Ask any social media expert and they’ll tell you: The key to success on Instagram and other platforms is to create great content while remaining authentic (in other words, without looking like a try-hard). "If you tell a compelling story—whether visually or in your captions—people will join you on your adventure,” says Eva Chen, head of fashion partnerships at Instagram.
But make no mistake: Most of the fashion bloggers who are really killing right now are not just tossing out these posts like Jello shots at a sorority rush. Scroll through the feeds of any power poster and you’ll see a rapid succession of breezy sounding captions that seem like they were drafted in seconds (emphasis on the word seem). And the photos—which may have actually taken hours to stage, edit, Facetune, and post—have the same similarly casual, I-just-did-this-while-grabbing-a-latte feel.
In today’s high-stakes social media landscape, a sloppy mirror selfie with poor lighting and dirty clothes in the background is not going to get you far (unless, of course, you are Leandra Medine of the Man Repeller, who has earned the right to do whatever the hell she wants as long as she stays funny). So what does it take to really break out as a social influencer these days? To begin peeling back the onion, I sat down with Charlotte Groeneveld (aka The Fashion Guitar), a mom of two who originally hails from the Netherlands, where she worked in finance until four years ago when she quit to become a full-time fashion blogger. She now has more than 200,000 followers who track her every move (not to mention her sought-after collaborations with brands like Chloé and Valentino). Watch Groeneveld describe her post philosophy in the above video, and get her best tips for reeling in the #ootd double taps below.
Rule No. 1: Find your style—and stick with it. “I think the key to my success is staying really true to who I am,” she says. “When people come to my website or my Instagram account, they know what they’re going to get. My style is feminine but casual. I often mix high-end pieces with less expensive finds from places like Zara that pair well with luxury brands. But whatever I put together, my style is very consistent. If I was constantly changing my look, people wouldn’t come back and brands wouldn’t want to work with me. I also make sure to work with labels that are aligned with my style so it feels organic. No one wants to look at an advertisement. It’s about making a connection.”
Rule No. 2: Go easy on the filters. They tend to manipulate colors so it’ll be hard for your fans to see the clothes as they really are. Also, if you use multiple filters, the overall aesthetic of your account can feel disjointed (and remember, this is what people are going to look at when deciding whether or not to follow you). “I don’t even use filters anymore,” says Groeneveld. “As long as you take a really good picture and edit it well, you really don’t need them.” In many cases, you’re better off just using manual adjustments on photo editing apps such as Afterlight to slightly brighten up a photo or tweak the contrast to make it pop. Keep in mind: Within the Instagram app, you can also adjust the strength of any filter by tapping it twice, then lowering the intensity from 100 percent to, say, 10 percent.
Rule No. 3: Chase the sunrise (and sunset). “Ideally, when shooting, you don’t want bright sunlight,” Groeneveld says. She recommends taking photos either early in the morning or around dusk, what photographer’s call “the golden hour.” If you must take a photo in the middle of the day, look for a shady spot, she says. Otherwise the light will cast unflattering shadows.
Rule No. 4: Post at the right time. We know: You’re really excited about those new Alaïa boots you found at a thrift store in Paris and you’re dying to post a shot of them. But you might want to wait. “You need to think about strategy and what time makes the most sense for your audience,” Groeneveld says. You want to post when your audience is awake and ideally looking at their phone. For most people, this means the morning or evening. If, for example, you live on the East Coast and most of your audience is there, consider posting at 7 a.m. and/or 9 p.m. Lunchtime and right after work are also decent times to post, depending on what time zones you’re targeting. Groeneveld has a global reach so she tries to post at either 1 p.m. or 1 a.m. ET so she can hit both Europe and the U.S. One thing she never does? Post randomly, at inopportune times. “Even when I was first starting out, I was very strategic. I would take the pictures over the weekend or sometimes after work in the summer when it stays light, then I would prepare them at night and post them first thing in the morning.” The worst time to post, according to Groeneveld? Friday night. “On the weekends most people have their own lives,” she says. And if they don’t, they may not want to broadcast it with a flurry of likes and comments to relative strangers.
Rule No. 5: Take a ton of pictures. Snapping a simple #FromWhereIStand pic may seem easy, but even these straightforward shots can take a few tries (my personal tip: push you butt out when holding the phone over your head—it makes your legs look longer). To get one fashion look on her website (which ultimately trickles down to Instagram) Groeneveld, who works with a photographer, says it sometimes takes 250 shots. Yes, 250 shots. And she is not alone. I sat next to Chiara Ferragni at our InStyle Awards and she happily scrolled through her phone with me and there were literally hundreds of shots of the same look, some of which I recognized from her feed. When you think about what actually happens at a real photo shoot—and consider the fact that some of these influencers are paid up to $15,000 per post for brand sponsored content—it’s hardly surprising that so much work goes into it behind the scenes.
Rule No. 6: Resist the siren call of “duck face” or its creepy cousin, “fish gape.” The reality is that most of us are not models so trying to cop any variation of a Victoria's Secret pose is undoubtedly going to make people snicker. Stick to what you know: yourself. When taking pictures, do whatever it takes to make you feel (and look) comfortable. “I never pose,” says Groeneveld. “I just go about whatever I’m doing, walking to get a coffee or whatever, and my photographer snaps the pictures as I’m moving. It feels more natural that way.”
Rule No. 7: Know your angles. Even if you are loath to take selfies, a little bit of practice can’t hurt (after all, even in more “candid” shots most people look better from one side than the other). “I look back at photos I took when I first started out and they definitely look much more awkward,” Groeneveld admits. And for those of you who do like to take the occasional selfie, don’t forget to reverse the mirror view—a simple task you can do with a free mobile photo-editing app like No Crop.