hunt for travel bloggers, and I love the theme of her 'gram - most of the time, there's a round pink balloon in the shot, although sometimes you have to really search for it - kind of like a classy Parisian Where's Wally. She also has a beautiful blog - here.

Kayter_co is a Sydney-based confectioners - Okay, so, I know I can't exactly order any, although if I did, a box of crisp-topped chocolate cronuts with a side of Nutella Syringe would be my choice - but it makes me happy to know this company exist.

If you have ever needed an example of how an Instagram theme might be the best thing ever, this is the account for you.I have no idea if Stellamariebaer's life just happens to be entirely played out in peaches and whites (probably not) but I do know that I want mine to be. Plus, her paintings of the moon are really beautiful.

Basically,I don't think it's possible that you haven't heard of SymmetryBreakfast - the guy got a book deal this year, but it started with posting these breakfast-for-two shots on his Instagram. He shares breakfasts from literally every corner of the world and they all look incredible.

So, yes. These are my current favourite Instagram accounts - the ones that stand out for me in a sea of marble-backed flatlays and massive black evebrows. And butts. Obviously.

Have a great day :)

Monday, 17 October 2016

Honesty, Disclosure and The Future of Influencer Marketing

Who like getting free stuff?

Answer? Everyone. There are so many companies out there right now that I speak to every single day looking to gift people with more than a thousand Instagram followers, or more than 3,000 monthly page views on their blog. It’s fun right? But do you actually trust the majority of the reviews you are reading? I want to talk about a taboo subject here in my little space today – Are We Being Honest?

Here’s the process. A brand emails you and they say, oh hey, we like your internet shizzle, we want to send you some products and we’d love to see a review of them on your blog! So you pass over your address and you receive the package and much excitement! Say, you have the whole of a cosmetic brand's new collection in your hand. So, you start using the products and then you take some photos and you post up a hopefully well-written ‘review’ in which you ensure you fulfil the brands expectations by including a call-to-action such as pointing your readers towards an online retail space where they can make a purchase. Then the products are yours and everyone moves happily on with their day – the company is happy because of your lovely comments about them and the content you have created and you are happy because your drawers are brimming with products you wouldn’t have the budget for.

So, what happens if it’s a really awesome brand that loves working with Influencers (yes, that’s you!) and you usually love their stuff, but on this occasion you aren’t that thrilled with the product they have sent you and you actually feel that if you were completely honest, your review wouldn’t be as positive? I mean, you won’t do that, because they won’t send you products again, right?

This is the issue. In order for Influencer marketing to develop as an industry, there need to be standards in place. We are all familiar with recent high-profile cases in the US that have led to people getting into trouble for not disclosing that they are being paid to advertise a brand – by posting a positive review.

Guys, know this. It’s not a review if you are only able to give a positive opinion. A ‘review’ is a rundown of the pros and cons and your experiences whether good or bad with a product. If you have been told what angle to take – you are creating advertising content. It’s not a review.

I’m worried that bloggers and Influencers are starting to lose their authenticity because they don’t want to be seen to be sharing negative comments about a brand that has paid them – because the brand might not come back with more free product or payments – and why would they? With a million identikit beauty bloggers out there, brands have their pick of the bunch right now and if someone is posting to their audience that their eyeshadows aren’t as pigmented as a competitor, they’ve essentially paid out for bad press – with 74% of consumers using social media to make purchasing decisions, a negative comment about pigmentation can mean a difference of a lot of money for a popular cosmetic brand.

What’s the answer? I mean, brands want to send product out to bloggers and bloggers want to receive it, in the majority I don’t actually think many bloggers care if they are being 100% authentic as long as the packages keep rolling in and their audience is reacting and engaging with them. As far as anyone is concerned at the moment this could be a relatively short-term bubble anyhoo – and by the time it bursts most people just want to achieve collaborations with brands that they love and possibly have a few more pennies in their bank accounts - There’s no loyalty from the Influencers either; I’ve seen three separate detox tea adverts on the same Insta feed this week – if there’s money offered, people are going to take it, however much talking they do about only working with brands that are cohesive to their aesthetic, if a brand flashes enough cash, product or free trips to Bali, they can usually get the Influencer they want on board, and if not, there are a million waiting in the wings.

 Personally, I don’t think this is a problem with Bloggers and Influencers – it’s a brand issue. I’m finding that brands are becoming increasingly complacent about the laws surrounding disclosure – possibly because we haven’t had any high profile bloggers in the UK getting into trouble for non-disclosure; but it will happen. Brands aren’t shy about asking directly for positive reviews. They aren’t checking if disclosure is happening and they aren’t worried about reaching out to multiple Influencers to get the coverage they want. Read more about disclosure and the law here.

In order for the Influencer industry to survive, brands and marketers need to understand that the true value of reviewing a product comes from honesty.  I want to push this agenda in my job at a major Influencer agency and in my personal blogging life, because as soon as the buying audience of Instagram and the blogosphere start to feel like they are only getting one side, the positive side, of a product story, you lose the thing that's valuable in the first place - the ability in influence purchasing decisions.

I'd love your thoughts & experiences in the comments :)

Sunday, 25 September 2016

5 Things To Check Before You Collaborate With A Brand on Instagram or Anywhere

Instagram is a major source of income for a lot of people right now, I'm loving the innovative ways that people are marketing products and services through all these social platforms, but there's a danger that with individuals managing their own collaborations, things can turn sour if neither party are experienced enough to make sure all bases are covered - this isn't meant to scare you off from collaborating with brands and beginning to earn an income (or maybe even just some free make-up!) from your carefully-curated Instagram feed, just a checklist of things to make sure you know before you agree to anything.

If you get approached by a brand looking to send you a product, or do a paid collaboration, you need to be sure you are going about it the right way and asking the right questions. Both of yourself, and of the brand. I’m going to share some tips that should be useful when you reach this stage, please feel free to share your own tips and experiences in the comments below, I’d love to hear them!

1.       Are they legit?

Key point. I’m constantly getting requests for the Influencers that we represent to endorse products or web-based services that turn out to be something they are not. If you have to sign up to a platform and enter your bank details – do your research. Some platforms are very legit and they offer a streamlined way for Influencers to pick up exciting jobs with major brands, who quite often only use this method of reaching bloggers – but some are not, or actually have an underlying ulterior motive. This isn’t meant to put you off, or cause too much worry, but there are companies less than legitimate that go around offering paid collaborations just to get you to sign up to a platform, and then you have to wait for a brand to select you – there was never any paid collaboration, the agent just wants to get people signed up to make their platform more appealing to brands and agencies that have their pick of 100 identical ones. I personally don’t recommend signing up to anything – if a brand wants to work with you, do it directly or through an agency that represents you (more on that later) Don’t be fooled into signing up for multiple platforms that aren’t going to do anything at all – they are using you to attract brands and you’ll very likely not receive a penny. If this happens to you, feel free to send me an email with the name of the platform, I will be naming and shaming companies that do this in future blog posts.

2.       Do you think your audience will be interested in the product?

Something seriously devaluing Influencer marketing is people will do anything for cash. I’ve seen legitimately incredible content creators go down this road more than once. They get a few big jobs, then nothing happens for a while, then they are approached by a company that doesn’t fit in with their aesthetic but they do it because they’ve quit their day job now and need the money. As soon as your audience call you out for promoting a product that doesn’t fit with who you are, you have totally devalued yourself and you’ve immediately reduced your earning potential – the whole appeal of Influencer marketing is that more than X amount of people trust your feed to be authentic, that’s why they are following you. Do everything you can not to lose their trust and if this means turning down collaborations that aren’t quite right, don’t be afraid to do it - it will add value to you as a brand overall.

3.       What exactly does the brand want from you?

If they want to send you a product, are you obligated to review it in a positive way? This is different to a company sending you a product for you to try with no obligation for you to create content around it. You need to be very careful with what you agree to when you are writing emails or communicating via DM’s.  I would suggest steering clear of companies that specifically request a positive review – this is a very grey area when it comes to native advertising and with the laws on disclosure for paid collaborations (and in this context, ‘paid’ means either a financial or product reward) set to change before the end of the year, you could be causing yourself serious issues in the future. There have been some very high profile cases of people being paid to do positive reviews and not disclosing that the opinion being shared wasn’t necessarily their own. Keep yourself legit and be sure you are being honest with yourself and your audience.

Be sure to check the brands disclosure policy. Agency advice would be that you disclose everything that you are paid in any way to create or post with the hashtag #ad and I don’t think there’s any reason why you shouldn’t do this. Be honest with your followers and they will become a more loyal community.

4.       Will the brand be using your photos on their own social media feed?

This is a very important question and one you should ask early on. If you create content for a brand, and they pay you, this does NOT automatically mean that they have the right to use your images featuring their product. This is a concept called ‘Usage’ and they should be paying more if they want to use your content in this way. When you first start communicating with the company, ask them this right away. You should expect to get paid more for campaigns in which the company will be sharing content created by you on their own accounts. Another grey area here, because some apps allow ‘regramming’ or resharing of Instagram content, but make sure you know exactly where your content is going to be used and if you are going to be credited for it. It maybe that the opportunity is a great one and you are happy to be featured on their feed - but there’s nothing stopping the company sharing your content and not crediting you. This is obviously more worrying if your face isn’t in the images, but even if it is, it’s good practice to know where your content is being used and for how long.

5. What expectations does the brand have, 
How will they deem your involvement a success?

Influencer marketing, like most forms of advertising, is a numbers game. It starts with how many followers you have, what your engagement percentage is (I'll be doing a post on working out your engagement rates this week - don't forget to follow me on Bloglovin' so you get updates!) and moves quickly on to how many likes and comments you get on individual promotional posts. It's worth finding out from the brand offering you products or cash - how many sales/engagements/downloads do you need to generate for them to be satisfied with the collaboration? 

Something to bear in mind when you are talking about this. The benefits of Influencer marketing extend behind the initial 45 minute flurry of activity on an Instagram post. Building brand awareness is a key factor and it's something that is much less measurable with traditional metrics. If you want to build ongoing relationships with brands, think about working on a number of posts featuring their products over a period of time. For a six month collaboration, you can expect significantly more money and there's a defined period for your involvement to have an impact - plus it will be much easier to evaluate the effectiveness of the campaign overall. Upsell yourself by suggesting this route to your interested collaborators - especially if a single post campaign seems to have gone better than their expectations, it's an ideal time to pitch yourself as a great ongoing investment for them.

Don’t feel worried about asking brands these questions. Legitimate brands who want to build successful relationships with Influencers will be happy to discuss these things - they need to ensure they are getting as much bang for their buck as possible. 

But, if you are worried, think about hooking up with an agent. Legitimate Influencer agencies are the best way of ensuring you are valuing yourself correctly, they'll do all of this work for you leaving you to do what you started this venture for in the first place - creating amazing content about things that you (hopefully) love. I'll be posting more about this in the coming months, but if you are getting approached once a fortnight or more, it's probably time to get someone involved who can manage interested parties - they'll take a fee, but you'll get significantly higher overall payments  and exposure to brands that never would have found you otherwise. 

As I said, I'd very interested in your opinions and what questions you have found important when starting a relationship with a brand. There's a lot of secrecy and misinformation surrounding Influencer marketing and I'm hoping that I can use my blog as a platform to change that - you thoughts on any aspect of this would mean a lot to me :)

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Automated Posting Applications Are Ruining Instagram

Hashtagbot, Instasumo, Tweetfavy...the list of applications that promise to add to  your Instagram following has grown steadily in the last year. In the early days of Twitter, I remember being mildly surprised by Magpie's ability to post automatically to my feed, a series of sponsored tweets from categories I had selected. Things have progressed since then and you can now schedule likes and comments for both Twitter and Instagram that relate to hashtags or accounts you have selected. It doesn't take very long to set up, and there's a range of options that are designed to make the automated engagements seem as natural as possible.

I've been using TweetFavy for about three months now. It started with a 14 day trial, I set it up to like or retweet any tweet with certain hashtags. As I'm looking to grow my following to be able to reach bloggers and social media experts across the UK, I chose hashtags that relate to the major UK-based retweet accounts such as @ukbloggers1 @lovingblogs and @bblogRT. It keeps track of all the engagements that it produces and with a bit of adjustment of the ones that weren't converting into followers as much, I've gained 300 followers, an inbox full of automated messages and the occasional reply to a retweet that I've made from an actual person.

I paid to have TweetFavy on an ongoing basis - aside from the occasional retweet of something overly political that's been tagged for reach rather than relevancy, it's worked really well, so when I realised I wanted to grow my Instagram account too, I looked for a similar service. As soon as I did, I realised that a lot of the people that comment on and like my pictures are already using something like this. If I look at my three most recent pictures, I'm pretty certain that most of the comments are automated. They tend to be really generic, slightly out-of-context comments like "This is first rated!" on a picture of my son, or "Great shot!" when I've regrammed a meme. The more I looked into it, the creepier I found it. You can set it up to comment on people you follow and their content at random, as well as hashtags and people you have tagged.

I've come to the conclusion that actually, I'd rather my interactions on Instagram were real. I don't want a bunch of comments from people that haven't actually looked at my images, I want to be reaching out to people, growing an audience of engaged, interested followers and interacting with them in the comments section of my posts. If the person posting the comment hasn't even seen the  picture, I don't think they should be telling me it's "Superb!"

Growth comes from engagement - not everyone has the time or inclination to spend hours scrolling and making comments, but I truly believe that the top Instagrammers (by which I mean, everyday people and not celebrities or brands) have risen to the top because they have put time and effort into authentic interactions - in fact, not just interactions, but conversations.

While using a platform to post for you might seem like a time-saving plan, I'd like the average Instagram user to think twice. I believe these type of platforms are devaluing the engagement metrics that brands and Influencer agencies use to determine which social media stars would be right to employ as a promotional tool. Brands need to know that an Instagrammers following are actually interested in their content. Real people, posting real comments and questions are very valuable to brands, events and Influencers. As soon as there is a question as to whether the engagements an individual is receiving are real or automated, the value of a collaboration goes down for both parties.

This is an issue for everyone who hopes to use their Instagram stream as a source of revenue. From the major 'Inspiration' accounts resharing content from across the web to the average user who is posting purely for fun, likes and comments are the whole point. If you suddenly found out that most of them are coming from a bot, would they still be as important to you? They definitely aren't for me. I want to know that interactions are coming from someone who has seem my content and wants to interact with me about it, not because I've used a hashtag that one of these automated posting algorithms has picked up.

I'd love to know your thoughts and feelings on this. At the moment, these platforms are legal and allowed to link with your account on both Twitter and Instagram and you are not required to disclose if you are using one. I don't believe that Twitter is as important as it was five years for making money through social media, and because the interactions that are generated through Tweetfavy are primarily retweets, it doesn't feel as cheaty. Maybe I'm being naïve and other people out there feel the same way about these applications for Twitter. All I know is, I won't be looking for an automated engagement creation platform for my Instagram any time soon - I want to build a community of people who I can talk with, share ideas & brainstorm ways of making the best use of social media tools- this can't happen if every other comment is being posted by a robot.

There is already a serious lack of authenticity in so much of the content that I see on Instagram, from recent scandals involving celebrities not disclosing payment for positive reviews, whitening toothpaste being advertised by starlets with very obvious veneers, individuals suddenly claiming they have always, always, always used a certain brand then suddenly sharing content for a major competitor a week later. Instagram is an exciting and engaging platform that offers so many opportunities for brands to reach out to a new audience - I've recently got addicted to Boomerang (loops a very short video backwards and forwards for sharing on Instagram, it's really fun) - if the community isn't careful, it risks becoming a soulless, robotic arena full of automated programs exchanging platitudes. I don't want a future where my Instagram username is having conversations on my behalf, it's way too creepy.

What do you think about automated posting platforms, can it be a positive thing for social media as a whole or has it already gone too far?

Real people only: Follow me on Insta here.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Five Tips For Boosting Your Instagram Engagement & Following

Since I started my new job, at one of Britain’s leading modelling agencys, within their Influencer department, I’ve been exposed to so many incredible Instagram accounts. How did I not know about Symmetry Breakfast, for example?

I get emails every single day from budding social influencers wanting to be matched with brands and start earning money from their social following. I’ll be doing a series soon about how you can get yourself a blogging agent and what the benefits are, but I thought I’d kick of a new raft of social media school posts by giving away 5 tips for organically and honestly boosting your Instagram following. Don’t fret! I’ll still be posting all my usual content and still have some events posts coming up from our adventures at Bluedot Festival, Bures Festival and our upcoming trip to Portsmouth for the best fest in the west, Victorious 2016.  Okay, confession, it’s not in the west but that was a totally great rhyme…

A few industry secrets – in the Influencer marketing world, Engagement is ALL.  We don’t pitch to our clients based on follower data, although it obviously forms part of the bigger picture - we only take on Instagram Influencers with more than 40,000 following, for example. What we do present to our clients is Engagement. All of the tips I’m sharing today are centred around increasing engagement on your posts, and with increased engagement, your following will naturally grow too.

1. Respond to comments.

Everyone does the ‘post one emoji and run’ thing. It’s the equivalent of dropping just your blog link in a comment section on a bit site. It can sometimes be hard to know what to respond to an individual emoji, but rack those brains, tag the commenter and give a similar response – a heart will often do the job. Your thanks will draw the commentator back to your post for another chance to grab them as a follower. This, incidentally, is proven to work even better for gaining and retaining followers if you post another photo before responding to a batch of comments. 

2. Answer questions

I’m constantly being contacted by people looking to take the step in their blogging career. My first step in this situation is to check out their blog. If I see a bunch of answered comments or questions in their comments section of twitter feed, I’m going to assume that the person isn’t actually interested in starting online conversations, in communicating. Since they aren’t in the habit of responding to comments now, how can I have faith that if I match them up with one of our brands, they will engage with potential customers of that brand and drive traffic in the correct way? Real Influencers understand that they need to build a community for their brand to be successful and that involves positive interactions within your communication platforms.

3. Be real, share your true self.

This is common sense. If you are in a great looking place, eating fabulous food or hanging out with interesting people, get a snap and post it up. Take advantage of every opportunity that you have to tag and link  places and events in your posts. Be that guy that asks at the bar if they have a hashtag and take an exciting photo of you having a fun time. This will start introducing you to the types of brands that would fit well with your stream – because it’s the kind of content that you are sharing anyway. Take this one step further – once you made the post, click the linked hashtag and like or comment on two or three other photos that have used the same tags. This will build your following by bringing your account to the attention of people interested in the type of things that you are doing, and it’s all natural!

4. Keep it positive

The party line here is that we and our Influencers do not respond in any way to negative comments. However much you might be tempted to fire back a snappy remark, don’t. Brands like to see people dealing with negativity in the best way possible – there is NO way to respond to trolls and come across as someone who has a grip on their social community. Don’t delete the comment, just reply to a different one, so it’s obvious you’ve seen it and decided it’s not worth your time. That doesn’t stop you keeping it there as part of your total comment count – increasing your personal engagement stats! Obviously, if it’s sweary, or reveals something you wish wouldn’t be on the internet, delete, delete, delete – but no major social influencer gets ONLY positive comments. Stay true – just make sure you show it has no effect on your positive vibes. 

5. Follow the trail

It takes time and energy to build an Instagram following – you will not wake up one day with 100K followers without putting the legwork in. This means getting out there and commenting on other people’s posts, engaging with them and following people with mutual interests. I like to do something called ‘following the trail’ I’ll start with an account that’s commented on me, and I’ll give them a few likes and comments. I’ll find a pic with another user tagged, or a really positive comment and follow that to a different account. I’ll give a few likes and comments, find another tagged account…until I come full circle or run out of time. This is a great way to discover new account ts that will be interested in your content.

Boosting engagement is all about getting the right followers, commenting on your posts. There’s no point in having a million followers from Columbia (a prime region that shows up in insights when someone has bought a lot of followers) if none of them ever interact with your content – the key is to organically grow your following by finding accounts that fit in with your aesthetic. 

I hope these helped someone out there, don’t forget to drop a comment below if you found any of these tips useful – please also share your own tips or experiences, I love reading them!

I’ll be back early next week with the start of my series on Blogger Agents, the How and Why.

Katy x

Monday, 11 July 2016

The Curious Yellow 2016

I realised as I wrote the title that this year, the guys took the 'The' off the stage signing. So maybe it's just 'Curious Yellow' now? Answers in the comments please, I can't be going around getting that wrong.

Exactly one week ago we packed up Hayley's poor car with enough camping equipment to survive for a month, and headed off to Harlow. My heart was pretty much jumping the whole way, as we got stuck in traffic, realised we had no water, smoked too many cigarettes and tried to avoid starting every sentence with 'Last year...'

And then, considerable further down the lane than I recalled, we arrived at the little gazebo manned with yellow-wristband brandishing fluro-wearers. We were in! The inimitable Greg appeared from beyond the wall and ushered our crew inside, and the moment I'd been waiting for a year was upon me, walking down the gentle slope into the Gibberd Gardens, past the swing and into the riverside undergrowth towards the camping area. I felt about 10st lighter walking into that wild pathway, memories rushing back, excitement building. The layout was perfect, the bedoin tent (sadly under used this year, I felt) set up along the brook, giant Tipi's erected by the Red Hand Tipi Clan, who over the weekend gained angelic status for their ability to always have a fresh hot tea or freezing Tango, any time of the day or night - like them on Facebook to follow their events, I think they do some pretty cool stuff!

We pitched our tents and went off on an explore. I kind of gushed already about how beautiful these gardens are, but I guess I was worried that in my mind I had somehow made it better than it actually was. I was thrilled that I hadn't.

This year, every single music act we saw across the two stages was awesome. The guys seem to have the magic touch when it comes to picking spot-on acts - although in the spirit of complete honesty I think the line-up times needed a tweek - Our friends The Consciousness Collective, with the most incredible resonant instruments and perfectly timed set should definitely have been a late afternoon chill out, many missed their late night performance. The Turner Brothers and Sweetcornbread, the two bands we'd come along with, smashed their sets and picked up some new fans for life - I wish I had better photos of their set but I love the atmosphere of these shots - thanks to Grace Fox for taking some photos with a disposable camera!

If you are reading this in early 2017 trying to decide on a ticket or not - do it. We took a larger than usual crew this year because of all the raving we've done about this festival and every single person had a fantastic time - as well as an experience personal to them. The gardeners in our group found some incredible rare flowers deep in the garden, the music lovers enjoyed Bare Jams so much they saw them again. The free spirits took to exploring the surroundings with abandon and the musicians and singers jammed long into the night and early morning under a wonderful clear sky. One highlight for me was hearing the Game Of Thrones theme tune drifting over from our neighbours encampment on an accordion and other unexpected instruments. I took my steel tongue drum to try and play with the gong guys but I got immediate stage fright when all eyes where on me and I bottled it - maybe next year!

It was pretty hard to pack up and leave. We had planned to leave on the Sunday as had commitments at home but a last minute rush around finding plug sockets and an only slightly imaginary emergency meant the majority of us stayed on for the last night and were super glad we did, getting to hear the organisers Dan and Greg play some wild sets of their own. We stayed up 'til dawn again that night on sheer exhilaration and increasingly strong (curious) Yellow Punch.

Dragging our stuff up the wooded lane to the car park felt like I was climbing Everest with all my possessions on my back - it was bittersweet to leave - I was looking forward to a deep bath and change of clothes, but knew I'd be counting down the days until we could come back. Currently at 356.

Big thanks to the designers, organisers, volunteers and foodie places, we had an incredible time and can't wait for next year...(I'll add links in here shortly)

Katy x

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Five Reasons To Grab A Last Minute Curious Yellow Ticket For This Weekend

(This post was written in 2016 but every single one of these reasons is still valid! You can also click here to see posts about the years since)

Weekend Approaching! In just two tiny sleeps is the festival that I've been counting down to for the last 360 days. That's a pretty long time to prepare for two nights away! Last year, I didn't know I was going to get all Curious until the day before - could you throw your stuff in a bag and go to a festival at that short notice? I bet you could :)

I overheard a whisper from the guys over at the festival site setting up that there's a last little run of tickets available, either to purchase today, tomorrow or Friday morning, or to buy on the door. Their website is right here, linked in this text. If you fancy an adventure this weekend, chuck your tent in the car, grab a few bottles of water and come join us for an amazing weekend you won't forget. I'd love to see some of my blog readers there - I'll be the one coated in glitter with the giant smile :)

Here's 5 reasons why you should grab a last minute ticket...

1. The Setting

I kind of covered this beauty of the Gibberd Gardens in my review of the festival last here. You can read that by clicking anywhere in this sentence if you fancy, but here's a little peek.

2. This wonderful, sky-high swing

3. It's for everyone

This festival is for everyone - the kids had an amazing time last year, playing in the freshwater spring, running wild in the undergrowth and dancing to an incredible variety of music. The gardens are safe and enclosed, so the kids went totally free range and they loved it. I have some beautiful photos of little ones drumming, slightly older ones dressing up and generally having fun and children and adults of all ages enjoying the atmosphere, I'm reluctant to post pics of other peoples kids without permission, so you'll have to take my word for it, but what I do have, is these photos of my besties and I soaking up the sun last year...

4. Music

Last year I went with Sweetcornbread, who smashed their set late at night and got the whole tent clapping and cheering. This year, three bands that I have connections with are playing (and they are all completely awesome), as well as loads that I've been looking up online and having a listen to. I think the Happy Daggers and the boys from the Consciousness Collective are pretty unmissable. The Turner Brothers were all that was missing from last year for me, and I'm thrilled they are going to be on stage, strutting their stuff and hopefully playing some new music. There's going to be an incredible atmosphere when the boys are up there. I've roped as many of our crew into bringing their T-Bro t shirts as possible and I can't wait to get sweaty in the crowd, as well as get some photos of the lads on the main stage. Rumour has it, the big black and white tent that you see in these photos is no more, and it's being replaced this weekend with a series of connected geodesic domes. Here are some snaps I took of the mini-dome we danced all night and some of the morning in, last July- can't wait for a repeat in a bigger space!

Here's the full line up if you fancy a look before committing, but I think you should just go for it :)

5. Escape From Reality

This is the BIG one for me. I love my little flat and my life with my son, but there is something freeing about spreading your wings and getting stuck into a completely different way of being. I love being outdoors in the sunshine, rolling in rum-soaked fields and seeing and hearing things I don't usually get the chance to (Gong tuned to the frequency of Jupiter, anyone?)

There are lots of surprises in store for revellers. Last year we were treated to late night fire art shows, whiskey tasting, crazy bike riding, exploring the grounds, giant games and space hoppers...This year is bigger & better and I am so pumped to see what the guys have in store!

So, if you want to come, grab a ticket from the Curious Yellow website - click anywhere around here and the magic of the internet will whisk you to the ticket-buying part of their site. Then grab some festival-appropriate garbs and a pot of glitter and come make some amazing memories - see you there :)

Next time I'm here, I'll have a whole bunch of new photos and experiences to waffle about for another year - I'm off to pretend to sleep so it comes faster...

Katy x

Many thanks to Tasha and Zoe for letting me use their photos in this post :)

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