Good morning everyone! It’s finally Friday, we made it through the week! If you follow me on Instagram, you might have noticed that I posted quite a few polls on my story the other day. I’ve been wanting to start a new series on this blog (posted every week) where I can answer and dive into any questions you guys have about the blogging world or simply social media in general. I’ve decided to call it the Blog Chat! I started my blog about five years ago, but didn’t really get serious about it until about a year and a half to two years ago. Within that time, I’ve learned a lot about the blogging community on WordPress, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, and others. I’m hoping this series will be immensely beneficial to any small bloggers out there and will answer any similar questions that I had when I was first starting out.
I took so many polls on Instagram, so anything I didn’t answer in this post will be answered next week. I’m not sure how long this series will continue, but I’m happy to keep posting them if questions come in. So of course as always, if you have any questions you’ve ever needed answered about blogging, social media, or graphic design leave them below to be featured in the next post in this series!
What are some free apps I should use to edit Instagram/blog photos?
Okay guys, on Instagram I created a poll between “free apps you should be using to edit photos” or “reasons you should buy a ring light.” 82% of you voted for me to dive into the “free apps” option. There are TONS of free apps that will make your Instagram photos look BOMB. Within the past year or so, it’s become so important for your Instagram feed to have a consistent theme or aesthetic. While it’s definitely made the Instagram game a bit more difficult, it actually ends up looking amazing in the end and is the perfect constraint to push your creativity. The best way to accomplish this is to use the same filter on your photos. This is a pretty common tip, but it’s just so true and the easiest way to go about creating a theme.
When I first wanted to use a filter for my photos, I used VSCO. This app is completely free, but you can buy more filter packs within the app for cheap. I would recommend this one specifically for beginner bloggers, simply because the tools are very easy to use and it will help you start a theme. You can adjust aspects like exposure, contrast, sharpening, clarity, saturation, and so much more. Back when I was using this, I loved the C1, F2, and M5 filters. (P.S. I’m not sure why the filters are labeled with letters and numbers but it will make more sense if you download the app). Like any filters it’s dependent on your personal style, so if you’re completely stuck on how to edit your photos, definitely start with VSCO!
This next app is something I’m currently using to edit my photos for both Instagram and the blog. Lightroom CC is something I’ve mentioned before and have some posts about as well. Check out my post (with a step by step tutorial) of how I edit my Instagram photos. I also explain how I bought photo presets from Etsy for an EXTREMELY cheap price. Lightroom is part of the Adobe Creative Suite, however the App Store offers a free version with tons of amazing features that will transform your photos in a single touch. Wow, that really sounded like an ad but I promise it’s not. (But ya know, if Adobe ever wants to sponsor me, my email is always open, LOL!)
Another great option for photo editing is Afterlight. This app I will use specifically to add a dusty filter to my photos. There’s a range of different “dust” filters, some that are more intense and others that are beautifully subtle. This has been a big trend recently on Instagram to make your photos appear more vintage. I won’t use it on every single photo, but once in a while it will add something a little more special to your theme. Lastly, an app I actually do recommend is Facetune. While there are tons of mixed opinions about this (and there’s definitely a specific line that you shouldn’t cross with this app), there are undoubtedly some helpful tools that will increase the quality of your photos. This might not be widely known, but Facetune actually has a wide variety of photo filters that I was using during my entire Europe trip last summer. I’m a fan of the photo filters on Facetune and definitely recommend checking them out if you haven’t yet. I find them to be a bit more sophisticated and modern as compared to the filters on apps like VSCO somehow.
The Best Ways to Engage with Others on Social Media
For this specific poll on my stories, I gave you guys the option between “what other social media platforms you should use” or “how to best engage with others on social media.” This was a close one, but 54% of you voted for the latter. I have the SIMPLEST tips for you guys when it comes to engaging. These are things I’ve put into my own practice and have definitely seen results in. Honestly, the answer is simple: WHAT YOU GIVE IS WHAT YOU GET. This is true for anything in life, but especially when it comes to growth with social media. The most important aspect to this mantra is to be genuine online, but what exactly does that mean?
Firstly, CARE ABOUT YOUR AUDIENCE. By being genuinely interested in what others are putting out and supporting their content is absolutely the best way to go. Find other bloggers or Instagrammers that inspire you. Like, comment, and reply to their stories because you sincerely love what they have to say. Your audience has gotten you where you are now, so giving them that same support will benefit the both of you. I can personally say I’ve made some great online friends through my blog and I look forward to what they’re posting next. When you engage in a genuine fashion with other creators, all of that positivity and goodness will be reciprocated from them back to you. It seems like such a simple and straightforward tip, but with all the pressure and urgency that comes with social media, it’s so easy to forget.
Secondly, (and how this whole post came about), create Instagram stories that will intrigue your audience and cause them to take action. By this I mean, try out some polls or include a “Questions” sticker! Recently I’ve been loving the poll feature on Instagram and it really is so fun! It’s the easiest and quickest way to get into the minds of your audience and show them that you care about their opinions. With the click of a button, they can be a part of your content and feel more connected to you.
Thirdly, and something I want to get more involved with on this blog, is to COLLABORATE WITH OTHER BLOGGERS. By creating something new and fresh with another creator, you expand your content over to their audience and vice versa. It doubles your chances of exposure and is proven to help growth. Not to mention, it’s SO FUN to brainstorm post ideas with other bloggers and coordinate how the whole thing will go down. Being in a creative field through college, I’ve personally loved working with groups and bouncing off of ideas. If you’re more introverted when it comes to blogging, this is a great way to get out of your shell and meet new people doing the same thing!
What Kind of Features (Buttons/Widgets) Should I be Including in my Blog Layout?
On my stories, I asked you guys whether you’d like to see more “graphic design tips” or “specific features you should be including in your website design.” This was an EXTREMELY close poll, but again the latter won with 51% of your votes! Now, as a graphic designer I took a couple web design classes in college, which I enjoyed so much! When it comes to designing your blog layout, you want it to be as user friendly as possible. This is such a designer term, but all it means is this: you want your audience (or users) to easily navigate around your blog and find what they’re looking for. Are social media icons placed in multiple areas of a page unnecessarily? Do buttons link back to the correct pages or posts? Can your followers easily find a way to contact you? Is the design too cluttered or are the colors too in your face? I could make an entire post about this topic, but I’ll stick to the main ideas.
There are some features you ABSOLUTELY want included in your blog design. One of them is a “like” button. I personally love having a like button so I can see who and how many people are engaging with my posts. It’s a simple gesture from your audience and shows what kind of content they’re enjoying. Another feature you need to have is a “follow through your email” or simply a “follow” button. Since switching to a self hosted site, I need to reinstall my follow button, but whoever visits my site can always subscribe through their email. I try to keep this feature near the top of the page and on the sidebar. Since it’s placed directly below my biography, it is easily accessible to any new readers and is a simple process to subscribe. Another fairly obvious feature you should have is a comments section. Comments allow your readers to actively engage with your content and provide feedback. Taking that feedback and using it to improve your next post is vital to your growth as a blogger. Ignoring the thoughts of your audience would be simply unwise. Reading through my comments section after a new post is so fun for me and I genuinely enjoy it.
I’ll also quickly mention that since switching the theme of my blog, I now have a section in the sidebar for “popular posts.” This suggests other posts that my readers can click on, which increases my views and encourages the user to stay on my site instead of instantly clicking away (which is very important).
How Can I Use the Resources I Already have to Start a Blog?
Finally for this last Instagram poll, I asked you guys to chose between “how to use what you already have” and “technology you should get.” The first option won with 73% of your votes. Here’s a crazy thing, guys: you have all the resources you need to start something amazing! For me, it all started with a passion to do something creative and make something that was completely mine. And from there, I ran with it using the resources I already owned. With an early version of the MacBook, my phone, and a little research, I started my blog.
Especially you high school and college students out there, I know most of you have both of these things accessible to you. Specifically when it comes to the new iPhones, the cameras on those things are top notch now! So NO MORE EXCUSES, because you got this! All you need is a few good ideas that you genuinely love. The hardest part is starting, so once you get past that major obstacle you can start building routines.
When it comes to blog photography, simply find a spot with great natural lighting. While having a ring light is extremely helpful (especially when your only time to photograph is at night sometimes), all you truly need is some natural lighting. Find a window and photograph if front products or yourself in front of it. The next best thing when it comes to editing those photos is to use the free apps that are previously mentioned in this post. Send those photos to your computer and you’re ready to start writing your post! Seriously, it’s that simple. Don’t overthink it!
If you guys have any questions regarding which platform to start on, let me know down in the comments and I can explain how I chose WordPress in another post.
I hope you guys found the first post of the Blog Chat helpful! It was so fun for me to post the polls on Instagram and see all your responses! I wasn’t expecting that many votes, but I appreciate it so much. There’s plenty more polls that need explaining, so look out for those in the next installment of this blog series! Have a fabulous weekend everyone! xx