Is it still cool to have an Instagram aesthetic?

@caitlinrryan

Working in PR, I spend a lot of time studying and working with influencers (what we used to call bloggers and thought leaders). The field of influencer marketing has exploded over the past 5-10 years and shows no signs of slowing down. But there is a new narrative leaking through those perfect square images on Instagram. The staged photo, as we know it, may be over.

Over the past year, I’ve seen an increase in influencers discussing the stress and anxiety that comes with the misrepresentation of their lives through meticulously edited and filtered photos. I’ve seen comments in bios that say things like, “Watch my stories for my real life.” And I’ve seen numerous influencers introduce “old school blogging” series on their blogs that are essentially diary posts accompanied with raw iPhone photos. This past April, even The Atlantic picked up on this shift.

When Instagram was first introduced nearly 10 years ago, users posted photos in real time. There was a handful of filters and borders within the app for quick editing, but for the most part, photos were simply snapped and uploaded to our feeds. (Remember when it was so odd to post a photo after the fact that people started using #latergram to let people know they weren’t currently there?) Then, bloggers and superusers started experimenting with the app and their photography style to make their feeds stand out. Enter flat lay images, murals, DSLR cameras and Adobe Lightroom presets. As this style gained in popularity, it became the norm, and we’ve finally hit the breaking point – even the influencers who created it are over it.

So, is it still cool to have an Instagram aesthetic?

Over the past few months I’ve been playing with A Color Story, a popular photo editing app that even Taylor Swift started using for her Instagram photos. I purchased its vintage filter pack and started using the same filter on every one of my photos to create a consistent grid (pictured above). I have to admit, I love the look of a matching Instagram grid – it gives me a sense of calm – but I can’t say that my friends and family noticed, nor did it make me gain followers. I think the tide has turned on the Instagram aesthetic.

But before you freak out and think you need to blow up your Instagram strategy, here are some easy adjustments you can make that I’ve picked up over the past year of observation and experimentation.

  1. iPhone photos are good enough.
    Of course, there are exceptions to this based on your business, but for the average user, iPhone photos (especially on the newer phones) look great on social media. They also feel less staged (even if you have 20 outtakes in your camera roll 🤫) I still love a good iPhone mirror selfie to show off an outfit.
  2. Don’t worry so much about your grid.
    How often do you look at other users’ profiles? I’d bet that 9.5 times out of 10, you’re seeing their photos in your feed, not on their profile page. So don’t stress about your grid. Post two flat lays in a row? Cool. Typically post pink photos, but have a cute photo from last night with zero pink in it? Post it anyway! I promise you, no one else is going to notice. Focus more on posting images you like, not images that fit your “brand.”
  3. Post more in the moment.
    Shift your mindset back from “this photo will get a lot of likes” to “here’s what I did today.” I hate to use the word “authentic” because it’s so overused and misused that it now kind of triggers the opposite, so instead, let’s say “current.” Keep your social media feeds current. It will help you come across as a more relatable, real person and bring social media back to its original intention.

Have you noticed this shift in the Instagram aesthetic? What strategies have worked for you?

Read/Watch/Listen: June 2019

Read

WorkParty

This book has been in my TBR pile for months – ever since it came out last August! I finally decided to start an Audible subscription and listen to nonfiction and memoir audiobooks while on my commute, and WorkParty was my first choice. Everything I’ve learned about how to navigate your career and succeed in business, I learned through books like this one. (I’m kind of a self-help/personal development/career book junkie.) I was hesitant to start this particular book because it focuses on entrepreneurship, and honestly, I never saw that for me. I like working on a team. And there’s a lot of aspects of business I never would want to deal with, ex. billing, hiring/firing, etc. I just want to create stuff! HOWEVER, this book was a great listen and extremely motivating. It tackles the misconception that you need an MBA to start your own business. The book has tons of interviews with women entrepreneurs that literally started with an idea and a laptop, and figured it out along the way. I think it’s an important message for everyone to hear: START BY STARTING!

I also really enjoyed hearing Jaclyn’s story about how she started her first business (an influencer marketing agency before influencers were really known as influencers) and how she started the wildly popular Create & Cultivate conference. I’m hoping they come to Charlotte soon so I can attend!

How to Skimm Your Life Night Out in Charlotte

How to Skimm Your Life

I attended the How to Skimm Your Life Night Out in Charlotte, and I feel so lucky that The Skimm co-founders Carly and Danielle decided to make a stop in my city ✨Their talk was moderated by Brooklyn Decker and I still can’t get over how relatable all three of these women are. It felt like a candid conversation with friends and made me realize that if you have an idea, you need to just START. (I’m noticing a pattern here…)

While discussing the purpose of their new book, How to Skimm Your Life, they said that knowledge is power, and their goal is to provide women with the information they need to make informed decisions and have options. And to that, I say HELL YEA.

I skipped ahead to their chapter on managing stress 😬 Getting my stress under control was one of my New Year’s Resolutions, but the year is halfway over and I still don’t have a method or routine nailed down. According to The Skimm, managing stress all starts with getting a good night’s sleep. And for me, that means actually leaving work on time so I can get home and get to bed on time. So I am making that a priority this summer 🤞🏻

The book also covers travel, business and finances – consider it your guidebook to life. I’m still working my way through it, but in my opinion, it should be required reading for all high school and college graduates 👩‍🎓👨‍🎓

Watch

Songland

This show surprised me and instantly became my favorite music competition television show OF ALL TIME. Each week, an artist comes on the show looking for a new single or track. So far, they have featured: Aloe Blacc, Meghan Trainor, The Jonas Brothers, Kelsea Ballerini, will.i.am and John Legend. Four song writers perform original songs for the artist to record. The artist then picks the top three, who work with powerhouse songwriters and producers Ryan Tedder, Ester Dean, and Shane McAnally to tweak the song for the artist. My favorite part is when these three producers workshop the song in real time – they are musical geniuses. And the best part? The artist really records the song and it drops right after the episode airs each week! It’s an NBC summer show that’s on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. (also on Hulu). It’s currently on a break until August 14 (I’m devastated, obviously) but that gives you plenty of time to catch up 🎵

The Detour

This is my new 30-minute unwind-from-work show. I was vaguely aware of it from back when TBS first launched it, but kind of forgot about it since we haven’t had cable in ~5 years. However, the first three seasons were recently added to Hulu, which we binged over the past month. It’s a strange mashup of comedy and action/suspense. Recommend if you’re a fan of Schitt’s Creek 🤣

Listen

New Found Glory at The Fillmore in Charlotte

New Found Glory – From the Screen to Your Stereo 3

NFG was the first band I got into back in middle school – Sticks and Stones is still one of the greatest pop-punk albums of all time – but I finally saw them live for the first time last month! 😲 The tour was to promote their new album, From the Screen to Your Stereo 3, but they also played all the hits, and I was giddy. The cover album is also great – I mean, it includes a pop-punk cover of Let It Go! And they put on a great show, including costume changes for each movie track. 📽🍿

MPR & Ace Enders

We also got to see The Early November on this tour – such a blast from the past! P.S. Ace Enders is jacked now 👀

Read/Watch/Listen: May 2019

Y’all. I survived the spring. It’s officially summer vacation 😎 (Of course, “summer vacation” to me means working one job instead of two, but still.) I’m also officially 31, which for some reason feels a lot older than 30. Case in point: when I go to a show now, my ears ring for 2-3 days afterwards 😳 Do I just give in and become THAT person with ear plugs? Do cool ones exist so the 17-year-old version of myself isn’t totally mortified? #halp

Read

Fan Girl by Rainbow Rowell

YA fiction makes me the happiest these days. It’s so much more swoon-worthy than new adult fiction. It also makes me nostalgic because I met MPR when I was 18, so I automatically see bits of our story in all books and movies that center around teens and young 20-somethings. But I digress. I’m a sucker for a coming-of-age story. I love to cheer characters on and applaud their personal growth. I love to imagine where the characters go and what they do after the last sentence of the last chapter on the last page. Rainbow Rowell is good at ending stories in a way that doesn’t tie everything up in a perfect bow, but gives you confidence that all the characters are going to be okay. Fun fact: Rainbow Rowell wrote this book as a passion project during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). So if you’ve ever thought about giving it a shot – I say GO FOR IT!

This “review” was vague, but I give it 4/5 ⭐️ A great college nerd love story that also tackles some heavy family issues. (Disclaimer: I also probably loved this book because the dad works at an advertising agency.)

Watch

Dead to Me on Netflix

MPR and I blew through this first season in one week. Maybe 10 days, tops. Christina Applegate is AMAZING in this dark comedy/suspense about the murder of her husband. And let’s not forget Linda Cardellini, who was the girl we all HATED in Boy Meets World, but then won my heart in Freaks and Geeks. (Side note: If you have not seen Freaks and Geeks, add this to your list pronto.) It was just renewed for season 2, so dive in without worry of being left on an unfinished cliffhanger.

Aladdin

Yup, we went to see the new Aladdin on opening weekend. And it was MAGICAL ✨ Disney did a fantastic job of bringing this classic animated film to life. It stayed true to the original story, yet added some 2019 #feminism upgrades that felt natural – including a new song for Jasmine. And Will Smith did an excellent job with the role of Genie, who had some very big shoes to fill, to say the least. Go see it in the theaters – it’s worth it 🍿

Free Throw

Listen

Young Culture

We went to a very small show at the new Amos’ Southend for Seaway, Free Throw, Heart Attack Man and Young Culture. This was one of those rare shows that I went into with no knowledge of any of the bands (MPR randomly bought tickets) and while it was a good time, Young Culture was my absolute favorite. And NOT just because they’re from Albany, NY! (Which of course we bonded over.) Pop-punk bops at their finest. Give them a stream. (Also, Heart Attack Man has some serious 90s grunge vibes, so if that’s your scene, give them a listen.)

Songs that Saved My Life

Also late to the party on this one (guess that’s the new normal when you hit 30), but Hopeless Records put out a compilation cover album (think: Punk Goes Pop) to benefit mental health awareness and suicide prevention. And that album is good in and of itself, but there’s also a Spotify playlist by them with around 80 songs that I’m guessing is added to by their staff. The description is: “These are the songs that saved our lives and we will be adding more each and every day! Tweet or post yours with the hashtag #SongsThatSavedMyLife.” SOLID playlist. The next time you’re not sure what you’re in the mood for, throw this on. Lots of good throwbacks in there, as well as current songs. 🤘

Side note: I’ve also been feeling Neck Deep lately 🌸

Read/Watch/Listen: April 2019

January–April 2019 felt a lot like treading water. Between planning the PRSA Charlotte Symposium, teaching at UNC Charlotte, preparing for my APR Panel Presentation, volunteering with the Charlotte Speech and Hearing Center, showing up for my husband at his Isles Meet-ups and meeting client expectations at my day job, my life has been full and vibrant, but now I’m very much looking forward to taking a step back this summer. (And hopefully spending a lot more quality time with my Kindle – preferably poolside.)

Here’s what I’ve got to show for myself in March/April.

Read

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

Yikes. I gave this one 2/5 ⭐️ But it’s nothing against the author – I think this genre (modern romance) is just not my cup of tea! ☕️ I saw this book all over my Instagram feed and it was even endorsed by Reese Witherspoon’s book club, but to me, it was predictable and boring, the dialogue didn’t feel natural, and the main characters were painfully immature. But, like I said, it was all over Instagram, so maybe it’s just me 🤷🏻‍♀️

Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis

I have mixed feelings about this book – just as many people have mixed feelings about Rachel Hollis. I just discovered her this past fall when I read her first book, Girl, Wash Your Face, and absolutely loved it. So when I saw she was releasing a second book, I preordered it immediately. Overall, this was a quick read and a good pep talk. BUT, I felt like it was rushed to capitalize on the success of her first book because it didn’t share a ton of new content and half of it felt like a response to all of the criticism she’s gotten over the past year. Some sections of the book felt forced, like she was simply regurgitating #feminism commentary from social media.

This sounds like a negative review, but after finishing this book, I immediately went out and took a giant step towards my biggest goal that’s been hanging out in the back of my mind since I was 15, so that should tell you something. 3/5 ⭐️

Watch

Catastrophe on Prime Video

The fourth season of Catastrophe recently came out on Amazon and MPR and I blew through it. This is one of the only shows that makes me straight up cackle every episode. I don’t really know how to describe it other than two terrible people who found each other, got married and had kids. Since I find them hilarious, maybe I am also a terrible person, but goodness is this a great stress reliever.

Workin’ Moms on Netflix

I am not yet a mom, so I can’t fully appreciate or relate to this show, yet I still find it very funny. Also somewhat depressing. But still funny. Apparently this is a Canadian show that is already in its third season, but is just now being gifted to us Americans on Netflix. So it’s a good investment in characters and storylines since you know you’ll be able to follow them for at least a few seasons. P.S. Why is it that every show has a woman who works at a PR agency? I feel very seen 👀

Listen

I would first like to share that MPR surprised me with a Spotify Premium family plan, and I feel like the fanciest lady in all the land. Perhaps we’re the last people on planet Earth to use the free Spotify subscription with ads, but this is coming from a girl who keeps the 6-CD changer in her car stacked, so I guess somewhere along the way I stopped keeping up with music technology 📻

“Adornment” by Grayscale

I’m late to the party on this pop-punk gem. We saw them on tour with State Champs in March and when they took the stage I instantly fell in love. Sometimes going into a show with zero knowledge of the opening bands is the greatest treat. I’m now a big Grayscale fan and am hoping that since “Adornment” came out in 2017, they’ll be gracing us with a new album this year.

“Midnight” by Set It Off

Another band where I must have been living under a rock to not acknowledge; however, I firmly believe that certain bands and albums come into your life at specific times for a reason, so I won’t question the music universe. We’ll be seeing Set It Off on tour with Emarosa this summer, and these two pop-heavy bands are going to make the best lineup ever. I can’t compare their newest album to any of their previous albums, but Midnight reminds me of new Fall Out Boy and pumps me up on my way to work.

Bar Down Breakdown Podcast

Disclaimer: MPR started a music/hockey podcast with his buddy Devin – BUT – it really is fantastic. They’re 15 episodes in and have landed some amazing interviews, including Nic Newsham from Gastby’s American Dream, Shane Told from Silverstein and Nick Ghanbarian from Bayside. Check it out if you love alternative music, hockey, or both! 🏒🎧

What are you reading/watching/listening to these days?

Spring cleaning your personal brand

3 personal branding lessons I learned with the New Pros

Leave Your Mark by Aliza Licht

In 2018 I served as chair of the PRSA Charlotte New Professionals. Throughout the year, our committee organized a few programming events on personal branding, including a resume workshop and a panel on work wear that discussed what it means to dress for success in 2019. Here are some of the best personal branding lessons that I will be taking with me – even though I’m no longer a “new pro.” After all, what better time to revisit your LinkedIn profile or dust off your resume than during a bout of spring cleaning?

1. The purpose of your resume and cover letter is to get you an interview – not the job.

Your resume and cover letter should answer the question: “Why should I bring this candidate in for an interview?” I think often we’re so focused on getting the job, that we forget about the middle step – the interview. The recruiters at our resume workshop event said they typically don’t spend more than 10 seconds looking at a resume before making a decision on whether they should schedule an interview with a candidate. Tailor your resume and cover letter to the job posting to show how you check all of the boxes, and design it in a way that is quick to read. Then, you can expand on your skills and experiences in the interview.

2. Don’t include a headshot on your resume – but do include a skills section.

Speaking of an easily-scannable resume, the recruiters at our event said they love when candidates include a “skills” section. This allows them to quickly see the candidate’s areas of expertise without having to dig through all of their job descriptions. However, they said the best resumes then show specific examples of those skills in action in their job descriptions.

On the flip side, all three HR professionals on our panel said they do not like it when candidates include a headshot on their resume. Many new resume templates, like the ones found on Canva, include a designated spot for a headshot, but our panelists said they don’t want to judge candidates by what they look like – only by their work experience.

3. It’s still possible to ‘dress for the job you want’ – even in a casual office environment.

Startup culture has caused more offices to go from business casual to simply casual when it comes to dress codes. But if everyone in your office dresses in jeans and a t-shirt, it can be hard to comply with that old adage, “dress for the job you want, not the one you have.” Our panelists said you can stand out from the crowd by dressing in the best possible version of the company dress code.

For example, if everyone wears jeans to work, don’t wear your casual jeggings or distressed jeans, but opt for a tailored, dark-wash jean paired with a high-quality blouse or button-down and a smart blazer. Another pro tip? Create your own work uniform by buying your suit separates in the same color and mix and match with colorful tops or accessories.

What’s the best personal branding tip you’ve picked up over the years?

Read/Watch/Listen: March 2019

Fight or Flight by Samantha Young

Read

I’ll admit it. My 2019 is off to a very slow start when it comes to reading. To be honest, I’ve been slow since last fall when I ramped up my work on the APR and started my second job as an adjunct lecturer. My weekends are now filled with grading and lesson planning and I have a whole new appreciation for teachers!

However, I did manage to read Fight or Flight by Samantha Young, which I received as a Christmas gift. Overall, I give this book 3/5 stars. It was light and entertaining and it held my attention, but I started to get sick of how self-absorbed the main character was. I also didn’t really find myself rooting for this couple to get together in the end. They’re both pretty insufferable. I think I may be a little old school when it comes to modern romance 🤷🏻‍♀️

Watch

I am more than fashionably late to the party, but Schitt’s Creek is the best Netflix discovery of ours in a long time. It stars Eugene Levy and his son and daughter in real life (as David and Twyla), but Catherine O’Hara makes the whole show. I crack up at her one-liners every single episode. This is a great show to throw on when you’re looking to unwind after work or if you need a laugh right before bed. 10/10 would recommend.

Listen

Call me an elder millennial, but I still prefer to buy physical CDs and keep the changer in my car stacked for my commute. However, I was starting to get into a new music slump after overplaying all of the great releases from this past summer. But THEN, “Peach Club” by Emarosa arrived and this 80s pop emo album has given me new life. These fantastic emo lyrics, ex. “I Want to Die With You” are set to 80s pop beats and melodies that will make you forget what sadness even feels like. Stream it now.

We have a few shows coming up in March so I’m hoping to pick up some more new music for my rotation! Any suggestions?

P.S. Buy the cute shirt above from my friends on Etsy.

The Best Things I Read/Watched/Listened to: March/April 2018

The Year of Less

Work took over my life these past two months. I missed a lot of lunch breaks, I had a lot of extracurriculars eating up my evenings, and we’ve had some pretty packed weekends. I also had a ‘vacation hangover’ that made it really hard to get back into our routine – I guess that’s what people mean when they say they need a vacation from their vacation. So I’m definitely behind on my reading. (And I had a bit of a backslide into my social media use.) But it’s a new month! And a fresh slate. So I’m getting back on track.

Here’s what I’ve been up to these past two months:

READ:

The Young Wives Club by Julie Pennell

This was like a southern version of Girls in White Dresses. I had a tough time getting into this book at first because I couldn’t relate to any of the characters – they were all very young, and not at all motivated outside of their romantic relationships. But there was a ton of character development and by the end I was cheering them on. A great story about female friendship.

The Assistants by Camille Perri

This was a light, fun read! Who can’t relate to working in a male-dominated office and fantasizing about the day your student loans are paid off? Sure, a little unrealistic, but what fun is a book without a happy ending?

The Year of Less by Cait Flanders

I can’t resist a minimalism story. In this memoir, personal finance blogger Cait Flanders details her year-long shopping ban. For one year, she did not allow herself to buy anything outside of groceries, toiletries, and other necessities. A huge takeaway for me was that she learned the most important question she needs to ask herself before making a purchase is: “Who are you buying this for: the person you are, or the person you want to be?”  I don’t know about you, but this is so much more effective than, “Does this spark joy?”

Here’s another good quote to ponder over a glass of wine tonight:

“I had always been stuck in the cycle of wanting more, buying more, and then needing more money. The ban uncovered the truth, which was that when you decide you want less, you can buy less and, ultimately, need less money.”

WATCH:

Alone Together on Freeform

This might be the most underrated show on television as I haven’t heard anything about it, but it’s HILARIOUS. It highlights all of the painful, cringe-worthy stereotypes of millennials and each episode had me cracking up, especially Esther.

 

LISTEN:

The new Slaves album, “Beautiful Death”

Jonny Craig is back! This was by far the best album I’ve heard from him, maybe since his solo record he released during my senior year of college.

The new State Champs single, “Dead and Gone”

I have a feeling their new album is going to be the soundtrack to my summer. I especially love the lines: “I need to get UPSTATE again, I need to get my head on straight again.”

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